WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE BAPTIZED IN JESUS’ NAME?

There is a peculiar doctrine taught by some Pentecostal churches concerning water baptism. They teach that when a person is baptized, the one doing the baptizing must say a certain set of words in order for the baptism to be valid. Since they believe that God’s name is “Jesus,” then those verses that talk about being baptized in Jesus’ name refer to the uttering of the statement, “I baptize you in Jesus’ name.”

 Let’s briefly examine the validity of this doctrine.  According to W.E. Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, the Greek word onoma, translated “name,” generally refers to the name by which a person or thing is called. He says that sometimes the “name” represents the title of that person. He also shows that “name” implies authority, character, rank, majesty, power, excellence, etc., of everything that the name covers. Notice the following passage where it is used in that way:

  Colossians 3:17

“And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”

 In this passage, Paul tells us that whatever we do “in word” (what we speak) or “deed” (what we do), we must have authority from the Lord. This passage is telling us what to DO, not what to SAY.

 If “in the name of” means a certain set of words must be uttered when one is baptized “in the name of Jesus,” then Colossians 3:17 must likewise mean that a certain set of words must be uttered whenever we do anything (“whatever”)!

 Everyone agrees that Colossians 3:17 is a reference to doing things “by the authority” of Christ. It is just like the old cowboy movies where the sheriff would yell, “Stop in the name of the law!” He was not saying “the law” even had a name, or that the robber had to say a name when he stopped, but he was simply making an appeal to the legal “authority” that he had been given by law. This passage and all similar passages are telling us what to do, not what to say. All that we do is to be done by Jesus’ authority.           

 Now what about water baptism? When one is baptized “in the name of Jesus,” according to the New Testament, he is baptized by the authority of Jesus. No passage gives us a formula of words that must be uttered! When we are told to be baptized “in the name of Jesus” the text is telling us what to DO, not what to SAY!

 And if it was telling us what to say, then which variation must be used?

In Acts 2:38, it says, “in the name of Jesus Christ.”

In Acts 8:16, it says, “in the name of the Lord Jesus.”

In Acts 10:48, it says, “in the name of the Lord.”

If you must say His name, which variation will you choose? If it is about a formula of words, then which “formula” will you use? Furthermore, notice the Great Commission below:

Matthew 28:19

“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.”

This simply means that when you baptize someone, you are doing it by the authority of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It says nothing about something to be said, but what is to be done. In fact, none of the cases of conversion mentioned in Acts gives us any information at all concerning what may have been said at those baptisms. There certainly is nothing wrong in saying what you are doing at the baptism; this might benefit those who might be watching. But there is no passage that tells us that a certain set of words must be uttered at a baptism

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