Baptized In the Name of Jesus?

July 17, 2015

Recently, someone asked me what the proper thing to say at baptism is: “in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” or “in the name of Jesus”? Both phrases are used in the New Testament. First, let’s examine what the phrases mean, and then deal with the question.

The Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) uses the phrase “baptizing them into the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” The New Testament was originally written in Greek. The Greek word, eis, that I have rendered “into,” is probably translated as “in” in your Bible, although the ESV and NIV give a footnote citing “into.” The phrase, “eis to onoma/into the name,” was used in the Greek business word to indicate entry into an account bearing the name of its owner. Cottrell commenting on this phrase writes:

Its use in Matthew 28:19 indicates that the purpose of baptism is to unite us with the Triune God in an ownership relation; we become his property in a special, intimate way. (Baptism: A Biblical Study, p. 17)

The same kind of construction is also used in Acts 8:16 and Acts 19:5, where it is “baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus” with the same ownership kind of meaning.

The phrase, “baptized in the name (en to onomati) of Jesus Christ,” is used in Acts 10:48. The Greek word “en” is often translated as “in.” This phrase can mean while naming or calling on the name and in some cases, at the command of, by the authority of someone. The standard Greek lexicon (BAGD, p. 572) suggests in these verses the idea is to be baptized while naming the name of Jesus Christ. Baptism is a calling upon Jesus. Ananias says to Paul, “And now why do you delay? Arise, and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name” (Acts 22:16, NASB). Most people confess Jesus prior to their baptism, and so call on His name. If the meaning is by the authority of someone, then it means that someone is baptized by the authority of Jesus (that is at his command).

Each of these phrases reveals aspects of baptism. Baptism is an appeal. Baptism is the place where we enter into a new relationship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—we become His. Baptism is done at the command of Jesus. These two phrases do not contradict each other. They reveal aspects of baptism.

But what should we say at baptism? The truth is that nowhere in the New Testament are we instructed to say certain words while baptizing someone to make the baptism valid. The baptizer could be silent, although most of us choose to say something that reveals the meaning of baptism. It is the purpose and meaning of baptism that is important and not the formula of words spoken. Both phrases are biblical. It is only the familiarity of traditional usage that makes one phrase seem more appropriate than the other. But we need to understand that Matthew 28:19 and Acts 10:48 are not proscribing a spoken formula. The phrases do not contradict one another; they both reveal aspects of baptism.

BDAG = A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. Chicago (University of Chicago Press, 2000)

Drunkenness and Debauchery

July 10, 2015

The headline was sensational: “Help! I Just Accidentally Slept with 25 Men and I Don’t Know Who the Father Is…” Although I grieve for this young woman and her unborn child, I can’t help notice the word, “accidentally.” It is hard to learn from moral failures, if you don’t accept moral responsibility. I’m reminded of Theodore Dalrymple’s book, In Praise of Prejudice. No, Dalrymple is not a racist, and the book is not about that kind of prejudice. He notes that many people in our culture seem to lack the ability to prejudge certain actions as leading to bad consequences. They live in a moral fog, and they suffer painful consequences because they lack prudence — the ability to see moral danger ahead.

What was this young woman’s story? She became drunk. She watched porn with these men. She fornicated with these men. She became pregnant.

Scripture warns against drunkenness and calls it sin:

“But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one.” (1 Corinthians 5:11 ESV, emphasis added)

“… nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 6:10 ESV, emphasis added)

“…envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Galatians 5:21 ESV, emphasis added)

But scripture also gives us a clue as to why drunkenness is bad. It is linked to debauchery: “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery. . .” (Ephesians 5:18, ESV). This term probably doesn’t communicate with us very well unless we look it up. It means recklessness. Several translations attempt to convey the sense to English readers: “leads to reckless actions” HCSB, “ruin your life” NLT, “don’t destroy yourself by getting drunk” CEV. Drunkenness is wrong because it leads to a loss of inhibitions, which means a loss of moral judgment. Bad things tend to follow.

Although our culture attempts to stigmatize drunk driving, it seems over the past few decades there has been some loss of stigma attached to drunkenness. One piece of evidence is the fact that FaceBook is working on a filter to determine whether your posted picture is of someone drunk or sober. Drunk photos are getting people in trouble with their employers. Don’t be fooled. Salvation does hang in the balance. These two things do go together — drunkenness and debauchery.

Age of Accountability

June 26, 2015

For those of us who practice believer’s baptism, there is a corresponding belief that children are safe until they reach an age of accountability. Admittedly, the phrase, “age of accountability,” does not occur in scripture, but I believe the concept does. Age may also be a misleading word. It may imply that I can pick a number — say age 12. Rather, I think it indicates a period of maturity when discipleship, belief, and repentance can take place, and there may be some who never reach this stage in life.

First, I reject the idea that we bear the guilt of Adam’s sin. Ezekiel 18:20 makes this clear: “The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself” (ESV). This means we are not sinners at birth. For a full discussion, other passages would have to be examined, but I think the point of Romans 5:12-21 is to say that Adam’s sin had consequences for all, so that Paul can also say, Jesus’ one act of righteousness can have consequences for all.

Second, children grow in all aspects of life including spirituality. This was true even for Jesus: “And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.” (Luke 2:52, ESV) Just as I cannot expect fine motor skills in small children, there are some intellectual and spiritual abilities that have to grow and mature as well.

Third, the Bible gives an example of children not being accountable. Out of the adults only Caleb and Joshua were going to enter the Promised Land because of the response to the spies’s report, but note what is said about the children: “And as for your little ones, who you said would become a prey, and your children, who today have no knowledge of good or evil, they shall go in there. And to them I will give it, and they shall possess it.” (Deuteronomy 1:39 ESV)

Fourth, Jesus says the kingdom belongs to children, which would indicate their acceptance by God: “but Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.’” (Matthew 19:14 ESV)

Fifth, the Bible indicates an innocence that is awakened to sin and guilt: “I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died” (Romans 7:9, ESV). See also Ezekiel 28:15 and Isaiah 7:14-15.

Finally, even those who practice infant baptism have some concept of an age of accountability in that they do not expect the same participation as an adult until the child reaches “the age of reason,” to borrow a phrase from the Council of Trent. This is evidenced by confirmation.

I think it is more consistent with the evidence of scripture to maintain a believer’s baptism and acknowledge that children are spiritually safe until they mature to where they can do the things of conversion: discipleship, belief, and repentance.

“Seven Secrets of Effective Fathers”

June 19, 2015

The book, The Seven Secrets of Effective Fathers by Ken Canfield, suggest seven “secrets” or aspects of a father’s role. Effective fathers raise spiritually and emotionally mature children. If we want to be effective fathers we need to think about these and act on them.

  1. Commitment. Fathers need to commit to the role of husband and father and recognize its importance. Our society faces a great deal of fatherlessness. In 1950, 3.9% of all births were by unmarried women. In 2005, that number has risen to 36.8%. 70% of juvenile delinquents are from fatherless homes. In a practical way, fathers must plan time with the family and balance busy priorities.
  2. Know your child. We need to know developmental stages of children, but we also need to know our children as individuals. Who are their friends? What are their interests? What are their strengths and weaknesses? What are their days like? We do this to protect them, encourage them, and show affection to them.
  3. Be Consistent. Children need to see strong character in their father. He should practice what he preaches. He should demonstrate emotional maturity being able to govern his own moods and behavior. He should be consistent in his word. In other words, he keeps the promises that he makes.
  4. Protect and Provide. If there is a noise in the middle of the night, who gets up to check on it and who stays under the covers by the phone? I suspect that in most two-parent homes, Dad is the one who gets up to check, and protection is a good masculine trait. Providing for our families is an important spiritual truth. Consider the following passages: Genesis 2:5, 3:17, 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12, 2 Thessalonians 3:7-10, Ephesians 4:28, 1 Timothy 5:8, and Matthew 7:9-11 (an analogy between human fathers and our Heavenly Father).
  5. Love Their Mother. Paul stresses the importance of husbands loving their wives. The husband should love his wife as Christ loved the church. He should love and care for his wife as he loves himself (Ephesians 5:25-33).
  6. Listen Actively. Children want attention from their father. Misbehavior sometimes is directed at getting attention any way they can. Fathers need to be reminded to listen actively. We need to put down our phone or tablet, turn off the TV, and rid ourselves of distractions so that we can listen.
  7. Equip Spiritually. Bringing a life into the world is a big responsibility, but it pales in comparison to the fact that this life also has an eternal destination. Fathers should be spiritual leaders equipping their children spiritually. See Deuteronomy 6:4-9, Psalm 78:1-8, and Ephesians 6:4.


May 22, 2015

Memorial Day is a national holiday to honor those who have died in military service. John Logan, a U.S. Congressman and Union General during the Civil War, began the memorial. As commander in chief of a Union veterans’ organization he urged the members to decorate soldiers’ graves with flowers on May 30th. Eventually it became a national holiday and extended to all U.S. war dead. Memorial Day is marked by the laying of the wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. With the current war on terror, I suspect that we are keenly aware of what soldiers sacrifice.

My memories of Memorial Day growing up are quite vivid. For a small child, it wasn’t fun for the most part, although we did cook out at the end of the day The day was spent with my parents, my Grandma Holden, and my great-aunt. They would pick peonies from the yard and make bouquets. Then we would spend much of the day driving to cemeteries and placing these bouquets on the graves.

It seems like there were at least four cemeteries that we went to, and they were miles apart from each other. For a child, it was being cooped up in a car on a nice day in May. For the adults, it was a day of remembering and sharing family history. It was a day of honoring those who had died as soldiers. It was as the name of the day implies a day of remembering.

If you count all of the wars the United States has been involved in, we have lost 664,440+ soldiers in combat and another 673,929+ soldiers who died from accidents, privation, disease or as prisoners of war. As a child, I was witnessing adults who had lived through WWI, WWII, or both. I think I understand why they took the meaning of remembering so seriously. Those two wars represent 52% of all the combat deaths.

I wish that I could say I could find all of those cemeteries and graves, but the truth is I only remember the location of one of the cemeteries. Some family history has been lost, but an impression was made on me. As enjoyable as it was to cook on the grill at the end of that day, Memorial Day was important to them for remembering.

A Living Sacrifice

May 15, 2015

Recently, someone said in the assembly, “We ought to be able to give an hour a week for worship.” I cringed at the statement, and I’ll explain why in a moment. I think I know what the speaker meant, so let me start there.

A recent headline highlights the concern: “You Now Have a Shorter Attention Span than a Goldfish.” “The article explains researchers have found that the human attention span has dropped from 12 seconds to 8 seconds in recent years. The goldfish comes in with an attention span of 9 seconds explaining the headline. The source of the problem is our digital life where we may have multiple screens providing us with information. This may make it difficult for us to concentrate on one thing and maintain sustained attention.

Yet, you are capable of much deeper thoughts than a goldfish, and you can have sustained attention if you try and practice at it. Worship is one of those places that needs our sustained attention. Reading books, especially reading the Bible, is another. Somehow thoughts about God ought to rank higher than our instant messages and Twitter feed.

I hear complaints at times that people are talking, passing notes, or on their phone during worship. Granted that a person may be reading their Bible on their phone, but this is not always the case. The suspicion is that people are distracted and not paying attention and being a distraction to others who are attempting to pay attention. I think that is where “the hour a week” comment comes in. Can we learn to give sustained attention to the things God has asked us to do? This may take some effort on our part, but it is a call to be different from the world around us. It is also a call to be reverent and respectful.

What made me cringe about the statement? I don’t want to convey the idea that Christian living can be pigeonholed into an hour a week. God wants your whole life not just a token hour. He wants you to be “a living sacrifice” daily. It means being a Christian on the job, at school, and in the home. I’m giving God all of my time as I use my entire life to glorify God.

When I give God my life, then the times of worship become a no-brainer. I don’t have to decide each time whether I’m going or not. Worship, whether in my devotional life or in the assembly, becomes a part of the rhythm of my life. Worship shouldn’t be something that I begrudgingly give to God counting down the minutes until I’m free. Worship should come from the overflow of a daily walk with God. My aim is to be a “living sacrifice.”

The Legacy of Ruth

May 7, 2015

The Book of Ruth is a genealogy with a narrative preface. The genealogy belongs to King David with David being the last word in the book. The narrative explains how a Moabite woman came to be in the genealogy of Israel’s king. Despite her nationality, Ruth was a remarkable woman, mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother.

The book is never shy about calling her a Moabite. Her name occurs twelve times in the book and five times it is in the phrase “Ruth the Moabite,” and in the first occurence she is identified as a Moabite. Her nationality, however, did not determine her faith. Ruth was a convert: “Your people shall be my people, and your God my God” (Ruth 1:16c). Boaz acknowledged that she had taken refuge under the wings of Yahweh, the God of Israel (Ruth 2:12). Ruth was a woman of faith.

We live in a culture that often emphasizes outer beauty, and the standards of that outward beauty are so unreal that even models are photoshopped. In comparison, we have no physical descriptions of Ruth, but we are told of her inner beauty. Boaz praised her as “a worthy woman,” and acknowledged that the community knew this as well (3:11). This is the same word used to describe the virtuous wife of Proverbs 31:10. The NET Bible’s footnote in Proverbs 31:10 explains the word’s use in this passage and in Ruth 3:11. It has to do with moral worth and virtue. Ruth was a woman of virtue.

The antithesis of Ruth is Orpah, Ruth’s sister-in-law. When given an out by Naomi to look out for herself, she took it and abandoned Naomi. Ruth, on the other hand, modeled loyal love. This was no sentimentality or fleeting feeling. Ruth demonstrated loyalty and unfailing kindness in her actions. When the decision was made to return to Bethlehem and leave Moab, Ruth went. When the two women needed food, Ruth labored in the field as a gleaner. When Boaz provided her with a midday meal, Ruth saved leftovers for Naomi. When talk of a kinsman redeemer took place, she trusted Naomi and then Boaz. Ruth was a woman of love.

Ruth was a mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother. She is in the family tree that produces “a man after God’s own heart” — David. Raising children is a labor-intensive, hands-on project. Society will be blessed with mothers who also model faith, virtue, and love. This was the legacy of Ruth.

Happy Mother’s Day!


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