Be ye baptized in the name of....
(By the way, in case your interested, I was baptized in a Trinity-believing church, so you know the formula used at my baptism.)
How can we determine what formula we're to use during baptism? Do we go by what Jesus said? Do we go by what Paul or one of the other Apostles said regarding the subject? Maybe we should examine some examples provided in the Bible and see how those in the know did it.
First let's take a look at the legality of the process of baptism. We have two major factors to consider in regards to baptism. We have the age of the one being baptized. Some say a person has to be of a certain age. Others say a baby can be properly baptized, and even though the child has no idea what is occurring, they are then preserved in the Book of Life for eternity. Then there are those who say a person has to be dunked, buried in the waves, or else the baptism isn't effective. Well, what age or what method is used is of no concern to me, at least not as far as this study is concerned. That aspect has been thoroughly covered in other studies and in (I suppose) every book of doctrine ever written.
Authority: In order for an act or a contract (which I assume baptism to be, a contract) to be valid, there has to be someone in authority to consecrate the contract or else it's of no value. For instance, I can't go out and buy a new car in your name, even if you told me I could. I have to have your "authority" to do so. This authorization usually involves what is called a "power of attorney." What authority do you, me, or any preacher have to baptize and have that baptism mean anything whatever? What makes me think I (or anyone else think they) can baptize you and give to you eternal life, or the Holy Spirit, or whatever my (or your) denomination believes such a baptism will bring about?
40He that receiveth you receiveth me, and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me. 41He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet's reward; and he that receiveth a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man's reward. 42And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward. (Mat 10:)
18Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. 19Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. 20For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them. (Mat 18:)
39For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord. (Mat 23:)
43I am come in my Father's name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive. (John 5:)
25Jesus answered them, I told you, and ye believed not: the works that I do in my Father's name, they bear witness of me. 26But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you. (John 10:)
12Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father. 13And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it. (John 14:)
6I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word. (John 17:)
If I gave someone the authority to use my name, I would say I was giving that person my power of attorney. Jesus said all power is given to Him, so I suspect there were no restrictions on the power of attorney He had been given by the Father.
When a person has the power of attorney of another, he can do anything and the person who's name he is acting under has to stand behind the action or the contract. At least that's what seems to me to be true given my extremely limited knowledge of law.
Jesus sent men out in His name, and by the use of that name they were able to raise the dead, cast out demons and whatever else they decided to do ("whatever you ask in my name"). Was it the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost these men had to invoke in order for their commands to be honored? No, at least not the way I read these Scriptures. It was in the name of Jesus they were able to accomplish these miracles. Does this mean anything? Not as far as I can tell. But I do wonder why Jesus didn't tell them to use all three names when representing whoever it is who will be standing behind and honoring their work.
6But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 7And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. 8Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give. (Mat 10:)
15And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. 16He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. 17And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; 18They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover. (Mat 16:)
18And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. 19Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen. (Mat 28:)
Here we have the command to baptize in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. And I suspect this is the passage that the Trinitarians base their formula on. Logical, and there's no discounting the fact that Jesus Himself said this is what we are to do. However, I do have some questions concerning this command, and the instructions that accompanied that injunction. First I see where Jesus is speaking to certain people. Does the command include me? I mean, can I baptize a person and provide them with eternal life? If I baptize a person, would they then receive the Holy Ghost? If not, why not? I mean, why would I be excluded from this important instruction? Does it take an ordination, or a special education, or belonging to a certain church to be able to qualify for this special gift (or whatever we might call the act of baptism)?
Let's look a little closer into who it is Jesus is talking to. I know there are many churches that like to grab for themselves every little promise or gift offered anyone in the Bible while overlooking the warnings and the exceptions included in those promises. Let's make sure we don't do the same and wind up finding out we've only been playing water polo and not actually preforming a baptism.
Jesus here is talking to His disciples, not to the masses. Am I an Apostle? Am I a disciple even? I guess there's only one way to find out if I fit the criteria of those Jesus is talking to. Well, it appears whoever Jesus is instructing will be able to pick up snakes, drink poison, and perform miracles. Can I do any of these things? Can your pastor? If not (I confess, I can't, so I'm not being spoken to here), is the baptism they offer any good?
Let's look at this from another angle, an angle that might shed some light on our puzzle. There are certain people we know of who quite well fit the criteria, and that is the Apostles. We know Paul can play with snakes, and he can withstand being stoned to death, yet walk away from the event. And I suspect if there's anyone who knows about baptism, it's Paul since he talked so much about the subject (though by his own admission he didn't practice what he preached, that is, he didn't baptize anyone himself (1Cor 1:15-17)
17For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect. (1Cor 1:)
Even Paul, one esteemed as an expert on the Word of God, and on baptism, didn't consider baptism (in water) so important that it superceded the Word.
1And it came to pass, that, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper coasts came to Ephesus: and finding certain disciples, 2He 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. 3And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John's baptism. 4Then 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. 5When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied. 7And all the men were about twelve. (Acts 19:)
Paul said he didn't baptize anyone. Yet here we see him baptizing 12 people. What's going on here?
There are two baptisms, one in water, and the other to receive the Holy Spirit. Paul obviously (at least so it seems to me) considers the second baptism more important than the first, that of water, because he did baptize by the laying on of hands, even when people were already baptized into the body of Christ (Gal 3:27). Actually I need to modify my statement. Which baptism is it that Paul is referring to that places a person into the body of Christ? Is it the first of water? or the second of the Spirit? Can both be provided at the same time? Apparently so, at least according to Peter (see Acts 2:38).
We have two more issues in the above passages that need to be looked at. In the first passage Paul said he wasn't sent to baptize but to preach the Word. In other passages we read that Jesus, the One who's body we are baptized into, was not sent to baptize, and didn't baptize Himself (His disciples doing the baptisms), but to preach the Word. It appears that the act of baptism is not something any of us can take on ourself but rather it's a job assigned to those God chooses for the job. Have you been assigned the job of baptism? Again, I haven't been. I wonder if the preacher who baptized me over 60 years ago was duly commissioned for the job? I wonder too how a person can be sure they themselves have been given such a commission, or if they've even considered the possibility that they haven't been so commissioned.
Paul said John's baptism was not for the purpose of receiving the Holy Spirit (which is obvious since they hadn't received the Holy Spirit at their baptism) but was for the purpose of repentance. Repent means to "reverse, reconsider," and my dictionary adds to this "regret." Did you repent when you were baptized?
5For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence. (Acts 1:)
11I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: (Mat 3:)
John the Baptist said he didn't baptize with the Holy Spirit, and Jesus Himself said John didn't baptize with the Holy Spirit. If this is the case, then I wonder if the preacher who baptized me had the authority to baptize me with the Holy Spirit. And if he didn't, then am I truly a part of the body of Christ? And if I'm not, because my pastor didn't hold the proper credentials, credentials from the School of Heaven, then am I one of those promised eternal life?
13Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him. 14But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me? 15And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. (Mat 3:)
In this one brief passage we have presented to us several questions, and a quandary. Did the one who baptized Jesus have the authority, the credentials that entitled him to baptize? Of course we know that if anybody had such authority, it was John the Baptist (John 1:33). John said he needed to be baptized by Jesus. But Jesus didn't baptize (John 4:2), at least He didn't baptize in water. What did Jesus baptize with? Earlier we read where Jesus baptizes with the Holy Ghost and with fire. If this is the case, and John's baptism is to repentance and not to salvation, then does that mean Jesus didn't receive the Holy Spirit at His baptism? Of course we know Jesus received the Holy Spirit at His birth, and that water baptism was merely a formality as a pattern for the rest of us.
27This is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. 28For I say unto you, Among those that are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist: (Luke 7:)
There was none greater than John the Baptist. What an epitaph to have written on one's grave stone. But wait! We have some questions tossed at us. Have you ever stopped to consider: Who baptized John? And if John wasn't baptized, was he saved? Is John part of the Kingdom of God?
We know it's the Holy Spirit that causes us to be a part of the Kingdom, not just the immersion into a pool of water, which is merely a public exhibition of what is supposedly occurring within us. Water may make us a little cleaner on the outside, but I think a person would be hard pressed to prove that the mere act of getting wet is what saves a person (although I know there are a couple people, in fact probably a couple billion people, who are resting on their dip in a pool to get them into Heaven). John was filled with the Holy Spirit from his birth, something we were not (see my study on the infilling of the Spirit, Infilling and Leaky Drains for more on this subject).
13But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John. 14And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth. 15For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb. (Luke 1:)
John was filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother's womb. Surely he must be a part of the Kingdom, right? Aren't you (and I) resting on the fact that you're "filled with the Spirit" as insurance that you're going to be taken into the Pearly Gates some day? I do have a question though, what is there about your life (or mine, or anybody else's life) that causes you to feel confident that you have indeed received such an infilling?
"But he that is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he." (Luke 7:)
Did you see that? Read and consider it carefully. John was filled with the Spirit from his mother's womb, he spent no telling how long in the water baptizing people into what we assume to be the Kingdom, yet he wasn't a part of that Kingdom himself? Paul said, speaking of himself:
24Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. 25And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. 26I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: 27But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway. (1Cor 9:)
Earlier we read where John said he needed to be baptized by Jesus. We might derive from this that John missed out on the Kingdom because he didn't receive the baptism of the Spirit and of fire that Jesus was to bring to earth.
John did the work of setting a foundation for those to follow, for us, but he missed the boat himself. Judas was another such person who missed out. He spent over three years following Jesus, living off the land, healing others and casting out demons, and even helping to fulfill an important prophesy. But when the time came for the rewards to be handed out, that being the receiving of the Holy Spirit, he missed out.
When I was a young recruit in basic training I, along with every other GI, had to scale a ten foot wall. As you can imagine this is not an easy thing to do under the best of circumstances. I was assigned the job of point man, that is, I had to kneel on my hands and knees while everyone in the squad I belonged to jumped on my back in order to make it easier for them to scale the wall. When it came my time to get over the wall, there was no one left to help me. My being a rather short person, certainly shorter than the 6 foot 6 men I was assisting, there was no one to help me. I could almost make it over the wall, but when I put my foot against the wall in order to push myself over, I would instead cause my fingers to slip off the wall by pushing myself away from the wall with my feet.
I can easily relate to Paul when he said he was afraid of failure after having worked hard to help others attain their goal.
19Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: (Mat 28:)
4Then 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. 5When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. (Acts 19:)
37Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? 38Then 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. (Acts 2:)
14Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: 15Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: 16(For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) 17Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost. (Acts 8:)
It appears that even Peter misunderstood, or didn't hear the statement from Jesus in regards to what name to use during baptism. And it also appears that Paul wasn't given this injunction. This brings to mind my original question, and the quandary it presents: was I baptized properly? Was the right words said over me, by a person authorized to perform such an important function? Is it possible that I will arrive at the Pearly Gates, my ticket in hand, and be turned away because my ticket hadn't been properly punched from the get-go?
And, this brings another question to mind: what was the name by which Jesus was baptized? Is it possible that even Jesus was given a baptism that was invalid?
1What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? 2God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? 3Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? 4Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. 5For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: 6Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. 7For he that is dead is freed from sin. 8Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him: (Rom 6:)
7Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. 8For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. 9And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. (Gal 6:)
1There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. 2For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. 3For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: 4That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. 5For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. 6For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. 7Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. 8So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. 9But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. (Rom 8:)
Is the name by which we're baptized all that important do you think? Or is this "name calling" just another of the many issues we use as walls to separate the body of Christ? It seems to me that it's more important to concentrate on living like Christians than it is to take pride in the words pronounced over us. If I'm not living a life up to par, if I don't finish to satisfaction what I've begun, then I can't see how I can expect to receive a reward for my failure.
I don't think it's important what words or names are said at our baptism. I believe it's important that we remember what our word were at the time, and that our hearts were prepared at the time, and that we live up to what we promised at the time. If we don't do our part, then what part anyone else played at our baptism is of nought.
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