Scripture Queries and Answers: Baptism

Matthew 28:19  •  6 min. read  •  grade level: 8
Q. I. Is the instruction in Matt. 28:1919Go 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), to baptize “in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost,” the formula of baptism for the Church?
Is being baptized “in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost,” and being baptized “in the name of the Lord” one and the same thing? If not, what is the difference, and which are we to observe?
A. Baptism has nothing to do with the Church, properly speaking; that is, viewed as the body of Christ. It is by one Spirit we are baptized into one body. Baptism does not, in figure, carry faith further than resurrection. For the body we must have ascension of the head and the consequent sending down of the Holy Ghost to form it. Of that the Lord's Supper is the sacramental sign. Baptism is therefore individual, and is as a figure the bringing out the individual from the flesh and his old life in Adam by death into a new individual position in life (but on the earth) in resurrection. Two great truths seem to me to accompany this: the revelation of the persons of the God-head, for the Father sent the Son, and the Son and the Father too have sent down the Spirit who reveals them. The revelation is a revelation of God. If thus born of God, even this truth enters into all my relationship. God is my Father; in Christ risen I have the form and power of sonship, and it is in the Holy Ghost the spirit of adoption is. It is, however, mainly the revelation of God as Father, Son, and Holy Ghost which is in question. The other great truth brought out in Christianity is, that Jesus Christ (that glorious man) is Lord, our Lord Jesus Christ. This, while closely connected with the glory of His person in the name Jesus, is the anointed man, the Christ.
This revelation of the Godhead and of the Lordship of Christ forms the basis and substance of Christianity itself as a profession, along with the subjective truth that flesh—fully proved already—can have nothing to say to it. I must enter by death into this new sphere, into relationship with God, and, as risen, become the servant of Christ as Lord. Hence, in Eph. 6, we have one body, one Spirit, one hope of our calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism. The first is the full heavenly and essential thing in connection with Christ; the second, the profession upon earth in connection with the Lordship of Christ. Hence, also Paul, who saw Christ only in heavenly glory, and to whom the ministry and revelation of the Church was committed, was not sent to baptize; and in Matthew, where the commission referred to was given, we have not the ascension at all. Here Jerusalem is gone, and Christ associated with the remnant in Galilee already around Him, and they were to disciple the nations. This does not connect itself directly with the millenium, but with the ministration of the Gospel of the kingdom, which precedes it, and does go out into all nations before the end comes—the end of the age. The millenium is brought in by the coming back of the Lord in glory from heaven. This precedes it. Hence in Matthew He says, and “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age;” that is, the age which precedes the coming of Messiah in glory to set up the kingdom publicly. Hence, I do not see why this mission should not go on when the Church is gone up. It does not directly contemplate the Church, but so neither does baptism over. It does profess Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, and the Lordship of Christ, when He is not yet revealed from heaven.
Baptism, therefore, is the public testimony of reception by death and resurrection. That is, now Christ is rejected, we have the public witness that flesh has no place with God, that life is in the Son and given of God—that it is on the ground consequently of the revelation of God as Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. The Father who has given this life in sending Jesus, in whom it is, and the Spirit's witness of it because He is truth—all this is on earth, as the Apostle John's witness always is. And that, walking in this world, we own and are subject to Jesus as the Lord.
The formula I only so far attach importance to as being the expression of the truth. If one were bona fide baptized in the name of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, according to the present lordship of Christ, I should consider them baptized, though the words were not used. Though in saying that, I think the maintenance and holding fast a form of sound words has its place and importance. And I need not say we have none better than those of Scripture, of the Lord Himself and His apostles. I only mean, if they were not used, but the person bona fide baptized in the acknowledgment of the thing, it would be real baptism. For my own part, I always use both. And I believe every one rightly baptized is baptized to the Lord Jesus, in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. He is given up to Christ, once dead, but now risen, and Lord, through death and resurrection—to Him as Lord, but according to the revelation contained in those words, “Every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.” We do it when He is not manifested as such before the world. We do it through the knowledge of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; that is, God so revealed. They are not baptized to the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. We join the risen Christ as Lord by baptism. We are baptized to Him, but it is in the confession of this wonderful and complete revelation of God in grace, and in truth, too, through Him, but by the Holy Ghost, who is truth. Of course this involves the acknowledgment of the Lordship of Christ; and thus we are baptized in His name. It is the thing we are to look to, not the mere formula.