What does it mean to do something in Jesus' name?

By S. Michael Houdmann, Got Questions Ministries

A few weeks ago, we chose our "What is the meaning of Christian baptism?" article for our Question of the Week. We were expecting to receive the typical complaints from people who believe that baptism is necessary for salvation. What we did not anticipate is all of the arguments about baptism needing to be done "in the name of Jesus" for it to be valid.

Now, we are very familiar with the argument itself. We have an article about it here: Again, though, it was the number of complaints/arguments we received that surprised us. So, just in case this belief is becoming more popular in the Christian community, I thought it would be worthwhile to share some thoughts.

In Matthew 28:19, Jesus instructed the apostles, "...baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit..." However, in the book of Acts, it records the apostles baptizing in the name of Jesus (Acts 2:38; 8:12-16; 10:48; 19:5). Is this a contradiction? Were the apostles disobeying Jesus' command and/or doing baptism incorrectly? Or, as some in the "baptism in Jesus' name only" movement claim, does Matthew 28:19 not truly belong in the Bible?

Let's dispense with the ridiculousness. The simple answer to this apparent dilemma is that baptism in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and baptism in Jesus' name are the exact same thing. It is not the words that are said during a baptism that make a baptism valid. Saying "I baptize you in the name of Jesus" is not a magic formula. It is not an incantation.

Baptism is Jesus' name is baptism according to Jesus' commands. It is baptism in identification with Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection. It is baptism as a public declaration of your faith in Jesus and commitment to follow Him in discipleship. Baptism in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is baptism in submission to the Father, in identification with the Son, and in harmony with the Holy Spirit.

In John 14:13, Jesus states, "Whatever you ask for in my name, this I will do..." Does this mean that if we say, "I pray this in Jesus' name" at the end of our prayer, Jesus is obligated to give us everything we ask for in the prayer? Of course not. Praying in Jesus' name is not saying "in Jesus' name" as part of the prayer. Praying in Jesus' name is the same thing as praying according to the will of God. Praying in Jesus' name is praying for things that glorify Jesus. It is praying for the things that Jesus would want us to be praying about.

In the same way, baptism in the name of Jesus is not about the words that are said as a person is baptized. Baptism in Jesus' name is being baptized in obedience to, and in identification with, Jesus.

Should "I baptize you in Jesus' name" or "I baptize you in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit" be uttered when a person is baptized? Likely so. The words communicate what is occurring in the baptism. But, the presence of the spoken words does not make a baptism valid. And, the absence of the words would not make a baptism invalid.

The baptizer could say, "I baptize you in the name of the Savior," or "Yeshua," or "Christ," or "the Anointed One," etc., etc. The point is not the words being said. The point is whether or not what is taking place is in agreement with what the Bible say about baptism.

That is baptism in Jesus' name!

Image Credit: Church by the Glades; "Baptism Weekend"; Creative Commons

TagsBiblical-Truth  | Christian-Life  | Controversial-Issues  | False-Teaching  | Jesus-Christ

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Published 12-14-15