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QUESTION:  Must a person be baptized in the name of Jesus only?



ANSWER:  There are those who teach that to be baptized correctly, one must be baptized in the name of “Jesus only.”  The Word of God says, “strive not about words to no profit, but to the subverting of the hearers” (2 Timothy 2:14 cf. also (1 Tim 4:7; 6:4,20; 2 Tim 2:16; 4:4; Titus 1:14; and 2 Peter 1:16.)  At the same time we are also commanded to “earnestly contend for the faith…” (Jude 1:3).  It is between these two thoughts I am now attempting to navigate.


Baptism is without question the first command given to believers following their conversion.  It is a picture of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ.  To refuse, at a minimum, casts a shadow of uncertainty as to the individual’s sincerity (Acts 2:41).  Obedience in baptism is “the answer of a good conscience toward God” (1 Peter 3:21).  That doesn’t mean baptism saves: the man who gets baptized without believing on the Lord Jesus Christ remains damned (Mark 16:16), thus it is belief that saves, not the act of baptism itself.


Perhaps there is some confusion because there appears to be a difference between the command (Matthew 28:19) and the early practice of the church in the book of Acts.  We must remember, however, that Acts is much more a book of history than it is doctrine.  As such Acts reports that, following salvation, Christians were baptized in the name of “Jesus Christ” (Acts 2:38), the “Lord Jesus” (Acts 8:16 and 19:5), and the “Lord” (Acts 10:48 and 22:16).  Nowhere in Scripture is an incident of anyone being baptized in the name of Jesus “only” ever recorded.


And so the reports in the book of Acts, if taken literally, seem to contradict the clear command in Matthew.  On the other hand, if taken literally, they also contradict those who would baptize in the name of “Jesus only,” because it was never reported as having occurred that way either.  So what are we to do?


Go back to the command.  The report is just that, a general statement as to occurrence – the baptisms took place.  The command has never been rescinded and that is what we will be accountable for.  “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:” (Matthew 28:19)