Baptism "in the name of Jesus"

Typically the phrase, "I now baptize you...in the name of the Lord Jesus..." or something very similar is spoken at water baptism. To follow after the teachings of the Scriptures Oneness Pentecostals teach that water baptism should be done by immersion while calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ in saving faith. In modern English this name is simply pronounced, "Jesus." Even in the English language the sound and spelling has changed for this name. Even for other languages the name, of course, will look or even sound different. This use of the name of Jesus distinguishes believers as those who believe in the identity of our Lord, His atoning work, power and all authority (Matt. 28:18-20). 

Lars Hartman, in Studia Theologica, notes:
"There is little doubt that baptism was practiced by the first Christians as a kind of initiatory rite, when they received new believers into their community. Also, we can be quite certain that this baptism was given `into the name of Jesus' or, at least, that it was referred to as `into the name of Jesus'"(1) 
The Anchor Bible Dictionary makes a similar claim:
"It is relatively certain that in the early Church one commonly referred to baptism as being done “into the name of the Lord Jesus” or something similar.” (2)
The name of Jesus is the only saving name (Acts 4:12). No Biblical figure ever uses any other name in such regard. The name highly exalted is Jesus. For the trinitarian, however, this is only the name of the second person of the Trinity. Through His name we receive remission of sins and the name in which Christians are to say and do all things (Col. 3:17). The invocation of Jesus’ name is simply the most Biblically appropriate way to fulfill the purposes for baptism. Lexicons and translations make this clear.

When the disciples of John the Baptist, who were already baptized, were re-baptized, the only difference was their new understanding of Jesus and that name being spoken over them (Acts 19:3-5). The New Testament records five historical accounts of baptism that describe a name or formula, and in each case the name used is Jesus (Acts 2:38; 8:16; 10:48; 19:5; 22:16). The Pauline epistles repeatedly refer to Jesus' name as being integral to the act of water baptism (Romans 6:3-4; 1 Corinthians 1:13; 6:11). Older scholars such as Martin Luther and Ulrich Zwingli or more modern ones such as F.F. Bruce affirmed that the apostles baptized while invoking the name of Jesus. (3)

The threefold references in Matthew 28:19 do not identify three names of three different divine, eternal persons, but rather it describes a singular name. Even Carl Henry referred to this as "the name of the 'Father, Son, and Holy Spirit" in God, Revelation, and Authority. (4) This threefold reference refers to the redemptive manifesations of God, and the one name is Jesus. These roles of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are necessary in God’s redemptive plan for fallen humanity. The Oneness Pentecostal Confession (2002-2007) in section 36 state:
In foreordaining the plan of salvation and begetting the Son, God is the Father. In working in our lives to transform and empower us, applying salvation to us individually, God is the Holy Spirit. In sum, the titles of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit describe God’s redemptive roles or works, but they do not indicate three eternal persons in God, just as the incarnation does not indicate that God has eternal flesh.(5)
In his paper Was the Early Church Oneness or Trinitaran Thomas Weisser noted this concerning Matthew 28:19:
Instead of attaching three personalities to the Father, Son and Holy Ghost they recognized them as three modes, or manifestations, of the One God. The saving name they gave to Father, Son and Holy Ghost was Jesus. Indeed, this idea is not foreign to the New Testament for Jesus identified Himself with all three titles.(6)
Besides Matthews record the other parallel accounts of the great commission in the Gospels reference the name of Jesus (Luke 24:47, Mark 16:14-20). The apostles did not misunderstand or refine the words of Jesus but they correctly understood and obeyed the words of Jesus in Matthew 28:19 by actually baptizing all converts while calling on the name of Jesus. Many today simply repeat the words of Matthew 28:19. E. C. Whitaker notes the early use of the oral invocation of Jesus' name at water baptism:
"Similarly, in the Acts of Paul and Thecla, written in the middle of the second century, Thecla is represented as baptizing herself and saying, `In the name of Jesus Christ do I baptize myself for the last day.'"(7)
While Matthew 28:19 is not a strict formula for baptism, nor were the words originally understood as such a formula, the contexts demands a Christological formula. Not a trinitarian one. A simple formula that includes calling on the name of Jesus is the most appropriate considering the Biblical data. Our salvation and the great commission actually point to one person and one name--Jesus. His name is important but His saving work makes all the difference. He is Immanuel, God with us.


1. Hartman, Lars, "Baptism into the name of Jesus and early Christology" Studia Theologica, Vol 28 no. 1 (1974), p.21

2. Freedman, David Noel. The Anchor Bible Dictionary. New York: Doubleday, 1996, c1992.

3. Martin Luther, “The Babylonian Captivity of the Church,” in Word and Sacrament II, Luther’s Works 36, Abdel Wentz, ed. (Philadelphia: Muhlenberg Press, 1959), 63; Ulrich Zwingli, Of Baptism, in Zwingli and Bullinger, trans. G. W. Bromiley, The Library of Christian Classics 24 (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1953), 144-45, 168, 171; F. F. Bruce, The Books and the Parchments, rev. ed. (Old Tappan, NJ: Revell, 1984), 57 n.20.

4. Henry, C. F. H. (1999). Vol. 5: God, revelation, and authority (185). Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books.

5. Oneness-Trinitarian Pentecostal Final Report, 2002-2007 Presented at the 37th Annual Meeting of the Society for Pentecostal Studies.

6. Weisser, Thomas. ‘Was the Early Church Oneness orTrinitarian?’ in Symposium on Oneness Pentecostalism, 1986

7. Whitaker, E.C., "The History of the Baptismal Formula," The Journal of Ecclesiastical History, Vol. 16 (April 1965), pp. 5-6.

1 comment:

Latika said...

Praise the Lord,
What an awesome God we serve, very beautiful testimony you have, its true with faith everything is possible in Christ, believe and you receive what you ask for in prayers, I would also like to share my testimony with everyone as to how i received salvation through the love of Christ.
To read my salvation testimonies please visit my blog


Adversus Trinitas

"...unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins." (John 8:24 ESV)