Is there justification for baptizing in the Name of Jesus Christ?
Is there any scriptural or traditional justification for simply baptizing in the name of Jesus Christ? He is after all the Saviour, King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Further, since the Lord our God is one God, could His name not be used as the name of God, representing all three personages?
I am glad you asked this question. You know there is a difference between genuine reason for doing a thing and a contrived reason.
There is also a difference between having a defensible reason for actions and reasons that cannot stand up to evidence or investigation.
Most of Christian faith and practice must have a genuine reason that is defensible by the Word of God to justify its performance.
The reason is the Word of God is in the end the sole authority for all faith and practice.
You mentioned having Scriptural or traditional justification for simply baptizing in the Name of Jesus. When we talk about
a traditional justification we can only be talking about some action that is consistent with culture and that is either not spoken
to in Scripture, nor prohibited by the Word, or certainly not directed in another direction by the Bible. Then we have freedom
to look to tradition, which might give us some direction based on the good sense of our forebears. When it comes to the
baptismal formula, we do not have the latitude of decision in how we should perform baptism, because we have been given
clear instruction in The Great Commission. So the only acceptable reason for the method and ritual of Christian baptism must be a Scriptural one.
There is a passage that some people have misconstrued to teach baptism in the Name of Jesus Christ only. Some perhaps
chose to believe this Scripture gave a baptismal formula to mark their group as different, others through plain ignorance,
and still more because they have made the error of following the wrong leaders. I am referring to the verse in Acts 2:38:
“Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins,
and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.”
The problem in Acts 2:38 with the assumption that this is a baptismal formula is the context within which the verse occurs. Peter has
been giving a wonderful sermon having to do with the progressive work of God in Israel in keeping with His promises that has
the effect of reaching his Jewish hearers in the core of their understanding. The Hebrews listening to him are familiar with the Jewish
practice of baptizing Gentile converts and the repentance baptism of John the Baptist. This is obvious by the manner of the account in
Acts chapter two. Peter has taken them through progressive steps to recognizing the Lord Jesus Christ as the Messiah of promise and
prophecy. It is not intended to be a baptismal formula but a recounting of God’s dealing and
revelation to the Jews and to make them see the error of having rejected the Lord Jesus Christ.
Let me give you an example of the impact of this type of error by referring to other Scripture. There are four Gospel references
that refer to baptism being with the Holy Ghost instead of water, two of which also include fire. If this is to be taken literally and out
of context, then using these passages can be given as a justification for omitting water baptism all together and perhaps some
people might be tempted to make converts to their groups actually pass through a fire. Don’t laugh because some groups actually
do appeal to these passages to teach things that are unscriptural. But Scripture should always be interpreted and understood in context.
As to the use of the Name Jesus Christ to stand for the entirety of the Triune God, this would be disrespectful to the directions laid
down in The Great Commission. It would also be improper because Jesus Christ refers specifically to the Second Person of the Godhead
unique from the other two Persons. Since we are told to baptize in the Name of all three Persons of God, we can do no better and no less
than to say “In the Name of the Father, the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.”
Thank you for allowing me to have the privilege of addressing this important issue.
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Buchanan, Georgia 30113