Question #175

Why do people get baptized in the name of Jesus only?

If Jesus said in Matthew 28:19 to go into all the world making disciples and baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Why then do people get baptized in the name of Jesus only and claim that being baptized in the trinity is false and one is not saved. This is a Pentecostal Movement.

The Answer:

In addition to the answer below, please see this special lesson on baptism.

This question relates to a doctrine commonly referred to as “Jesus Only.” Those who teach it are commonly referred to as the “Oneness” people of the Pentecostal Church. The “Jesus Only” appellation comes from their teaching that baptism is to be and may be scripturally administered “in the name of Jesus only.” This teaching gains plausibility from the fact that, in spite of the command to baptize in Matthew’s record of the Great Commission, the book of Acts records no clear instance of its being administered in that manner. For example:

Acts 2:28 – be baptized…in the name of Jesus Christ.

Acts 8:16 – baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.

Acts 10:48 – baptized in the name of the Lord.

Acts 19:5 – baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.

From this record the Oneness adherents conclude that this was the approved formula for the apostolic age and is binding on Christians today.

However, closer examination reveals the weaknesses of this position.

First, if the formula first expressed in Acts 2 38 is binding, then the three that followed got it wrong by not subscribing to the prescribed formula. Note that in the four instances listed there are three different arrangements of the name. This alone establishes that there was not definite design intended for the order of the words.

Second, the difference, evident to the English reader, is clearer in the Greek.

Acts 2:38 – kai baptistheto…epi to onomati Jesou Christou.

Acts 8:16 – bebaptismenoi…eis to onoma tou Kuriou Jesou.

Acts 10:48 – baptisthenai en to onomati tou Kuriou.

Acts 19:5 – epatisthesan eis to onoma tou Kuriou Jesou.

Third, note the lack of uniformity in the name:

Acts 2:38 – Jesus Christ.

Acts 8:16 – The Lord Jesus.

Acts 10:48 – The Lord.

Acts 19:5 – The Lord Jesus.

Fourth, note the variation in the prepositions used to show the relation between the name and the baptismal act:

Acts 2:38 – epi to onomati (literally, upon the name).

Acts 8:16 – eis to onoma (into the name).

Acts 10:48 – en to onomati (in the name).

Acts 19:5 – eis to onoma (into the name).

Given the variations in the language used relative to the relationship between the name(s) of Jesus and the baptismal acts, it is evident that no uniformity in the use of the terms occurs and a conclusion that binds one of them is erroneous.

The Great Commission under which Jesus sent the Apostles forth to baptize is explicit: “18 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. 19 1 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them 2 in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you 1 alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” Matthew 28:18-20. This command was based upon “all authority” and was to last “unto the end of the world.” Baptism in any other manner is without the Lord’s authority. Those who teach that baptism is, and may only scripturally be, in the name of Jesus only are in the position of denying that the procedure commanded by Jesus ever began. They are in the position of denying that those baptized on the Day of Pentecost and subsequently in the book of Acts were so baptized, and that the Apostles on the Day of Pentecost and those who thereafter baptized were in the position of disobeying, and thus violated, the clear words of the Lord.

One acts in the name of another only when his acts are authorized. Thus, to baptize in the name of Jesus is to baptize in the manner that he authorized. Those who baptize in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit as authorized and commanded by the Lord baptize in the name of Jesus. Those who baptize in any other way do not, no matter what they may say.

Those who baptize in the name of Jesus only either fail to recognize or else simply ignore that vital and significant difference between the statements “in the name of Jesus” and “in the name of the Father and of the son and of the Holy Spirit.” To be baptized “upon the name” or “into the name” of Jesus suggests the ground or occasion for the baptism. “The name” in Scripture often denotes the sum of the divine attributes of the Person named, all that is involved in the Being whose name is designated. “Into the name” denotes union or communion with the Being named. Thayer says that “by a usage chiefly Hebraistic the name is used for everything a name covers…to do a thing in the name of another, i.e., by one’s command and authority, acting on his behalf, promoting his cause.” Thus, acting by the authority of Christ from the relationship we sustain to him our Redeemer and Lord, we are baptized into a state of union and communion with God the Father, Christ the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Vincent well says, “The name is not the mere designation, a sense which would give to the baptismal formula merely the force of a charm. The name, as in the Lord’s prayer (‘Hallowed by they name’), is the expression of the sum total of the divine Being; not his designation as god or Lord, but the formula in which all his attributes and characteristics are summer up. It is equivalent to his person. The finite mind can deal with him only through his name, but his name is of no avail detached from his nature. When one is baptized into the name of the Trinity, he professes to acknowledge and appropriate god in all that he is and in all that he does for man. He recognizes and depends upon God the Father as his creator and Preserver; receives Jesus Christ as his one Mediator and Redeemer, and his pattern of life; and confesses the Holy spirit as his Sanctifier and Comforter.” (Word Studies in the New Testament, vol. 1, p. 150.)

When the true significance of the expression “in the name of Jesus” is grasped, it becomes clear that the practice of the apostolic age concerning the proper procedure in the baptismal act, followed the command issued by our Lord in the Great Commission. When Paul came to Ephesus (Acts 19:1ff.), he found certain disciples who had been baptized by Apollos when that preacher was mistakenly preaching the baptism of John after it had ceased to be valid. Paul inquired of them, “Have ye received the Holy ghost since ye believed?” They answered, “We have not so much as heard whether there by any Holy Ghost!” Immediately then Paul asked, “Unto (ASV, “into”) what then were ye baptized?” Why did Paul think of baptism when informed that they have not heard of the Holy Spirit? Clearly because their baptism must have been defective if they had not heard of the Holy Spirit, since the baptism of the Great Commission is “into” the name of the Holy Spirit. Paul knew that they could not be baptized without hearing of the Holy Spirit, and thereupon commanded them to be baptized “in the name of the Lord Jesus” – as the Lord Jesus had commanded. This command reads, “Baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Matthew 28:18-20.

God's Plan of Salvation

You must hear the gospel and then understand and recognize that you are lost without Jesus Christ no matter who you are and no matter what your background is. The Bible tells us that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Before you can be saved, you must understand that you are lost and that the only way to be saved is by obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 1:8) Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6) “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)

You must believe and have faith in God because “without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6) But neither belief alone nor faith alone is sufficient to save. (James 2:19; James 2:24; Matthew 7:21)

You must repent of your sins. (Acts 3:19) But repentance alone is not enough. The so-called “Sinner’s Prayer” that you hear so much about today from denominational preachers does not appear anywhere in the Bible. Indeed, nowhere in the Bible was anyone ever told to pray the “Sinner’s Prayer” to be saved. By contrast, there are numerous examples showing that prayer alone does not save. Saul, for example, prayed following his meeting with Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:11), but Saul was still in his sins when Ananias met him three days later (Acts 22:16). Cornelius prayed to God always, and yet there was something else he needed to do to be saved (Acts 10:2, 6, 33, 48). If prayer alone did not save Saul or Cornelius, prayer alone will not save you. You must obey the gospel. (2 Thess. 1:8)

You must confess that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. (Romans 10:9-10) Note that you do NOT need to make Jesus “Lord of your life.” Why? Because Jesus is already Lord of your life whether or not you have obeyed his gospel. Indeed, we obey him, not to make him Lord, but because he already is Lord. (Acts 2:36) Also, no one in the Bible was ever told to just “accept Jesus as your personal savior.” We must confess that Jesus is the Son of God, but, as with faith and repentance, confession alone does not save. (Matthew 7:21)

Having believed, repented, and confessed that Jesus is the Son of God, you must be baptized for the remission of your sins. (Acts 2:38) It is at this point (and not before) that your sins are forgiven. (Acts 22:16) It is impossible to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ without teaching the absolute necessity of baptism for salvation. (Acts 8:35-36; Romans 6:3-4; 1 Peter 3:21) Anyone who responds to the question in Acts 2:37 with an answer that contradicts Acts 2:38 is NOT proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ!

Once you are saved, God adds you to his church and writes your name in the Book of Life. (Acts 2:47; Philippians 4:3) To continue in God’s grace, you must continue to serve God faithfully until death. Unless they remain faithful, those who are in God’s grace will fall from grace, and those whose names are in the Book of Life will have their names blotted out of that book. (Revelation 2:10; Revelation 3:5; Galatians 5:4)