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DOUBTLESS the reader will expect to find something at least in this book on the “Baptismal Formula” question. With Paul, we have never felt that were sent to baptize, but “to preach the Gospel.” We have never personally baptized anyone in our ministry. We believe the vital point is for converts to understand clearly the plan of salvation, and to give a clear witness to the world that they have accepted, taken upon them the name of, and been discipled to, the Lord Jesus Christ. But we will give the arguments on the subject for consideration. Possibly we are in as much danger of becoming formulists as we are of becoming formalists.
In “The Truth about the Godhead,” published by the General Council, Assemblies of God, by E. N. Bell, we read “Those early christians did not hold slavishly to the words in Matt. 28:19, as a fixed law, as they would have done had they understood Jesus to prescribe an unvarying formula, a law. If they (the saints of today) held Matt. 28:19 was all right, but not the only form; if they merely held that other forms were acceptable, and did not purposely and wilfully oppose mention of the Father and the Holy Ghost, then they would be in respectable, scholarly company, for Hastings Dictionary of the Bible says at top of page 241, Vol. I, “That in the Apostolic Age there was no fixed formula is shown not only by the difference between Matthew and Acts, but by the difference between one passage in Acts and others in Acts itself, and also by traces of other differences (variations) in the Epistles.
“The shorter forms (Acts) have been sometimes used in the Pentecostal Movement from the beginning without any opposition to Matt. 28:19, and without having any special doctrinal reason for using the shorter forms. So long as this was the custom no issue was raised. Either way was regarded as acceptable.” – E. N. Bell, for General Council. This we know to be true. Some very prominent leaders, now in the Council, baptized in the name of the Lord “Jesus Christ.”
In the Encyclopedia Brittanica we read: “Name stands for personality in the N. T. The likeness of the baptismal ceremony with Christ’s death and resurrection insured a real union with Him of the believer, according to Paul. The Apostolic age supplied this identification, and the normal mode of baptism during it seems to have been, “Into Christ Jesus, etc.” As a rule the repentant underwent baptism in the name of Christ Jesus, and washed away their sins before hands were laid upon them unto the reception of the Spirit.
“Eusebius Pamphili, in nearly a score of citations, substitutes the words “in My Name,” for the words “baptizing them67 into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” The first Gospel (Matt.) thus falls into line with the rest of the N. T.” – Ency. Britt.
We have simply quoted what we find in history. There are many other statements to the same effect, proving conclusively that “baptism in Jesus’ name” was at least extensively practiced in the first centuries of the church. We cannot change Church History.
In the Greek Church Catechism, A. D., 1829, we read “What is required of him that seeks to be baptized? – Ans. – Repentance and faith: for which cause, also before baptism they recite the Creed, “Repent and be baptized everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” – ( Acts 2:38.)
Rev. Geo. Candel, Toledo, Ohio, in 1907 wrote: “Now if any rule of faith and practice could be formulated from these examples (of baptism in Acts) it might be this: that baptism into the name of Jesus should be urged as a fitting fruit of repentance, and as a condition of receiving forgiveness and the gift of the Spirit, to Jews or to other people who have indulged in any special hatred of Jesus or opposition to Him as the divine Savior. Consenting to this requirement, in such a case, would be necessary to a thorough repentance.” (In that case, would not most people need to be baptized that way today, for growing spirit of antichrist is sweeping all ranks, both religious and secular.) The Gentiles at Cornelius’ household were also baptized “in the name of Jesus Christ.” – R. V., Acts 10:48.
Dr. R. A. Torrey, in his book entitled “What the Bible Teaches,” has written as follows: “In a normal state of the church every believer would have the baptism with the Holy Spirit as in the church at Corinth. – I Cor. 12:13. In such a normal state of the church the baptism with the Holy Spirit would be received immediately upon repentance and baptism into the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins – Acts 2:38.” Whatever the writer meant by this it stands thus written.
“Baptized into what name?” This question was asked of the editor of the Sunday School Times by a Sunday School Union Worker. The Sunday School Times has a list of over one hundred thousand subscribers and enters the homes of almost that many members of different churches all over the Union. We give the Editor’s reply: “The name of Jesus carries with it all the power of the triune God, for “in Him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily” ( Col. 2:9). His disciples’ request that He show them the Father brought from Jesus the startlingly definite reply: “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father” (John 14:9). When John in the Revelation prophesied, ‘They shall see His face; and His name shall be on68 their foreheads’ ( Rev. 22:4), that name and that face revealed God in all His fullness, and doubtless are the name and face of Jesus, when we shall ‘see Him as He is.’
It may well be, therefore, that the disciples in baptizing in the name of Jesus were carrying out the commission of Matt. 28:19. In both cases there is one God and one Name. Some Christians who have felt that the spiritual reality was not in the form of baptism that they received have had the ordinance performed again and received rich blessing through it. Certainly either form is a true baptism if the reality is back of the ceremony. Yet there seems no reason for urging a second ceremony on the ground of this difference in the formula.” – Sunday School Times.
Another writer, not Pentecostal, has said: While the matter is expressed in detail in Matt. 28:19, yet in Jesus “dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily, and ye are complete in Him. – Col. 2:9, 10. In Jesus was the Father’s name or character, and the fulness of the Spirit. Therefore when the Apostles baptized “into Jesus’ name,” they carried out our Lord’s injunction. – ( Matt. 28:19.)
Many have admitted that if it were not for Matt. 28:19, the logical way, in view of the other Scriptures, especially Acts, would be to baptize, “in Jesus’ name.” Salvation is in “no other name.” – Act 4:12, Luke 24:47. We do everything else in Jesus’ name. – Mark 16. “At the mouth of two or three witnesses.” – II Cor. 13:1. This is God’s rule. There are several to the name of Jesus. “Were ye baptized into the name of Paul?” “Were ye baptized into the name of Paul?” – I Cor. 1:13. This would seem to imply that they should be baptized into the name of the one to whom they were disciplined. How else could they confess Christ?
We have given the general arguments used in favor of Acts 2:38, etc. The arguments for Matt. 28:19, are too well known to require repetition. We are honest truth seekers. None but fools would seek to change the Word of God.
In “One hundred Contradictions of the Bible,” a little book extensively circulated among all unbelievers, the seeming discrepancy between Matt.28:19, and Acts 2:38, is cited as a contradiction. What a pity that believers Cannot find the secret of the agreement between these two Scriptures, and thus present solid front to stop the mouths of the infidels and enemies of their common Lord and Master, instead of fighting one another, each with half the truth, thus confirming unbelievers in their infidelity. We shall have to answer to God for this failure. “That they all may be one: that the world may believe.” – John 17:21.
We that God’s Word is not a Chinese Puzzle. There must be an explanation somewhere. And nothing is ever really settled until it is settled right. So far the brethren have been largely fighting one another, each with of the truth against the, or ignoring, if not denying, a part of the truth altogether. This is bad business. We dare not question the inspiration of the inspiration of the whole Word of God.69
When the writer was baptized in the Baptist church, 30 years ago, he received the impression that the preacher was baptizing him by the authority (in the name) of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. The commission of Matt. 28:19, was pre-Pentecostal. Jesus at that time had many things to say to them, but they could not bear them yet. – John 16:12, 13. When the Holy Ghost, “the Spirit of truth,” should be come, at Pentecost, He would “guide them into all truth.” One of these truths was certainly “the mystery of godliness,” hidden from the ages, the fulness or Deity in Jesus Christ, our completeness in Him, and salvation in His name. – Acts 4:12. That these truths were not really understood or realized by the disciples before the Holy Ghost was given, I think all will agree. They could not have understood them. “The Spirit was not yet given, for Jesus was not yet glorified.” Jesus could not come in the Spirit until He had left them in the body. They were not yet “born again,” in the N. T. sense of the word. Their experience was dispensational. In N. T. order they seem to have received the new birth and the baptism with the Holy Ghost as but two parts of one normal whole. This was a normal N. T. experience. They believed, were baptized in water, and received the Holy Ghost.
Some have already adopted some such order in the baptismal formula as we have suggested above, but unfortunately, for some reason have placed the cart before the horse in the matter. Matt. 28:19, comes first, the Book of Acts order later, in process of revelation, unfolding and action.
Yet we do not profess to have fully solved the situation. In Matt. 28:19, our Authorized Version reads, “in the name.” The Revised Version gives it, “into the name.” While the Greek renders it, “to the name.” In the Book of Acts we meet with the same difficulty, the Authorized and R. V. versions differing there also. In some cases it is rendered “in,” in other cases “into,” these versions differing on the same passages. In the Greek the prepositions used vary in the different cases, in some places the word being rendered “in,” in other cases “to.” The same Greek word “to,” in Matt. 28:19, is used in two instances in the Book of Acts ( 8:16; 19:5), to the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.” In the Syriac Version, one of the oldest and most authentic in existence, the translation is simply “in” in every case. These things being true we should certainly have charity at least with one another.
We understand that in the Pentecostal work in Canada the brethren graciously allow full liberty of conscience in this matter, and still fellowship one another fully. This would seem to be, under the circumstances, the only real sane and christian procedure. If Pentecostal saints cannot have at least this much tolerance in religion we are surely little better than the papists after all. Brethren, let us pray for one another.
Los Angeles. California
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