Water Baptism | “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” is Not a Name
- Summary: I’m a father, but my name is not “father.” It’s Jim. I have two sons, but their names are not "son." Their names are Brian and John. Jesus told His disciples to baptize “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” In the baptisms recorded in the bible after Jesus gave that command to baptize, “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” is a phrase that was never once used. It was always in the actual name (not titles) of the Trinity. Come see what “name” they used in Scripture when baptizing in water. (Unless otherwise stated, quotes are from the King James Version)
Matthew 28:19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
- • And they did! In fulfilling Jesus’ command to baptize in the “name of” the Triune God, the disciples went forth and preached the Gospel, won souls, and baptized them in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ!
- • As mentioned above, I am a father. But my name is not “father,” it is Jim. I have two sons, but their names are not “son,” but Brian and John. The early church understood this distinction, and they baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, which name at one and the same time speaks of Jesus the Son, while incorporating the Persons and work of the Father (“Lord”) and the Holy Spirit (by whose anointing Jesus is called “Christ”).
- • God the Father — “Lord” Isaiah 42:8 I am the Lord: that is my name.
- • The Son — “Jesus” Matthew 1:21 And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus.
- • The Holy Spirit — The name “Christ” (Greek: Christos), frequently applied to Jesus, is the name wherein the Holy Spirit is identified.
- • Acts 10:38 How God anointed [Greek: chrio] Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and power…
- • 1 John 2:27 But the anointing [Greek: chrisma] which ye have received of him [that is, the Holy Spirit’s anointing] abideth in you…
Acts 2:36 God hath made the same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.
- • He is called “Lord Jesus Christ” or “Jesus Christ our Lord” or “Christ Jesus our Lord” or similar combinations of all three names more than 100 times in the King James New Testament.
- • Here, in Acts 2:36, we see the first mention in the bible of the full triune name. It is not mentioned in the four Gospels. But it is mentioned over 100 times after Jesus gave the Great Commission command to baptize in the triune name of God — Father (Lord) … Son (Jesus) … Holy Spirit (Christ).
- • This name (Lord Jesus Christ) reveals the fullness of the Trinity — the lordship of the Father … Jesus the Son … and the anointing (“Christ”) work of the Holy Spirit.
Philippians 2:9-11, NKJV Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
- • Remember (Acts 2:36) that God made “Jesus … Lord and Christ.” The apostle Paul similarly tells the Philippians that God has given Jesus the name above all other names, so that we should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord!
- • Colossians 1:19; 2:9, NIV For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him [Jesus] … [2:9] For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form. All the fullness of God dwells in Jesus! So it is understandable that God would want His Son to have a name which properly declares that fullness — “Lord Jesus Christ,” revealing (1) the lordship of the Father conferred upon the Son, (2) Jesus the Savior, and (3) the anointing of the Holy Spirit that made Jesus the “Christ.” God “made” Jesus Lord, and He “made” Him Christ (Acts 2:36). So from Acts 2:36 on, He is known as the “Lord Jesus Christ.” That name identifies Jesus as functioning in the fullness of the Trinity.
Let’s conclude this study by looking at four instances in the Book of Acts where the disciples baptized. We will see that each time, all three elements of the triune name (Lord … Jesus … Christ) were involved. Remember: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are not names! The disciples clearly understood Christ’s baptismal command, and they are never recorded in Scripture as repeating “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” when they baptized. Rather, they used “the name.”
Acts 2:36, 38, KJV “God hath made the same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ …  be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ…” — that is, the full triune name that had just been revealed in vs. 36.
Acts 8:12, 16, KJV When they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized …  they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Again, the full name Lord Jesus Christ is revealed in the context.
Acts 10:36, 48, KJV Jesus Christ: he is Lord of all …  And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Peter had the new converts baptized in “the name” he had begun preaching in vs. 36 — Jesus Christ the Lord.
Acts 19:4-5, KJV …that is, on Christ Jesus. When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Note again: all three parts of the triune name (Lord … Jesus … Christ) are mentioned in this baptismal context.
Some other translations give further support to baptizing in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.
- • He commanded them to be baptized in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Acts 10:48 in Lamsa’s translation from the Aramaic and in the Catholic Church’s Latin Vulgate and Douay-Rheims versions)
- • They were baptized in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 19:5, Lamsa).
- • The full triune name (“Lord Jesus Christ”) is used in the baptisms of Acts 10:48 and Acts 19:5 in the Syriac Peshitta bible of the Eastern church.
In sum, in the Great Commission Jesus commanded His disciples to preach and teach the Gospel, to win souls, and to baptize them in the triune name of God. The disciples understood Him clearly, and in each instance recorded in the bible they baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. This name wonderfully captures the fullness of the Trinity — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit — bodily dwelling in Jesus (Colossians 1:19; 2:9). “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” is not a name. “Lord Jesus Christ” is the triune name God has given His Son Jesus (Acts 2:36; Philippians 2:9-11). It is before that name that every knee should bow … and every Christian be baptized!
One closing thought. Is it OK to use the phrase Jesus spoke — that is, "in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit"? Certainly! As long as we actually use the name that He was alluding to. When I have baptized people over the years, I have generally used this comprehensive expression: "I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit — that wonderful triune name of the Lord Jesus Christ." That honors what Jesus told us to do and prominently features the name God has given Him to reflect the fullness of God — the name of the Lord Jesus Christ!
If this bible study has piqued your interest in a more in-depth study of water baptism, permit me to recommend our more detailed study of the Who, When, Why, and How of Water Baptism.
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©2015, James H. Feeney.
Pentecostal Sermons and Bible Studies
by Pastor Jim Feeney, Ph.D.