A Fresh Look at Matthew 28:19
By Ron Schoolcraft
Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” (Matthew 28:19).
Come on, be honest-have you ever wished Jesus had not spoken these words? In the Book of Acts, baptism in Jesus’ Name is clearly stated. However, does not this verse in Matthew seem less clear, almost to the point of “confusing” the issue? Maybe it is time for a fresh look at Matthew 28:19. This marvelous passage just might be one of the most awesome “Jesus, name, one God” Scriptures in the arsenal of apostolic believers. Without Matthew 28:19 we would not know so precisely and absolutely that Jesus is the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost! If we have yielded the high ground of Matthew 28:19 to Trinitarians, it’s time to reclaim it. This is our Scripture! Let us elevate it to its rightful place at the pinnacle of apostolic doctrinal teachings.
Harmony of Scripture
The Trinitarian’s favorite Scripture is, in reality, one of the best verses in the Bible for Jesus’ name, one God believers. It is easily rendered so by asking a simple question, “What is the name?” The profound answer is: “Jesus!” The crystal-clear proof is found in the Book of Acts where the apostles obeyed Matthew 28:19 by baptizing in the name of Jesus!
We know the Scriptures do not contradict, but rather they harmonize. Using the “Harmony of Scripture” as a tool of biblical interpretation, let us look briefly at some baptism in the Book of Acts:
1. Peter: “be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ” (Acts 2:38).
2. Phillip: “they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 8:16).
3. Paul: “they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 19:5).
4. Peter: “he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord” (Acts 10:48).
If the “name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost” is not Jesus then the apostles and disciples disobeyed Matthew 28:19 when they baptized in the Book of Acts. We thus would have a major contradiction in the Bible, a severe violation of the principle of the Harmony of Scripture. Another rule of biblical interpretation is that clear passages define less clear passages.
Matthew 28:19, when compared with the baptismal Scriptures in Acts, is revealed to be, not a “three person/three God” Scripture, but a “one name” Scripture! This “one name” belongs to the “one God” who has appeared in three manifestations, roles or offices. Moreover, this “one name” verse belongs to His people, the people of the Name. If there were three separate and distinct “persons” the apostles would not have dared slight them by omitting their names in the Book of Acts baptisms.
The “Singular” Name
Peter confirmed that “the name” (singular), Jesus, is singular in another sense it is the only saving name. “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Luke’s rendition of “the great commission” also sanctioned the singular name: “Repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name… ” (Luke 24:47, emphasis added). Peter unmistakably obeyed this commission, as well as Matthew 28:19 and Acts 4:12, when he preached, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Acts 2:38).
A Super Sandwich
It is noteworthy that Jesus said in Matthew 28:19, “Go ye therefore, and teach… ” (Emphasis added). “Therefore” means “accordingly, for that reason, because of that, to that end.” It refers to the preceding verse where Jesus proclaimed, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth” (Matthew 28:18). Here Jesus was claiming omnipotence deity! As David Bernard has written in The Oneness of God, “It would twist the logic of the passage to read it to mean (I have all power, so baptize in the names of three different persons).”
It is also significant that the verse following Matthew 28:19 announces the omnipresence of Jesus: “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” (Matthew 28:20).
Sandwiched between verse 18, proclaiming the omnipotence of Jesus, and verse 20, heralding the omnipresence of Jesus, is verse 19, obviously revealing that “lie name” of the Father, Son and the Holy Ghost is Jesus!
These three verses constitute a veritable super sandwich, a triple-decker, consisting of the omnipotence and omnipresence of Christ encompassing the meat of the revelation that Jesus is, “therefore” the “name”! “For in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily!” (Colossians 2:9). Matthew 28:18-20 is a delectable triple-decker we can feast on continuously.
A Parable of the Name?
A parable is sometimes defined as an earthly story with a heavenly meaning. Jesus explained why He taught in parables. “Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables: That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear and not understand” (Mark 4:11-12). Thus, parables have a dual purpose: to reveal truth to some but to veil truth from others. To the extent that Matthew 28:19 reveals truth about “the name” yet simultaneously veils truth from others, it is very much like a parable. Matthew tells us, “And without a parable spake he not unto them: That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet saying, I will open my mouth in parables: I will utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world” (Matthew 13:34-35). There is a distinct possibility that, far from “confusing” the issue of baptism, in Matthew 28:19 Jesus did intentionally “utter” a parable-like passage revealing “things kept secret from the foundation of the world.” One would have to search diligently to find a better example of a parable than Matthew 28:19. Dare we say that in Matthew 28:19 Jesus gave us the paragon of parables a final, unannounced parable with a hidden meaning a “parable of the name”?
The Isaiah 9:6 Parallel
It is interesting to note the similarities between Isaiah 9:6 and Matthew 28:19. Isaiah said of the “Son..given…his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father… ” (Isaiah 9:6). All of the components of the phrase “name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” are present here. Where is the “Holy Ghost”? A “Counselor” is an advisor or guide similar to an advocate, who pleads in behalf of another, as does a legal counselor. The New Testament Greek word for “advocate” is parakletos. It is the same word used for “Comforter” in John 14:26: “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost. .. shall teach you all things… ” (Emphasis added).
In Isaiah 9:6 we also find the singular “name” followed by multiple titles. The titles are not His name, but who He is, just as in Matthew 28:19! Note again: “His name shall be called…” “Shall be” indicates future tense. Where else in Scripture was the Son’s name “called” Counselor (Holy Ghost), mighty God, everlasting Father? Try Matthew 28:19! It is fascinating to consider that Isaiah 9:6 may indeed be a type of Mathew 28:19, foreshadowing the revelation of His name.
The Baptism of the Apostles
When Jesus’ authority was questioned, He answered with a question, “The baptism of John, was it from heaven, or of men?” (Luke 20:4). A legitimate question to ask our friends is: “The baptism of the apostles was it from God or from men?” If they answer, “From men,” they are accusing the apostles of heresy. If they answer, “From God,” the correct answer, they are acknowledging that the name of the Fahter, Son and Holy Ghost is Jesus. Our next response, after praising God, should be, “here is water what doth hinder (thee) to be baptized?” (Acts 8:36).
Our Goal: “Go”
There is more to Matthew 28:19-20 than the revelation of His name. There is a clarion call to missionary outreach, a demand for action: “Go…teach …baptizing …teaching.” Someone has observed that the word “preach” contains the word “reach”, while the words “reach”, and “teach” contain the word “each.” Our goal is to “Go” to preach, reach and teach, baptizing each one God gives us in our going. This, too, is an integral part of Matthew 28:19. Words on paper alone will not suffice; someone must “Go ye therefore…”
May God grant us a renewed appreciation for Matthew 28:19. The next time we hear, “But what about Matthew 28:19?” May our response be, “I’m so glad you asked me! Matthew 28:19 is one of our favorite Scriptures…” May God use the former “stumbling stone” as a stepping-stone to revelation and revival.
THE ABOVE MATERIAL WAS PUBLISHED BY THE LOUISIANA CHALLENGER, 2002, PAGES 2, 5. THIS MATERIAL IS COPYRIGHTED AND MAY BE USED FOR STUDY & RESEARCH PURPOSES ONLY.