There is a debate between some denominations as to how water baptism should be conducted. Specifically that some baptize in “the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” while others believe wholeheartedly that we should only baptize in “the name of Jesus”.

Personally I didnt give it a lot of thought, or I should say it didnt initially concern me. Baptism is baptism, right? But as I was studying the Word, I noticed some interesting things… and decided to go back and take a second look at water baptism.

I had just completed a study on the great commission, and also on water baptism. What is commonly referred to as “the great commission” is found in three of the four gospels, and it is the version found in the book of Matthew (28:18-20) that is most popular. This is where we find the instructions for baptizing “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”.

 “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded of you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (NIV)

This is the Scripture that is always pointed out in defense when someone declares that all baptism should be done “in Jesus’ name”. But let me give you something interesting to consider…

In the passage quoted above, Jesus was speaking to the 11 disciples at an appointed place just outside of Galilee. This took place after the ressurection, but before he ascended into heaven. In the gospel of John (20:21-23) we are told that Jesus breathed the Holy Spirit into them himself, to prepare them for their mission.

Peter was one of the eleven.

Ten days later (Acts 2:38), we find Peter addressing the crowd after the Holy Spirit comes at Pentecost:

Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

Was Peter being disobedient? He had just been told 10 days before, and by Jesus Christ himself, to “baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”. In fact, every account of water baptism after Jesus ascended into heaven was done “in the name of Jesus”.

You can’t take one scripture in the 28th chapter of Matthew, and ignore the rest of the new testament, to make a case for this issue. But at the same time, you cant ignore the words of Jesus Christ as he instructed his disciples.

So why did Peter baptize “in Jesus name” - and for that matter, why did Paul? I’ll give you two possible explanations:

Perhaps because Peter knew the name of the Father, and the name of the Son, and the name of the Holy Spirit. And he knew this name was Jesus. Perhaps he understood that all of those titles referred to his Lord and God - Jesus Christ.

It should also be noted that Matthew was Jewish. In the book of Matthew, you find many references to the “kingdom of heaven”, where in the other three gospels it is referred to as the “kingdom of God”. These phrases have the same meaning but Matthew used “kingdom of heaven” because the Jews, out of their intense reverence and respect, did not pronounce God’s name.

That is certainly something to understand in its context, considering that Matthew is the only gospel that records the baptism instructions for the early church. Could it be that Matthew wrote it the way that he did, stating the obvious?

See the following bible studies for more information:

Feel free to leave your comments/questions below… 


Closing Scripture, from Colossians 3:17 (NIV):

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,