The “Formula” for Water Baptism

     Just before Jesus returned to the Father’s right hand, He left these orders with His disciples. “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” (Matt. 28:19-20).

     These instructions were directed to those who were to baptize others, not to the one who is baptized. The Lord told His disciples how they were to baptize others, viz., “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” That is precisely what they did as they went forth teaching and baptizing. The United Pentecostal Church and other “oneness” groups teach that there is a formula which the one doing the baptizing must recite in order to validate water baptism. A tract published by the United Pentecostal Publishing House, Hazelwood, Missouri says,

“True, some denominations have traditionally sprinkled instead of immersing, and mistakenly substituted the use of the titles Father, Son, and Holy Ghost for the use of His name. The Holy Ghost put ‘name’ in Matt. 28:19.”

     Pentecostals substitute the word “titles.” A title is “an appellation significant of office, rank, especially, a designation of nobility.” It is also a “descriptive name” or “epithet”. A name is that by which a person or thing is “distinctively known.” Since Pentecostals do not believe there is a distinctive Holy Ghost, they mistakenly substitute title for name. Is this not what they accuse these denominations of doing? The tract contends that “the Lord intended for His name to be called in the act of baptism.” The passage they (mis)used is Acts 22:16, “Arise and be baptized and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” This is not instruction to the one who was to baptize Saul of Tarsus; it was to Saul.

     Pentecostals mix up these instructions. They take the only instructions ever given to one who was to baptize others completely out of the Bible and substitute in its place passages directed to those who were to be baptized. What was to be called, according to Acts 22:16? Was Saul of Tarsus being told to shout, “Jesus, Jesus,” or “Lord, Lord?” Jesus said very plainly, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 7:21). The vocalizing of words is not the thing that makes a command of God valid.

     Pentecostals can shout the name of Jesus until their vocal chords wear out and it will be of no value whatsoever in obeying the Lord. The tract mentions “The Formula for Baptism.” If Pentecostals will follow the very worthy purpose of taking the “only criterion in determining the truth” they will produce a Bible passage that gives the formula. Rather than that, they substitute passages that mention baptism in connection with the phrase “in the name of.” A formula is “an exact or prescribed method or form for doing something” says Webster, and adds that a formula “establishes a rule.”

     Take the mathematical formula that any number multiplied by itself produces the square of that number. That does not mean that multiplying a number by its own value plus another number, or a different number will produce the square of that number. The same is true in chemical formulas. If there is a formula for the baptizer to recite when immersing a person in water, what is it? Our Pentecostal friends say it is found in the following passages:

Acts 2:38: “in the name of Jesus Christ.”
Acts 8:16: “in the name of the Lord Jesus.”
Acts 10:48: “in the name of the Lord”
Acts 19:5: “in the name of the Lord Jesus.”
Acts 22:16: “calling on the name of the Lord.”

     First, these passages do not produce a uniform or exact formula to be recited by one who baptizes another. They are directed specifically to the one being baptized, not the baptizer.

     Second, which of them is the formula? There is variation in all of these passages. Surely, had the Lord intended to have a formula which must be recited by the administrator of baptism in order to validate the act there would be a uniform, unvarying, and exact formula given. None exists. No Pentecostal can find one.

     Col. 3:16 requires doing everything we do “in the name of the Lord Jesus.” Is this to be applied to some imaginary formula that is supposed to be recited every time someone does anything (word or deed) “in the name of the Lord?” Do Pentecostals apply Col. 3:16 to everything else?

     Jesus said that repentance and remission of sins should be “preached in My name” (Luke 14:47). Remember, just shouting the name “Jesus,Jesus” or “Lord, Lord,” is what Jesus said is ineffective (Matt. 7:21). Some vagabond Jews learned the truth of that the hard way (Acts 19:13-16).

     Do Pentecostal preachers really believe one cannot preach Christ and Him crucified without first saying, “in the name of Jesus, I am preaching repentance and remission of sins?” We still offer to publicly study this issue with any qualified representative of the Pentecostals who believe and teach this error.

Questions about this article are welcome. Email: Valley Church

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