More On Baptism In Jesus' Name

William Arnold III

(original article: Baptism In Jesus' Name)


This is a reply to your article on baptism. Feel free to shoot me down :)

Have you ever considered the possibility that "in the name" is a metephor? I mean, whether Oneness or Trinitarians use the term, both use it as a metephor. You cannot literally baptize someone in a name, since a "name " is just a word. One cannot be immersed in a word. Oneness folks seem be using this as a metephor for speaking or calling a name in baptism. Or, perhaps they are using it in the sense that Paul spoke, of being baptized "into Christ." But, either way, it is a metephor, not a literal use of the term. I think that other uses of the term "in the name" in Scripture would indicate for us what this metephor is all about.

There is perfectly ligitimate and biblical metephor for "in the name." It means "by the authority." It is a term used by an ambassador, who comes representing someone else. (An "Apostle" is an ambassador, and necessarily comes in someone else's name). To come in someone's name, means to come by their authority, and/or in their place. To do something in someone's name means that it is just as though they were here doing it themselves. The person baptizing in Jesus' name is baptizing by His authority, and in His place.

"He that receiveth you receiveth me, and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me.He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet's reward; and he that receiveth a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man's reward.And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward." - (Matt 10:40-42, KJV)

Jesus was making a play on words here. His point was that if we receive Him, we receive the one who sent Him. Those who receive a prophet, or a righteous man, by their own authority, will receive a reward. Same with a disciple of Jesus. But, the implied point is that since Jesus came in the name of (or by the authority of, or on behalf of) His Father, receiving Jesus implies receiving the Father, and this will bring a far greater reward.

"I am come in my Father's name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive." - (John 5:43, KJV)

"Jesus answered them, I told you, and ye believed not: the works that I do in my Father's name, they bear witness of me." - (John 10:25, KJV)

I don't recall Jesus ever making a statement like "in the name of the Father" while preforming any miracle. In this case, it seems to me He is simply saying that He did these things by the Father's authority. Since, Jesus is the one who declares the Father (John 1:18), everything He did was in the Father's name. (by the authority of, and on behalf of) the Father.

"But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you." - (John 14:26, KJV)

Here "in my name" seems to mean "in my place." I don't think the Father said "in the name of Jesus" when He sent the Holy Spirit.

I am convinced that "in the name of" in Matt. 28:19 means "by the authority of." Look at verse 18! Jesus said "all authority has been given to me in heaven and earth." Given Him by whom???? The word "given" indicates that Jesus received this authority from another! Then He immediately says: "go therefore" or on account of the fact that I have received all authority, I am now commanding you to go .... baptize "in the name of" (or by the authority of) the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. I do not see this as necessarily a "formula" for baptism, but rather a statement of where the authority to baptize comes from. Likewise, to baptize "in Jesus' name" means by the authority of Jesus given to the disciples in the Great Commission. So, in my opinion, there is no conflict between these terms, because they were not meant to be a specific "formula." The authority originates with the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. To baptize "in the name of" the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, means to baptize by the authority of all three. To baptize in Jesus' name means to baptize based on this same authority that was passed along to the Apostles by Jesus Himself, since all authority had been granted to Jesus in heaven and earth.


First I would like to say that I agree with a lot of what you are saying. To say "in the name of Jesus" definitely means "by his authority" or better yet, even " in his stead." Baptizing someone would make them a disciple of the person doing the baptism (see for example, John 4:1). When John baptized someone that made that person a disciple of John. It meant "I'm a follower of this guy and believe what he teaches." When a minister baptizes someone in Jesus' name we are doing it in Jesus' stead and initiating that person into Christianity. When Jesus did miracles in the Father's name it is true that he probably did not speak the words "in the name of the Father" when he said them. But I don't believe he said "in the name of" anyone else either. When we baptize someone, something must be spoken in connection with the baptism to distinguish it as Christian baptism. What was done differently when the Ephesian disciples were re-baptized in Jesus' name in Acts 19?

Jesus is the one who personally comissioned the disciples to go and baptize and they went "on behalf of him," or "in his name." He also sent them to heal people and work miracles. When Peter healed the man at the Gate Beautiful in Jesus' name, scripture tells us that he actually spoke the words "in the name of Jesus Christ" when he did it (Acts 3:6). Even when Trinitarian Christians pray for someone for healing they speak the words "in Jesus' name." They realize that they are doing it "on behalf of" or "in the name of" Christ. Why would baptism be any different? Jesus said that when we pray we are to ask the Father in him name (John 14:13; 15:16; 16:23, 26). And so when many Christians pray, they end their prayer with the actual words "in Jesus name."

Furthermore, as I pointed out in the article, baptism is exclusively connected with Christ throughout the New Testament (with the exception of Matt. 28:19). Paul would hardly say that the Romans and Galatians were "baptized into Christ" (Rom. 6:3; Gal. 3:27) had the apostles routinely used the words "in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost" when they baptized. People just would not have made that type of connection. Even for a Trinatarian it makes more sense to baptize in Jesus' name. If there is more than one person in the Godhead, Jesus is the one who died for us. And so, he is the one we are "buried with" (Rom. 6:4; Col. 2:12).


I think we are actually very close regarding baptism. Since we agree that "in the name" means by the authority, the exact words are not what is important. Rather what we mean by those words is important. For example, as Christians we could say "in the name of Christ" and it would be perfectly acceptable. (In fact, Paul referred to being baptized into "Christ" {not Jesus} Gal. 3:27).

Cyprian argued strongly that former Gnostics who had been baptized "in the name of Christ" MUST be rebaptized after conversion to Orthodox Christianity. The reason being the Gnostics believed "Christ" was a spirit that came upon the man Jesus. They did NOT baptize in Jesus' name (a man) but in the name of "Christ" (a divine spirit). "Whom do you say that I am?" is the crucial question here. If baptism in someone's name means by their authority, then our theology regarding the Godhead is indeed important, because we are citing our authority when we baptize.

As a Trinitarian, I see nothing wrong with baptism in the name of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. "Son" is a title for Jesus just like "Christ" is a title for Jesus. My point in my letter was that using the Trinitarian formula cannot be wrong since it is found in Matt. 28:18. What we mean by the words is very important. Oneness folks claim that Jesus meant that the "name" of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost is "Jesus." But, even if the Oneness view of the Godhead is correct, what would be wrong with saying "in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost" if someone meant by that to indicate a single name for all three? Obviously, nothing can be wrong with it since that is precisely what Jesus said! Again, the issue here is what do we mean by the words we speak! It is the theology that is behind the words, not the words themselves. Our exegesis of Matt. 28:18-20 is critical to this question, because Jesus clearly said by whose authority He was sending the Apostles, AND by whose authority they could baptize.


Well I agree with you in part again. It is more the meaning than the actual words that we are after. However, I don't know that when we speak the words "in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost" that this conveys the meaning of "in Jesus name" to the average person. And as I pointed out, if the early church had routinely used the actual words of Matthew 28:19 when baptizing then the people would not have connected baptism so exclusively with Christ only.

Our actual goal as Oneness Pentecostals is merely to be Apostolic. We strive to "weed out" traditions and doctrines of men which were added later. Basically, we try to take what Luther started to its logical conclusion. We see the Trinity as not Apostolic, but as a later development. Even my Trinitarian seminary professors would agree with this, but they put much authority in church history. In fact, many of them would readily admit that Peter and Paul were not Trinitarians. But they see the goal of the Bible scholar/theologian to develop the seed left by the writers of the New Testament. They think I am arrogant to even question the wisdom of the church fathers. We on the other hand see our job description as one of recovery of truth which has been lost or distorted, to "earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints" (Jude 3). Of course we don't want to ignore what others have written or said about the Bible, but we understand this merely to be the thinking of fallible men. As I have said before, it is just like the pre / post issue. I believe that the church has gotten away from what the apostles taught in many respects and that we need to get it back.


I can appreciate the fact that you (and other Oneness folks) want to cut through the tradition and get to Apostolic doctrine. However, I do not agree with you regarding what Apostolic doctrine was regarding the nature of the Godhead. While you might find some professors who would say that the early church was not "Trinitarian," I can tell you that many would strongly disagree.

Brother, there is a bunch of false information being circulated about the beliefs of the early Church. Just like the pretribbers misrepresent them, so too do the Oneness folks. I have debated several of them on message boards, and refuted (with lengthy quotations) every one of their so called "facts" about the beliefs of the early Church. I hope you will approach this with the same openness you have shown regarding the rapture issue.

Brother, I am convinced that the Word of God does NOT teach the Oneness concept of God, but rather refutes it. And my search of the ECF confirms that Christians have heald to distinct persons of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, from the very beginning.

What I would like is the opportunity to answer all objections to this you may have from Scripture, as well as for you to allow me the opportunity to present my case from Scripture, and also from church history. Scripture is the sole authority. But, Church history is a witness (admittedly not always credible) to what the Apostles handed down through oral tradition. The creeds, as imperfect as they are, were an attempt to preserve in simple language what the oral teaching of the Apostles' was, through the convergence of the testimony of many witnesses from all over the Roman Empire, from local churches established through the missionary activity of the Apostles and their associates.


I will admit that I have also seen some Oneness folks try a little too hard to defend what they believe and misrepresent the facts. This is not unique to us. I have seen Christians of all persuasions do the same in defending their particular doctrinal distinctives. But for our folks that do it, I humbly apologize. Even if we are defending the "truth," this is not the way to do it. Hey, if God is one then we have nothing to hide. If God is a Trinity then I want to be converted. I really do want the truth. Of course, I believe quite strongly that the Bible does teach that God is one. Our theology is rooted in Deut. 6:4, echoed very strongly throughout the Old Testament and also (though not as strongly) in the New Testament. Now, what you run into with some of those who wear the label "Oneness" may not exactly reflect this, but the basic concept that God is fundamentally one as opposed to being fundamentally three I think is very basic to the Bible. In our opinion, it is what monotheism is all about.

Finally, I would like to mention that what we hold to and what is believed on the popular level of Oneness theology may be quite different. The same is true for Trinitarianism. I remember one scholar said that on the popular level, most Trinitarians are either tritheists or modalists. What we have run into with our website is that, on the popular level, many of our people are Nestorian, where Jesus is almost two people in one (one divine and one human), or they are Sabellian, where there is no God outside of Jesus Christ and his prayers were basically a charade. It may suprise you to know that we fight very adamantly against both of these misconceptions. I have a feeling that this is what you are running into with your discussions with other Oneness folks. We acknowledge that the Bible OFTEN makes a distinction between God and the Son of God (aka Father and Son, God almighty and Jesus Christ). But this is never a distinction between God and God (aka God the Father and God the Son). Jesus is somehow identified as God and yet distinguished from God all at the same time (see my article: In The Beginning Was The Word). We also acknowledge that the Bible (not quite as often) makes SOME distinction between God and his Spirit (aka God the Father and the Holy Ghost). This we see as similar to a man distinguishing his spirit from himself. In fact, Paul compares God and his Spirit to a man and his spirit in 1 Cor. 2:11. I can talk about my spirit in the third person and distinguish it from myself and yet I am still one person.

Anyway, I would enjoy continuing our discussion and will do my best to reply to whatever questions you may have. The honesty and openness you have seen in my study of the rapture is the approach I (try to) take with everything I study in the Bible. I want to believe the truth more than I want to be right.

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