By Cecil Willis
In Eph. 4:3-6 we find Paul saying there is one body, one hope, one faith, one baptism. But in this same passage Paul says there is one God, one Lord, and one Spirit. There are those who deny the truth of this passage. They want to maintain the separateness of the ..one body, one hope, one faith, one baptism.” They recognize these refer to different things. But when they come to the one Lord, one Spirit and one God, they say these refer to one and the same person. God and Christ partake of the same nature, of the same image, and hence, in comparison to others, they both have a name that is above all things, both in heaven and on earth, but they are not one person.
Beginning with the presupposition that there is but one person in the Godhead, and that this person is Jesus, some of our denominational friends maintain that baptism may be scripturally administered only when the formula “in the name of Jesus” is spoken over the candidate. If you were baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, they will tell you your baptism is unscriptural.
In this controversy a distinction is made between a name and a title. To some of you good people who are unfamiliar with the doctrine we are studying, this subject may seem unimportant. But to others of you who have been confused by designing teachers, we hope it will be helpful and enlightening.
The terms, “Father, Son and Holy Spirit” are said to only be titles. Jesus is said to be the only name of God. We are told that is it not right to baptize in the name of a title, but that one’s baptism must be in the name of Jesus only. But in order that the position of our religious friends may be put in their own words, I quote now from a booklet sent to me by an individual supporting the teaching we are studying this week. I am quoting from “The Real Truth About Baptism in Jesus’ Name” by John Paterson, published by the Pentecostal Publishing House. He says: “I would ask you to remember that the words, `Father, Son, and Holy Ghost’ are titles or terms of relationship; they are not the Sacred Name!” Of course this statement is made to show that one should not baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. These are titles, not names, we are told, so we should not baptize in them.
But we are told that Jesus is the only name of God; and that all else are titles. But if Jesus is the only name of God, is not Christ a title? They argue that we should baptize in the name of Jesus only. Jesus is the only name. But if Christ is a title, then in Acts 2:38 we find baptism commanded in the name of Jesus Christ, and therefore baptism is administered in the name of a title. Christ. If Lord is only a title, since Jesus is the only name, then we find a title used in the baptismal formula of Acts 8:16. In Ex. 15:3 we read, “The Lord is a man of war; the Lord is his name.” It did not say “Lord” was His title. In Isa. 42:8, Isaiah says, “I am the Lord: that is my name.” The Scripture says that “Lord” is the name of God. But our friends tell us that Jesus is the only name of God. If then Lord is a title, and not the name of God, as we are informed, then this question: Why is one’s baptism valid if he is baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus, remembering that Jesus in the only name, and therefore Lord is a title, but invalid if he is baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, which are said to be titles? Why is one’s baptism valid in the name of one title, but invalid if another title is used?
I mentioned before that advocates of the doctrine which we are studying say that one baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is unscripturally baptized. I am quoting again from the same pamphlet previously quoted to show you this is taught: “Once this question is faced squarely you will have to admit that baptism `into Jesus’ name’ is not merely a correct formula–it is the ONLY correct formula. You will have to admit that the Triadic formula commonly used today is NOT EQUAL to the one used in the Acts of the Apostles-it is wrong and is totally invalid” (Pg. 30).
Note these questions: Is Lord the name of God? Is Christ the name of God? Is Father the name of God? Is Son the name of God? Is Holy Spirit the name of God? We are given an emphatic “No!” in answer to all these questions. They are all titles, and Jesus is the only name. But I ask again, Why is it wrong to baptize in the name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (titles), but right to baptize in the name of Lord and Christ (Also titles)?
We are told that baptism is not valid unless the “ONLY correct formula” is spoken over one in his baptism. Will one of you fellows who makes this statement please tell me what the “ONLY correct formula” is? They are quick to reply that it is baptism “in the name of Jesus” only. But will one of you fellows show me a single instance in the New Testament in which anybody was ever baptized in the name of Jesus only. There is no such instance.
A “formula,” Webster says, is a “set form of words for use in any ceremony; as a formula of faith; a prescribed or set form; a fixed or conventional method.” Where is the set of words that must be spoken over a person in his baptism in order for his baptism to be valid?
We find four passages are cited as giving us the prescribed formula for one’s baptism. Let us look at each of them. In Acts 2:38, Peter commanded the Jews to “Repent ye, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ.” In Acts 8:16, we find that those of Samaria had not received the Holy Spirit by the imposition of the apostle’s hands, “only they had been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus.” In Acts 10:48 Peter commanded the Gentiles to “be baptized in the name of the Lord” (KJV); “in the name of Jesus Christ” (ASV) And in Acts 19:5, “They were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus.” In these four passages we have three different prepositions; one meaning “upon,” another meaning “in” and two meaning “into.” In these four passages we have differences also in terminology with respect to the person. Once it is in the name of “Jesus Christ;” another time it is in the name of the “Lord Jesus;” and again in another, it is in the name of the “Lord.” The formula is supposed to be uniform, but in these passages which are supposed to tell us the formula for baptism, there are three different prepositions used, and three different terms for the persons. If there is only one formula to use, which one is the right one and which ones are the wrong ones?
But why is such a discussion as the one we are having this week imperative? It is because there is a passage in the Scriptures that some of our religious friends feel must be explained away. They take a long and drawn out way to try to accomplish this. They are teaching that baptism is invalid if any other name than Jesus’ is uttered as the act is being performed. But when Jesus gave the great commission, unfortunately for the doctrine we have been studying, his statement directly contradicted the doctrine we are studying.
In the great commission as recorded by Matthew, Jesus said: “All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth. Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you: and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” (Matt. 28:18-20). Our denominational friends maintain that baptism must be in the name of Jesus only, and of course, when Jesus commanded the apostles to baptize into the name of the Father and of the. Son and of the Holy Spirit, it perplexes them to no end. It does not fit in with our doctrine, they say, so it just has to go. Certainly the Bible could not teach anything contrary to what they believe!
Therefore, they say that since the word “name” is singular in this passage, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit must all be one person. They tell us that a singular noun cannot refer to a plurality of objects. The word “name” cannot refer to the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. So they conclude that the three just have one name, and that name is Jesus, and that all three are but one person.
Actually one finds several examples of a singular noun referring to a plurality of objects. In Matt. 18:16 Jesus commands that in disciplinary matters, we let every word be established in “the mouth (sing.) of two or three witnesses.” Now did the three witnesses just have one big mouth? Certainly not. In Matt. 17:6 we read that “the disciples fell on their face (sing.).” Did all the disciples just have one face? Surely not. In Jno. 10:39 we find that Jesus “escaped out of their (the Jew’s) hand (sing.)”. Did all the Jews just have one big hand? Such an idea is ridiculous. If in these instances we find that a singular noun is used to refer to a plurality of objects, what reason is there for concluding that the name (sing.) of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit must refer to but one person? There is no valid reason.
In Acts 2:38 and Acts 10:48 we find baptism is commanded “in the name of” the Lord Jesus Christ. What does it mean to be baptized “in the name of” Jesus? In the original language, the expression translated “in the name of” means “To do a thing in the name of someone, i.e., by one’s command and authority . . .” (Thayer). To be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ means to be baptized by the authority of Jesus Christ. But how did Jesus say be baptized? He said for the disciples to go teaching the gospel, baptizing them into the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:18-20). Friends, to be baptized in the name of Jesus, or by the authority of Jesus, is to be baptized into the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Someone asks, “Show me, after Pentecost, where anyone was ever baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” I reply by stating that there is no instance, in the New Testament in which one is baptized in the name of Jesus only, without the addition of a “title,” such as Lord or Christ. Actually good friends, I do not find an instance of any specific uniform formula being spoken over a person as he is being baptized. The important thing is for the right subject to be immersed in water for the right reason. The instructed believing penitent must be immersed for the remission of sins.
Where do we find an example of baptism in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? We find Jesus’ commanding the disciples to so baptize in Matt. 28:19,20. Did the apostles do what Jesus told them to do? He told them to baptize in the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. I believe they did. Some of my religious friends believe they did not.
Truth Magazine, XX:24, p. 3-5
June 10, 1976