The Baptismal Formula
The Baptismal Formula
Many churches teach a certain Formula of words that must be recited at a Baptism. This is usually referred to as a Baptismal Formula. Some folks believe that a person should be baptized only in the name of Jesus Christ. Other folks believe that a person should be baptized in the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Still other folks have practiced that a person that is being baptized must be dipped (immersed) three times – once in the Name of the Father, once in the Name of the Son, and once in the Name of the Holy Ghost.
Today, I do not want to spend too much time discussing this matter of whether or not there is a particular Formula that must be followed; but rather I want to use this ordinance of Baptism, and the Name(s) that are invoked at the observance of a Baptism, to remind us of just how important the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are in the Salvation of any soul. And, after all, there would not be any Baptism at all, if the Lord did not take it upon Himself to intervene on behalf of man, and save the souls of those that are His. In particular, today, I would like for us to take a look at the words of Jesus Christ in the Great Commission, and how that these Words demonstrate to us, the participation of the Godhead in the Salvation of the soul of every individual that is saved.
We read in Mt. 28:18-20, “And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” The portion of the Great Commission that I want to focus on mostly today, are the words, “…baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:”
Before we consider those words in more detail, I want to first remind us about the Authority that is demonstrated here in the Great Commission. Don’t let us ever forget that we have a duty as the Churches of Jesus Christ to perform those things that we are commanded to do here in the Great Commission. Remember, the Lord Jesus said, “…All power is given unto me in heaven and earth. Go ye therefore…” Remember that the “ye” is the Church. Remember that the “power” is the Lord’s. Remember that we (the Churches) are “therefore” to go and do what He has commanded to do.
Why do we baptize in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost? Well, why are we baptized at all? We are baptized to express our obedience to Christ. (See Mt. 3:15.) We are baptized to enter into the Local Church. (See Acts 2:41.) We are baptized to express outwardly, the Salvation that we have experienced inwardly. (See Lk. 3:3, 7-8; Acts 2:38; 1Pet. 3:21.) We are baptized to manifest a determination to serve the Lord and be faithful to His calling. (See Rom. 6:3-7.)
Today, let’s look at how Baptism is a Witness or Testimony of our salvation, and how that God, as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, is the Giver and Performer of that Salvation. Therefore, it is fitting that when we are baptized, we are baptized in the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
In the Name of the Father
It is true that Baptism is a picture of our salvation. And it is true that the Father in Heaven plays an important role in that Salvation. So, it shouldn’t be any wonder that His Name is mentioned at the performance of an Ordinance that can only be properly observed after one has been saved. But let’s think about this: What does the Father have to do with Salvation?
First of all, He chose some to Salvation. We see the Election of God, and the Choosing Power and Discriminate Grace of God in 1Pet. 1:1-2. “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied.” Paul says in Eph. 1:3-6, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.” And then, we read also concerning Election in Salvation in Rom. 9:11. “(For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;)” Finally, Jesus Christ Himself says, “I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word.” (Jn. 17:6.)
Secondly, He alone has the Power to Forgive men their sins. We read the Words of the Lord Jesus Christ in the Model Prayer in Lk. 11:2-4: “And he said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth. Give us day by day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.” John tells us, in his first epistle, about the Forgiveness of sins: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1Jn. 1:9.) And then, we read in Ps. 25:18, “Look upon mine affliction and my pain; and forgive all my sins.” God Alone can Forgive sins. This is made even more clear to us in Dan. 9:9, “To the Lord our God belong mercies and forgivenesses, though we have rebelled against him;” And, we read also in Ps. 51:1-7, “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me. Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest. Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me. Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.” And then, we read the witness of even the Pharisees to the fact that only God can Forgive sins: “And when he saw their faith, he said unto him, Man, thy sins are forgiven thee. And the scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, Who is this which speaketh blasphemies? Who can forgive sins, but God alone? But when Jesus perceived their thoughts, he answering said unto them, What reason ye in your hearts? Whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Rise up and walk? But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power upon earth to forgive sins, (he said unto the sick of the palsy,) I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy couch, and go into thine house. And immediately he rose up before them, and took up that whereon he lay, and departed to his own house, glorifying God. And they were all amazed, and they glorified God, and were filled with fear, saying, We have seen strange things to day.” (Lk. 5:20-26.)
Thirdly, He keeps us by His Power. We read in 1Pet. 1:3-5, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”
So, when we Baptize a soul into the Church of God, we mention the Name of the Father at the baptism, because He is the One that Ordains and Chooses us unto Salvation. And, in essence, we are committing the Soul and Life of that Individual into the Care and Provision of the Father in Heaven.
In the Name of the Son
So, it is clear that the Father plays a very important role in the Salvation of any man, woman, boy, or girl. But can’t we say the same about the Son? Certainly, we can. Now, some will say that we baptize only in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. They seem to believe that to speak His Name, is all that is necessary, because He is the One Whose Earthly Ministry brought unto us the Visible God. But, whatever they may believe about the use of only the Name of Jesus Christ, I feel certain that, we, too (though not only His Name is uttered), ought to Include the mention of the Name of Jesus Christ at a Baptism, because Baptism is an Ordinance that pictures Salvation, and the Son of God is an important part of that Salvation. Let’s look at some ways in which He is Indispensable to Salvation, and therefore reasons why we invoke His Name at a Scriptural Baptism.
First, He is our Example, and therefore we do what He did. Mt. 3:15, “And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him.”
Second, He is the One Who came, in Time, to perform that which was promised and decreed before Time. We read in Lk. 19:10, “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.”
Third, He Paid the Cost. We read in Jn. 19:30, “When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.” And then, we read what Paul has to say in Rom. 5:10-11, “For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.” And then, consider what John the Beloved had to say in 1Jn. 1:7, “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.”
Fourth, He is the Intercessor that now Intercedes on behalf of those who are saved, and then baptized. We read in Heb. 5:5-10, “So also Christ glorified not himself to be made an high priest; but he that said unto him, Thou art my Son, to day have I begotten thee. As he saith also in another place, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec. Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared; Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him; Called of God an high priest after the order of Melchisedec.” Jesus Christ is our Intercessor, and the One that is our High Priest in Heaven. Yes, we are all (all of us that are saved) a part of the Royal Priesthood of God. But the fact that we are a part of the Priesthood, implies that there is a High Priest – and His Name is Jesus Christ.
So, when we Baptize a soul into the Church of Jesus Christ, we mention the Name of Christ, because He is the One that Came for us, and Shed His Blood for us, and Died for us. And, essentially, we are committing the Life of that Soul that is Baptized, into the Life and Intercessory powers, of the Lord Jesus Christ.
In the Name of the Holy Ghost
The Holy Spirit is the Manifestation of the Godhead that is not as often spoken of. This is so, partly because, He is the Inspirer and the Author of the Bible, and therefore He does not so clearly speak of Himself, nor does He so clearly outline His Part in Salvation. But still, we mention Him at a Baptism because He, too, is necessary in the Salvation of any lost individual. Let’s finally look at some ways in which He is Responsible for Salvation, and why that He should be remembered at a Baptism.
First, He is the Regenerator that brings Life. We read at the beginning of the Gospel of John, “Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” (Jn. 1:13.) Even in the Old Testament, the People of God understood, somewhat, the necessity of the Holy Spirit of God in the Life of any of the children of God. We read in Zech. 4:6, “Then he answered and spake unto me, saying, This is the word of the LORD unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts.”
Second, He is the Agent through which men are led to come to be Baptized. Therefore, it is only fitting that His Name be mentioned at the actual Baptism into the Church. We read in 1Cor. 12:13, “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.” This passage does not have any reference to a Universal or Spiritual Church or Baptism. Instead, this passage has reference to the Water Baptism that the Holy Spirit will teach us our need of. And, in the end, it is God that sets men and women in the Church (see 1Cor. 12:28), but it is the Holy Spirit that He uses to set them there. We can read also the Words of Jesus Christ, which refer to the Leadership and Teaching of the Holy Ghost. “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” (Jn. 14:26.)
Third, He is the Guide that will take us throughout our Christian Walk. Jesus Christ told His disciples in Jn. 16:13-15, “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you. All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you.” Paul also made this comment about the necessity of the Holy Spirit in the life of any Christian: “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” (Rom. 8:14.)
So, we can safely say, that when we Baptize a soul into the Church, we mention the Name of the Holy Ghost, because we are committing the soul of that Individual, unto the Comfort, Leadership, and Edification of the Holy Spirit of God.
As I said at the beginning, it seems that there might be some disagreement today, concerning the words that should be said when a Baptism is being performed. Those that are Pentecostal, or that believe in the Oneness of God to the exclusion of the Trinity, seem to believe that only the Name of Christ should be used when a Baptism is being performed. But, this is because they, for the most part, feature only the Name of Christ in all of their worship. As evidence to promote what they call the “Baptismal Formula,” they reference the five Baptisms in the Book of Acts where the Name of Jesus is mentioned in reference to Baptism. (See Acts 2:38; 8:16; 10:48; 19:5; 22:16.)
Now, I will say this about these references to the Name of Jesus, or Lord Jesus, or Jesus Christ, or Lord as it is mentioned in these references: I believe that the references to the Name of Christ (whichever Name is used in each particular instance) are referring back to the first part of the Great Commission where the Lord Jesus says, “…All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore…” (Mt. 28:18-19.) In other words, at these Baptisms, the disciples were referring back to the Authority that Christ gave the Church to perform these Baptisms. But, it is not just the Authority of Christ in the Church, that leads us to call upon His Name, it is also His Place and Part in the Plan of Salvation, that causes us to Call upon Him. And, from this perspective, we must also give Praise and Honor to the Father and the Holy Spirit for their Place and Part in the Plan of Salvation. Therefore, it is, I believe, Right and Proper to call upon the Names of the Father and the Holy Ghost – along with the Name of Jesus, the Christ – when there is ever a soul that is Baptized and added unto the Church, which is the Body of Christ.
However, I did not bring this message today, to dispute any particular Baptismal Formula. The Baptisms that Pentecostals perform are not valid, regardless of what Formula that they use, because the church that they worship in is not a True Church. And the purpose for which they baptize, is not the Correct Purpose. So these are really moot points. I believe that the Baptism that the True New Testament Church performs is valid if it includes the Proper Authority, Proper Subject, Proper Reason, and Proper Mode. The words that mere men say, cannot make or break this Ordinance which is a Church Ordinance and not a man or preacher ordinance.
So, to make things plain, at least as far as where I stand on this issue, when we here at Indore Baptist Church baptize someone into this Church, I, personally, feel most comfortable using the words that the Lord Jesus Christ spoke when He delivered His Commission unto His Church: “… baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:” (Mt. 28:19.)