In Whose Name Should I Be Baptized?
In Whose Name Should I Be Baptized?
From Antonette via email: I am baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit according to Matthew 28:19, folks tell me I’m not baptized in the name of Jesus, therefore my baptism is wrong. How can I be sure I’m right?
Oneness Pentecostals (in denominations such as United Pentecostal Church International, Affirming Pentecostal Church International, and the Apostolic Assemblies of Christ) deny the Biblical teaching of the Trinity, and teach what is sometimes called the “Jesus Only” doctrine. This teaches that God is not one God in Three Persons for all eternity. Rather, it teaches that God was the Father, then was the Son, and is now the Holy Spirit. Because this idea teaches that God simply manifests in one “mode” at a time, this teaching is often called “Modalism,” but it also has gone through many other names through history. Most people today call it the “Jesus Only” doctrine.
Again, this is not a Biblical understanding of God, according to how God has revealed Himself to us in the Bible. T.D. Jakes is a prominent Oneness Pentecostal.
Now, since these folks don’t like the Trinity, they don’t like what Jesus said in Matthew 28:18-19:
And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…”
That’s a pretty clear statement from Jesus – that we should baptize people in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Traditionally, Christians have used that “formula” when baptizing people. But again, those who deny the Trinity don’t like that.
That’s why the Oneness Pentecostals – the “Jesus Only” folks – take their cue from several passages in the Book of Acts (at least four passages):
Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
They had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord.
When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
However, to my count, there are 10 other references to people being baptized in Acts without any reference to “the name of Jesus” or “the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” This shows that there wasn’t a lot of importance to a particular baptismal formula.
That’s why I think it is totally wrong to say that someone’s baptism is not valid if they use the words of Matthew 28:19, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. The power of baptism isn’t in the formula of the words that are spoken when a person is baptized; the power of baptism is in:
- The spiritual reality of cleansing from sin illustrated by the act of baptism
- The spiritual reality of identification with the death of Jesus on the cross, being buried with Him, illustrated by baptism
- The spiritual reality of identification with the resurrection of Jesus, being raised with Him, illustrated by baptism
- The declaration of faith that is baptism
- The marking point of faith that is baptism
- The open association with the people of God around the globe and across the ages
Those things make the power of baptism, not the formula of words, as if they were a magic spell. I don’t think it really mattersif the words spoken at baptism are “I baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit” or they are “I baptize you in the name of Jesus.”
However – when I baptize people, I do both. When I baptize people, I normally say this: “I baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; I baptize you in the name of Jesus.” That way if someone comes up to that person later and says, “How were you baptized,” then their bases are covered.
So, Antonette – thank you for your question, and please know – your baptism is not wrong. Remember, baptism is a material illustration of a spiritual work. If the spiritual work is real, then the baptism is real, and the exact words don’t matter so much (that is, they can be either or both).
Have you ever prayed for someone who has been demon possessed?
Have you ever prayed for someone who has been demon possessed? And how was that experience? I have prayed for some people that I believe were demon possessed. A couple of times when I’ve been doing street ministry, like evangelism or talking to people out on the street, I’ve run across some very sketchy people that I felt were demon possessed, and I prayed for them. But in those situations, I felt like I had a very uncertain result. I couldn’t really tell if anything much was accomplished in the spiritual realm.
There have been other situations in my pastoral ministry where I prayed for people that I believe have been demon possessed. They did not show any remarkable indications of things we normally associate with demon possession, but there seemed to be some demonstration of it. I felt like I had a sense of resolution to pray with those particular people.
I think that the idea of demon possession is real. We live in a day and age where it seems fantastic or surreal that people would actually be demon possessed. They wonder, “How could that really be? Could it really happen?” Well, I just have one thing to tell you. I believe Jesus. And Jesus certainly believed that demons and demon possession were real.
I don’t believe that a Christian – a believer, one who has been born again by God’s Spirit, and who is therefore a child of God – can be demon possessed. But I believe that the phenomenon of demon possession is real, so we may run into it from time to time. I don’t know that it’s anything for us to seek out as believers, but it’s something we should clearly be equipped to deal with.
Additionally, even if a person is not demon possessed, they can certainly be demon harassed. They can be under intense spiritual attack and battling from a place of victory. They would be very much benefited by other Christians coming aside to help them do what it says in James 4:7 – “Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.”
In seeking wisdom, should I ask God or get counsel from trusted friends?
What would you say is a good measure when it comes to asking God for wisdom, and seeking counsel from trusted friends over a decision? I tend to fall into the various ditches.
There may be times when we spiritualize our quest for wisdom and fail to take very practical steps like asking our friends about it. Or maybe we are too practical. We only ask our friends about a problem, but we don’t really ask the Lord about it. I think we can do both. I don’t think one necessarily excludes the other.
Seek the Lord. Pray for His guidance. Ask God to guide you. Ask for these words to be true in your life: Proverbs 3:5-6 – “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.”
The Proverbs also tell us that there is wisdom in a multitude of counselors. We do need to be careful when we’re asking people we know for wisdom, for a few reasons. First, it’s very possible for us to shop for opinions, like you would shop at different stores to get the product you want. Sometimes we can “shop around” at different friends until we get the advice that we want. We want to avoid that.
We also want to avoid seeking the wisdom of friends without seeking the Lord. We want to be very conscious in seeking the Lord in all that we do.
We don’t need to worry about doing one or the other but can simply do them both. If you’re going to do one more than the other, then choose to pray about your decisions and your problems. I would also counsel you not to neglect the role of “sanctified common sense.” I believe that God can guide us simply through our common sense; we can just do what seems right to us at the time.
In Acts 15:28, there was a decision that had to be made, and they said, “it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us.” They were using good common sense. They were trying to figure out a problem as best they could, and they also had a sense of confirmation from the Holy Spirit about it. I think God works that way many times. “It seemed good to us and to the Holy Spirit.”
If the Israelites had livestock, why did they complain about not having any food?
In Exodus 16:2-3, Israel complained about Moses having brought them out into this wilderness to kill the whole assembly with hunger. And in Exodus 17, they complain about the lack of water, saying, “Why is it that you brought us up out of Egypt to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?”
Why did they complain about hunger when they had livestock?
These ancient tribesmen were farmers and herders of animals. They would have livestock, such as sheep, goats, bulls, and cows. They were very hesitant to slaughter their livestock because that was their wealth. Their wealth increased by cows making little calves, and sheep making little lambs, and goats making little kids. That’s how their wealth increased. Their wealth decreased when they slaughtered those animals for money, or for food. They were very hesitant to do so.
In biblical times, at least in Old Testament times, meat was a rare treat. They ate some meat, absolutely. But they didn’t eat a lot of meat, primarily for economic reasons. It was taking away from their net worth and assets. Their mindset was that their flocks of sheep were not for eating; they were to provide wool. Only in a dire emergency would they actually eat or slaughter that flock, and then do it very sparingly. That’s the reason; it was because of the mentality they had about their own wealth and their flocks.
Did Jesus ever speak in tongues?
No, not to our knowledge. There’s not a thing in the Bible that says Jesus ever spoke in tongues. But I want to offer you a suggestion. I can’t be firm on this, but it’s just a suggestion that we can draw from a biblical principle, even if we don’t have an exact word from the Bible on it. So, I wouldn’t hold to this hard and fast, but here it is.
Jesus had access to all knowledge, so was there ever a language that Jesus did not know? How could Jesus speak in an unknown language if He had access to know every language that ever existed? Therefore, to me, the idea of an unknown tongue or language was completely foreign to Jesus, and it just didn’t really apply to Him at all. That’s something for us to think about.
What does the Bible say about disability and people with special needs?
What does the Bible say about disability? Are there any Scripture references that can help special needs parents, like me, during challenging times?
God bless you. Having known many parents of children who are part of the special needs community, I have witnessed something of the great challenges these parents face. My heart goes out to them. How could one’s heart not go out to them? It’s something that is a true challenge.
I would just ask you to consider this. Think of all the times in the Bible where Jesus showed particular compassion upon people who would be considered having special needs. He ministered to all of these. The compassion that God has towards special needs individuals shows us that He wants to equip us for compassion and give us strength that we need to endure in such things.
I would also remind you of how much God glories in what we might call humble service. Isn’t it remarkable how humble service before God is almost completely unrecognized by the world in general, and also by many of us in the church? But how glorious it is in the sight of God.
I speak as a pastor; I’ve occasionally spoken at large conferences or before large congregations. I’ve had the lights on me a few times. I’m not trying to make more of it than it is, but I’ve been out in front of people, at least on some occasions. It’s strange to me how quickly people assume that I must be specially favored by God, or that there must be a special reward for that. Let me tell you, that is not the case at all.
I don’t have any doubt in my mind that God will see the loving parent, who cared for their special needs child and loved them at great sacrifice, who received no attention or accolades on this earth. I believe that individual will stand much closer to the Throne and have a much more wonderful crown than someone who has stood in front of a lot of people and played music or spoken words, even if they’ve done those things faithfully. I think of the adult children, sons and daughters, who are caring for their elderly parents, sometimes in difficult stages and circumstances of life, who are completely unrewarded and uncelebrated by the world. But what a rich reward they will have in the name of Jesus.
We don’t have many specific mentions of special needs in the Bible, but we see the repeated love and care and compassion of God towards special needs or disabled individuals. But we do see in a wonderful and powerful way that God seems to have a rich, wonderful reward for humble service that is often unrecognized by the world.
Could wearing a cross be considered idolatry?
Could wearing a cross be considered idolatry? It’s mentioned many times in Scripture not to make any carved damages, etc. I want to be sure that I’m not taking it out of context.
No, I don’t think that wearing a cross could in itself be considered idolatry. Now, a person can take anything and make an idol out of it. A person could take a Bible and make an idol out of that book, if they pray towards the Bible, or the Bible must be in just a certain position, or this or that. Maybe they don’t feel like they can connect with God, but they can do so with the Bible, or with a cross on the wall, or with a statue of Jesus or Mary. People can make idols out of anything.
So, it’s possible that wearing a cross could become idolatry, but I don’t think it to be so automatically. In fact, we see how Paul spoke of the cross, that he gloried in the cross and wanted to proclaim the cross and to lift up the idea of the cross. I think a cross is a fitting symbol for Christians to take upon themselves, especially if they understand what it’s about.
The cross is about the sacrificial service of Jesus Christ, in rescuing His people by paying for their sins by what He did on the cross. The cross is the ultimate demonstration of God’s love and all God did to restore humanity in Jesus Christ.
Concerning carved images, I think this is legitimate area for Christians to consider. Some Christian traditions say that there should be no representations of Jesus. For example, they would not watch or promote a Jesus movie, because that in some way is making a graven image of Jesus, who was and is God.
There’s another strain of Christian thought, which is very much alive among our Orthodox brothers and sisters, who say that God gave a new aspect to that thinking by the incarnation of Jesus Christ. He made himself visible. He made Him perceptible by the human senses. They would say that, although it’s possible to make any image or carved thing into an idol, those things can be useful reminders of who Jesus is and what He did for us.
Does Ezekiel 37:1-14 (The Valley of Dry Bones) prove that at least some of the children of Israel must return to the land of Israel before all Israelites repent?
Yes, in this sense. The Ezekiel 37 vision explains that God’s promise of the restoration of Israel in the very last day would happen in steps or stages. It won’t necessarily happen all at one time. I think that’s very helpful to recognize. Part of Israel’s restoration as declared under the New Covenant is their restoration to the land. We see this in the New Covenant promises.
The final event in Ezekiel 37 is them being born again, when God breathes life into them. I would say that the ultimate conversion of the Jewish nation into faith in Jesus their Messiah happens at the very last step. One of the earlier steps is their restoration to the land, if not wholly, then certainly in part.
My dear godly mother has been suffering for a very long time. Is it appropriate to ask the Lord to take her to be with Him?
It’s a good question. I’ll give you my take as a pastor. I don’t doubt that you could probably find some pastors who would have a different opinion, and I’d want to be respectful towards them. But in my opinion, that is an acceptable prayer. Now, of course, we wouldn’t do anything to further that. I think it’s perfectly appropriate for somebody to say, “I don’t want any heroic action to be taken to preserve my life, or the life of a loved one that I’ve given charge over.” But while not wanting any heroic action to be taken, normal medical procedures should be done.
I think it’s fine to pray along these lines. It’s really a way to leave it in the Lord’s hands. I think that’s what you’re asking, “Is it okay for me to pray to God, and leave this in His own hands?” I would say yes. Yes, that’s good. Yes, that’s permitted. Praise the Lord for that.
I’m sorry to hear about the suffering that your mom has been enduring, because I know that if your mom has been suffering, there’s a very real sense in which you have been suffering as well. So, I pray that God would give you the grace and the wisdom to know how to guide things, for your sake and for your mother’s sake, in this closing season of her life.
Is the baptism of the Holy Spirit always followed by the evidence of speaking in unknown tongues?
No, it’s not. I would strongly disagree with those who say that speaking in unknown tongues is the evidence of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. I certainly believe you could say it’s an evidence of the baptism of the Holy Spirit; I have no problem saying that. It seems clear biblically. But to say that it is the singular evidence of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, I don’t know that to be true.
In Acts 1:8, Jesus said that the Holy Spirit would come upon the disciples, that they would receive this baptism of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said that it was for the effect that they would be His witnesses. If you want any true evidence of somebody being baptized in the Holy Spirit, it would be that they are witnesses, and that they have the fruit of the Spirit alive and active in their life.
Could a person speak in an unknown tongue as well? Yes, it’s certainly possibly they could. I am comfortable with saying that speak in an unknown tongue Spirit is an evidence of the baptism of the Holy, but it is not the evidence. Let’s also admit that it’s possible for someone to give a fake imitation of this. If somebody can give a fake imitation of such a thing, even if it appeared that somebody spoke in an unknown tongue, it is at least possible that it’s being manufactured. Of course, I think that person would know for themselves, but maybe looking on from the outside, someone might not be able to tell.
Could the wicked and lazy servant in the parable of the talents from Matthew 25 refer to a saved Christian who is not serving Christ to the best of their ability?
I think that’s certainly possible. In Matthew 25, Jesus says that the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a foreign country, who calls the servants and distributes talents to them, but not in equal measure. To one he gives five, to another he gives two, and to unto another he gives one, each according to his own ability, and then he goes on the journey. When he comes back, he wants an accounting, and asks them what they did with those talents.
The one who’d received five talents said, “Lord, you gave me five, and I gained five more; here they are.” And the master says, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” The one who received two talents came back and give report to his master, “You gave me two, and I gained two more.” And he says, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Then the one who had one talent came.
Matthew 25:24-25 – Then he who had received the one talent came and said, ‘Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed. And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground. Look, there you have what is yours.’
I think that’s a remarkable statement. I want you to understand the rationale behind the man who didn’t do anything with the one talent. He said, “Look, Master, you don’t need me. You reap where you have not sown.” By the way, that’s like the power of God, isn’t it? That’s creative, for someone to reap wheat where they have not sown seeds for wheat. That’s like divine power, to reap where you have not sown, and to gather where you have not scattered. It’s a poetic way to say it twice, but it’s intensified because it’s repeated. At least part of the rationale of this unfaithful servant who didn’t do anything with his one talent and did not serve the Lord was, “You don’t need me, God. You’re sovereign. You’re all-powerful.” You could say that a Master who has the power to reap where He does not sow, and to gather where He has not sown seed, does not need the help of His servants. But He asks for it, He expects it, and He holds it to account.
We should not rationalize our lack of serving God, in whatever way that God gives us to serve Him. Some of us serve God by our faithfulness in the present moment. Some of us serve God by prayer. Some of us serve God by being faithful to support good works in the world. There are many ways that we can be supportive of God’s work in this world. But the one who consciously does nothing because they think, “God doesn’t need me,” is the kind of attitude Jesus was addressing here. At least in part, that lines up with the wicked and lazy servant.
Is it biblical to have our dreams interpreted if they seem very vivid and they’re about the End Times?
If you have a dream that seems very vivid, I think it’s okay for you to ask Him, “God, does this mean anything? Is this anything I should pay attention to?” And if you sense God leading you to pay attention to it, then do it. But please, please, please, hold it with a very loose hand. I do believe that God speaks to people today. I do believe that God may speak to a person in and through a dream. But I don’t think we should ever seek for God to speak to us through a dream. I think we should seek the Word of God as it’s revealed to us in the Scriptures, the 66 divine books that God gave us in the Bible. That’s where we should seek after His Word.
Now, is it possible that God would speak to us in some additional way? I believe so. But it all must be measured against the Scriptures. It all must be given in light of the Scriptures. We need to be very careful about this. But is it possible that God would seek to speak to somebody or guide somebody in and through a dream? Yes, it’s possible. Pray about it. Maybe you could ask a trusted friend, but I really wouldn’t invest too much into it.
This is sometimes a huge problem of proportion with believers. Some people are out running after this or that prophet, and this or that word from the Lord, and this or that dream, when God has given them a Bible to seek after Him. He says, “Look, if you want to know My will for your life, read My Word. Now, I don’t say that to exclude the possibility that God could speak to somebody providentially about their circumstance through a dream. But we do need to be careful with this because it is nowhere near the same level as the confidence, certainty, and assurance that we have compared to God speaking to us in and through His Word. The Bible is the enduring Word, the Word that lasts forever.
That’s why Enduring Word is the name of my Bible commentary. The phrase is repeated in 1 Peter 1:24-25 but originally comes from Isaiah 40:8 – “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever.”This is the word that we can be sure of. Is it possible for God to speak to somebody in a dream or a vision? Yes, it is possible. But it’s in an entirely different category from the certainty and confidence that we have of God speaking to us through His enduring Word, the Word that lasts forever.
Is it a sin for a pastor to be rich?
Is it a sin for a pastor to be rich? For example, if a pastor is a millionaire, does he have to give up his business for ministry?
It isn’t necessarily a sin for a pastor to be rich. There are a lot of contributing factors. First and foremost, I think it’s a sin for a pastor to desire to be rich.
1 Timothy 6:9-10 – “But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”
This passage says that he who desires to be rich falls into a snare. It’s a trap. It’s a snare. Especially those who are pastors and minister in God’s Word should not desire or aspire to be rich. They should say, “No, I have other things to focus on.”
It’s possible that somebody has a prosperous business, or has inherited a lot of money, or has resources, or a pastor writes a book and it sells millions of copies, and they become very wealthy from that. I think that there are honorable and even godly ways for a pastor to be or to become rich.
But a pastor should not become rich from the tithes and offerings of God’s people. In general, and if it’s possible, a pastor should live at the economic level of his congregation. Now, this might mean that a pastor who lives in a wealthier community would receive a larger salary than a pastor who lives in a less wealthy or affluent community.
Now, if there are other ways that the pastor becomes wealthy, then it’s a matter of what they do with that wealth. I want you to remember something from the 1 Timothy passage quoted above. The Bible does not say that money is the root of all kinds of evil. It says the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. Let’s face it, it’s not easy to have money and not love it. So that is a great and serious challenge for anybody who has money, but we should not regard it as an insurmountable challenge.
I would say that a pastor should not become wealthy from the tithes and offerings of his people. I think the pastor deserves a generous salary, just at the level of their congregation. But there may be ways in which a pastor receives income that are not dependent upon the tithes and offerings of the congregation. And then it matters more what a pastor does with it. Are they generous? Are they lovers of money? Do they have a desire to be rich? These are the things to watch out for.
Can recommend an exhaustive printed biblical language resource besides Strong’s Concordance?
You’re asking for a printed language resource, but the first answer I would give you is something that’s not printed. The first answer I would give you is a website called Blue Letter Bible (blb.org). I love the people of Blue Letter Bible. It’s a tremendous website and Bible resource that I recommend to everybody.
I have a special place for Blue Letter Bible in my own heart, because my whole Bible Commentary would have never gone anywhere, without the blessing and partnership of the people at Blue Letter Bible. Way back, more than 25 years ago, in the year 1996, they first put up my Bible teaching notes on their website. I found out that my own notes for Bible teaching, that I produced for myself, were helpful for other people as a Bible commentary. So, to this day, my commentary is still there on blb.org, and lots of people use my commentary there. I praise the Lord for that.
However, most people who use Blue Letter Bible aren’t using Bible commentaries such as my own work available on there. They’re using the outstanding language resources, the Bible translations, and the Greek and Hebrew aids.
I would recommend two other printed resources for you. First, the Englishman’s Greek Concordance. You have a Strong’s Concordance, which is good. But there are printed concordances of the Greek vocabulary of the New Testament. This one is friendly for English users, and I used it a lot before I started using more digital Bible resources for this kind of work. It is a concordance like Strong’s, like you’re familiar with, but it’s a concordance of the Greek words, not the concordance of English words that are translated into Greek.
There’s also a good set that I have been familiar with, and I used to use this a lot more before I began using more digital Bible teaching aids. It’s called the New International Dictionary of New Testament. It gives good definitions and explanations of each of the prominent words that are used in the New Testament. It’s very helpful.
What does “baptized by fire” mean in Mathew 3:11?
Matthew 3:11 – “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”
The concept of baptism is basically immersion, to be dipped in something, to be overwhelmed with something. If I take a water bottle like this, and kind of overwhelm it with my hand, there’s some sense in which it’s being baptized. If you have a bucket of water and dip something in it, that thing is being overwhelmed or overcome by the water. So, baptism is to be immersed in something or overwhelmed by something. That’s the basic idea.
So, to be baptized in water is to be dipped into water. Sorry, not sprinkling. I’m not saying that there couldn’t be a place for emergency use of sprinkling for baptism. But it’s certainly not the normative. It’s not what the word means.
There is also the baptism of the Holy Spirit. It’s like being immersed in the Holy Spirit or overwhelmed with the Holy Spirit. He overflows you and fills you; that’s the idea of baptism. Just like you would dip a garment in a bucket of water, it’s overwhelmed and filled to the full with that liquid.
Finally, there is the baptism of fire. To my knowledge, most people understand that passage to be speaking of a baptism of suffering. Jesus, in another passage, spoke to His disciples of baptism in the context of suffering. He said that He was about to be baptized. Jesus was immersed in suffering at the cross. He was overwhelmed with suffering at the cross. So, baptism with fire would speak of the purifying work of the Holy Spirit in our life. But it’s not only purification. Sometimes purification results through trial, suffering, or difficulty. The “fiery trial” is a phrase used a few times New Testament. For us to be immersed in that trial, for God to show His faithfulness to us in it, for us to receive His faithfulness, and for us to emerge victorious from such a time, it draws us nearer to Jesus in the fullness of His work.
I think those are some of the important ideas encompassed with the term of baptism by fire. It speaks of trial, it speaks of suffering, and it speaks of refining and purification.