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PFRS Home > Doctrinal Studies > Oneness Pentecostal & Baptism

in Jesus' Name
Copyright © Tim Warner - 08/2001

In Matthew 28:19, Jesus gave a specific command to His Apostles to baptize new converts from the nations "in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit." This is the usual formula for baptism today by most Christian denominations who are Trinitarian. However, Oneness Pentecostals counter the Trinitarian formula by claiming that the "name" of each of these is "Jesus." Therefore, it is necessary to speak the name "Jesus" and only that name (no titles) when baptizing, rather than "Father, Son, and Holy Spirit."

This solution may appear reasonable if one is inclined to accept a modalist view of the Godhead. And in the English text, it may appear to be correct. However, the Greek text is not nearly as comfortable with that claim. The Greek indicates distinct persons in this verse, not three titles for the same person. Baptizing "in the name of" the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, indicates baptism "in the name of" each distinct one, (Father, Son, and Holy Ghost). Jesus did not use the words "in the name" in the sense that Oneness Pentecostals use the term. It does not necessarily mean to actually speak a proper name while baptizing. It is a metaphor for "by the authority of..." or "in behalf of." In other words, "I am baptizing you by the authority of the Father, the authority of the Son, and the authority of the Holy Spirit." Or, "I am baptizing you in behalf of the Father, in behalf of the Son, and in behalf of the Holy Spirit."

Here is A.T. Robertson's comment on "name" in Matt. 28:19.

"The use of name (|onoma|) here is a common one in the Septuagint and the papyri for power or authority. For the use of |eis| with |onoma| in the sense here employed, not meaning _into_, see #Mt 10:41ff. (cf. also #12:41)."

An ambassador is sent to a foreign nation to represent our government. He goes "in the name of" the President of the United States. He carries the message of the President, and has the authority to act on his behalf. What he says is what the president wants conveyed to the foreign leaders. He has the authority to act, make decisions, speak and explain the purpose for which he was sent, and to in every way act as though he was the president himself. However, it is understood that everything he does comes from the authority granted him by the President. So, our imaginary ambassador can say that he comes "in the name of the President of the United States." But, this doesn't mean that he calls himself the "President." Nor does it mean that he speaks the words, "I do this in the name of the President" every time he does something. He simply acts by the authority granted him, and it is made known to all where his authority comes from.

This is how the term is used in the Bible. Here are a few examples. In none of the following cases does it mean someone necessarily spoke the proper name, only that they were speaking or acting in behalf, and by the authority, of another.

Acts 4:18
18 And they called them, and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus.

Acts 5:40
40 And to him they agreed: and when they had called the apostles, and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.

Acts 9:27
27 But Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles, and declared unto them how he had seen the Lord in the way, and that he had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus.

Acts 9:29
29 And he spake boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus, and disputed against the Grecians: but they went about to slay him.

1 Cor 1:13-15
13 Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?
14 I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius;
15 Lest any should say that I had baptized in mine own name.

Col 3:17
17 And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.

II Thess 3:6
6 Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us.

James 5:10
10 Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience.

In Matthew 28:19, Jesus was saying to baptize "by the authority of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost."

That "authority" is what Jesus meant is clear from the context as well.

Matt 28:18-19
18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.
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,

Jesus' point here is that He had full authority of the Godhead to send out the Apostles. He was not sending them out based on His sole authority as the Son of God. By sending them out by the authority of the entire Godhead, He was passing this full authority to the disciples to baptize by the authority of, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. In other words, He was saying; "I have been given full authority in heaven and earth." Or, "you can be sure that I have the full authority to send you out to the nations." So, when they baptized someone, they had the full authority of the entire Godhead behind them. They could baptize by the authority of the Father, by the authority of the Son, and by the authority of the Holy Ghost. Yet, this full authority was passed on to them by Jesus Himself (they heard it from Him only). So, technically speaking, they were to baptize by the authority of Jesus Christ (who had been authorized by the Father and the Holy Spirit).

Under the Law, the sons of Aaron were to administer the things of God to the people. They were authorized by God THROUGH Moses. But, here, the Disciples were authorized by the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit THROUGH Jesus. They needed this authority just as much as the priests needed God's authority through Moses. This is why Jesus was questioned about His authority to do the things He did.

Matt 21:23-27
23 And when he was come into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came unto him as he was teaching, and said, By what authority doest thou these things? and who gave thee this authority?
24 And Jesus answered and said unto them, I also will ask you one thing, which if ye tell me, I in like wise will tell you by what authority I do these things.
25 The baptism of John, whence was it? from heaven, or of men? And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say unto us, Why did ye not then believe him?
26 But if we shall say, Of men; we fear the people; for all hold John as a prophet.
27 And they answered Jesus, and said, We cannot tell. And he said unto them, Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things.

The chief priests who were challenging Jesus' authority had the Law of Moses behind them. As duly authorized representatives of God, via the Law of Moses, their authority was without question. Yet, it appeared to them that Jesus had no authority to preach, or do miracles. However, in other places we are told where Jesus' authority came from.

John 5:43
43 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 10:25
25 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.

That Jesus passed this authority given to Him along to His disciples is clear from the following verse.

What we have in Matt. 28:19 is Jesus, as the ambassador of the Godhead to earth, sending out more ambassadors to all the nations. The authority originated with the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. But, since Jesus was fully authorized to speak and act on behalf of the Trinity, he had full authority to send out the Disciples to act with the same authority.

Matt 10:40-42
40 He that receiveth you receiveth me, and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me.
41 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.
42 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.

You can clearly see the transfer of authority here, from the Father, to the Son, and to those whom the Son sends (Apostles).

The disciples understood this plainly. They baptized Jewish converts "in the name of Jesus." That is, by the authority given them by Jesus, and identifying the converts with Jesus Christ the Messiah. Implicit in this authority is the full authority of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Also, that the recipient of baptism was submitting to that authority.

The actual words spoken over someone when baptizing them is not crucial. Submission to the proper authority by the candidate, and expression of the proper authority by the one baptizing, is what is important. To say, "in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost," is to proclaim the proper authority provided we have a proper understanding of the Godhead. To say, "in the name of Jesus" is also to proclaim the same authority, because Jesus Himself was fully authorized by the Father and the Holy Ghost to act on their behalf. Remember, Jesus said "all power in heaven and earth has been given unto me." This begs the question, given to Him by whom? That question can never be resolved in a Oneness theology.

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