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Baptism in Jesus' Name
William Arnold III
The usual Trinitarian formula used for baptism is found in Matthew 28:19. The setting is the Great Commission. These are some of the last words that Jesus told His disciples before He ascended. It reads:
Matthew 28:19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
The first thing I would like to point out here is that name is singular. This is significant. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit all have one name. Now I do not intend to try and explain this passage away. These are the words of Jesus. But we must ask ourselves, what does this mean? We must not take this one passage in isolation and ignore everything else that the Bible has to say about baptism. We must let scripture interpret scripture and look at all that the Bible says on any given subject.
Next I would like to point out now that this is not the only account of the Great Commission. There is a reason why we have four gospels. God inspired each writer to write the same truth from different points of view. John did not record the Great Commission, but we will look at what the others said. When we look at Markís account we read:
Mark 16:15 Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. 16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues
So we see that Mark records the command to go and baptize, but does not speak of a name in connection with baptism. However, we do see a mention of Jesusí name in the very next verse. More importantly we need to look at how the apostles obeyed these commands which we will see in the book of Acts. But now lets look at Lukeís account:
Luke 24:47 and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 And you are witnesses of these things. 49 Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high.
So here we read a command to preach repentance and remission of sins, in His name (which is fulfilled in Acts 2). If we look at the preceding verse we see that the pronoun His refers to Christ. So repentance and remission of sins are to be preached in Jesusí name! Where do we receive the remission of sins? Well, letís look at what Jesusí disciples did with this command:
Acts 2:38 Then Peter said to them, 'Repent, and let every one 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.'
So we have three different accounts of what Jesusí commanded His apostles at the Great Commission. Now we look at how they obeyed Jesusí words. We should take note that Jesus died after the Passover, was buried for 3 days and was then on the earth for 40 days after the resurrection (Acts 1:3). From the Passover until Pentecost is 50 days (Pente- means 50). So only about a week transpired between Jesus commission and Peterís sermon on Pentecost. Surely they didnít forget His command that fast. It is also interesting that Matthew, who later wrote Matt. 28:19 was present as well (Acts 1:13). We would expect him to stand up and stop Peter if he was preaching the wrong thing! ("Hey Pete, donít you know that Jesus said . . . ") But we donít see that. So we need to reconcile these two facts:
Jesus said this:
They did this:
Matthew 28:19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit Acts 2:38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent and be baptized, everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ . . .
Now who would be in the best position to understand the meaning of Jesusí words? Us, almost 2,000 years later, or His own disciples who He spoke them to. Throughout the book of Acts as we will see they routinely baptized people in Jesusí name. And when we read the Epistles to the churches, we will find out that they too were baptized in Jesusí name. So it is obvious that Jesusí disciples understood the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost to be Jesus! NOWHERE in scripture do we find anyone being baptized using these words, only in Jesusí name.
Acts 4:12 Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved. (Jesus Ė vs. 10)
Although this verse may not be talking exclusively about baptism, we see that Jesus is the name by which we are saved, and that there is no other!
Acts 8:12 But when they believed Philip as he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized.
Acts 8:16 For as yet He had fallen upon none of them. They had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
Acts 10:48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord.
Acts 19:5 When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
Acts 22:16 'And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.'
So Peter, John and the rest of the disciples baptized in the Jesusí name throughout Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria. And Paul re-baptized the believers in Ephesus in Jesus' name (19:1-5). Now letís look at some of the other churches:
Romans 6:3 Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?
Romans 6:4 Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
The reason that we are baptized in Jesusí name is that we are being baptized into Jesus. We are taking on his name, similar to the way a woman takes on her husband's name. We are saying that we belong to Jesus and we are identifying with Him in His death and burial. Even if God were a trinity, Jesus is the one who died for us and He is the one who the Christians at Rome were buried with.
1 Corinthians 1:13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?
If we follow Paulís train of thought, his obvious implication is "No, Christ was the one crucified for you and so you were baptized in the name of Christ" So the believers at Corinth as well as those in Rome were baptized in Jesusí name.
Galatians 3:27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
Colossians 2:11 In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.
In addition to those in Rome, Corinth and Ephesus (as well as Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria), we see that the Christians in Colosse and those in the region of Galatia were all baptized in Jesusí name. They would not have connected baptism so exclusively with Christ had they routinely baptized using the words "Father, Son and Holy Spirit." As I said before, the only way that we see anyone being baptized is in Jesus' name. When Jesusí was on this earth, He baptized His disciples (John 4:1,2) and then commissioned them to go and baptize others in His name, or in His place.1 When Jesus baptized someone, He didnít have to say "in Jesus name." He was Jesus. But when we stand in his stead, we do it in his name. Scripture tells us that whatever we do in word or deed should be done in Jesusí name (Col. 3:17). Baptism is an act of both word and deed.
Finally, I would like to demonstrate where history shows us that the Catholic Church changed the way that people were baptized. From there on people continued to follow this tradition, probably because it fit so well with their Trinitarian doctrine:
The baptismal formula was changed from the name of Jesus Christ to the words Father, Son & Holy Ghost by the Catholic Church in the Second Century. Ė 11th Edit., Vol. 3, ppg. 365-366.
CANNEY ENCYCLOPEDIA OF RELIGION
The early church always baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus until development of the Trinity Doctrine in the Second Century.
Here the Catholics acknowledged that baptism was changed by the Catholic Church. Ė Vol. 2, pg. 263.
HASTINGS ENCYCLOPEDIA OF RELIGION
Christian baptism was administered using the words, "in the name of Jesus." Ė Vol. 2, pg. 377. Baptism was always in the name of Lord Jesus until time of Justin Martyr when Triune formula used. Ė Vol. 2, pg. 389. NAME was an ancient synonym for "person." Payment was always made in the name of some person referring to ownership. Therefore one being baptized in Jesusí name became His personal property. "Ye are Christís." Ė Vol. 2, pg. 377 on Acts 2:38.2
1. Or possibly only his disciples did the actual baptizing. These verses have been understood both ways. <back>
2. These citations are taken from a Word Aflame tract.
See also my Q&A article: More On Baptism In Jesus' Name.
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