Question:

Hi Jeff,

I read an article that asks what does some one say before they baptize someone else. It almost answered my question but not completely. I have always been taught that it is not a proper baptism unless the proper things were said.

After taking their confession and then preparing them for baptism, it was always said, "Upon your confession I baptize you in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit for the remission of your sins."

The last two baptisms I have witnessed did not say for the "remission of your sins" just, "I baptize you in the name of the Father , the Son and the Holy Spirit." When I asked them about it, they said, "What's wrong with that?"

Well why say anything then? How about just "I baptize you"  or even not saying anything, let them confess before men and then just do it!

 What do you think?


Answer:

You don't find a set formula of words used for baptisms.

"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, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen" (Matthew 28:19-20).

"Then Peter said to them, "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. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call"" (Acts 2:38-39).

"Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, "See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?" Then Philip said, "If you believe with all your heart, you may." And he answered and said, "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God." So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him" (Acts 8:36-38).

"And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord" (Acts 22:16).

Notice that we only have a brief statement of what Philip and the eunuch actually said, but even this is not a scripted set of words.

"In the name" of indicates that the baptism is authorized by another and not by the person doing the baptism. To say "I baptize you" alone would leave the impression that you were doing it by your own authority. The one doing the baptism technically has no authority, he is merely assisting the one wishing to be baptized. Paul makes that clear when some Corinthians were claiming to be followers of different people. "Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, lest anyone should say that I had baptized in my own name" (I Corinthians 1:13-15).

I personally prefer stating clearly the purpose of the baptism because so many denominations claim that baptism isn't for the forgiveness of sins, but that is a point of clarity and not because there is a requirement of a set formula of words.

Nothing says that the confession has to be done at the point of baptism. That is what happened with Philip and the eunuch, but there is no indication that it can't happen at an earlier point. Nor does any account state that baptism is upon the confession of Jesus Christ as the Son of God. It is a prerequisite, just as faith and repentance are prerequisites. I sometimes wonder why a point about the person turning from sin is not also made.

Jeff,

Maybe I am not understanding because I have never seen it happen any other way than in Acts 16, other than the hearing and believing. Usually it takes a few studies of hearing, then they believe. After they repent and confess they are baptized right away, whether they answer the invitation on the Lord's Day or they are at a Bible study at someone's home. We get up right away and go.

"They said, Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household." And they spoke the word of the Lord to him together with all who were in his house. And he took them that very hour of the night and washed their wounds, and immediately he was baptized, he and all his household. And he brought them into his house and set food before them, and rejoiced greatly, having believed in God with his whole household" (Acts 16:31-34).

"Upon their confession" the confession concludes the hearing, belief, and repentance. So it is upon their confession that the hearing, believing, and repenting has taken place. No sound preacher or teacher would baptize someone without that confession would they? I baptize you "in the name of" the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit" is a complete sentence, but not a complete statement. If we must say "in the name of" to show authorization why not finish the statement?

Notice that in your example, nothing is said about confession. Nothing is said about baptizing in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This does not prove that there a fixed set of words that must be said when baptizing someone. It isn't even a good passage to prove that confession is necessary prior to baptism.

The argument that saying "I baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit" is not a complete statement does not make logical sense. It is a complete sentence and a complete statement -- there is no difference between the two. I can say, "I'm going to mow the lawn" without having to state my reason -- that it is getting too long and I need to shorten it.

Hearing, faith, repentance, confession, love, and hope are all needed prior to baptism. It is perfectly fine to make sure the confession is done before men prior to baptism. It is perfectly fine to be clear that the baptism is taking place for the forgiveness of sin. You could also mention that it makes the person a child of God and that they will enter the kingdom. None of these are wrong, but it does become wrong when someone says only this particular formula of words may be used. Doing so makes the person like the Pharisees, binding traditions instead of giving a "thus says the Lord."