Matters of salvation are of prime importance. When someone teaches that something must be done in order for one to be saved, then that doctrine is either a saving truth or a condemning heresy. There is no middle ground. This study will refute the heretical claim that in order for one to be saved the baptizer must say, “in the name of Jesus” over the one being baptized.
The doctrine that the words “in the name of Jesus” must be said for baptism to be valid is a recent development based on an ancient heresy. This practice will be shown to be error and the ancient heresy will be refuted.
The “Oneness” Heresy
The oneness doctrine is a result of the ancient heresy of sabellianism. This heresy is predominantly held by Unitarian Pentecostals. These groups are known for “calling themselves oneness Pentecostals or Jesus’ name Pentecostals; baptism in name of Jesus only. The major denomination is the United Pentecostal Church, a 1945 union of the Pentecostal Assemblies of Jesus Christ (1913) and the Pentecostal Church (1916). In contrast to this emphasis within denominational Pentecostalism, the charismatic movement has remained explicitly Trinitarian throughout.”
Those who affirm modalism or the oneness doctrine deny the Trinity. They believe that God has simply manifested himself in three ways. The United Pentecostal Church International teaches that:
God is absolutely one, with no distinction of persons. (Deuteronomy 6:4; Isaiah 44:8; 45:5-6, 21-23; 46:9 Romans 3:30; Galatians 3:20; James 2:19). In order to save sinful humanity, God provided a sinless Man as a sacrifice of atonement — Jesus Christ, the Son of God. In begetting the Son and in relating to humanity, God is the Father. In working to transform and empower human lives, God is the Holy Spirit. Thus, for our salvation, God has revealed Himself as Father (in parental relationship to humanity), in His Son (in human flesh), and as the Holy Spirit (in spiritual action). (Malachi 2:10; Luke 1:35; 2 Corinthians 3:17-18; 1 Timothy 2:5). This is a modern presentation of an ancient heresy.
The Doctrine of the Trinity
The Bible does present God as one. Deuteronomy 6:4 is the classic presentation of monotheism. However, the Bible also has presented three who are one. God said, “Let us create mankind in our own image after our likeness” (Genesis 1:26 ASV). The Old Testament continued to join to the Trinitarian God. “Some have shown an inclination to deny that the Old Testament contains predictions of a divine Messiah, but this denial is quite untenable in view of such passages as Ps. 2:6–12 (Heb. 1:5); 45:6, 7 (Heb. 1:8, 9); 110:1 (Heb. 1:13); Isa. 9:6; Jer. 23:6; Dan. 7:13; Mic. 5:2; Zech. 13:7; Mal. 3:1.
In the Great Commission, Jesus commanded his disciples to go and baptize “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). All three members of the Trinity are present in John 14:26, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” Jesus spoke to his disciples and told them that his Father (not Jesus) would send the Holy Spirit (not Jesus or the Father).
Jesus prayers to the Father to send the Holy Spirit are clear evidences of the Trinity. Jesus prayed that the disciples would be “one” in the same way that the Father and Son are “one” in John 17:21. Whatever it means for the Father and Son to be one is what it means for the disciples to be one. Jesus did not pray that the disciples would simply be one person without distinction. He prayed that they would be united together as the body of Christ—the church. That unity is to reflect the unity of God—the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The three are united but unconfusidly.
Paul’s descriptions of God also demonstrate the Trinitarian nature of God. 2 Corinthians 13:14 speaks of each member of the Trinity. Paul wrote, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” Each member of the Trinity is represented. Each had a different role, as it were, in salvation. They were perfectly united in their purpose but yet distinct.
Peter continued the Trinitarian theology in 1 Peter 1:2. He wrote that his readers were saved, “according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood.” All three members of the Trinity are present in Peter’s statement. All three are perfectly united in their purpose. All three are distinct in their existence. John’s beautiful prologue presents the distinction between Father and Son. John 1:1 tells us that Jesus, the Word, exists with God before creation. Jesus, the Word, was with God. The word was not the Father, the Word was with the Father. Then we see that the Word was also Divine.
“In the Name of” Statements in Acts 2:38 and Matthew 28:19-20
The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have eternally existed as perfectly united equals. Therefore, if we speak of the authority of one, then we speak of the authority of all. The phrase “in the name of” describes the authority upon which an action is done. To do something “in the name of the Father” is to do so “based on the authority of the Father.” To do something “in the name of Jesus” is to do the thing based on the authority of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This is why we see the same essential command given in both Acts 2:38 and Matthew 28:19-20.
In Acts 2:38 Peter commanded the people to be baptized “in the name of Jesus.” In Matthew 28:19-20, Peter received Jesus command to baptize “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” Was Peter negligent when he only commanded his hearers to be baptized in the name of Jesus? He had heard Jesus command baptism in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Why did he only say in the name of Jesus?
Peter said, “in the name of Jesus” because to say, “in the name of Jesus” is functionally equivalent to saying, “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” The words said over the person being baptized are not important, the action itself is based upon the authority of God.
A study of the phrase “in the name of” will demonstrate this truth. The phrase “in the name of” occurs 64 times in the ASV. Each time the phrase is used to describe an action performed because God commanded it to be thus. Each of these actions is to be performed because God commanded it. The action is not prescribed with a “magical phrase” which must be accompanied with the action to make it effective.
To do something “in the name of” has to do with the authority behind the action. It is not a magical formula. Colossians 3:17 says, “And whatsoever ye do, in word or in deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. 2 Thessalonians 3:6 says, “Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which they received of us.” These two commands illustrate the authority claim in “in the name of the Lord.” It would be absurd to teach that every action we do must be accompanied with “in the name of the Lord,” but if the baptismal formula is truly necessary then Colossians 3:17 would demand the phrase be used with every action the Christian performs.
By Faith or Phrase?
Salvation is by faith and not by works. This is not salvation by belief exclusively. It is salvation by faith which is belief and active submission. “Now it is clear that no one is justified before God by the law, because the righteous will live by faith. But the law is not based on faith; instead, the one who does these things will live by them.” Salvation is by fait not by works. Paul continued to say, “we received the promised Spirit by faith” (Gal. 3:14). “The law, then, was our guardian until Christ, so that we could be justified by faith” (Gal. 3:24). In Romans 5:1, Paul said, “Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Why were some lost? Paul said, “because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were by works” (Rom. 9:32).
But God, who is rich in mercy, because of his great love that he had for us, 5 made us alive with Christ even though we were dead in trespasses. You are saved by grace! 6 He also raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavens in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might display the immeasurable riches of his grace through his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift—9 not from works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time for us to do.
To be saved by faith eliminates the work of mankind from the salvation event. If we teach that the baptismal formula must be said in order for the baptism to be valid, then we have placed a necessary work on the shoulders of mankind in order for salvation to be attained.
The responsibility to be baptized is not a work of man. God taught about Jesus in the Bible. Faith comes by hearing the Gospel (Romans 10:17). Those who learn about Jesus and believe that Jesus is the Christ are to be baptized (Acts 8:35-36). Baptism is not a work of man. It is a work of God. Colossians 2:11-13 demonstrates that it is God who is working when one is baptized (a passive event). Baptism is described as “a circumcision not made with hands” (v. 11). Baptism is done “in faith in the working of God (v. 12). Baptism is the time at which the sinner, dead in sin, is made alive by God (v. 13). All these things are said to be done to the individual by God. God is the worker. The believer is the receiver.
The “in the name of Jesus” doctrine places a necessary act on the shoulders of mankind which contradicts salvation by faith. It is, therefore, an addition to the Gospel.
The Christian life is to be lived “in the name of the Lord.” All of our lives should be lived in line with God’s authority. However, that does not mean that Christians are required to say “in the name of the Lord” in order to make the action acceptable. Neither is there any magical word formula which must be stated before baptism will be valid. Baptism is performed “in the name of the Lord”—by his authority. We need not audibly state the obvious.
“in the name of” in ASV 1901
For Jehovah thy God hath chosen him out of all thy tribes, to stand to minister in the name of Jehovah, him and his sons for ever.
Then said David to the Philistine, Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a javelin: but I come to thee in the name of Jehovah of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied.
then he shall minister in the name of Jehovah his God, as all his brethren the Levites do, who stand there before Jehovah.
But the prophet, that shall speak a word presumptuously in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or that shall speak in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die.
when a prophet speaketh in the name of Jehovah, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which Jehovah hath not spoken: the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously, thou shalt not be afraid of him.
And the priests the sons of Levi shall come near; for them Jehovah thy God hath chosen to minister unto him, and to bless in the name of Jehovah; and according to their word shall every controversy and every stroke be.
And it shall be, that the first-born that she beareth shall succeed in the name of his brother that is dead, that his name be not blotted out of Israel.
And Jonathan said to David, Go in peace, forasmuch as we have sworn both of us in the name of Jehovah, saying, Jehovah shall be between me and thee, and between my seed and thy seed, for ever. And he arose and departed: and Jonathan went into the city.
And when David’s young men came, they spake to Nabal according to all those words in the name of David, and ceased.
And when David had made an end of offering the burnt-offering and the peace-offerings, he blessed the people in the name of Jehovah of hosts.
And with the stones he built an altar in the name of Jehovah; and he made a trench about the altar, as great as would contain two measures of seed.
And the king said unto him, How many times shall I adjure thee that thou speak unto me nothing but the truth in the name of Jehovah?
And he looked behind him and saw them, and cursed them in the name of Jehovah. And there came forth two she-bears out of the wood, and tare forty and two lads of them.
And when David had made an end of offering the burnt-offering and the peace-offerings, he blessed the people in the name of Jehovah.
And David went up at the saying of Gad, which he spake in the name of Jehovah.
And the king said to him, How many times shall I adjure thee that thou speak unto me nothing but the truth in the name of Jehovah?
Now the rest of the acts of Manasseh, and his prayer unto his God, and the words of the seers that spake to him in the name of Jehovah, the God of Israel, behold, they are written among the acts of the kings of Israel.
Now the prophets, Haggai the prophet, and Zechariah the son of Iddo, prophesied unto the Jews that were in Judah and Jerusalem; in the name of the God of Israel prophesied they unto them.
Then were the king’s scribes called in the first month, on the thirteenth day thereof; and there was written according to all that Haman commanded unto the king’s satraps, and to the governors that were over every province, and to the princes of every people, to every province according to the writing thereof, and to every people after their language; in the name of king Ahasuerus was it written, and it was sealed with the king’s ring.
And he wrote in the name of king Ahasuerus, and sealed it with the king’s ring, and sent letters by post on horseback, riding on swift steeds that were used in the king’s service, bred of the stud:
We will triumph in thy salvation, And in the name of our God we will set up our banners: Jehovah fulfil all thy petitions.
All nations compassed me about: In the name of Jehovah I will cut them off.
They compassed me about; yea, they compassed me about: In the name of Jehovah I will cut them off.
They compassed me about like bees; they are quenched as the fire of thorns: In the name of Jehovah I will cut them off.
Blessed be he that cometh in the name of Jehovah: We have blessed you out of the house of Jehovah.
Our help is in the name of Jehovah, Who made heaven and earth.
Neither do they that go by say, The blessing of Jehovah be upon you; We bless you in the name of Jehovah.
Who is among you that feareth Jehovah, that obeyeth the voice of his servant? he that walketh in darkness, and hath no light, let him trust in the name of Jehovah, and rely upon his God.
Therefore thus saith Jehovah concerning the men of Anathoth, that seek thy life, saying, Thou shalt not prophesy in the name of Jehovah, that thou die not by our hand;
Why hast thou prophesied in the name of Jehovah, saying, This house shall be like Shiloh, and this city shall be desolate, without inhabitant? And all the people were gathered unto Jeremiah in the house of Jehovah.
Then said the princes and all the people unto the priests and to the prophets: This man is not worthy of death; for he hath spoken to us in the name of Jehovah our God.
And there was also a man that prophesied in the name of Jehovah, Uriah the son of Shemaiah of Kiriath-jearim; and he prophesied against this city and against this land according to all the words of Jeremiah.
As for the word that thou hast spoken unto us in the name of Jehovah, we will not hearken unto thee.
For all the peoples walk every one in the name of his god; and we will walk in the name of Jehovah our God for ever and ever.
But I will leave in the midst of thee an afflicted and poor people, and they shall take refuge in the name of Jehovah.
And it shall come to pass that, when any shall yet prophesy, then his father and his mother that begat him shall say unto him, Thou shalt not live; for thou speakest lies in the name of Jehovah; and his father and his mother that begat him shall thrust him through when he prophesieth.
He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward: and he that receiveth a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward.
And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only, in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you he shall in no wise lose his reward.
And the multitudes that went before him, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest.
For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.
And they that went before, and they that followed, cried, Hosanna; Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord:
Behold, your house is left unto you desolate: and I say unto you, Ye shall not see me, until ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.
saying, Blessed is the King that cometh in the name of the Lord: peace in heaven, and glory in the highest.
took the branches of the palm trees, and went forth to meet him, and cried out, Hosanna: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel.
And Peter said unto them, Repent ye, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins; and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
But Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but what I have, that give I thee. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.
be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even in him doth this man stand here before you whole.
And they called them, and charged them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus.
And to him they agreed: and when they had called the apostles unto them, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.
But Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles, and declared unto them how he had seen the Lord in the way, and that he had spoken to him, and how at Damascus he had preached boldly in the name of Jesus.
preaching boldly in the name of the Lord: and he spake and disputed against the Grecian Jews; but they were seeking to kill him.
And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days.
And this she did for many days. But Paul, being sore troubled, turned and said to the spirit, I charge thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her. And it came out that very hour.
in the name of our Lord Jesus, ye being gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus,
And such were some of you: but ye were washed, but ye were sanctified, but ye were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Spirit of our God.
giving thanks always for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father;
that in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven and things on earth and things under the earth,
And whatsoever ye do, in word or in deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which they received of us.
Take, brethren, for an example of suffering and of patience, the prophets who spake in the name of the Lord.
Is any among you sick? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord:
And this is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, even as he gave us commandment.