There is a lot of confusion in the church today about how to properly baptize people because of seemingly different commands in Acts and Matthew. Peter says in Acts 2:38,
“Then 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.”Alternatively in Matthew 28:19, Jesus commands his disciples
“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:”
So which is it? In order to understand these commandments, we need to first go over a few things. First of all, Christianity is a monotheistic religion which means that we worship a single deity. This is clear all throughout the Bible, but in the book of Exodus, Israel was specifically given Ten Commandments, one of which commanded them not to worship other gods. We will briefly discuss the first three commandments because they are applicable to this discussion.
Exodus 20:2-7 reads as follows:
2 I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. 3 Thou shalt have no other gods before me. 4 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5 Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; 6 And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments. 7 Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.
The first commandment makes it clear that He is the Lord and we are not to worship any other gods. If any doctrine teaches us to worship any other deity, then this commandment will be broken because Christianity would become a polytheistic religion. The second commandment is similar to the first. We are not supposed to have any idols, or make anything in the likeness (form, image, representation) of anything that is in heaven or earth. We are not supposed to serve them because God is a jealous God. Finally, we are not to take the Lord's name in vain.
Let’s jump over to the New Testament and review a few verses to find out who exactly Jesus is and we will revisit these commandments. Who is Jesus? Is He God? Is He the Son of God? Is He both? John 1:1 and 14 gives us more information when it says,
“1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… 14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.”Then in John 10:30, Jesus tells us
“I and my Father are one.”John 14:9 reads
“Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father?”1 Timothy 3:16 states
“And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.”Acts 9:4-5 says
“4 And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? 5 And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.”John 8:57-58 says
“57 Then said the Jews unto him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham? 58 Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.”Finally, John 20:28 reads
“Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”
As we can see in the verses above, it is very clear that Jesus IS god. When Timothy 3:16 says “God was manifest in the flesh”, this is informing us that Jesus was God manifest in the flesh. Even more obvious is in Acts 9:5 which reads “And the Lord said, I am Jesus”. This is very clear that the Lord is Jesus because he identifies himself as such. The relationship between the father, the son and the Holy Spirit is confusing to many. Why does he call himself a son if He IS God? In John 3:16 we learn that “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” I highlighted begotten here because it is critical that we understand the meaning of this word. Begotten in the Strong’s concordance is defined as “Single of its kind”. This means that Jesus was the only one of his kind. He was the single embodiment or manifestation of God in the flesh that was born of man, and that was fully man and fully deity simultaneously.
Jesus frequently called himself Son of Man. Why did he use this term? He used this term because he was human, and he was born of a woman, but conceived by the Holy Spirit. In this way Jesus was both Son of God and Son of Man. This is part of the reason he is called the Son of God. The second part of the reason that Jesus is called the son is because he was perfectly obedient and sinless. God was trying to give us a demonstration of how we are supposed to serve Him by coming to us in human form and being our example so we could witness obedience through His life.
Let’s go back now to the Ten Commandments. The first commandment tells us to not to worship any other gods. In Acts 4:11-12 we read
“11 This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. 12 Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved. (speaking about Jesus).”And Matthew 14:33 says “
Then they that were in the ship came and worshiped him, saying, Of a truth thou art the Son of God.”If Jesus was not God, He would have stopped them from worshiping Him else they would have been in violation of the first commandment.
We have enough understanding now to try to understand the different commandments in Acts 2:38 and Matthew 28:19. To understand what Jesus meant when he said to be baptized in the name of the father, the son, and the Holy Spirit, we need to understand a few things. First, He said name (singular), not names (plural). This indicates that there is a single name. Second, it says to be baptized in the NAME of the father, the son and the Holy Spirit. If, when we get baptized, we get baptized into the “name of the father, the son and the Holy Spirit” as a phrase, whose name did we get baptized into? There was no name mentioned.
If someone is writing you a check and they ask who it should be made out to, and you tell them make it out to the name of “my grandmother”, they are going to ask, “What is your grandmother’s name?” They wouldn’t make it out to “the name of my grandmother”, and the bank wouldn’t cash it if they did. So the question we should ask is “What is the name of the father, the son and the holy spirit?”
We know the name of the son; Jesus. What are the names of the father and the Holy Spirit? We see from what we just read earlier that Jesus is God. Remember that Jesus said “I and the Father are one”, and in Acts 9:5 “And the Lord said, I am Jesus”. This means that the name of Lord is Jesus. If the name of the Lord is Jesus then the father’s name is Jesus because the father is the Lord. What about the Holy Spirit?
John 14:16,26 reads
“And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;…But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name [Jesus Christ], he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.”
As we can see in the passage above, the Father [Jesus] will send the Holy Spirit in HIS NAME [Jesus’ name]. This means that the name of the Holy Spirit is also Jesus. So Peter was correct to tell them to be baptized into the name of Jesus, and this is the same command that Jesus gave to his disciples “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost”. The name of the Father, the son and the Holy Spirit is Jesus, so He was instructing the disciples to baptize people in the name of Jesus Christ. Remember, the book of acts takes place after the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. So when Jesus gave that command to His disciples, they understood what it meant which is why Peter instructed them to baptize in the name of Jesus Christ.
It is interesting to look at the definition of baptize in the dictionary which reads, “give a name or nickname to”. So when we are baptized into the name of Jesus Christ, we are to take on his name. With a name comes authority and power. In fact, Peter even told us that when we are baptized, we will receive the Holy Spirit. We are also told in 1 Corinthians 6:19
“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own;”When we get baptized, the Jesus comes into us and lives inside of us. This brings us back to the third commandment that commands us not to take His name in vain. Vain in this context is defined as “producing no result; useless”. When we are baptized and take on His name, we are supposed to produce fruit. These fruits are defined in Galations 5:22-23
“22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.”
Baptism is symbolic of the burial of Jesus Christ. Notice thought that Peter doesn’t just say to be baptized, he says repent and be baptized. Jesus was crucified on the cross, buried and then resurrected. We must go through each of these steps as well. Does that mean we need to be nailed to a cross? No, Galatians 5:24 tells us “And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.” Galatians 2:20 says
“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”Luke 9:23 reads
“And He was saying to them all, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.”
These verses make it clear that when we stop living for ourselves and our own pleasures, and we start following Jesus’ commandments, we have crucified the flesh. Jesus tells us that we must take up our cross daily. This means each and every day we need to make the decision to deny ourselves and pickup our cross [crucify the flesh] and follow him. This act of repentance represents our death and crucifixion.
So now we have discussed the death and burial of Jesus and how we follow Jesus in our lives through repentance and baptism, but what about the resurrection? Peters command continued with “…and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost”. Romans 8:11 explains:
“But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.”So when we repent, and we are baptized and we follow Jesus, we are promised the gift of the Holy Spirit, the same Holy Spirit that raised Jesus up from the dead. The reception of the Holy Spirit represents the final part of the gospel; the resurrection. So to quickly review, we must repent, be baptized in the water, and baptized in the spirit which is symbolic of our own death, burial and resurrection.
In John 3:5, it says
“Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.”2 Corinthians 5:17 says
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”How are we in Christ? When we repent, get baptized into His name and receive His Spirit. If we are not baptized into His name, then we are not in Christ.
Jesus Christ is the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Jesus is God. He was the manifestation of God in the flesh. Just like water can exist in multiple forms, as a liquid, a solid, and a gas, God can manifest himself in different forms like the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ (the father) is the omnipresent being of God. Jesus Christ (the son) is the manifestation of God in the flesh, and the Jesus Christ (the Holy Spirit) is the manifestation of God in us. Again, Peter said this AFTER Jesus gave his disciples the commandment to be baptized in the name of the father, the son, and the Holy Spirit. This shows us that Peter understood very well the principles discussed in this article. Acts 2:38 tells us how we must be saved:
Then 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.
Unless one understands that the father, the son and the Holy Spirit are all God, it is confusing when Jesus commands us to be baptized in the name of the father, the son and the Holy Spirit. However, when one understands that Jesus IS god, there is no longer any conflict between the commandment in Matthew from Jesus and the commandment from Peter in Acts. They are saying the same thing in a different way. So to conclude, Jesus Christ is the name of the father, the son and the Holy Spirit. When we get baptized we are to be baptized into the name of Jesus Christ.
“11 This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. 12 Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name [Jesus Christ] under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved”