This post is the fourth in a series about the Great Commission, a command that each follower of Jesus is expected to obey. The Commission is recorded in Matthew 28 verses 19 and 20.
“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matt 28:19-20 NASB
In previous posts (click on The Great Omission tab on the menu bar) we looked at “Go” and “make disciples.” In this installment we’ll look at baptizing in the name of the Father and the son and the Holy Spirit.
What does that mean?
Let’s understand what it doesn’t mean.
“the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” is not a magical phrase that spiritually validates baptism. Neither does adding “in Jesus name” to the end of our prayers make them acceptable to God.
Sometimes we may feel like our prayer isn’t officially sent on its way unless we add “in Jesus name” to the end. Not so. The same holds true for baptism.
When we pray in the name of Jesus and baptize in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, we are operating under and within the authority of the One or Ones in whom we pray.
Under the authority? What does that mean? At my job I’m given assignments from my supervisor. I can do those assignments because my supervisor assigned them to me. If someone stopped me in the hallway and gave me another assignment, I would direct that person to my supervisor. OK, if the president of the company asked me to do something, I would probably say I would, but I would still inform my supervisor. I don’t have the authority to do things outside my supervisor’s direction.
Baptizing is an assignment that is done under the authority of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. That means two things. First, people who are not Christians do not have the authority to baptize. Second, the meaning of baptism is defined by God and cannot include anything else.
How does God define baptism? We need to look at the New Testament for that answer.
Although John the baptizer (I’m not sure he was actually a Baptist!) baptized people, baptism took on a whole new meaning when he baptized Jesus. John’s baptism was for repentance of sin, but Jesus did not need to repent of any sins.
Jesus chose to identify with sinful man in many ways. He came into the world as a newborn. He took thirty years to reach age 30. He ate and slept. He identified with us in every way except He was without sin. Baptism was another way for Jesus to identify with sinful man, except this time God confirmed to the world that the one being baptized was God’s son.
And baptism is a way for repentant man to identify with Jesus. Paul explains this in Romans chapter 6.
Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. – Romans 6:3-4 NASB
Christians identify with Jesus in His death, His burial, and His resurrection.
In Acts chapter 2, the apostle Peter explained to his Jewish audience how they were responsible for taking the life of the Messiah. Shocked, they ask him what they should do.
Peter said to them, “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
By the authority of the name of Jesus, sins are forgiven and the Holy Spirit is given to the new believer. Baptism is the point in time when we can publicly acknowledge what Jesus did for us and what the Holy Spirit will do through us.
Any use of baptism other that what has been stated in the Bible is not under or within the authority of God.
Churches have to be careful allowing people to be baptized who don’t understand why they are being baptized. Someone once wrote in a church blog that they “were saved through baptism.” Baptism doesn’t save. We’re saved through faith in the grace of God through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.