The Name in Matthew 28:19

The Name in 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 28:10).

Although some biblical scholars question the textual authenticity of Matthew 28:19–that is, whether it is in the original text or a later interpretation–accepting it as Scripture will not compromise the oneness of God or baptism in the name of Jesus Christ. On the contrary, it enriches the doctrine of Oneness believers. Using the principal of internal harmony of the Scriptures as a tool of biblical interpretation, we can began by asking a simple question: What is the singular “name” referred to in Matthew 28:19? The clear proof that this “name” is Jesus is found in the Book of Acts, where the apostles and early church obeyed Matthew 28:19 by baptizing in the name of Jesus.

Have you ever wished that Jesus had not spoken the words Father, Son, and Holy Ghost in Matthew 28:19? Baptism in Jesus’ name is so clearly given in the Book of Acts, but does not Matthew 28:19 seem less clear, almost confusing the issue? Maybe it is time for a fresh look at Matthew 28:19. This marvelous passage may be one of the most enlightening about Jesus’ name and His being the one God in the Scriptures. Without Matthew 28:19 we would not know so precisely and absolutely that Jesus is the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost! Matthew 28:19 does not teach a trinitarian concept of God; rather it rightfully belongs as a foundational stone of Oneness teaching.

Harmony of Scripture

All doctrine must be established by a harmony of Scripture. That is, the Bible is not internally conflicting or contradictory. In other words, there is one gospel, not many gospels. Truth is a whole, with each aspect of truth contributing rather than conflicting with each other. The words of Jesus in Matthew 28:19 do not conflict with the words of the apostolic church in teaching or preaching. Both Matthew 28:19 and acts 2:38 express one truth-not separate truths or conflicting doctrines.

Let us look briefly at the name used in water baptisms in the Book of Acts:

1. The apostle Peter admonished repentant believers to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ: “be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ” (Acts 2:38).

2. The evangelist Philip baptized Samaritans who believed the gospel and repented in the name of the Lord Jesus: “they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 8:16).

3. The apostle Paul rebaptized the disciples of John in the name of the Lord Jesus: “they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 19:5).

4. The apostle Peter commanded the Gentile believers to be baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus: “he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord” (Acts 10:48).

5. The disciples Ananias baptized the apostle Paul in the name of the Lord: “arise, and be baptized . . . calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22: 16).

If the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost is not Jesus, then the apostles and disciples did not understand Jesus’ command in Matthew 28:19, or they simply disobeyed Him when they baptized in the Book of Acts. To assume that the apostles misunderstood Jesus or disobeyed Him would bring into question the gospel message in not only Acts but also the entire New Testament. Thus, to believe in the harmony of the Scriptures, we must accept that the records in Acts truthfully reflect the words of Jesus in Matthew 28:19.

Another principle of biblical interpretation is that clear passages define less clear passages. Using this principle, comparing Matthew 28:19 with the water baptisms in Acts reveals not a “three-person God” but a one-name and one-God message. This one name belongs to one God who manifested Himself in three ways or roles to effect our salvation.

The apostle Peter confirmed that the singular name in Matthew 28:19 is Jesus in another setting by proclaiming that Jesus 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). In the Gospel of Luke, the great commission refers to a singular name: “Repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name” (Luke 24:47). Peter clearly obeyed this commission on the Day of Pentecost when he told the people what to do to be saved: “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).

The Context of Matthew 28:19

It is noteworthy that the word “therefore” in Matthew 28:19 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). Jesus was claiming omnipotence–deity! David Bernard wrote 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 29:19 announces the omnipresence of Jesus: “Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world” (Matthew 28:20). Sandwiched between proclaiming the omnipotence of Jesus in verse 18, and heralding the omnipresence of Jesus in verse 20, is verse 19, obviously revealing that “the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” is Jesus!

These three verses constitute a unit of truth consisting of the omnipotence and omnipresence of Jesus and the revelation that Jesus is the name. The truth of the Oneness of God in this passage was later expressed by the apostle Paul in his letter to the church in Colosse:

“For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily” (Colossians 2:9).

Isaiah 9:6 and Matthew 28:19

It is also interesting to note the similarities between Isaiah 9:6 and Matthew 28:19. Isaiah wrote, “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given . . . and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). The singular “name” is connected to the titles of Son and Father in this passage, along with the title “Counselor” (an advocate-the Greek equivalent is parakletos, translated “comforter” in John 14:26: “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost”).

In Isaiah 9:6 appears the singular “name” followed by titles. The titles-Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace-are not His name but who He is, just as in Matthew 28:19! This verse states that “his name shall be called,” using the future tense, a prophecy of a future time. Where in Scripture does the Son’s name include the titles of Counselor, The mighty God, and The everlasting Father? It is fascinating to consider that Isaiah 9:6 may indeed be a prophecy fulfilled in Matthew 28:19, and the name proclaimed by the apostles and early church in the gospel message was the name of Jesus.

Water Baptism by 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 today is, “The baptism of the apostles–was it from God or from men?” If the answer is, “From men,” we accuse the apostles of heresy. If we answer, “From God,” we acknowledge that the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost is Jesus.

There is more to Matthew 28:1920 than the revelation of God’s name. There is also a clarion call to missionary outreach, a demand for action: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the
name.” In His name we are to proclaim the promise from God that by faith and obedience people shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost (Acts 2:38). Our goal is to preach the gospel to everyone, to baptize each one that God gives us, and then to teach “them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.” Our commission to evangelism is an integral part of Matthew 28:19. Words on paper alone will not suffice; we must “Go … therefore….”

Brother Schooleraft is a member of the Apostolic Tabernacle in Edinburg, Indiana, pastored by Reverend Mark Meyers.