Is there a Biblical Baptismal Formula?

Is there a Biblical Baptismal Formula?

 

Is There a Biblical Baptismal Formula?

 

Must we say: 

I baptize you

in the name of

the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Or must we say:

 

I baptize you

in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

 

Consider: 

Must certain precise words be audibly spoken

by the baptizer in order for

Baptism to be valid and Scriptural?

 

Is There a Biblical Baptismal Formula?

Introduction

Almost since the New Testament period two thousand years ago, controversy has raged on the meaning, purpose, subjects, and action of baptism.  Even during the first generation of Christians, various deviations from and departures from the truth were encountered by the apostle Paul (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:29; Acts 18:25; 19:1-7).  One aspect of baptism that has provided grounds for discussion is the Scriptural “formula” for baptism.  Does Christ and His apostles specify that certain precise words must be spoken by the baptizer at the time of the baptism for the act to be a valid Christian baptism?  Some have answered that Matthew 28:19 is the official formula for baptism.  Others have contended that Acts 2:38 and similar verses in Acts provide the necessary formula for baptism.  Still others say that no formal words need to be spoken for baptism to be valid in the sight of God.

  • What does Scripture reveal on this interesting subject? 
  • Does the Greek original help us to answer this issue? 
  • Is this an issue that should divide people who otherwise would be united? 
  • In short, must certain precise words be audibly spoken by the baptizer in order for baptism to be valid and Scriptural?

Is There a Biblical Baptismal Formula? 

Baptism may be examined and discussed from a variety of perspectives.  We may study the subjects of baptism, the act of baptism, and the meaning and purpose of baptism.  A further aspect that concerns us generally is called the baptismal “formula.”  Did God command us to use a specific formula at the time a person is baptized?  Must certain words be audibly stated by the baptizer in order for the baptism to be valid?  If so, what is this formula?  Several answers to these questions have been given over the years.  Let us examine the two leading ones.

Baptism in the Name of

the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit

First, the traditional baptismal formula in use today, which reaches back to the second century, is based on Christ’s words in the great commission.  Jesus declared:  “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.  Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:18-19).

This traditional “triadic” formula is found in the second century church manual of discipline known as the Didache (ca. AD 120-150).  The unknown writer of this work directs those who would baptize a convert:  “Concerning baptism, baptize in this way.  After you have spoken all these things, ‘baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit’ in running water” (7:1).[1]  Justin Martyr, writing in the mid-second century, also describes baptism as practiced in his day: “For at that time they obtain for themselves the washing in water in the name of God the Master of all and Father, and of our Savior Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit.”[2]  It might be noted that Justin did not consider the exact wording of Matthew 28:19 essential as long as all three (God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit) were recognized.  Later in the same century, about AD 190, Irenaeus  writes that “we have received baptism for remission of sins in the name of God the Father, and in the name of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who became incarnate and died and was raised, and in the Holy Spirit of God.[3]

Tertullian, a few years later, writes substantially the same: “The ‘paths are made straight’ by the washing away of sins, which faith obtains, sealed in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.[4]  The Apostolic Constitutions, compiled at the end of the fourth century, states: “After that, either you, the bishop, or a presbyter that is under you, will in the solemn form pronounce over them the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and will dip them in the water.”[5]  The same document says: “He [Christ] said, ‘Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.’  Therefore, O bishop, baptize three times into the Father, and Son, and Holy Spirit, according to the will of Christ.”[6]  This formula became the established practice during the entire medieval period.

Most modern churches and denominations also look upon Christ’s words in the great commission (Matthew 28:19) as a specific formula for baptism.  For instance, Roman Catholicism defines baptism as “the sacrament in which, by pouring water upon a person or immersing him in water, and using the words, ‘I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,’ the one baptized is cleansed of original sin and (in the case of one who has reached the age of reason) of particular sin.”[7]  Martin Luther, in his Small Catechism, says that “baptism is not simple water only” because “the water is applied in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, and is thus connected with God’s word.”[8]

The Episcopal Church would hold the same view: “As a sacrament Baptism is not valid unless it is administered ‘in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost,’ as commanded by the Lord himself in Matthew 28:19.”[9]  The “Confession of Faith” of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church states: “The outward element to be used in this sacrament is water, wherewith the party is to be baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, by an ordained minister of the gospel.”[10] The Baptist Faith and Message of the Southern Baptist Convention states: “Christian baptism is the immersion of a believer in water in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”[11]  Finally, the “Statement of Faith” of the Pentecostal Church of God states that their members believe in “water baptism by immersion for believers only, which is a direct commandment of our Lord, in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.”[12]

As in every other Biblical subject, we must ask, “What does the Scripture say?” (Romans 4:3a).  Are we to look upon our Lord’s words in Matthew 28:19 as a specific “formula” to be spoken at the time of baptism?  There is some indication that this is not the idea that Jesus had in mind when he gave the commission.  Let us notice first the specific wording of Jesus’ statement in Greek: Baptizontes autous eis to onoma tou patros kai tou huiou kai tou hagiou pneumatos.  Literally, the statement should be translated: “Immersing them into the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.”  What is the significance of Christ’s command to baptize “into the name of” the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit?

This terminology would have been familiar to Christ’s disciples who heard Him give the commission.  Biblical scholars have examined many documents written in the first century and have discovered that the phrase was frequently used in the Greek-speaking world in accounting contexts to refer to a transfer of ownership.  Moulton and Milligan state: “The phrase eis (to) onoma tinos is frequent in the papyrii with reference to payments made ‘to the account of any one’. . . . The usage is of interest in connection with Matt. 28:19, where the meaning would seem to be ‘baptized into the possession of the Father, etc.’”[13]  Arndt and Gingrich, in A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, likewise state: “Through baptism eis (to) on. t. the one who is baptized becomes the possession of and comes under the protection of the one whose name he bears; he is under the control of the effective power of the name and the One who bears the name, i.e., he is dedicated to them.”[14]  Another authority says: “In the New Testament, one regular idiom used in connection with baptism is ‘to baptize into the Name’ (eis with the accusative, e.g., Matt. 28:19;Acts 8:16; 1 Cor. 1:13,15), signifying designation for union, the passing into new ownership, and loyalty, and fellowship (cf. Jas. 2:7).”[15]

D.A. Carson adds: “Matthew, unlike some N.T. writers, apparently avoids the confusion of eis (strictly, ‘into’) and en (strictly ‘in’. . .) common in Hellenistic Greek; and if so, the preposition ‘into’ strongly suggests a coming-into-relationship-with or a coming-under-the-Lordship of. . . . It is a sign both of entrance into Messiah’s covenant community and of pledged submission to his lordship.”[16]  W.E. Vine says that the phrase in Matthew 28:19 “would indicate that the baptized person was closely bound to, or became the property of, the one into whose Name he was baptized.”[17]  G. R. Beasley-Murray says that if we take this Greek background for the phrase, “Undoubtedly this meaning would fit the drift of the passage well; the peoples are to become disciples of the sovereign Lord and baptism is a means to this end; the idea of appropriation, dedication, submission, belonging, that attaches to the Greek use of eis to onoma, perfectly accords with the major motif of making disciples.”[18]  Many other quotations could be cited which convey the same meaning.[19]  From this evidence, it would mean that “into the name of” (eis to onoma tou) denotes that one:

  • Becomes the possession of
  • Comes under the protection of
  • Is under the control of
  • Establishes a vital union with
  • Passes into the new ownership of
  • Enters into fellowship with
  • Comes under the Lordship of
  • Enters into the communion of
  • Becomes a disciple of

If this is the case, Jesus is saying that His disciples are to baptize people “into the possession of” the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  They are to immerse people “into the ownership of” the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  They are to baptize believers “into a vital union with” the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  As can be seen, Christ had something much more rich, vital and meaningful in mind than merely pronouncing certain precise words over a person at the time he or she is being baptized.

If, however, the phrase has a Hebrew-Aramaic background, the meaning may be slightly different from the above but related to it.  G. R. Beasley-Murray says that eis to onoma means “with respect to” and “it can denote both the basis and purpose of that which is named.”[20]  Thus, in Matthew 10:41, the disciples are to “welcome” a prophet in the name of a prophet–meaning “because he is a prophet.”  One is to receive a righteous man “in the name of a righteous man,” not that one must say, “I receive you in your name,” but one receives him because he is a righteous man (see vv. 41-42).  And in Matthew 18:20, two or three are to gather in Christ’s name or “do so in the interests of the cause of Jesus.”[21]

Beasley Murray offers three ideas found in the phrase if, indeed, it has this Semitic background: (1) Baptism into the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit “sets the baptized in a definite relation to God; the Father, Son and Holy Spirit become to the baptized what their name signifies.” (2) Baptism “in the name of the Father, etc. takes place for the sake of God, to make the baptized over to God.” (3) Baptism “grounds a relation” between God and the baptized, “which the latter has to affirm and express through his confession to the God in whose name he is baptized.”[22]  This is quite similar to the meaning if the phrase is purely Greek in background.  Beasley-Murray concludes: “A baptism with respect to, with thought for, for the sake of, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, in a context of becoming a disciple, was virtually entering into a relationship of belonging” to God, thus “it amounted to more or less the same thing as the Greek tradition would have expressed.”[23]  Whether Aramaic or Greek, the phrase eis to onoma would generally denote baptism into a relationship of belonging to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

 

We might also observe that Jesus says that this is something to be done and not necessarily something to be said.  Notice again Christ’s words: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.”  While it may be permissible or even advisable to say something at the time of baptism, Jesus said the disciples are to do something to bring people of all nations into a relationship with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  He is speaking about more than words; He is speaking about vital union, divine possession, sweet fellowship, new ownership, and a servant-Lord relationship.  He is referring to the meaning, the significance, or the purpose of the baptism—a baptism of faith and a baptism expressing repentance, but one that has a deep and rich meaning.

We must also notice that the term “name” (Greek, onoma) must have the significance that it often does in the New Testament.  Instead of just referring to an appellation, the “name” can refer to:

  1. Reputation: “And King Herod heard of it, for His Name had become well known” (Mark 6:14).  “I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead” (Rev. 3:1).  “Blessed are you when men hate you, and ostracize you, and insult you, and scorn your name as evil, for the sake of the Son of Man” (Luke 6:22).  “A good name is to be more desired than great riches” (Prov. 22:1a).  “A good name is better than a good ointment” (Eccles. 7:1a).
  1. Authority: “By what power, or in what name, have you done this?” (Acts 4:7).  “Your sins have been forgiven you for His name’s sake” (1 John 2:12b).  “You were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor. 6:11).  “I have come in My Father’s name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, you will receive him” (John 5:43).  “In the name of our Lord Jesus, when you are assembled. . .” (1 Cor. 5:4a).
  1. Character: “And James, the son of Zebedee, and John the brother of James (to them He gave the name Boanerges, which means ‘Sons of Thunder’)” (Mark 3:17).
  1. Rank or category: “He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward; and he who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward.  And whoever in the name of a disciple gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water to drink, truly I say to you, he shall not lose his reward” (Matt. 10:41-42).
  1. Person or Personality: “A gathering of about one hundred and twenty persons [names] was there together” (Acts 1:15b).  You have a few people [names] in Sardis who have not soiled their garments” (Rev. 3:4a; cf. v. 5; 11:13).
  1. Titles or Descriptions: “And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace” (Isa. 9:6b; Isaiah 7:14).

In regard to these uses of name, when we read of believing in the “name” of Christ Jesus, we actually believe in the person of Jesus.[24]  In Hebraic usage, the name stands for the person, the character, the reputation of Christ, so to “believe in His name” (John 1:12) means “to believe in Him as He is.”[25]  John 3:16 says that “whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”  In John 3:18 we read: “He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”  The converse of “believing in Him” is to not “believe in the name” of the Son of God.  This same usage is found in 1 John 5:10: “The one who believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself.”  In verse 13 we read: “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.”  The converse of “believing in the Son of God” is to not “believe in the name of the Son of God.”  W.C. Kaiser, Jr., remarks, “The name here is His person and the belief in that name is not magical, but it is an acceptance or ‘receiving’ of His messianic person and mission and thereby acquiring the right to enter into a new relationship with the heavenly Father (John 1:12).”[26]

This understanding was reflected in the quotation from Tertullian, noted earlier.  He writes of “the washing away of sins, which faith obtains, sealed in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”[27]  To be baptized in the name of these is to be baptized into them personally.  He also writes that “He [Jesus] commands them to baptize into the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit—not into a unipersonal God.”[28]  To be baptized “into the name” of the Father, the Son, and the Spirit is to be baptized into them personally.

What we have seen of the Biblical usage of “name” or onoma is helpful in our understanding Matthew 28:19.  Instead of being baptized into a word or designation or term, we are actually baptized into a personal relationship with God the Father Himself—in all of His fullness, in the richness of His character and reputation and authority.  We are baptized into a personal relationship with the Son of God Himself.  This is repeated by Paul the apostle when he says that we “have been baptized into Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:3) or “baptized into Christ” (Gal. 3:27).  Further, Jesus says that we are baptized into a personal relationship with the Holy Spirit.  This too is repeated elsewhere, such as in Peter’s words on Pentecost: “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).  The “gift of the Holy Spirit” is the Holy Spirit Himself and the Spirit is received when one responds in genuine repentant faith expressed in baptism (cf. vv. 33,39; Gal. 3:27 with 4:6; 1 Cor. 6:11; Gal. 3:2,14).

We might notice again that Jesus said people are to be baptized into the “name” of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Why does He use the singular “name” rather than the plural  “names”?  This is not the only place where this usage is found.  In the Messianic prophecy of Isaiah 9:6, we read: “And His [the Messiah’s] name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.”  The Messiah’s [Christ’s] “name” consists of four compound titles, offices, positions, or designations.  Yet none of them would technically be the coming Messiah’s personal “name” or appellation, which was “Jesus” (Matthew 1:21).  Additionally, in another Messianic reference in Isaiah, we read that the coming virgin (Mary) “will call His name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14).  Matthew quotes this passage, saying, “And they shall call His name Immanuel” (Matt. 1:23).  There is no indication that either Mary or others (“they”) literally called Jesus by such a “name” as Immanuel.  Consider another example.  In Revelation we read that “His [Christ’s] name is called The Word of God” (Rev. 19:13).  This shows that a description of title can be called a “name” in Scripture.  Several verses later, we read: “And on His [Christ’s] robe and on His thigh He has a name written, ‘King of kings, and Lord of lords’” (Rev. 19:16).  Once again, “King of kings” and “Lord of lords” are together said to be Christ’s “name” even though His personal name, Jesus, is not found.  We can see that the Jewish use of “name” is somewhat different from ours.  It refers to a person’s rank, character, reputation, authority, and person.

This would indicate that “name” has a much wider significance than we English-speaking people give to it.  Indeed, Jesus was Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace, Immanuel, King of kings, Lord of lords, the Word of God—and each of these terms is significant—but we must not think that these “names” are to be used as personal appellations of our Lord.  Similarly, when we are told that baptism must be in the “name” of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, we need not think of these titles or positions as personal names.  But they are “names” and we have seen that “name” (singular) may Scripturally refer to various titles, offices, or positions.  Therefore, it is not to be considered unusual that we would be baptized into the “name” of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  We are baptized into the person of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Thus far we have observed that Christ in His commission commanded His disciples to do something and not necessarily say something at the time of baptism.  They were to bring people of all nations to faith in Christ and repentance of their sins (cf. Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:47) and were to baptize these people into a personal relationship with, into the possession of, into the discipleship of, and into a union with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  A baptism is valid or invalid not according to the precise words spoken at the time of the immersion but according to the meaning or significance of the act and whether it truly is a New Testament baptism.

Baptism in the name of

the Lord Jesus Christ

A second answer is sometimes given regarding a “baptismal formula.”  In addition to Christ’s great commission and His command to baptize in Matthew 28:19, we read a number of other passages of Scripture that may serve to confuse our thinking.  Most of these are found in the book of Acts.  For example, let us notice once again Peter’s words on the day of Pentecost:  “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins” (Acts 2:38a).  Does this indicate that one who baptizes another must actually say, “I baptize you in the name of Jesus Christ” in order for the baptism to be a valid New Testament baptism?[29]

Just as we find the wording of the great commission baptism in the second and third century church, we also find at least some reference to baptism in the name of Christ Jesus.  For instance, not only did the Didache prescribe baptism “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (7:1), but it also says that only “those who have been baptized into the name of the Lord” are to be admitted to the Eucharist (9:5).[30]  Irenaeus, who lived at the end of the second century, has been cited as another witness to baptism in the name of Christ Jesus but the reference is questionable.  He states that at baptism “we are made clean, by means of the sacred water and the invocation of the Lord.”[31]  However, the reference to “invocation” of the Lord must have reference to a calling on the Lord Himself rather than simply baptizing “in the name of Christ Jesus” as a formula said by the baptizer (see also Acts 22:16).

In the mid-second century, the heretic Marcion did refer to baptism “in the name of Jesus Christ,” and in the latter second century, the apocryphal work, Acts of Paul and Thecla, also refers to baptism “in the name of Jesus Christ.”[32]  In the mid-third century, Firmilian, Bishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia quoted Stephen, Bishop of Rome, as saying that “the name of Christ is of great advantage to faith and the sanctification of baptism; so that whosoever is anywhere soever baptized in the name of Christ, immediately obtains the grace of Christ.”[33]  An opponent of Cyprian in the third century (or a fourth century writer) says that rebaptism is unnecessary in the case of those who turn from their heresy: “Heretics who are already baptized in water in the name of Jesus Christ must only be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”[34]

This formula was not often found during the Middle Ages but it was revived by Oneness Pentecostals (those of the Apostolic Faith) in the second decade of the twentieth century.  Those who hold to this view are adamant that baptism must be performed with the words, “I baptize you in the name of Jesus Christ” (or some variation of these words), in order for baptism to be valid in the sight of God.

No one can argue with the fact that Peter definitely said  baptism must be “in the name of Jesus Christ” if it is to be a valid New Testament baptism.  Did Peter mean that these words constitute a baptismal formula that must be stated by the baptizer if baptism is to be acceptable to God?

One of the problems with this interpretation is that various “formulas” could be found in the New Testament since there are slight differences in wording in the passages dealing with this subject.  Peter uses the phrase, as we have noticed (Acts 2:38).  Luke later uses nearly the same phrase in regard to the baptism of the Samaritans (Acts 8:16).  Peter later uses a similar phrase at the house of Cornelius (Acts 10:48) and Luke uses a slightly different phrase of the baptism of the Ephesian disciples (Acts 19:5).  Notice the various renderings in the English:

Scripture                        Rendering 

Acts 2:38              “baptized in the name of Jesus Christ”

Acts 8:16              “baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus”

Acts 10:48            “baptized in the name of Jesus Christ”

Acts 19:5              “baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus”

Looking at the English text, there seems to be little difference, but we must remember that the New Testament was written in the Greek language.  Although the first of the passages above may be a Greek translation of Peter’s original Aramaic preaching, the other three come to us directly from Greek originals.  If we look at the Greek text of Acts we will notice more variety than is apparent in our English translations.  These would be the Greek originals of the above passages:

Scripture                        Rendering

Acts 2:38    “baptistheto ekastos humon epi to onomati Iesou Christou”

Acts 8:16    “bebaptismenoi huperchon eis to onoma tou Kuriou Iesou”

Acts 10:48  “en to onomati Iesou Christou baptisthenai”

Acts 19:5    “ebaptisthesan eis to onoma tou Kuriou Iesou”

Let us first notice what Peter said in Acts 2:38.  What did he say in this passage?  “Each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.”  The Greek here is epi to onomati,[35] on or upon the name.[36]  Newman and Nida speak of the translation of this phrase: “In the name of Jesus is literally ‘on the name of Jesus.’ . . . The expression in the name of Jesus Christ is extremely difficult to translate meaningfully.  It is more or less a formula which people accept but which they normally do not understand.”[37]  As they point out, epi to onomati actually means “on the name of Jesus Christ”—or “upon the name of Jesus Christ.”  This preposition (epi) with the term “name” may carry several ideas.

Stringer observes, “An act performed on the name of someone was performed on the basis of that person’s authority.”[38]  Motyer says that baptism upon the name of Jesus Christ signifies that “baptism rests upon the authority of the Lord Jesus and is spiritually effective only through His personal presence and activity.”[39]  The lexicographer Thayer believes it means “relying on the name of Jesus Christ, i.e., reposing one’s hope on him.”[40]  H.A.W. Meyer believes that the phrase means “on the ground of the name, so that the name ‘Jesus Messiah,’ as the contents of your faith and confession, is that on which the becoming baptized rests.”[41]  Another commentator observes that “the name” means “the person,” thus “Jesus Christ and faith in him were the basis upon which this baptism was offered and the promise attached to it was made.”[42]  Yet another writer suggests that baptism in the name of Jesus Christ means “by his authority, acknowledging his claims, subscribing to his doctrines, engaging in his service, and relying on his merits.”[43]  Gareth L. Reese believes that the phrase could either mean “by the authority of Christ” (like “Stop in the name of the King” means “By the authority of the king I command you to stop”) or “upon the confession of Jesus Christ” (meaning “having made a confession of Jesus as Messiah, they were to be baptized”).[44]

Not everyone agrees that to be baptized “upon” the name of Jesus Christ is to be baptized by the “authority” of Jesus Christ.  For instance, Lenski comments: “As in v. 21 and in all these expressions, onoma, ‘name,’ designates the revelation by which Jesus Christ is known so that we rely on him.  To be baptized ‘in his name’ means to be baptized ‘in connection with the revelation he has made of himself,’ the application of water (as instituted by him) placing us into union with him by means of his name or revelation.  Baptism seals us with this name and revelation and gives us all this name and this revelation contain, and by receiving baptism we accept it all.”[45]  This variation, therefore, would say that we are to be baptized in relation to the revelation of Jesus Christ in Scripture and in the apostles’ proclamation.

Another variation of this view has also been suggested.  It is the position that to be baptized “upon” the name of Jesus Christ is to confess Jesus Christ—either to Christ Himself or to others.  F.F. Bruce suggests that the phrase means that “the person being baptized confessed or invoked Jesus as Messiah.”[46]  Longenecker  adds that “a person in repenting and being baptized calls upon the name of Jesus . . . and thereby avows his or her intention to be committed to and identified with Jesus.”[47]  In this connection, Ananias said to Paul/Saul at the time of his conversion: “Now why do you delay?  Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name” (Acts 22:16).  This would indicate that the one baptized “calls” on the name of the Lord (the Lord Himself) in baptism (cf. 2:21; Romans 10:13).  Paul adds to this: “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9; cf. vv. 10,13).[48]  It would appear that at the time of one’s baptism, he “called” on the Lord in prayer and/or confessed Jesus as Lord to those assembled.  Whether this is included in Peter’s command on the day of  Pentecost, to be baptized “upon” the name of Jesus Christ, is problematic, but it is instructive that some type of “confession” or “calling” must have been connected to New Testament baptism.

All of these thoughts have merit and should be considered in our understanding of Peter’s command for the people to be baptized “upon the name of Jesus Christ.”

The second aspect of baptism “in the name of Jesus Christ” is found in two contexts.  Philip went to the city of Samaria and began “proclaiming Christ to them” (Acts 8:5).  The result was that “when they believed Philip preaching the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were being baptized, men and women alike” (v. 12).  Luke then tells us that the Holy Spirit “had not yet fallen upon any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus” (v. 16).  Years later, when Paul came to Ephesus, he found twelve disciples.  When these men testified that they had “not even heard whether there is a Holy Spirit,” Paul asked, “Into what then were you baptized?”[49]  Paul apparently could discern that they had not received Christian baptism since the great commission speaks of baptism “into the name . . . of the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28:19).  The disciples replied that they had been baptized “into John’s baptism” (Acts 19:3).  Although they had received John’s “baptism of repentance,” apparently they did not have saving faith in the Lord Jesus (v. 4).  Further, since we know that these men had “not even heard whether there is a Holy Spirit,” Paul knew that they had not been saved—since one cannot belong to Christ without having the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:9; Gal. 3:2,14; 4:6).  Luke then tells us that these disciples “were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus” (v. 5).

In both of these cases (Acts 8:16; 19:5), Luke tells us exactly the same thing—that these people were immersed “eis to onoma tou kuriou Iesou” (into the name of the Lord Jesus).  Not only is the wording “the Lord Jesus” (here) different from “Jesus Christ” (in Acts 2:38), but we have a different preposition in the Greek.  Notice that this wording is exactly the same as in Christ’s commission:

Matthew 28:19     baptizing them eis to onoma tou

Acts 8:16; 19:5     baptized           eis to onoma tou

We noticed earlier, in our examination of Matthew 28:19, that Jesus apparently is referring to the fact that the baptized disciple is united with, enters into a relationship with, becomes the possession of, and becomes a disciple of the person who is referred to as the object of the preposition.  Therefore, in Acts, both the Samaritans and the Ephesians were baptized into union with or into a relationship with the Lord Jesus Himself.

It is helpful to notice Paul’s reasoning in 1 Corinthians 1:10-17 in regard to the Greek rendering in Acts.  In this section, Paul is reproving the Corinthian Christians for their divisive spirit that was manifested in their loyalties to various teachers or preachers: “Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, ‘I am of Paul,’ and ‘I of Apollos,’ and ‘I of Cephas,’ and ‘I of Christ’” (v. 12).  It was wrong for them to call themselves after Paul, Apollos, and Cephas—but it was right for all of them to claim allegiance to Christ and say they belonged to Christ (cf. 6:20; 7:22-23).  Paul then asks, “Has Christ been divided?  Paul was not crucified for you, was he?  Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” (1:13; cf. v. 15).  Christ cannot be divided.  Paul was not crucified for them.  They were not baptized in the name of Paul.  No, it was Christ who had been crucified for them (cf. 15:3).  Therefore, they had been “baptized in the name of” Christ!  If they had been baptized in the name of Paul, they would belong to Paul and they could rightfully boast, “I am of Paul.”  Since they had been baptized in the name of Christ, each one of them should be willing to say, “I am of Christ.”  Here again the implication is that the Corinthians had been baptized “into [eis] the name of Christ”—into union with Him, into a relationship with Him, into His possession.[50]

In the book of Acts, there is a third wording in connection with baptism.  At the house of Cornelius, Peter preached the good news of Christ and God gave evidence of His acceptance of the Gentiles by pouring out the Holy Spirit on the assembled crowd (Acts 10:44-47).  Luke then informs us: “He [Peter] ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ” (v. 48a).[51]  Here the Greek reads, “en to onomati Jesus Christ.”  Thayer holds that the phrase means “by the authority of the Lord.”[52]  He continues with the explanation that the phrase means “by one’s command and authority, acting on his behalf, promoting his cause.”[53]  A.T. Robertson agrees that it means that one is to be baptized “with the authority” of Christ, and he sees little difference between being baptized “en [in] the name” of Christ and being baptized “eis [into] the name” of Christ.[54]  In another place, Robertson seems to suggest the meaning as being baptized “because He is Jesus Christ.”[55]   Arndt and Gingrich suggest that it means to “be baptized or have oneself baptized while naming the name of Jesus Christ.”[56]

It is worth commenting on the last statement above.  One view prevails that “baptism in the name of Jesus Christ” means that baptism was the occasion in which both confession and prayer was offered by the person being baptized.  Beasley-Murray says, “The declaration of the Name was made before man and before (unto!) God.  It was therefore uttered in confession and prayer.  The name of the Lord Jesus is confessed by the baptismal candidate and is invoked by him”[57]  He goes on to say, “It is but natural that what is involved in the event itself should be brought to explicit mention and that the confession, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ be uttered by the one baptized.”[58]  This writer makes reference to Paul’s statement: “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9; cf. v. 10).  Beasley-Murray points out that although the earlier manuscripts do not have Acts 8:37, the Ethiopian’s confession that Jesus Christ is the Son of God probably does reflect early practice.  Therefore, he suggests that baptism in the name of Jesus Christ may suggest the convert’s confession of faith in Christ.

Furthermore, Beasley-Murray also suggests that baptism was the occasion of prayer.  The one baptized would call to Christ or God in prayer for salvation.  Ananias found Paul/Saul in Damascus and said, “Now why do you delay?  Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name” (Acts 22:16).  It may be that baptism was the time when the believer would “call” on the Lord’s name for salvation.  “Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13; cf. Acts 2:21).  “Just as baptism is an occasion to confess faith in Christ and is itself a confession, so it is the occasion of prayer by the baptizand and is itself an act of prayer.”[59]  We might also remember that Peter says baptism is “an appeal to God for a good conscience” (1 Peter 3:21)—a virtual prayer to Him for a clear conscience.

A further aspect that Beasley-Murray sees in baptism is that “the name of the Lord Jesus is called over the baptized.  He therefore dedicates himself to the Lord and is appropriated for Him; since this is done by the command of the Lord, an act performed on His behalf, we must view it as an appropriation by Him.”[60]  Therefore, the one who is baptizing another is to indicate that in the baptism Jesus Christ is obeyed and honored.  Jesus Christ is received or appropriated.  The one baptized commits himself to Jesus and is dedicated to Him.  The immersion in water is not merely an act involving water; it is an act that appropriates the Lord Jesus Christ Himself

A Formula for Baptism?

The two alternatives discussed above have been offered as official “formulas” essential for the Scriptural significance of baptism.  On the one hand, some say that one must baptize “into the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.”  On the other hand, others say that one must baptize “into the name of Jesus Christ” or “into the name of the Lord Jesus.”  From our study, it would appear that this refers to something that is to be done rather than something that is to be said.

Those who would contend for the view that we must say something like, “I baptize you in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ” (or a variation of this), would point out that people actually did say certain words in the New Testament era while performing certain acts.  For example, after giving the Markan version of the great commission, Jesus said, “In My name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues; they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover” (Mark 16:17-18).  This is exemplified in the return of the seventy (from the earlier limited commission) who announced, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name” (Luke 10:17).  At the temple, Peter told the lame man: “In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene—walk!” (Acts 3:6).  In Philippi, Paul confronted an evil spirit in a girl: “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her!” (Acts 16:18).  The Jewish exorcists in Ephesus “attempted to name over those who had the evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, ‘I adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preaches” (Acts 19:13).  These cases would, at first, lead us to conclude that since healings and casting out of demons were to be done “in the name of Jesus Christ” and some words were actually spoken to reflect this requirement, perhaps anything done “in the name of Jesus Christ” would require these specific words or this “formula.”

However, other Scriptural facts must also be considered.  Peter found a sick man in the town of Lydda.  The apostle said to him: “Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you; get up and make your bed” (Acts 9:34).  A specific “formula” was not involved in this healing.  Peter continued on to Joppa and raised Dorcas to life.  He simply said to her, “Tabitha, arise” (9:40).  Paul confronted Elymas the magician in Cyprus and brought blindness to him—without the use of any formula (Acts 13:10-11).  Paul healed the lame man in Lystra by simply saying, “Stand upright on your feet.”  The man “leaped up and began to walk” (Acts 14:10).  It would appear from verses such as this that it was possible to heal or perform a miracle  “in the name of Jesus Christ” without actually using this phrase as a technical formula to be stated at the time of the healing or other miracle.

Additional Scriptural facts should be considered.  We have noticed that Peter healed the lame man in the temple by saying, “In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene—walk!” (Acts 3:6).  Later, when the Jews inquired about this miracle, they asked, “By what power, or in what name, have you done this?” (4:7).  Peter responded, “By the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by this name this man stands here before you in good health” (v. 10).  Peter continues: “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved” (v. 12).  From this exchange, it would seem that the point of controversy had to do with who was responsible for the healing.  Whose “name”—what person—was involved in the healing?  Whose “power” was involved in making this lame man well?  We do not receive the impression that Peter was working with a formula on this occasion or a specific statement that could not have been altered: “In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene.”  In fact, this is the only place in Scripture that we know of where this precise statement was used.  Rather, Peter is referring to the person of Jesus Christ.  “By this name” or by this person the healing occurred.  Only by the “name” of Jesus or only by the person and power of Jesus could people be healed and saved.

Other uses of the phrase, “in the name of,” would also lead us to question whether this must be audibly stated.  Jesus said, “The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name” (John 14:26a).  Did the Father audibly say, “I am sending the Holy Spirit in the name of Jesus”?  No, He sent the Spirit for the sake of Jesus personally.  Christ gives a glimpse of the judgment when he says, “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’” (Matt. 7:22).  Does this mean that those who prophesied necessarily said, “I now prophesy in the name of Jesus”?  Jesus said, “Where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst” (Matt. 18:20).  In this context, brothers have gathered to exercise discipline of a sinful brother.  Must they audibly say, “We gather together in the name of Jesus”?

Some places where name is used it is difficult to determine whether something was actually stated.  For instance, John told Jesus that they saw someone casting out demons in Jesus’ name (Mark 9:38).  Jesus replies, “Do not hinder him, for there is no one who will perform a miracle in My name, and be able soon afterward to speak evil of Me” (v. 39).  Jesus said, “Whoever receives this child in My name receives Me” (Luke 9:48a).  Does this mean that one must say, “I receive you in Jesus’ name”?  The Lord told Ananias to speak to the repentant Saul of Tarsus; in his reply, Ananias said that Saul “has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Your name” (Acts 9:14; cf. v. 21).  Was he not describing those who call on the Lord Jesus personally?  Paul was “speaking out boldly in the name of the Lord” (Acts 9:28).  Does this mean that he used this phrase when he preached or does it simply mean that he spoke with the Lord’s authority?  Probably the latter.  When the Jerusalem apostles and elders wrote a letter to the Gentile brothers, they referred to Barnabas as “men who have risked their lives for name of the Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 15:26).  Surely they risked their lives for the Lord Jesus Christ personally.  When Paul was on his way to Jerusalem for the last time, he said, “I am ready not only to be bound, but even to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 21:13b).  Surely he meant that we was willing to die for the Lord Jesus personally.  When Paul recounted his past life to Agrippa in Caesarea, he said, “so the, I thought to myself that I had to do many things hostile to the name of Jesus of Nazareth” (Acts 26:9).  Evidently he meant that he was doing hostile things against those who believed and followed Jesus of Nazareth.

At other times the impression is that we should actually state Jesus’ name.  For example, Jesus said, “Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son” (John 14:13; cf. v. 14; 15:16; 16:24,26; cf. Eph. 5:20).  Sometimes, while “name” signifies authority, the phrase is specifically used: “Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thess. 3:6).  Thus, it is right and proper to actually use such a phrase while speaking or writing.

Sometimes name is used but “Jesus Christ” is not mentioned: “Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13).  “Spoke in the name of the Lord” (James 5:10).  “Anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord” (v. 14).  “Everyone who names the name of the Lord is to abstain from wickedness” (2 Tim. 2:21b).  “If you are reviled for the name of Christ” (1 Peter 4:14).  “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God” (1 John 5:13a).  “Speaking out boldly in the name of the Lord” (Acts 9:28b).  Examples like this would lead us to think that there is significance in the one who bears the designations of “Lord” or “Son of God” more than in the audible pronunciation of these words themselves.

What should we make of the foregoing evidence?  Probably one verse of Paul will help us to understand it better.  Paul commands, “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father”(Col. 3:17).  Whatever we do as believers must be done in the name of Jesus Christ.  But does this mean that we must verbally, audibly say the words “in the name of the Lord Jesus” for us to obey this command?  Consider these questions:

  • We must read the Bible in the name of the Lord Jesus, but must we say, “I now read this Bible in the name of the Lord Jesus”?
  • We must do good deeds in the name of the Lord Jesus, but must we audibly say, “I help you rake your leaves in the name of the Lord Jesus,” or “I give this $5.00 to you for gasoline in the name of the Lord Jesus,” or “I will watch over your children in the name of the Lord Jesus while you go to the doctor’s”?
  • We must share the good news of Christ with others, but must I audibly say, “I give you this gospel booklet in the name of the Lord Jesus”?
  • We must remember the Lord by breaking the bread and drinking from the cup, but must we specifically say, “We now commune with the Lord in the name of the Lord Jesus”?
  • We must eat our daily meals, but must we audibly, verbally say, “I eat this lunch in the name of Jesus Christ”?
  • We should write letters of friendliness, counsel, and admonition to others, but must we say, “I now write this letter in the name of the Lord Jesus”?
  • We are to attentively listen to Scriptural teaching, but must we all in unison say, “We now listen to this Biblical lesson in the name of the Lord Jesus”?

The point is obvious: whatever we do in life is to be done “in the name of the Lord Jesus” but we need not say those specific words before we do everything in life.

This would lead us to believe that just as it is possible to do many things in life without using the phrase, “In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ,” as a formula, so it is possible to baptize without using either of the suggested baptismal formulas.  If we understand the meaning of Matthew 28:19, it is possible to baptize a person into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit without actually speaking those words as a formula.  We obey this command when we immerse people into a relationship with, into the possession of, into discipleship to, or into the protection of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Also, if we understand the meaning of Acts 2:38; 8:16; 10:48; 19:5; and 1 Cor. 1:13-15, it is possible to baptize a person into the name of Jesus Christ, upon the name of Jesus Christ, or in the name of Jesus Christ without actually speaking these phrases as a formula.  We follow the example of the apostles when we baptize people into a relationship with Christ, by the authority of Christ, or with reference to Christ.

Virgil Warren writes in this regard:

We agree with the ancient dictum that what is not expressed by word may be present by faith.  It is not saying the words, but believing their meaning that validates the performance of baptism.  Acts and the epistles give the impression that the original disciples did not consider specific wording essential because they give descriptions rather than formulae.  Subsequent to the New Testament era the formalizing mentality progressively crystallized Matthew 28:19 into a test of validity.  It is not expressly indicated in the New Testament, however, that there need be any verbalization of the meaning of baptism in order to insure that it has meaning.  For expediency rather than necessity administrators repeat a description of its significance in order to reinforce awareness in the minds of participants.  There is no magic in words, but there is meaning in them; that meaning should always be present in baptism.[61]

Advice in Using the Name

With the contents of our Scriptural study in mind on these pages, let me suggest what my own practice has been for some years.  I bring together a number of different passages when I speak at the time I baptize someone.  It is not a memorized “formula” and it may vary slightly from time to time, but the general idea follows:

Upon your repentance of sins and your confession of faith,

in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ,

I now baptize you into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit

for the forgiveness of your sins

and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

You are being buried with Christ in baptism

and will rise to walk in newness of life.

The passages alluded to include in these comments are Romans 10:9; Acts 2:38; Matthew 28:19; and Romans 6:3-4.  Other passages could be incorporated in these comments.  Actually, many passages should have been discussed before the baptism proper but only a few comments need to be made at the actual time of immersion.  The comments by the baptizer, therefore, are entirely Scriptural.  They are not formal, not liturgical, and not ecclesiastical—but entirely Biblical.

We should also give some attention to the words spoken by the one baptized.  We should realize that in the simple, natural, and non-ecclesiastical setting of first century baptisms, a formal and precise response of the repentant believer at the time of baptism surely was not required.  Yet our former discussion suggests several matters.  Romans 10:9-10 says, “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”  Verse 13 also states: “Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.”  The minimum that can be gleaned from this passage is that Jesus should be confessed as Lord.  Is the confession to the baptizer and any bystanders or is the confession to the Lord Himself?  Verse 13 above suggests that one should utter words to Christ, confessing Him as Lord or Ruler.  A confession to others would also be in order.  If Acts 8:37 reflects an early practice, this would suggest confessing Jesus as the Son of God to the baptizer and perhaps others.  In Acts 22:16, Ananias speaks to Saul/Paul: “Now why do you delay?  Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name.”  This would suggest that in baptism one is to “call” on the name of the Lord Jesus—actually call on the Lord Jesus Himself.  Various writers even suggest that “in the name of Christ” may mean “with mention of the name, while naming or calling on the name.”[62]

While there are several different ideas expressed in the foregoing paragraph, it would appear to be proper and Scriptural for the believer coming to baptism to confess the content of his faith—that he believes that Jesus is God’s Son, the chosen of God (or Christ), and the crucified and risen Lord.  Since God the Father is likewise Savior, Redeemer, and Creator, it would be fitting for him to also confess his faith in God.  It would be in keeping with Scripture for him to actually pray or confess to Christ Himself the content of his faith.  And it would be wise and proper for the baptizer to also state the central truths of the gospel concerning salvation and the identity of Christ Jesus and God the Father.  Although Scripture does not seem to advocate precise formulas in relation to these matters (otherwise there would be more teaching and more precision in Scripture), the nature of faith would seem to say that this counsel is wise and in keeping with the major teaching on faith, confession, calling, and baptism.

If any reader has additional Scriptural evidence to add to our study, I encourage you to inform me that each of us may understand the will of the Lord more fully in this important matter.

Endnotes

[1] This is taken from Everett Ferguson’s Early Christians Speak, Revised Edition (Abilene, TX: ACU Press, 1987), p. 34.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid., p. 35.

[4] Cited in David W. Bercot’s A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs, p. 53.

[5] Ibid., p. 58.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Catholic Encyclopedia, ed. Peter M.J. Stravinskas (Huntington, IN: Our Sunday Visitor Publishing Division, 1991), p. 114.

[8] A Short Explanation of Dr. Martin Luther’s Small Catechism (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1943), p. 171.

[9] Howard Harper, The Episcopalian’s Dictionary (New York: The Seabury Press, 1974), pp. 23-24.

[10] J. Gordon Melton, ed., American Religious Creeds, Vol. 1 (New York: Triumph Books, 1991), p. 236.

[11] J. Gordon Melton, ed. American Religious Creeds, Vol. 2 (New York: Triumph Books, 1991), p. 175.

[12] Ibid., p. 46.

[13] The Vocabulary of the Greek Testament, p. 451.

[14] P. 572.

[15] The New Bible Dictionary, s.v. “Name.”

[16] Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, p. 597.

[17] Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, s.v. “Baptizo.”

[18] Baptism in the New Testament (Exeter: The Paternoster Press, 1962), p. 90.

[19] See our study, “The Significance of the ‘Great Commission’ Baptism,” for other quotations on the meaning of the phrase, eis to onoma tou.

[20] Baptism in the New Testament, p. 90.

[21] Ibid.

[22] Ibid., p. 91.

[23] Ibid.

[24] A.T. Robertson cites John 1:12 (“to those who believe in His name”) and comments that “this common use of onoma for the person is an Aramaism, but it occurs also in the vernacular papyri and eis to onoma [into the name] is particularly common in the payment of debts” (Word Pictures in the New Testament, Vol. 5 [Nashville: Broadman Press, 1932], p. 12).

[25] Leon Morris writes, “The name in some way expressed the whole person.  To believe ‘on the name’ of the Word, then, means to trust the person of the word.  It is to believe in Him as He is.  It is to believe that God is the God we see revealed in the Word and to put our trust in that God” (The Gospel According to John [Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1972], p. 99).

[26] The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, s.v. “Name.”

[27] A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs, ed. David W. Bercot, p. 53.

[28] Ibid., p. 57.

[29] Virgil Warren believes that a motivation for the use of this type of formula is not merely its presence in Acts and 1 Corinthians but a view of the nature of God.  “The primary impetus for the shorter statement comes from the belief that God is essentially a single being. . . . Again we can say ‘Jesus-only’ baptism is not just a preference for the shorter descriptions of baptism in Acts and the epistles.  The real crux of the issue is—at least usually—the view of the trinity” (What the Bible Says about Salvation [Joplin, MO: College Press Publishing Company, 1982], pp. 389-390).

[30] The Apostolic Fathers, Second Edition, Translated by J.B. Lightfoot and J.R. Harmer, edited and revised by Michael W. Holmes (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1989).

[31] Fragments from the Lost Writings of Irenaeus, 34, ANF, I, 574.

[32] Quoted by David K. Bernard, The New Birth (Hazelwood, MO: Word Aflame Press, 1984), p. 268; see also Encyclopedia of Early Christianity (New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1990), s.v. “Acts of Paul.”  The latter work  points out that the document contains fanciful content, such as the account of Paul baptizing a lion.

[33] Quoted by Bernard, p. 269.

[34] Ibid., p. 270.

[35] The preposition epi is probably original here rather than en (see Bruce M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament [New York: United Bible Societies, 1971], p. 301).

[36] H.E. Dana and Julius R. Mantey, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1955), p. 106.

[37] Barclay M. Newman and Eugene A. Nida, A Translator’s Handbook on The Acts of the Apostles (London: United Bible Societies, 1972), pp. 59-60.

[38] Johnny Stringer, The Book of Acts (Bowling Green, KY: Guardian of Truth Foundation, 1999), p. 42.

[39] Quoted by Stringer, Ibid.

[40] Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, p. 94.

[41] Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament: Acts of the Apostles, Vol. 1 (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1879), p. 93.

[42] New International Biblical Commentary: Acts (Peabody, MS: Hendrikson Publishers, 1990), p. 54.

[43] J. A. Alexander, A Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles, quoted by John R. W. Stott, The Message of Acts (Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1990), p. 78.

[44] New Testament History: Acts (Ann Arbor, MI: Buaun-Brumfield, Inc., 1966), p. 62.

[45] R.C.H. Lenski, The Interpretation of The Acts of the Apostles (Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1934), 106.

[46] Commentary on the Book of Acts (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1954), p. 76.

[47] Richard N. Longenecker, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: John-Acts, Vol. 9 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981), p. 283.

[48] Acts 8:37 gives another confession from the mouth of the Ethiopian: “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”  This text is in doubt.  Bruce M. Metzger explains: “Although the earliest known New Testament manuscript which contains the words dates from the sixth century (ms. E), the tradition of the Ethiopian’s confession of faith in Christ was current as early as the latter part of the second century, for Irenaeus quotes part of it (Against Heresies, III.XII.8)” (A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament [New York: United Bible Societies, 1971], p. 360).

[49] Dennis Gaertner says that “into what” (eis ti) “refers to ‘into what name’ (or ‘to what end’) they had been baptized” (Acts [Joplin, MO: College press Publishing Co., 1993], p. 299).

[50] James D.G. Dunn writes that “baptism into the name” (baptizein eis to onoma) “clearly means ‘to baptize into allegiance to the person named’ and indicates that baptism in the name of Christ is the formal act wherein and whereby the baptisand gives himself to Christ. . . . We need not press the actual phrase: what is important is the idea it conveys—of a change of ownership.  Baptism is such a transaction, where the baptisand formally gives himself into the hands of a new Master. . . . Baptism we have seen to be the means of commitment to Christ’s lordship so as to belong to him” (Baptism in the Holy Spirit [London: SCM Press, LTD, 1970], pp. 117,118).

[51] The KJV has baptism “in the name of the Lord” at this place.  While there is a slight possibility that this was the original reading, there is a much stronger likelihood that the original read that baptism was “in the name of Jesus Christ” (as reflected in the NASB, the NIV, and other contemporary translations) (see Bruce M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, p. 382).

[52] Thayer, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, p. 94.

[53] Ibid., p. 447.

[54] Word Pictures in the New Testament, Vol. 3 (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1930), p. 35.  He observes that “eis and en are really the same word in origin.”

[55] He points out that “in the name of a prophet” means “because he is a prophet” in Matthew 10:41 (Ibid., p. 85, quoting Moffatt’s translation).

[56] A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, p. 576.

[57] Baptism in the New Testament, p. 100,101.

[58] Ibid., p. 101.

[59] Ibid.

[60] Ibid., p. 102.

[61] Virgil Warren, What the Bible Says about Salvation, p. 389.

[62] Arndt and Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, p. 576.  This work goes on to suggest that to be baptized “in the name” may mean “be baptized or have oneself baptized while naming the name of Jesus Christ” (Ibid.).

Richard Hollerman 

Visit: www.Truediscipleship.com

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