This scripture has been called “The Great Commission”. That is simply a name that man has given to this particular passage. However as a result of such great emphasis on the importance of this scripture, Christians have over the centuries used these words to develop a formal baptismal announcement. We have all heard it hundreds of times. When someone is baptized the one doing the baptism says, “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” But is this really what Jesus said to do? Have we been missing something here? Jesus says to baptize them in the name of...What is that name?
After Jesus ascended into heaven and sent the Holy Spirit to the earth, the apostles and disciples began to preach and teach Jesus first to the Jews only then later to everyone else. They also baptized the new believers. Is there any record of what words they used to perform a baptism?
The Book of Acts
Acts 2:38,42 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. (vs. 42) Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.
Notice that Peter does not declare to them to be baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. He preaches and declares the actual name! This is part of the very first sermon ever preached on the day the Holy Spirit descended upon he disciples.
Acts 8:12-16 But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done. Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.)
Acts 8:35-38 Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus. And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him.
Here there is no mention of what words were used to baptize this man; however, in the verse above it is Philip preaching and here it is Philip preaching and in both instances he is preaching Jesus and the name of Jesus.
Acts 9:17,18 And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost. And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized.
Acts 10:47, 48 Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we? And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days.
Acts 16:14,15 And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul. And when she was baptized, and her household, she besought us, saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there. And she constrained us.
Acts 16:30-33 And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway.
Acts 18:8 And Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his house; and many of the Corinthians hearing believed, and were baptized.
Acts 19:1-5 And it came to pass, that, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper coasts came to Ephesus: and finding certain disciples, He said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost. And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John's baptism. Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus. When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
Here the people needed to be baptized again, John’s baptism of repentance was not enough. They needed to be baptized into Jesus Christ.
Acts 22:16 And now why tarriest thou? Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.
Romans 6:3 Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?
I Corinthians 1:13-16 Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius; Lest any should say that I had baptized in mine own name. And I baptized also the household of Stephanas: besides, I know not whether I baptized any other.
Here we can see the importance that Paul places on using the actual name of Jesus as he emphasizes the fact that he did not baptize very many people lest they should say he baptized in his own name to obtain his own personal followers.
Galatians 3:27. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
We are told directly that people were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. In each instance that the apostles baptized people, the name of Jesus was prominent in their teaching and preaching. Nowhere in the New Testament is anyone baptized “in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”! In the New Testament people are baptized “in the name of the Lord Jesus”! They are baptized in the actual name not in the command to baptize in the name.
I used to own a company called Superlawn. If I sent someone to buy some supplies at a garden center and told them “buy it in the name of our company”. When that person goes to the counter and says “charge it in the name of our company” the clerk will not accept that statement. The purchase will not go through and the supplies will not be granted. They must have the actual name not just the command to purchase in the name.
I have attended only one church where the pastor baptized people in the name of Jesus and from time to time he would explain to the congregation that doing so was a more Biblical practice. In a church where I was a member the traditional phrase was always used. One day someone doing the baptism said,“I baptize you in the name of Jesus!” and then baptized the person. A large part of the congregation noticed the difference and cheered recognizing that we ought to follow Biblical practices rather than tradition.
How about you? Are you willing to change to become Biblical? Are you willing to change to follow the practice of the apostles? Why is this important? God says that His church was built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets. When it comes to baptism we have left the foundation, we have left the name of Jesus. In the scripture above Paul asks, “into what then were you baptized?” After explaining Christ to them they were baptized into Jesus. They were baptized into a “who” not a “what”. Come on, let’s give Jesus the glory he deserves. Let’s lift up His name before all the people. Let’s recognize the authority of His name. When your love for Jesus grows to where He is all that really matters to you then you begin to see how important it is to return to a true faith and practice of honoring Him in all things.