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The term “all” in 1 Cor. 12:13


Richard B. Gaffin comments on the term “all” in 1 Cor. 12:13.

Who is it that has been baptized with the Spirit? Paul’s answer is not only plain but emphatic: “we all.” “All,” of course, does not have an indiscriminately universal reference; it is the all of the one body, the church. (Richard B. Gaffin, Jr., Perspectives on Pentecost, Phillipsburg: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1979, 29)

     Richard B. Gaffin insists that the word “we all” in 1 Cor. 12:13 is “the all of the one body, the church.” It would follow then that the all of the one body, all believers in the church has been baptized with the Spirit. This seems to be right but this is quite erroneous because it is based on the mistranslation and misinterpretation of 1 Cor. 12:13.

Billy Graham comments on the term “all” in 1 Cor. 12:13.

In like manner, all believers are baptized with the Holy Spirit. This does not mean, however, that they are filled or controlled by the Spirit.
Since the baptism with the Spirit occurs at the time of regeneration, Christians are never told in Scripture to seek it. Nowhere in the New Testament is there a command to be baptized with the Holy Spirit. (Ibid., 79-80.) All Christians are committed to be filled with the Spirit. (Billy Graham, The Holy Spirit, 68,114.)

     This note indicates (1) that all believers are baptized with the Holy Spirit, (2) that all Christians are not committed to be baptized with the Spirit, but (3) all Christians are committed to be filled with the Spirit. These notes are thoroughly unbiblical. Why? “To be baptized with the Spirit” is the same meaning as “to be filled with the Spirit.” The four Gospels confirm that in Israel there were many Christian believers besides the  120 believers who were baptized with/in the Holy Spirit (and with/in fire) at Pentecost. So the teaching “All believers are baptized with the Spirit” is from the mistranslation of the term “all” in 1 Cor. 12:13. There is no scriptural reference to indicate that all believers are baptized with/in the Holy Spirit at the time of regeneration.

Frederick D. Bruner comments on the term “all” in 1 Cor. 12:13.

In 1 Corinthians 12:13 Paul is not teaching an unusual spiritual baptism won by only a few, he is teaching the gracious Christian baptism through the Spirit given to all.  All Christians are baptized by one Spirit, Paul insists, “into one body.” (Frederick D. Bruner, A Theology of the Holy Spirit, 292, 293.)

     The note indicates all Christians are baptized by one Spirit, Paul insists, “into one body.” This teaching is unbiblical, based on the mistranslation of the term “all” and “eis” in 1 Cor. 12:13 and the misunderstanding of the meaning/purpose of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. The note (“All Christians are baptized by one Spirit, Paul insists, into one body.”) would read more correctly, “We are all baptized by one Spirit, Paul insists, in one body.” The following study will confirm that the terms “we and all” in 1 Cor. 12:13 do not mean “all Christians.”
 

Rene Pache comments on the term “all” in 1 Cor. 12:13.

Is the baptism of the Spirit for all men? Many persons think that the baptism of the Spirit is a special experience reserved for certain privileged people, and a few of God’s greatest servants. This is not so and the Bible teaches that this grace is open to all believers. Note the word all in 1 Cor. 12:13. What are the results of the Spirit’s baptism? It makes us members of the Body of Christ. (Rene Pache, The Person and Work of the Holy Spirit, 75)

     Rene’s note indicates (1) the baptism of the Spirit is for all men and (2) the result of the Spirit’s baptism is to make believers members of the Body of Christ. While the teaching of “the baptism of the Spirit is for all men” is correct, what follows is in error. All Christians do not receive the baptism. Again the note “the result of the Spirit’s baptism is to make us members of the Body of Christ” is from the mistranslation of 1 Cor. 12:13. Acts 1:4-8 confirms that the meaning/purpose of the baptism of the Spirit is to receive the power of the Spirit to be Jesus’ witness and for service. This promise is for those who are members of Jesus.

John F. Walvoord comments on the term “all” in 1 Cor. 12:13.

It is evident from 1 Cor. 12:13 that all Christians are baptized by the Holy Spirit, and that all who enter the number of the body of Christ do so because they are baptized by the Spirit. Never in Scripture is baptism by the Spirit recorded as occurring sub- sequent to salvation. It is rather an inseparable part of it, so essential that it is impossible to be saved in this age without it. It may be concluded that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is universal among Christians. (John F. Walvoord, The Holy Spirit, 140)

     Again, this conclusion (“all Christians are baptized by the Holy Spirit”) is a result of the mistranslation and misunderstanding of 1 Cor. 12:13. All Christians are not automatically baptized by the Holy Spirit at the time of the believing of Jesus. Christians must be baptized with/in the Spirit (and with/in fire) after believing in Christ. This was the case with the 120 disciples, the Samaritans, Cor- nelius, and the 12 disciples at Ephesus. To write “Never in Scripture is baptism by the Spirit recorded as occurring subsequent to salvation” is thoroughly unbiblical. There is no scriptural reference to indicate that the baptism by the Spirit occurs at the moment of salvation, i.e., conversion.

Merrill F. Unger comments on the term “all” in 1 Cor. 12:13.

The baptizing work of the Spirit is universal among Christians, whereas the filling with the Spirit is not. All Christians are so baptized, without a single exception (1 Cor. 12:13). (Merrill F. Unger, The Baptism & Gifts of the Holy Spirit, 29)

     This too is from the mistranslation of 1 Cor. 12:13 and results from the misun- derstanding of the relation between the baptism of the Spirit and the filling of the power of the Spirit. All Christians, without a single exception, must be baptized with/in the Spirit after conversion/regeneration. Merrill F. Unger continues:

The universality of this spiritual baptism, wrought for all God’s people in this age, without a single exception, leaves no room for believing it is a second spiritual experience enjoyed by only a part of God’s people. The inescapable truth taught by the apostle is that the one Spirit baptizes all - every believer - into the one body and that there is only one body. (Ibid., 100.)

     The error also springs from the mistranslation and misunderstanding of 1 Cor. 12:13, which should be translated “We are all baptized with/in/by (en) one Spirit in (eis) one body” (Author). The note, “The universality of this spiritual baptism leaves no room for believing it is a second spiritual experience enjoyed by only a part of God’s people,” is quite erroneous. The four Gospels confirm that there were many believers of Jesus Christ in Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria before Pentecost. But only the 120 believers were baptized with/in the Holy Spirit (and with/in fire) at Pentecost. None of the Samaritan Christians were baptized with/in the Holy Spirit (and with/in fire) before the laying on of the hands of Peter and John. They were already Christians through accepting Jesus as Savior and Lord. They had been baptized with/in water in the name of Jesus Christ through Phillip’s ministry. These facts affirm that all believers at the time of their conversion do not receive the baptism of the Spirit. Sadly, this is a spiritual experience that not all of God’s people enjoy by the misunderstanding of the baptism of the Spirit.

John F. MacArthur comments on the term “all” in 1 Cor. 12:13.

Power translates dunamis, from which the English word “dynamite” derives. All believers have in them spiritual dynamite for use of gifts, service, fellowship, and witness. (John F. MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary Acts 1-12, 19)

     This conclusion (“All believers have in them spiritual dynamite for use of gifts, service, fellowship, and witness”) is another error based on the mistranslation of 1 Cor. 12:13 and the misinterpretation of the baptism of the Holy Spirit in Acts 1:5,8. All believers must be baptized with/in the Holy Spirit to receive the power and to be witnesses. This is after accepting Jesus as Savior and after conversion.

Sinclair B. Ferguson comments on the term “all” in 1 Cor. 12:13.

In 1 Corinthians 12:13 Paul indicates that all believers are baptized with the Spirit and drink the water of the Spirit. (Sinclair B. Ferguson, The Holy Spirit, 88)

     The note “all believers are baptized with the Spirit” seems to be biblical truth if we read only 1 Cor. 12:13. But it is quite erroneous because it is from the misunder- standing of the term “all” in the Bible. Now, let’s examine the meaning of the term “all” written in the NT.

What does the Bible say about the meaning of the term “all”?

Luke 2:2-5     This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. (NKJ)

     In this phrase, “So all went to be registered, and everyone to his own city,” the words “all and everyone” mean “all the people and everyone in Israel.”

Luke 7:28-30 “For I say to you, among those born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.” And when all the people heard Him, even the tax collectors justified God, having been baptized with the baptism of John. But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the will of God for themselves, not having been baptized by him. (NKJ)

     “All the people who heard Jesus” is not to be literally accepted as the meaning of all the people in Israel. It makes no sense simply because not all the Israelites heard Jesus at that time. “All the people” obviously means those who heard Jesus at that time, in that place, testifying of John the Baptist. So it does not mean all the people in Israel. Likewise, the term “all” in 1 Cor. 12:13 does not speak of all who were believers in Jesus, but specifically identifies those who were baptized by the Spirit after conversion by faith in Him. So “We were all baptized by one Spirit in one body” must not be interpreted to mean “All Christians who were born again were all baptized by one Spirit in one body.”   
 
Luke 21:37-38 And in the daytime He was teaching in the temple, but at night He went out and stayed on the mountain called Olivet. Then early in the morning all the people came to Him in the temple to hear Him. (NKJ)

     The words “all the people” do not mean all the people of Jerusalem or all the people in Israel. This refers only to those came to hear Jesus in the temple. To say that all the people in Jerusalem or all the people in Israel came to Him makes no sense at all.

Matt. 12:22-24 Then they brought him a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute, and Jesus healed him, so that he could both talk and see. All the people were astonished and said, “Could this be the Son of David?” But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, “It is only by Beelzebub, the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out de- mons.” (NIV)

     “All the people were astonished and said, ‘Could this be the Son of David’?” Again, the word “all” does not mean to imply all the people in Israel. Instead, it speaks of only all the people who were present at the time of Jesus’ healing of a demon-possessed man.

Mark 1:4-5     John came baptizing in the wilderness and preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. Then all the land of Judea, and those from Jerusalem, went out to him and were all baptized by him in the Jordan River, confessing their sins. (NKJ)
NIV                The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.

     To accept the phrase “All Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem” as literally true makes no sense. Actually all Judean countryside, the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were not baptized by John the Baptist. Besides the fact that some rejected John, Jesus baptized many people at the same time John the Baptist was baptizing.

Luke 3:7     Then he said to the multitudes that came out to be baptized by him, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?  (NKJ)
NIV     John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?
Matt. 3:5-7     Then Jerusalem, all Judea, and all the region around the Jordan went out to him and were baptized by him in the Jordan, confessing their sins. But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? (NKJ)

     Luke 3:7 and Matt. 3:5-7 are describing the baptism of John. The phrase “Jerusa- lem, all Judea, and all the region went out to him and were baptized by him” in Matt. 3:5 should be inferred to mean that the multitudes came out to be baptized by John, as in Luke 3:7. The term “all” is used of “the multitudes.”

John 3:22            John also was baptizing in Aenon near Salim, because there was   much water there. And they came and were baptized. For John had not yet been thrown into prison. (NIV)
John 4:1-2    Jesus was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John, although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples. (NIV)

     These texts confirm that the “all” of the phrase “all Judea, and all the region around the Jordan were baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan River” cannot mean all the people in all Judea and all the region around the Jordan River. By John 3:22-4:2 we learn that Jesus was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John.

The term “all” in the Epistles written by Paul who used the term “all” in 1 Cor. 12:13

Rom. 5:18-19 Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous. (NKJ)

     In the words “all men” literally mean “all the people.” However, in the phrase “through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men,” the words “all men” does not mean “all the people” of the world. Non-Christians have not received “the free gift, justification of life.” Thus, by “all the people” we can conclude that Jesus spoke of only “all the people” who believed. Likewise, the terms “We were all” in 1 Cor. 12:13 do not apply to all believers, but only to Christians who have been baptized with/in/by the Spirit after believing in Jesus.  

1 Cor. 8:6     yet for us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we for Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and through whom we live. (NKJ)

     The term “all things” in the text means literally “all things” because all things are from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Gal. 3:10     For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.”(NKJ)

     In the phrase “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law,” the term “all things” means “all things.”

Gal. 3:26-28      For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (NKJ)

     The word “all” specifically applies to those who believe in Jesus. If “we and all” in 1 Cor. 12:13 are inferred to mean “all sons of God, all believers, all Christians were baptized with/in/by the Spirit,” it makes no sense. All of the 120 Upper room disciples were already the children of God. They were believers-Christians through faith in Jesus. They were not baptized with/in the Spirit until the day of Pentecost.

Eph. 3:21      to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, for- ever and ever. Amen. (NKJ)

     The term “all generations” does not mean “all generations” with unbelievers.

2 Tim. 1:15    You are aware that all who are in Asia have turned away from me, including Phygelus and Hermogenes. (NRS)

     In the phrase “all who are in Asia have turned away from Paul,” the term “all” does not mean all Asian believers or all the people in Asia. Many never knew Paul. The term refers only to “all” who turned away from Paul.

2 Tim. 4:16     At my first defense no one stood with me, but all forsook me. May it not be charged against them. (NKJ)

     If the phrase “all forsook Paul” is accepted literally as true, it makes no sense. All the people who heard Paul did not forsake him.

Acts 28:23-25 says, “They arranged to meet Paul on a certain day, and came in even larger numbers to the place where he was staying. From morning till evening he explained and declared to them the kingdom of God and tried to convince them about Jesus from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets. Some were convinced by what he said, but others would not believe. They disagreed among themselves and began to leave after Paul had made this final statement” (NIV).

     These passages indicate that all the people who heard Paul in the city of Rome did by no means forsake the apostle Paul.

The Bible confirms that “all” in 1 Cor. 12:13 does by no means mean “all Christians.”

     The text of 1 Cor. 12:12-13 means that all the members who have accepted Jesus as Savior and Lord can be called Christians and members of the one body of Christ. But it is impossible to say that all of them were baptized with/in water. Surely, some of them were baptized with/in water in the name of Jesus Christ and some of them had yet to be baptized. But all of them were “all the members of the one body are one body.” We can conclude that all believers must be baptized with/ in water in the name of Jesus Christ, that is, in one body of Jesus Christ. Before being baptized with/in water in the name of Christ, all must accept Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. Those who have accepted Jesus as Savior have become the parts of the body of Christ.
     Subsequently, these believers may be baptized with/in water, but they did not become one body of Christ through water baptism or the baptism of the Spirit. This came through faith in Him. 1 Cor. 12:13 says, “We were all baptized by one Spirit in one body” (Author). In conclusion, this passage means that “we and all” refer to only all Christians who were baptized with/in/by the Spirit in one body. It does not include those who are not yet baptized with/in/by the Spirit. There are many believers who have yet to be baptized with/in water or with/in/by the Spirit though they are already one body through faith in Jesus.