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1 Corinthians 12:12 by Robert Dean
Series:1st Corinthians (2002)
Duration:1 hr 5 mins 25 secs

7Doctrine of Positional Truth; Baptism of the Holy Spirit; 1Co 12:12


We have come to a key passage in 1 Corinthians, 12:12, 13, and these two verses are foundational to everything that is said in this chapter because it focuses on the ministry of God the Holy Spirit at salvation and what he has done in relationship to forming the body of Christ.

1 Corinthian 12:12 NASB "For even as the body is one and {yet} has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. [13] For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit." These two verses lay the foundation for Paul's argument here on spiritual gifts in both the verses that precede this and the verses that follow.

If we add verse 14 here there are seven uses of the word "one." So what is the emphasis here? One of the laws of Bible study is repetition and to observe whether or not the author of Scripture repeats something. Usually it is not quite this obvious but when we have the word "one" mentioned seven times in three verses it should get our attention. The emphasis is on that team nature for a local church, that we are a team, it is not just a bunch of individual believers who come to church and fill out their doctrinal notebooks and then head home without any real interaction with each other. There is not just the emphasis on the individual but also on that team nature to the local church. So in verse 12 Paul comes back to the unity aspect of the body. By "body" he refers to the body of Christ which is the church. And the body is one, therefore in the doctrine of the church we speak of the universal church. The universal church is made up of all believers in the Lord Jesus Christ during the church age, alive or dead. Then there is the doctrine of the local church and that is the manifestation of the universal body of Christ in a local assembly. Then he says, "and all the members [each individual], though they are many, are one body." He adds the phrase "though they are many" to emphasize their individual distinctiveness, but then he emphasizes in the phrase following the verb, they "are one body, so also is Christ." So there is this balance between the individuals and the unity of the body.

Verse 13 is going to explain the mechanics of how that happens. That is called the baptism of the Holy Spirit and it is related to the doctrine of positional truth. Positional truth has to do with our standing in relationship to Jesus Christ. We are said to be "in Christ"—e)n plus the dative, in a locative sense we are identified with Christ. This is where the body of Christ is formed. The action that performs that, that places us in Christ, is the baptism by means of the Holy Spirit. It is the baptism by the Holy Spirit that effects positional truth.

The doctrine of positional truth

1)  Positional truth is a term that is equivalent to positional sanctification. These terms are very similar and they indicate the fact that at the instant of salvation when we are put in Christ we are completely set apart to the service of God. We are positionally sanctified and that means that we become a sanctified one or a saint. This occurs only in relationship to church age believers. There was no positional truth prior to the church age. Positional truth focuses the believer on his uniting with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection.

2)  The mechanics of how positional truth is accomplished is the baptism by means of the Holy Spirit. And the definition of that is that Christ uses the Holy Spirit to effect our union with Himself. This is seen in 1 Corinthians 12:13 NASB "For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit."

3)  Positional truth guarantees the believer's eternal security. Because we are in Christ we have a secure salvation. That union is permanent, it cannot be severed. Romans 8:38, 39.     

4)  Positional truth belongs to all categories of believers—carnal, spiritual, adult, immature, reversionist. It is not determined by anything we do, it is determined at the instant of salvation.

5)  Positional truth is what qualifies the believer to live with God forever. To live with God forever we must have our sins paid for and we must possess perfect righteousness and eternal life. All of that takes place at the instant of salvation.

6)  Positional truth creates a new creature in Christ. There is regeneration. 2 Corinthians 5:17. In the Old Testament believers were regenerated but they weren't in Christ.

7)  Positional truth is the basis of spiritual growth because we are now indwelt by God the Holy Spirit which is the foundation for the filling by means of the Holy Spirit, and for producing divine good. Ephesians 2:10. 

8)  Positional truth is the basis for grace blessing. Because we are in Christ God is able to bestow His blessings on us. God blesses us because of possession of Christ's righteousness, not what we have done.

9)  What God has done for us in positional truth is itemized Romans 8:29,30. He foreknew us; He predestined us; he called us; He justified us; He will glorify us. Then He disciplines us, Hebrews 12:5-9.

10)  Because we are in union with Christ we share nine things: a) Eternal life, 1 John 5:11, 12; b) Perfect righteousness, 2 Corinthians 5:21; c) Election, Ephesians 1:4; d) Destiny, Ephesians 1:5; e) Sonship, 2 Timothy 2:1; f) Sanctification, 1 Corinthians 1:2; g) Priesthood. He is the high priest and we are all royal priests, Hebrews 10:10-14; Royalty, 2 Peter 1:11.

11)  Positional truth is not experience, not emotion, not ecstatics.

1 Corinthians 12:13 NASB "For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit."

This verse is a difficult verse to really understand in the Greek because of its relationship to other verses that talk about the baptism by the Holy Spirit. Therefore it is important to understand it in terms of a certain amount of distinctions made in the Greek. The verse begins "For by one spirit." This is the preposition en [e)n] plus pneumati [pneumati], the dative form of the noun pneuma [pneuma]. The preposition en strengthens the idea that this is instrumentality; it is by means of something. In the early 20th century in the doctrines of the Holy Spirit liberal theology assaulted Christianity on a part of the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, and that was in the arena of His independent personality. So there was a tremendous battle waged at the end of the 19th century and into the middle of the 20th century with liberal theology as to whether or not the Holy Spirit was just an impersonal force of God or merely a manifestation of God, or whether the Holy Spirit had a distinct, unique personhood. (We have seen in the past that the Holy Spirit is a distinct person) Conservatives became a little confused with some grammar terms. One of these terms was "personal agency" and the other was "impersonal means." These are grammar terms, and the way this was traditionally taught was that if you have a dative phrase and it is means or agency, of the noun in the dative is an individual or a person then you select the option of "personal agency." If it is an impersonal object, then you select "impersonal means." So the conclusion was, since they were fighting a battle over the personhood of the Holy Spirit, we can't say that is impersonal means because that would indicate that the Holy Spirit may not be a person. Well now they have confused a real category of personhood with grammatical nomenclature of personal agency and impersonal means.

The difference: The agent of an action, in the concept of personal agency, is the same person who performs the action. Grammatically that would be, if you have an active voice verb, then the agent who performs the action would be the subject of the sentence. But if it is reversed and made a passive voice the agent is not longer the subject of the verb, it is now the object.

The baptism of the Holy Spirit

1)  Baptism of the Holy Spirit did not occur in the Old Testament. Baptism of the Holy Spirit has to do with being identified with Christ, therefore there was no baptism of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament, it is unique to the church age.

2)   The baptism of the Holy Spirit was first prophesied by John the Baptist prior to the inception of Jesus' ministry. In Acts 1:5 it was still future. Matthew 3:11 NASB "As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance…He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire"—en pneumati. The verb is baptize, present active indicative. The active voice means that the subject performs the action of the verb. When the active voice verb is used then the subject, then one who performs the action, is also referred to as the agent. So when John says, "I baptize you," I is the subject, and that means that John the Baptist in that phrase is the agent of baptism; "with water," the preposition en plus the dative case of hudor [u(dwr], indicating the means by which he accomplishes baptism. We know that the meaning of baptism was to dip, to submerge, and its significance was identification. John's baptism was a wet baptism, he baptized or identified the individual by means of water. Then there is another clause: "for repentance." Here there is the preposition eis [e)ij]. The three elements to focus on: the voice, where is the in clause? which indicates the means, the instrument used to perform the baptism, the identification, and where is the eis clause? which indicates the new state. If you are being initiated into something it is that new state that you are being initiated into that is indicated by the eis clause. So the way this should be translated is: "I baptize you by means by water into repentance." Then there is a contrast indicating a parallelism: "but He who is coming after me [Jesus Christ] is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire." Here is the same verb baptizo [baptizw], now in the future active indicative. It is active voice so "He" performs the action of the verb. So in the parallel we see that Jesus is the subject of the active voice verb, so He is also the agent of the verb, the agent of the action of baptism. If we take the sentence, "Jesus will baptize by the Holy Spirit" where we have an active voice verb "will baptize" and Jesus is the subject or the agent, if we transfer that to a passive verb we indicate that somebody will be baptized. How do we express the agent now? In English we express the agent with that preposition "by"—by Jesus. See a problem? In the verse, Jesus will baptize by the Holy Spirit, John said. But when you transfer that into a passive form and you say X or the individual believer will be baptized by Jesus by the Holy Spirit you hear the redundancy. That is where we get into confusion. In English we will express the agent or the performer of the action in a passive voice verb with the preposition "by." But that is also the same preposition that we use in English to express the means used to accomplish the action of the verb.

What this led to was the fact that among non-Charismatics they were inadvertently talking about two different baptisms. This was a problem in Charismatics because they recognized the difference and said 1 Corinthians 12:13 clearly takes place at salvation so you have a baptism by the Spirit that happens to everybody at salvation, but you get a second one that is done by Jesus in the Gospels and that is the one that comes after salvation. So in traditional Pentecostal theology they came up with two different baptisms. The answer for most non-Charismatics was that they're the same baptism but there is only baptism, and the way it was normally taught was that the Spirit was the one who performed the baptism, and the Holy Spirit identifies you with Christ. See the problem? In that sentence the Holy Spirit identifies you with Christ, the Holy Sprit is now the subject of the verb and the agent. Will that fit? Because if you are going to call that personal agency you confuse the grammar term with the reality. That's where it ended up inadvertently in a non-Charismatic position reaffirming two baptisms. But they are not, there is only one baptism.

Acts 1:5, Jesus says the same thing: "for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now." John performs the action, therefore he is the agent performing the action of the verb. John baptized with water: en hudati; "but you will be baptized," future passive indicative, "with the Holy Spirit," en pneumati, "by means of the Holy Spirit." So once again, the Holy Spirit in both the Matthew passage and the Acts passage it is the Holy Spirit who is the means. 1 Corinthians 10:2, "and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea." "Were baptized" is passive, which means the subject, "all," receives the action of the verb. All the Jews were baptized "into (eis) Moses, by means of (en) the cloud and by means (en) of the sea." In Greek, when you shift something from an active voice to a passive voice to express the subject, the agent, the one who performs the action, you use the preposition huper or dia, not en.

That means that the phrase "by the Spirit" in verse 13 should be understood not as indicating the one who performs the action or the agent of the action, but is indicating the means of the action. It should be translated: "We were all baptized by means of one Spirit." It doesn't mentioned the one who performs the action, we know that from Matthew 3:11. Jesus Christ is the one who performs the action; He is the agent; he is the one who is the subject of the verb; he is the one who is performing the action of baptism, and He does it  by using God the Holy Spirit to identify the believer with Himself in His death, burial and resurrection.

Titus 3:5 NASB "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." Washing there  brings in this whole water imagery of washing and cleansing. What John did was take the individual and use water to symbolize cleaning and identification. He would plunge them into the water and he would bring them out into a new state of repentance. What happens in the parallelism is that he says Jesus is going to come along and instead of using water to put the believer into a new state he was going to use the Holy Spirit to put the believer into a new state. So Jesus is going to take the believer, as it were, and using the Holy Spirit is going to plunge the believer into the Holy Spirit and that affects washing and regeneration and all of the other Spirit-related ministries, and he identifies the believer with Himself.

What this shows is that there are not two different performers of action. You don't have Jesus doing it in the Gospels and the Holy Spirit doing it in 1 Corinthians, and it is illegitimate to say that Jesus is the ultimate one who does it and the Holy Spirit is the immediate performer of the action. That doesn't work grammatically. The only thing that works is to be consistent, that it is the Holy Spirit who is the means of effecting this identification. Technically we need to refer to it as the baptism by means of the Spirit. We are filled by means of the Spirit; we walk by means of the Spirit; we are baptized by means of the Spirit. It is the Spirit who is the means of effecting all of these different elements in the Christian life. 


Ephesians 2:8, 9 NASB "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, {it is} the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast."

The only thing that we did for salvation was believe the gospel, but that belief is not the cause of the of the gospel, it is the means of appropriating eternal life. This is something that is so important, so foundational and so much under attack today.

The hyper-Calvinistic doctrine is that faith is a gift and that you can't do anything to save yourself, therefore God has to give you the gift of faith. Faith is viewed in that context as something that has merit or value in and of itself.

There are two options in understanding faith. Faith can have value or merit in and of itself, or it can be non-meritorious. The way the hyper-Calvinist takes it is that faith in and of itself is meritorious so he says that you can have a non-saving faith in Christ. This is inherent to Reformed theology and to Lordship salvation. In that idea this makes faith meritorious, therefore at salvation you have to be given faith from God. Faith is viewed as the gift in Ephesians 2:8,9: NASB"For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast."

What the Calvinist tries to do is take that neuter singular pronoun "it" and make it refer back to faith, that faith is the gift. But faith in the Greek is a feminie singular noun, and the rule of grammar is that a pronoun must agree in gender with the noun it refers to. Therefore a neuter pronoun cannot refer to a feminine noun.

Furthermore, we read in that passage, "For by grace you have been saved," grace is the Greek noun charis, and charis is also a feminine noun. Therefore the "it" cannot refer to charis. It is a rule of grammar in Greek that when you have an entire clause or a compound or abstract idea the whole idea is referred to by a neuter pronoun. So the main idea of "For by grace you have been saved" goes back to verse 4 in Ephesians 2 where Paul brings it in at that point as a sort of exclamation, and he picks that idea up again in verse 8 and "through faith" is a secondary idea in the grammar. The "it" refers to the "For by grace you have been saved," it is a "by grace" salvation; that is the gift of God.

This is so misunderstood and what that emphasizes is that faith is non-meritorious, and it is not faith that has value, it is the cross, the object of faith, that has value. So we are not saved because of anything we do. Furthermore in Ephesians 2:8, 9 it is "by grace through faith." That is another important phrase.

In this passage we have the preposition dia, and dia either governs a noun in the genitive or it will govern a noun in the accusative. When that noun that follows the preposition is in the accusative case it means "because." When it is in the genitive case it has the idea of "through," and through indicates a secondary means. Because indicates the ultimate causation for something, but it doesn't say that, it doesn't have dia plus the accusative, it has dia plus the genitive of pisits, which means that we are saved through faith, not because of faith. If faith were meritorious then we would have an accusative case there, "because." But it is not that way, it means we are saved through faith, the cause of salvation is located in the grace of God and His eternal plan of salvation and Christ's work on the cross, it is not on what we do; it is not even in faith. So faith is non-meritorious, it cannot be considered a work. It is not something that we can do that gains God's favour.

The point is that we don't do anything to get saved; Jesus did it all.