By: Clement Ntukogu –
Should we be baptized in the name of Jesus only, see (Acts 2:38)? Or in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19)? Some Pentecostal Churches maintain that baptism must be by immersion using the formula, “in the name of Jesus Christ” as is found in Acts 2:38 and not the formula, “in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit” as is found in Matthew 28:19.
Well, Acts 2:38 records the Apostle Peter’s words on the day of Pentecost, Peter replied, “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”. However, Jesus Christ Himself had specifically commanded saying, “…baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19).
The question is, when we baptize people, shall we say, “I baptize you in the name of Jesus for the remission of sins”, or should we say, “baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”? The phrase “in the name of Jesus” has been twisted by some churches to narrow the formula of baptism to certain words. It is true Peter said, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins” (Acts 2:38).
Those churches claims that Peter gave the formula. But no person had the power to authorize the formula except the Son of God. The phrase “in the name of Jesus” meant “by the authority of Jesus” you should be baptized. In other words, Peter was declaring that Jesus commanded baptism; this is what is meant by the phrase “in Jesus name”.
Notice in Acts, there is no occasion where one person says to another, “I baptize you in Jesus’ name” (Acts 2:28; 8:16; 10:48; 19:5), Every time Acts mentions a baptism in Jesus’ name, the phrase characterizes the baptism, it does not record what the baptizer said. It means the baptism was in Jesus’ name, under the authority that Jesus gave them. It was the way they distinguished what sort of baptism they were doing.
They were not performing John’s baptism for repentance (Acts 18:24-26; 19:1-7), they were doing the baptism that Jesus commanded. Jesus’ commandment for doing baptisms is in Matthew 28:19. Therefore the phrase “baptism in Jesus’ name” means nothing more and nothing less “Christian baptism”, but the words in Matthew 28:19 are what the baptizer says during the baptism in Jesus’ name.
Let’s take a look at that Acts 2:38 again, the phrase, “in the name of Jesus Christ”, is not a reference to a baptismal formula but a reference to authority. It is similar to hearing someone say, “Stop in the name of the Law!” We understand that the “name of the Law” means by the authority of the Law. It is the same with baptism “in Jesus’ name.” To baptize in Jesus’ name is to baptize in the authority of Jesus. Consider the following:
• “And when they had placed them in the center, they began to inquire, “By what power, or in what name, have you done this?” Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers and elders of the people, if we are on trial today for a benefit done to a sick man, as to how this man has been made well, let it be known to all of you, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead – by this name this man stands here before you in good health,” (Acts 4:7-10).
• Acts 4:17-18, “But in order that it may not spread any further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to any man in this name. And when they had summoned them, they commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.”
• Acts 5:28, “We gave you strict orders not to continue teaching in this name, and behold, you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.”
• Acts 5:40, “And they took his advice; and after calling the apostles in, they flogged them and ordered them to speak no more in the name of Jesus, and then released them.”
• Acts 8:12, “But when they believed Philip preaching the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were being baptized, men and women alike.”
• Acts 9:27-28, “But Barnabas took hold of him and brought him to the apostles and described to them how he had seen the Lord on the road, and that He had talked to him, and how at Damascus he had spoken out boldly in the name of Jesus. And he was with them moving about freely in Jerusalem, speaking out boldly in the name of the Lord.”
• Acts 16:18, “And this did she many days. But Paul, being grieved, turned and said to the spirit, I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her. And he came out the same hour.”
We can see that the phrase is used in the Bible as an expression of authority. This is particularly clarified in Acts 16:18 above. Let’s look at it again. “And this did she many days. But Paul, being grieved, turned and said to the spirit, I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.
And he came out the same hour.” We also see that when people were being baptized, they did it calling on Jesus’ name (Acts 22:16), that is, they were calling upon Jesus who has all authority in heaven and earth (Matt. 28:18). The church is supposed to “call upon the name of the Lord Jesus” (1 Cor. 1:2) because it is by His authority (John 1:12) that we Christians have the hope and right of forgiveness of sins and adoption as His children (Rom. 8:15).
Therefore, all the Churches that are demanding that baptism be done with the formula “In Jesus name”, instead of being done as Jesus had commanded in Matthew 28:19, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”, are simply in error.
In Acts 2:38 Peter was making the distinction between the baptism of Jesus versus the baptism of John. He was not giving the mode of baptism. The proper way to baptize in Jesus’ name is to say, “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” as the Bible clearly states, “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism” – Ephesians 4:4,5.