Bible Reading: Acts 2:22-42
22 “Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know.23 This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. 24 But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him. 25 David said about him: “‘I saw the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. 26 Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest in hope, 27 because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, you will not let your holy one see decay. 28 You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.’ 29 “Fellow Israelites, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. 30 But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. 31 Seeing what was to come, he spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, that he was not abandoned to the realm of the dead, nor did his body see decay. 32 God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it. 33 Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. 34 For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said, “‘The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand 35 until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”’ 36 “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.” 37 When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.” 40 With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” 41 Those who accepted his message were baptised, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
Our Lord has commissioned His disciples to baptise "in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." (Matt. 28: 19). They obeyed and fulfilled His command by baptising "in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ". To say this is unimportant, and it doesn’t matter how we baptise, is to ignore and miss the vital truths revealed to the apostles for our blessing, protection, and growth. There was a reason for the apostolic action.
John 16:12, 13 - "I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. 13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. . . "
John 14:26 - "But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you."
When Jesus states, "I have much more to say to you", He clearly shows that the later revelation (which was going to be deposited in written form in Acts, the epistles, and the book of Revelation) was His own work. Therefore, the manner in which the disciples baptised, was the result of the promised revelation of Jesus Christ through the newly given Holy Spirit. We are contemptuous of God’s will and purpose in revelation if we treat this lightly or carelessly. We would not need to labour this point if men had not chosen to ignore the progress of revelation as promised by our Lord, and decided to make THEIR choice as to how to baptise. We quote from the Dictionary of the Apostolic Church, Vol. 2, page 73.
"The practice of baptising into the name of Jesus continued into the 3rd century, when POPE STEPHEN, in opposition to Cyprian and the Apostolic Canons, declared such baptism to be invalid."
1) What is God's Name in the Old Testament?
The name of God was considered too holy to be uttered by the people of God in the Old Testament. We know this translated name as Jehovah. However, the Israelites substituted for it the word LORD (adonai). The American Standard Version translated the "Incommunicable name" (YHWH) as Jehovah, instead of following the practice of using "Lord". God has many descriptive titles, but there is no question as to His name.
Ex. 6:2,3 (ASV) - "And God spake unto Moses, and said unto him, I am JEHOVAH and I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, as God Almighty but by my name JEHOVAH I was not known to them."
Psa. 83: 18 (ASV) - "That they may know that thou alone, whose name is JEHOVAH, Art the Most High over all the earth."
Isa. 42:8 (ASV) - "I am JEHOVAH, that is my name; and My glory will I not give to another, neither My praise unto graven images."
Isa. 47:4 (ASV) - "Our Redeemer, JEHOVAH of hosts is his name, the Holy One of Israel."
2) The Revelation of God in Christ
Jesus Christ was "God was manifested in the flesh" (1 Tim. 3:16). The writer to the Hebrews tells us, that the God of the Old Testament was the "God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, 2 has in these last days spoken to us by His Son (literally: in Son)...., ".... as He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they" (Heb. 1:1,2,4). The name "LORD" which the Old Testament saints had used for Jehovah, was now given to Jesus Christ. This indicates that "GOD WAS IN CHRIST" (2 Cor. 5:19).
Matt. 1:21 - "She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, (which means ’Jehovah is salvation'); because he will save his people from their sins."
Matt. 1:23 - "The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).
On the day of Pentecost, Peter, under the inspiration of the newly out-poured Holy Spirit, clearly stated that in His resurrection and ascension, Jesus Christ had entered into the fullness of the meaning and intent of His Name.
Acts 2:36 (NKJV) - "Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ."
"The Lord Jesus Christ did not command His disciples to baptise in the Names (plural) of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, but in the Name (singular) of each and all of "the Persons" - "Father, Son, and Holy Spirit" in the Trinity of God.
The Spirit of Truth — according to the Scriptures - revealed to those apostles and disciples and to the church at the beginning, the fact that the "NAME" of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit" is the name "Lord". "Therefore, the redemptive Name of God according to revelation is "The LORD, Jesus Christ!"
Col. 2:9 (Amp.) - "In Him THE WHOLE FULLNESS OF DEITY (the Godhead), continues to dwell in BODILY FORM - giving complete expression of the divine nature."
Way - "For it is in Him that ALL THE "PLENITUDE OF THE GODHEAD" HAS ITS CORPORAL HOME."
Weymouth - "For it is in Christ that the FULLNESS OF GOD'S NATURE dwells EMBODIED."
Moffet - "It is in Christ that the ENTIRE FULLNESS OF DEITY has settled BODILY."
Col. 1:15,19 (Amp.) - "He is the EXACT LIKENESS of the unseen God - the VISIBLE REPRESENTATION of the invisible. . . for it hath pleased (the Father) that ALL THE DIVINE FULLNESS — the SUM TOTAL of the divine perfection, powers and attributes - should DWELL in Him permanently."
3) "Father, Son and Holy Spirit are not names; they are titles describing the office work of each Person of the Godhead."
a) The Father has a Name: John 5:43 - "I (Jesus)I have come in my Father’s name."
b) The Holy Spirit has a Name: John 14:26 - "But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name."
c) The Son has a Name: Acts 2:36(NKJV) — "Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ."
Acts 4:12 - "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved."
Weymouth - "And in no other is the great salvation to be found; for, in fact, THERE IS NO SECOND NAME under Heaven that has been given among men through which we are to be saved."
Rom. 6:3 - "Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised into his death?"
a. HEARING AND OBEYING THE WORD
Acts 2:41 - "Those who accepted his message were baptised. . . "
Acts 16:14,15 - "One of those listening was a woman . . . named Lydia, . . . . The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. 15 When she and the members of her household were baptised . . . "
Acts 19:5 - "On hearing this, they were baptised in the name of the Lord Jesus"
Acts 2:37 - "When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do? vs. 38 - ". . . Repent and be baptised . . . "
Acts 2:38 - ". . . Repent and be baptised, every one of you . . . "
Mark 16:16 - "Whoever believes and is baptised will be saved . . . "
Acts 8: 12 - "But when they believed Philip as he proclaimed the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptised, both men and women."
Acts 8:37 - ". . . Look, here is water. What can stand in the way of my being baptised? Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may . . . "
Acts 16:31-33 - ". . . Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household . . . then immediately he and all his household were baptised."
Acts 9:6 - "So he, trembling and astonished, said, “Lord, what do You want me to do? Then the Lord said to him, “Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do." vs. 18 - ". . . and he arose and was baptised."
a. "THE SAME DAY"
Acts 2:41 - "Those who accepted his message were baptised, and about three thousand were added to their number that day."
b. "WHEN THEY BELIEVED"
Acts 8:12 - "But when they believed . . . . they were baptised, both men and women"
Acts 8:37, 38 - "_. . . If you believe with all your heart, you may. The eunuch answered, 'I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God'. And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptised him_."
Acts 18:8 - ". . . and many of the Corinthians who heard Paul believed and were baptised."
c. "THE SAME HOUR"
Acts 16:33 - "At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household were baptised.
It is unfortunate that many see a discrepancy between Matthew 28:19 and the references to water baptism in the Acts of the Apostles. It is our view that there is no discrepancy, but rather a divine intention, as we have tried to show above.
In conversing recently with some good fellow servants of the Lord on the subject of baptism, one of them quite emphatically stated that he would baptise only "in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" since that was the way the Lord had commanded it to be done, and that was good enough reason for him.
However, that raises the question as to who was responsible for the record of the Acts of the Apostles. Did not the same Lord Jesus Christ who spoke in Matthew 28:19 superintend the revelation of the Acts? We believe so. Therefore our friend’s position does not resolve the apparent problem.
Since it is the clear teaching of the New Testament, that "the fullness of the Godhead dwells bodily" in Christ Jesus, does it not then follow, that when one is "baptised into Jesus Christ" he is baptised into "the fullness of the Godhead" Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? Jesus Christ is that One of the Holy Three who has come forth to relate to men in their nature and need, that they in turn might relate to God through Him. As Neander has written, "the full import of baptism could not be realized until the process which began with Christ's death and resurrection had reached its consummation; until the exaltation had followed the resurrection, and the glorified Redeemer had displayed His triumphant power in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit."
The first repentant, believing sinners, who came to the Saviour in the first days of this Gospel age, in being baptised "into the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ," understood that they were being baptised "into Jesus Christ" (Romans 6:3). By being baptised in this manner they were not denying the nature of God’s Being as consisting of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, but were recognizing that the Lord Jesus Christ was their Saviour, and the One through whom they entered into a living relationship with the Triune God.
We consider it to be unhappy and unnecessary to controvert the matter of formula. Not that formula is unimportant, for it should bear a direct relationship to what is happening in the act of baptism. But if the meaning and intent of baptism is not understood by the one being baptised, then whatever is said matters not at all. There is no magic in the words spoken. The vital element in baptism is the new relationship with God through Jesus Christ, being declared and sealed in this divinely ordained act of faith-obedience.
Since baptism is analogous to marriage, we might see a relationship between what is said at the time of baptism and the vows exchanged at a wedding. The words spoken in the wedding ceremony can in some instances be meaningless, where there is not a genuine love relationship between the participants. So in baptism. The words can be meaningless if there is not a relationship of love between the sinner and his Saviour, based on a repentance-faith—obedience response to Christ. It is the vital relationship expressed in the act that is important, which relationship is articulated in the words spoken by the baptiser, which we refer to as "formula."
Must sides be taken on the matter? There are many good men who are staunch believers in the Trinity who baptise in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ; and there are other equally fine men who believe in the Trinity and baptise in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. If Matthew 28:19 and Acts 2:38 are to be considered as formulas, we do no service to truth and unity by considering them to be irreconcilable. We do not believe them to be mutually contradictory but, when rightly related, to be divinely intended, as we have attempted to show above.
Would it not be consistent with the total teaching of the Scriptures on baptism, and at the same time do much to bring about much needed unity in this area, if a formula incorporating the command of our Lord and the practice of the Apostles be used? This is not unity at the cost of compromise, for what would one be compromising? We have found the following formula to be agreeable to the total Scriptural teaching on baptism.
"FOLLOWING THE CONFESSION OF YOUR FAITH: TO THE GLORY OF GOD, FATHER, SON AND HOLY SPIRIT: WE BAPTISE YOU IN THE NAME OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST."
Study Questions for Lesson No. 8