I have a question for you. A friend of mine refers to “spiritual baptism” which I have never heard of before. Is this a common evangelical teaching or is it a new one? Have you heard this argument?
“Spiritual baptism” is a doctrine which mistakenly connects the baptism of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:11) with baptism for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38). In my experience, it is usually associated with charismatic Christianity, but there may be people who do not practice spiritual gifts who also talk about “spiritual baptism.” The question comes down to this: What is the “one baptism” of Ephesians 4:5? It seems dead obvious to me that the baptism Peter talked about in very the first gospel sermon is the “one baptism.” This is baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. John the Baptist said that Jesus would baptize with the Holy Spirit. This is a reference to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit that fell on the apostles at Pentecost (Acts 2:5-13) and that also fell on the hearers of Peter at Cornelius’ house (Acts 10:44-48, as explained in Acts 11:15-17). This was a unique event, intended by God to testify to the deliverance of the gospel, first to the Jews, then to the Gentiles. Obviously, the “one baptism” is the one which was performed on all who became Christians. The early church was unanimous on this question.
People who believe they have had “spiritual baptism” make the mistake of assuming that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is something available to all Christians, even today. There is no biblical evidence to support this belief. These people also usually teach that this “spiritual baptism” is the “one baptism” of Ephesians 4:5. A simple reading of the Bible, as well as reference to very early church history makes this interpretation completely untenable. I believe that this doctrine is principally the result of many believers forsaking the biblical teaching that water immersion baptism is the point in time when we are saved and when we receive the Holy Spirit. This is what is clearly what is taught in Acts 2:38, and what is the unanimous testimony of the early church.