Should we be baptized in Jesus’ name only or in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit? Are there two different formulas for Christian baptism?
Many have wondered why the book of Acts speaks of baptizing in the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 2:38; Acts 8:16; Acts 19:5), whereas Jesus Himself told the disciples, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19).
These are not different ways of baptizing, as some suppose.
“In the name of”
The phrase “in the name of” means “by the authority of.” Whether “in the name of Jesus Christ” or “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” the meaning is the same. Either way, it means that when the apostles baptized someone, they were doing so by God’s authority.
That is what the apostles were doing in the above references from the book of Acts. Those references do not tell us the exact words the apostles used when conducting the baptisms. They only indicate that the disciples exercised the authority to baptize given to them by Christ and that they did so in His name.
A minister of Jesus Christ today still baptizes by the authority of, or in the name of, Jesus Christ. Ministers of the Church of God, a Worldwide Association, use the words of Matthew 28:19 when they baptize.
Understanding Matthew 28:19
While on the subject, we should point out that Matthew’s words add some unique understanding in referring to the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. In Matthew 28:19, the Greek for “in” is eis and can mean “into,” which is the appropriate way to understand it in this instance. That is, sinners are baptized into the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. This implies that before coming to the point of baptism, the person has first learned about God the Father, His Son and the Holy Spirit. Then, through baptism, the person enters into a personal relationship with God the Father and the Son, thereby receiving “the family name” of God (see Ephesians 3:14-15).
God lives in the converted person through the Holy Spirit, thus enabling him or her to continue to live as God expects.Matthew’s wording also reveals that the Holy Spirit is the agency or power of God, which makes conversion possible. God lives in the converted person through the Holy Spirit, thus enabling him or her to continue to live as God expects. Paul explained this by quoting from the prophet Isaiah: “As it is written: ‘Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him’” (1 Corinthians 2:9).
Paul continues, “But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. … Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received … the Spirit [that] is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. … But the natural man [a man who has not been given the gift of the Holy Spirit] does not receive the things of the Spirit of God … because they are spiritually discerned” (verses 10-14).
The conversion process
In Acts 2:38, Peter was answering people convicted by his preaching, who asked what they should do next. He gave them a summary of the conversion process: “Then Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’”
And the process of conversion is the same today. If you come to repentance, you will have a sober awareness of what sin is, as well as how you have sinned, and you will be making a concerted effort to turn your life around. The Greek word for “repent” means “to change one’s mind.” The implication is a profound change in thinking that will necessarily bring about a correspondingly profound change in the way one lives his or her life.
Only after genuine repentance is it possible to be baptized by God’s ministers in His name.
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