Apparent contradictions in the Bible are some of the greatest evidences that there are at least two Gospels. Please note that I’m not saying these things actually are contradictions. I’m just saying that they seem to be contradictions if one doesn’t consider the proper context of each passage, and also that taking the context into consideration demonstrates how there has to be at least two separate sets of teachings for two separate groups of people in Scripture, including two separate Gospels.
For example, Paul wrote in Ephesians 4:4-6 that “there is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” Now think carefully about what he said in that passage. He told his written audience that there’s only one baptism, and yet we know from the rest of Scripture that there are many different baptisms, not just one (some dry and some wet; while the Greek word “βάπτισμα”/“baptisma” — which is transliterated as “baptism” in most Bible translations today — can mean to wash something in water, the word literally just means “submersion” or “immersion,” and not all immersions in Scripture are in water). How can Paul teach that there’s only one baptism without contradicting the rest of the Bible? I mean, just look at all the different types of baptism mentioned in Scripture:
- Baptism into Moses (1 Corinthians 10:1-2): Paul talks about Israel’s baptism into Moses “in the cloud and in the sea.” Water was present, of course, but the people remained dry.
- Israel’s ceremonial cleansings (Numbers 19:13, Leviticus 11:25, Exodus 30:17-21, Hebrews 9:10): When John the Baptist started dunking people in water, they already knew exactly what he was doing and why. Nobody asked him, “What are you doing? Why are you getting all of these people wet?” This is because water baptism was something that was required under the Mosaic Law for the cleansing of the people, so they were already quite familiar with the concept.
- Levitical priesthood baptisms (Exodus 29:4, Leviticus 8:6, Numbers 8:7): These were baptisms in water which were required in order to become a priest under the Mosaic law.
- John’s baptism (Matthew 3:5-6, Mark 1:4, Luke 3:3, John 1:31, Luke 7:29, Acts 10:37): John baptized Israelites with water for the forgiveness of sins, so they could live in the promised kingdom when it begins on earth (specifically in Israel), and could identify their Messiah.
- The baptism of Jesus to fulfill the law (Matthew 3:13-17, Mark 1:9-10): Jesus, who didn’t need to be baptized for the forgiveness of sins, since He never sinned himself, was nevertheless baptized by John to “fulfill all righteousness” under the law.
- Baptism with fire (Isaiah 4:4, Malachi 3:2-3, Matthew 3:11, Luke 3:16): Jesus will baptize Israel with purifying (albeit mostly figurative) “fire” when they go through the Tribulation.
- Pentecostal water baptism (Acts 2:38, Mark 16:16, Acts 22:16, Ezekiel 36:25): Water baptism for the forgiveness of sins in the name of Jesus. This was the same sort of baptism as John’s baptism, but was now being done in the name of Jesus, and was quite necessary for salvation under the Gospel the disciples preached.
- Baptism with (or in) the Holy Spirit (Isaiah 44:3, Matthew 3:11, Mark 1:8, Acts 2:17-18, Acts 8:15-17, Acts 11:16): This is the baptism with the Holy Spirit, poured out from heaven by Jesus upon the believing remnant of Israel with signs and powers following.
- Baptism into the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:13, Ephesians 4:5, Colossians 2:12, Galatians 3:27, Romans 6:3-4): The immersion of a believer into the body of Christ, which identifies them with what He experienced in His body, including His death, His entombment, and His resurrection. This baptism is performed by the Spirit — not with (or in or of) the Spirit — at the time one believes the Gospel, and is immersion in the body of Christ, not immersion in water.
There are other types of baptism I didn’t include in that list as well, but that should be enough to prove that there are many different types of baptism mentioned in the Bible. So how is it that Paul can say there’s only one baptism when there are clearly so many? Well, by realizing that Paul simply meant there’s only one type of baptism for those among his written audience, meaning for members of the church called the body of Christ. He wasn’t saying that there aren’t other types of baptisms which those outside the body of Christ can participate in, though; just that the ”one baptism” he was referring to was the only baptism for those of us in the body of Christ (and I trust it’s clear that the “one baptism” he wrote about would have to be the final one in the list).
Now, some do claim that Paul just meant we should only be baptized in water once in our lives rather than repeatedly, but he preceded the words “one baptism” with the words ”one hope” and ”one faith,” and I certainly hope nobody would think we should only have hope or faith once in our lives, as would be the case if Paul meant we should be baptized only once in our lives there, so that interpretation doesn’t really fit with the rest of the passage if we’re interpreting the whole thing consistently, which tells us he’s really just saying that there’s only one type of baptism for us — one which doesn’t involve water at all. Not everyone uses that interpretation, though, since others will instead claim that 1 Corinthians 12:13 should actually be translated as saying “for in one Spirit are we all baptized into one body,” but since there is now only one baptism for those in that body (and this verse still tells us that baptism into the body of Christ is what this one baptism is), if “in one Spirit” were the best translation (and the assumption that it is a better translation is based on nothing more than their dislike of the idea that water baptism might not be meant for believers in the body of Christ today, and is not a translation that most English Bible versions I’ve read agree with, I should add), and if it did refer to that baptism with (or of, or in) the Holy Spirit which applies to those saved under the Gospel of the Circumcision, then it can’t also include getting wet, because water baptism would then be a second baptism in addition to our one baptism in or with the Holy Spirit, so this doesn’t help defend the idea of water baptism for the body of Christ at all anyway. (Some might also try to point to the mention of “one faith” in that passage to defend the idea that there’s only one Gospel, but just as the “one baptism” reference means there’s only one baptism specifically for the body of Christ, even though there are various other baptisms for those outside the body of Christ, this simply means there’s also only one faith for the body of Christ, even though there are various other faiths for those outside the body of Christ as well.)
I should say, yes, members of the body of Christ did get baptized in water at the beginning of Paul’s ministry, and he even baptized a few members himself, back when he was still trying to convince Israelites to follow their own Gospel (the Gospel of the Kingdom, also known as the Gospel of the Circumcision). But by the time he got closer to the end of his ministry, the glorified Christ had taught him that the dispensation (or administration) of the body of Christ has no elements or ordinances at all because we are complete in Christ, who is the end of all religion for those in His body. Returning to the shadows and types of rituals and rites in any way whatsoever would rob us of the full enjoyment of both our possessions and freedom in Christ, and so we no longer baptize members of the body of Christ in water. But we do still get baptized, by the Holy Spirit (and not with, or in, the Holy Spirit), into Christ’s body. We just don’t get wet when we get baptized, the way Israelites were supposed to (and are still supposed to when they come to believe their own Gospel).
The fact that water baptism is said to be necessary for salvation under the Gospel of the kingdom, whereas our baptism doesn’t involve water at all, is really all the proof you need that there is more than one Gospel taught in Scripture, and understanding how to resolve apparent contradictions in the Bible like this one is not only beneficial to one’s faith, it also helps one properly interpret Scripture, because this isn’t the only apparent contradiction that is resolved by understanding the difference between the two Gospels. Scripture is full of things that differ, yet which reveal the existence of two Gospels because they do, so please read that article as well, to learn the multitude of differences between the body of Christ and the Israel of God, as well as what our respective Gospels (not to mention salvations) consist of.