Baptism: Do It Right
A guy in my band is of the Oneness belief and I started going to a Bible study he goes to. I agree with may of their beliefs, but recently I realized that they donít think I am saved because I was baptized in the name of the Father , Son, and Holy Spirit. But doesnít God see my heart? I feel terribly awful every time I leave this Bible study because they believe that most Christians are going to hell. I donít think we can be the judge of that. I wish I was more mentally able to recall all the things they have been teaching. They are going to cut me off and my friend is going to leave the band if I refuse to be baptized again. I feel like they want to control me and they say itís all out of love, but I feel this awful darkness over me when they are around. I hope you may be able to help me.
Thank you for your email. I hope I can be of help to you. Laying aside the issue of salvation for a moment, I wish to talk sensibly about this issue. When it comes to baptism, it is obviously important because Jesus commanded us to be baptized (Matthew 28:19). The apostles always baptized new converts to the faith. The Scripture even goes so far to indicate how baptism was administered. Oneness Pentecostals, who believe in the authority of the Scripture for faith and practice, look at the way the early church baptized, and do likewise. There is no doubt about it that the early church baptized by immersion into the name of Jesus Christ. The Biblical references and allusions to such are very numerous, and the scholars agree that "in Jesusí name" was the method of the early church.
With that, I wish to ask a question. If indeed the Bible instructs us to be baptized, and the apostles without fail baptized in Jesusí name, why would we not want to be baptized in Jesusí name? Why would we not want to do it the way the original church did it? I think that we could be reasonable enough to desire to be baptized the way the early church was baptized, simply because their teachings and practices on this matter were derived from the authority of Jesus Christ, and thus are authoritative for us today.. One may not think that how we baptize is very important (which is the issue I will turn to next), but one cannot deny the fact that the Bible does teach baptism in Jesusí name, and thus no reasonable individual could say that it is wrong to baptize in Jesusí name. Having established that, I wish to address why we should be baptized in Jesusí name.
I donít want to spend any time demonstrating that the Bible teaches us to be baptized in Jesusí name, since you have probably already gotten that Bible study. I will direct you to William Arnoldís article, Baptism in Jesusí Name, for further information if you desire.
Concerning the theological importance of being baptized in Jesusí name I quote from my article titled The Biblical Significance of Names:
"Jesus intended for us to baptize believers in His name (Luke 24:46-47), but what exactly does this mean? Why is it important that we baptize into any name? Is it a purposeless ritual? Is it a magical formula? I do not believe so. There is a theological reason why we are to baptize in "Jesusí name." Baptism is no mere "outward sign of an inward work" as many Evangelicals are proclaiming today. Baptism performs a spiritual work in the believer. It is part of the new-birth experience (John 3:5; Titus 3:5). Romans six explains the spiritual work that is accomplished at baptism. Here Paul explained that in baptism, one is identified with Jesus Christís death, burial, and resurrection. We die with Christ in baptism, and in such a capacity, we become dead to the ruling-power of sin in our lives.
"Paul anticipated, from his previous emphasis on justification by faith apart from works, that the Romans might believe that they should keep on sinning in order to receive more of God's grace (6:1). Paul countered such an idea on the basis of our identification with Christ's death, burial, and resurrection by means of the rite of baptism (6:2-4). At baptism we become unified with Christ, and, in God's eyes, experience death and resurrection with Christ (6:4-7). Paulís argument is that what Christ did for us at Calvary becomes effective in our lives by being identified with Christ through baptism. Death did not have mastery over Jesus, so neither will it conquer us. We too will raise from the dead (6:5-7). Having died with Christ, sin no longer controls us, but rather righteousness (6:6-7, 10-11, 14, 17-20). If, after we have died to sin, we yield to the ruling-power of sin, it is because we choose to do so (6:16).
"How does the above truth transpire in the life of the Christian? How do we identify with Christ in this capacity? According to Paul, it is by being baptized "into Christ," or "with Him," an obvious allusion to Jesusí name baptism (6:3-4). The significance of being baptized "in Jesusí name" is that we are actually being baptized into the person of Jesus Christ, to receive the benefits of the redemption He accomplished for us. Saying, "In Jesusí name," is no magical formula, but it is symbolic of what is transpiring in the water as the believer exercises His faith in the spiritual work that God is doing at baptism. As Paul said, "And [you] having been united with him [Jesus] in baptism, you also have been raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead" (Colossians 2:12). Naming the name of Jesus over a baptismal recipient is like using the power of attorney. We are acting in anotherís stead. In this case, we are acting in, and identifying with the work of Jesus Christ at Calvary."
Now for the salvation aspect of the issue. My position is this: All I can be assured of is that the Bible teaches we are to be baptized in "Jesusí name," the purpose of which is to identify us with Christís work on Calvary. If the way baptism is administered is important for spiritual and theological reasons, then we should want to be baptized correctly. We should follow the Biblical teaching. Yes, God does see the heart, but having obedience in the heart will always manifest itself in obedience in the body. If we take the Bible as our authority, we will want to obey its teachings in every matter, including how we are to be baptized. Because baptism is salvific (Mark 16:16; I Peter 3:21), we better be sure we are doing it right. This is not to say that "in Jesusí name" is some magical formula, but it is to emphasize the importance of being baptized, and in the Biblical fashion. Knowing that the Bible teaches baptism in Jesusí name, and seeing why it does so (theologically), I would not want to take any chances by shrugging my shoulders and saying, "It doesnít matter." It mattered to the Apostle Paul (Acts 19:1-6), and it should matter to us. Will those who are baptized incorrectly be saved? I sure hope so, but I am not their judge. All I know is what the Bible teaches on this subject, and that I need to (and should want to) obey that message. Those who are not baptized in Jesusí name are in Godís hands, but the simple fact that most Christians are baptized incorrectly does not change the truth of Godís Word. Search the Word, obey the Word, and let God take care of all the "what about so-and-soís." You only need to obey and preach what the Word of God truly teaches. I regret the fact that the Bible study you have been attending makes you feel as though people are trying to control you. I hope my response to your questions has alleviated some of the pressure you are feeling, and will motivate you to consider your decision to this issue from a rational perspective, rather than peer-pressure. God bless my friend.
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