Nicodemus, a Pharisee who had become intrigued by Jesus and His teachings, came to Jesus by night to speak to Him (John 3). Jesus quickly turned the conversation to the most important topic of life. He said to Nicodemus, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of the water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God."
Jesus' statement about being born again is a reference to baptism for the forgiveness of sins. Paul wrote, When the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit" (Titus 3:4-5). Peter made a similar statement on the Day of Pentecost. He said, "Repent and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38). Paul stressed that we are not saved by the deeds that we do in righteousness. Baptism is not merely a righteous deed that we do it is a command of Jesus Christ we must obey. Paul wrote that those who had been baptized into Christ had been given newness of life (Romans 6:3-4). Here again we see a clear inspired connection between water baptism and the new birth.
The apostle Peter wrote, "Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead" (1Peter 1:3). In the same letter he wrote, "Baptism saves you…through the resurrection of Jesus Christ" (1Peter 3:21). Because of God's great grace we can be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and baptism saves us through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The apostle Paul wrote, "There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all, and through all, and in all" (Ephesians 4:4-6). Paul declared and the New Testament authorizes only one baptism. This is an interesting statement considering that there are many baptisms mentioned in the New Testament.
When John the Baptist was preparing the way for Christ, he went about preaching a water baptism of repentance for the remission of sins (Matthew 3:11; Mark 1:4). We know that John's baptism is no longer valid today because it was replaced by Christ's baptism (Acts 19:1-5). John also spoke of a time when Jesus would baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire (Matthew 3:11). We know that the promise of Holy Spirit baptism was fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 1:4-5; 2:1-8), and for the Gentiles in Cornelius' house (Acts 10:44-46; 11:15-18). Still other baptisms are recorded in the New Testament (Matthew 3:13-17; Mark 10:38), but remember that when Paul wrote to the Christians in Ephesus he declared only one baptism. But what is that one baptism?
Water immersion is a command given in the New Testament that was to be continued for all time until the Lord's return. Peter said, "Repent and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and your children, and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God shall call to Himself." (Acts 2:38-39). We know that this baptism of which Peter spoke was not Holy Spirit baptism because Peter said that it was for the forgiveness of sins. Holy Spirit baptism was not for the forgiveness of sins. Furthermore, baptism in the Holy Spirit was not something that you could consciously do but rather something that was poured out upon you. We also know that miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit (with the exceptions of: the apostles - Acts 2:1-8, and those in Cornelius' house - Acts 10:44-46) could only be imparted to Christians by the laying on of the hands of Christ's chosen apostles (Acts 2:43; 8:14-18; Acts 19:6; Romans 1:11). Holy Spirit baptism is clearly not the one baptism Paul referred to in Ephesians 4:5.
When Philip had preached the Gospel of Christ to the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:26-40), the Bible says, "And as they went along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, 'Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?" (v.36). We do not have recorded the exact words Philip used when he taught the Ethiopian, but we do know that he taught him about the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus and that he told him that he needed to be immersed in water. We can safely conclude that he preached the same Gospel to the Ethiopian that he had preached a few days earlier to the people of Samaria (Acts 8:4-13). We can further safely conclude that the Gospel he preached was the same as Peter preached on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:22-41). So, upon hearing the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Ethiopian eunuch understood that he needed to be baptized (immersed) in water, and so he was (vv.38-39).
It should be clearly seen by all that the one baptism, that Paul wrote about in Ephesians 4:5, refers to water immersion that is to be done in the name of (i.e. by the authority of) Jesus Christ, and is for the forgiveness of sins. This is the same baptism that was preached by the apostles and others in the first century and it is the same baptism that we are commanded to obey today.
One thing that all religious people have in common is that we all want to be saved. We may have different ideas about what salvation means and how salvation works, but we're coming to Christ in search of eternal life. Where do all these different ideas come from? The Bible says, "There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all" (Ephesians 4:4-6). There is only one of all these things yet we have divided ourselves into many different bodies with many different faiths and hopes and baptisms. Wherever our differences come from they do not come from God or from His Word - the Bible. We could, as we have over the years, debate and argue over the origins of our differences, but that ultimately distracts us from discussing the most basic question of scripture - What must I do to be saved? Jesus died to give us the answer to that question. Many others gave their lives preaching the Gospel. We should be willing to put personal opinions aside and search the scriptures to find the one answer to this most important question.
After His resurrection from the dead, Jesus appeared to His apostles and commissioned them. He said, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; he who does not believe will be condemned" (Mark 16:15-16). On the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2) the apostles, speaking in tongues, preached the Gospel (i.e. death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus - 1Corinthians 15:1-4). When the Jews heard, miraculously each in his own native language, a multitude of them believed and were terrified. They were "cut to the heart" (v. 37). They cried out to the apostles, "Men and brethren, what shall we do" (v. 38). At this point they clearly understood and accepted their own guilt in putting to death their Lord and Christ. They feared that they were doomed to eternal punishment, which is what they deserved (Romans 6:23). They believed wholeheartedly in Jesus as the Christ and they were ready to accept Him as their Savior, but they did not know what to do. Notice carefully the apostle's response to the question. "Peter said to them, 'Repent, and let everyone of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (v. 38). Hearing this good news about the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus and that by being baptized in His name they could be forgiven of their sin, the people, with great relief, obeyed immediately by doing exactly what they were commanded. "Then those who gladly received his word were baptized, and that day about three thousand souls were added to them" (v. 41).
The apostles, on the Day of Pentecost, began the fulfillment of the commission of their Christ to go into all the world and preach the Gospel. From Jerusalem they would proceed into all Judea and Samaria and then to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). They preached the Gospel. The people heard and believed it, and responded immediately by being baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sins. Peter said, "For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call" (Acts 2:39). The answer is the same today as it was then. Have you been baptized into Christ for the forgiveness of your sins?