In The Name of Jesus
Understanding The Phrase “In The Name Of Jesus”
The phrase “In the name of” as used throughout the Bible is most commonly reflective of someone who is “acting under the authority of” someone, or acting as a disciple (or follower) of someone.
To better understand the use of the phrase “in the name” we also need to understand the term “disciple”.
A disciple is a student, a pupil; one who follows both the teacher and his teaching and it is evident that baptism into the name of any person conveyed the idea of discipleship to that person, as one’s spiritual superior, director, and teacher.
The Apostle Paul says that, when the Israelites came out of Egypt, they were baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea (1 Corinthians 10:1-2), the meaning obviously being, not that Moses name was called over them in some formula, but that they were baptized into the acknowledgement of his authority, and obedience to him. Under God, Moses became their teacher, and they, his disciples. That was the boast of Jews ages afterward when some of them were arguing with the man whose sight Jesus had restored. “We are Moses disciples”, they said. “We know that God spake unto Moses (John 9:28-29).
Those of the Jews who submitted to the baptism of John were accounted to be disciples of John. He taught them in what words to pray, he enjoined fasting, and above all, he directed their minds to one who should come after him. They did not, in consequence, cease to be Moses disciples; but in addition, they accepted John as sent by God to prepare them for the coming of the one concerning whom Moses wrote.
Then the time arrived when Jesus himself began to preach and baptize; and those who submitted to his baptism, administered by the twelve, were accounted his disciples. It is recorded, “Now Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that he was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John 2although, in fact, it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples.” (John 4:1-2 NIV).
Hence the Apostle Paul, in combating the spirit of division in the Church at Corinth, where certain members said, “12 What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so no one can say that you were baptized in my name.” (1 Corinthians 1:12-15 NLT). By their baptism each and all in that church, as in every other church, had become disciples, not of any man, not even of an apostle, but of the Lord Jesus Christ; and by that baptism, they had signified their willingness to take his yoke upon them and learn of him.
(1 Corinthians 1:10-15 NIV) “I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought. 11 My brothers and sisters, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. 12 What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so no one can say that you were baptized in my name.”
The great commission to be correctly understood and harmonize with Acts 2:38 must be read with the understanding that individuals were baptized as disciples by the authority of God utilizing the name of Jesus. This basic understanding was clarified and confirmed by the actions of the Apostles as they followed the instructions of Jesus and began baptizing people in his name. The name of Jesus was used because Jesus came in his Father’s name, under subjection to God’s authority and bearing the seal of his Father’s approval, power, and authority; plainly said Jesus had been given all power and authority by God to do God’s will.
The Apostles, Jesus, and others were all baptized prior to Pentecost (Acts 2:38), yet no “baptismal phrase” is chronicled. What is clear is that the Holy Ghost was given due to obedient discipleship not for reciting “baptismal phrases”. “And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him.” (Acts 5:32)
Understanding Matthew 28:19
Matthew 28:19 therefore is better understood to read as follows:
“Go you therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of (by the authority of) the Father (John 12:49-50), and (as a disciple/follower of) the Son (Mat 16:24; Mark 8:34; John 8:31, 12:26, 15:8; Acts 2:38), and through; (under the direction or leading of), the Holy Spirit” (John 14:16-17, 26; Ref: Verses Where “He” & “Him” Should Be Referred To As “It”)
Baptism “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”, implied a willingness and an obligation (it was a command) to hear and learn of the Father, as revealed in the Scriptures of the Old Testament; to be subject to the teaching of His Son Jesus, as recorded in the Gospels; and to accept whatsoever the Holy Spirit should further reveal, once we receive it. This implication being not only “in the Lord Jesus Christ” but also “in God our Father” is supported by Paul (2 Corinthians 11:31; Ephesians 1:3; Ephesians 3:14; 1 Thessalonians 1:1-2 and 2 Thessalonians 1:1) also by Peter (1 Peter 1:3) and John (1 John 1:3; 2 John 1:3)
The Importance of Example
There is no direct reference to when the apostles, those with Jesus, were themselves baptized. It is, however, reasonable to infer that they were baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. It would be most unlikely that the immediate disciples of the Lord would be baptizing men and women if they had not submitted to it themselves, even as the Lord himself did at the hands of John. John indicates that it was not the custom of the Lord himself to baptize, lest any should suppose their baptism if performed by the Lord, gave to it special meaning beyond the meaning of the ordinance itself (John 4:1-2).
It is difficult to imagine that Peter’s instructions given on this matter, (Acts 2:38), would have been received by the multitude unless they knew that the apostles had been baptized in the name of Jesus Christ first. Among those who were baptized that day, it is reasonable to expect that there were some who had been baptized by John during his ministry. The fact that they had been baptized by John did not exempt them from Peter’s commandment.