Barry Newman's Blog

November 15, 2012

The Sacraments (part XXI)

Filed under: The Sacraments — barrynewman @ 8:43 pm

“Immersing” in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit

What does, “Baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” mean?  If it refers to the necessity of the disciples of Jesus to baptise others in a water ceremony in association with them also becoming disciples, there is at least one important difficulty.  In the Acts of the Apostles people are baptised in the name of Jesus the Christ (2x) and Jesus the Lord (2x)[1].  There is no reference to anyone ever being baptised in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Attempts have been made to indicate that somehow or other they really were baptised in the name of our triune God but the four texts are what they are.  It is true that in the early days in what may be referred to as the eastern arm of Christianity, people were baptised in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  My guess is that they did think that the text in Matthew did refer to a water ceremony.  On the other hand in what could be referred to as the western arm of Christianity it seems that the general position was to baptise in the name of Jesus only, whatever the precise formula used, until about the 9th century.

But there are other difficulties with the view that the text refers to a water ceremony: Why is it that only Matthew records what Jesus said if what he said refers to a mandatory water ceremony?  The other three Gospels make no mention of such a compulsory water ceremony. Furthermore, it seems inconsistent and completely unexpected given all that is recorded by Matthew of Jesus and what he said and did prior to the farewell discourse that almost the very last words written by Matthew refer to a mandatory water ceremony. And why would the only command relating to this water ceremony, if that is indeed what is being referred to, be a command for the ceremony to be carried out by others rather than a command that people needed themselves to undergo the water baptism? And if the text does refer to a water ceremony, there seems to be an important but necessary aspect of making disciples that is not explicitly mentioned in the final words of Jesus.  The nations will need to be taught a great deal about this triune God.  Why no explicit reference to teaching who Jesus, the Father the Holy Spirit really are and their relationship? Is the teaching caught up in the water baptismal preparation?  Not so. In the Acts of the Apostles, the teaching of one sort or another that precedes the water ceremony is treated as one thing, the baptism another.


[1] See earlier note

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