28 June 2022

In His Name


In Acts, converts to the new faith were baptized in water, and in the name of Jesus Christ no long after conversion

Baptism - Photo by arquidis molina on Unsplash
In the book of
Acts, it is expected that all converts who repent and exercise faith in Jesus will be baptized in water. The process of conversion includes repentance, faith in the gospel, baptism in water, and the receipt of the gift of the Holy Spirit. While these are separate steps, they are all closely related - [Photo by arquidis molina on Unsplash].

Before his ascension, Jesus commanded the disciples to “tarry in Jerusalem” until they received the Holy Spirit, “for John indeed baptized with water, but you will be baptized in the Holy Spirit.” This echoes what John said as he was ministering water baptism along the Jordan River:
  • I indeed baptize you with water, but there is coming he that is mightier than Ihe will baptize you in the Holy Spirit and fire” – (Luke 3:16, Acts 1:4-5, 11:16).

JOHN’S BAPTISM


From the start, the early church distinguished between the baptism of John and the baptism administered to converts to the new faith. John’s baptism prepared hearts for the arrival of the coming Messiah. And Jesus contrasted John’s baptism with the baptism “in the Holy Spirit,” and not with Christian water baptism. John immersed penitent men and women in water, but the disciples of Christ would be “immersed” in the Spirit.

The Greek term rendered “baptize” is baptizĂ´, which means to “immerse, dip, wash” (Strong’s #G907). In classical Greek, it meant “immerse,” to fully submerge something in water. The verb is from a root that means to make something “fully wet.” When applied to the Holy Spirit, “baptism” is used metaphorically to illustrate one’s full “immersion” into the Spirit, no actual water is involved.

None of this means that the church abandoned the practice of baptizing men and women in water just because believers were baptized in the Spirit. The two things are not mutually exclusive but serve different purposes.

PENTECOST


At the end of his sermon on the Day of Pentecost, Peter summoned the crowd to repent and be “baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” He associated the gift of the Spirit closely with water baptism, though he also distinguished between the two – (Acts 2:38).

The preceding passage does not mean the Spirit is dispensed by water baptism, but the early church expected every convert to be baptized in water, and to receive the gift of the Spirit.

It is going beyond Peter’s words to claim he meant that one can only receive the Spirit after undergoing water baptism.

Water baptism is “for the remission of sins,” and it certainly affirms publicly that the convert has repented and believed the gospel. Peter’s statement about “receiving the Spirit” reassured his audience that if they repented and were baptized, God would certainly grant them the Spirit. And according to Peter, water baptism was administered by the early church “in the name of Jesus Christ.”

SAMARIA


The gospel was first preached in Samaria by Philip, and many of the Samaritans believed his preaching “about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, and they were baptized, both men and women. While the passage mentions the “name of Jesus Christ,” it does not state that these converts were baptized in his name, or in any other name, only that they were baptized. Noteworthy is that both “men and women” underwent the same conversion process - (Acts 8:10-12).

Later, Philip shared the gospel with the eunuch from Ethiopia. After hearing his words and seeing a source of water, the eunuch asked for baptism. Upon hearing him confess that he “believed that Jesus Christ is the Son of God,” Philip baptized him in water. Nothing is stated about how it was administered to the eunuch, nor does it discuss whether he received the Spirit. The story ends with Philip whisked away by the Spirit, and the eunuch continuing his journey while “rejoicing” – (Acts 8:5-39).

SAUL OF TARSUS


After his Damascus Road encounter with the risen Jesus, God sent a brother named Ananias to minister to Saul of Tarsus. Ananias laid his hands on Saul and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, who appeared to you in the way has sent me, that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Saul was healed immediately and subsequently “baptized” – (Acts 9:17-18).

This last passage does not provide any details about Paul receiving the Spirit, and it provides minimal information about his baptism in water. However, when Paul related this story some years later, he added that Ananias had exhorted him to “be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.” Once again, baptism is linked with the remission of sins, and the last clause suggests Paul was baptized in the name of Jesus – (Acts 22:16).

THE GENTILES


In the next chapter, while Peter was still preaching to the Gentiles gathered in the house of Cornelius, the Holy Spirit “fell on them that heard the word.” This was confirmed when Peter and his associates heard the Gentiles “speak with tongues and magnify God.” In response, he had them all “baptized in the name of Jesus Christ” – (Acts 10:44-48).

Although Peter’s summons on the Day of Pentecost suggested that receipt of the Spirit came after water baptism, here we find new believers receiving the Spirit BEFORE baptism. We must be careful before we insist that one thing always precedes the other. Once again, baptism was administered “in the name of Jesus Christ.”

When the jailer in Philippi asked what he must do, Paul declared, “Believe on the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, you and your house.” After speaking the “word of the Lord” to the jailer and his household, the Apostle “baptized” them. In whose name it was administered is not stated. The passage does stress that they were baptized “immediately” – (Acts 16:31-33).

EPHESUS AND CORINTH


In Ephesus, Paul met several disciples of John the Baptist. When he asked whether they had received the Holy Spirit, they replied they had not even heard about the Holy Spirit. He next asked, “into what were you baptized?” Upon hearing, “into John’s baptism,” he immediately baptized them “into the name of the Lord Jesus,” they laid hands on them to receive the Spirit, and “they spoke in tongues and prophesied.

Thus, at Ephesus, water baptism occurred in close proximity to the receipt of the Holy Spirit, and in this case, it preceded the baptism in the Spirit. The passage indicates no delay between the two events. And once more, water baptism was administered in the name of “the Lord Jesus.” Note well the slight change from “Jesus Christ” to “Lord Jesus.”

And in Corinth, Crispus, the “ruler of the synagogue, believed in the Lord with all his house, and many of the Corinthians believed and were baptized.” Once again, a simple statement is included about baptism. While no details are included, there is an underlying assumption that water baptism occurred after conversion as a matter of course – (Acts 18:8).

SUMMARY


The book of Acts does demonstrate that new converts were routinely baptized shortly after conversion. It was expected of all followers of Jesus. When a rationale is given for doing so, baptism is administered “for the remission of sins.” And in the more detailed descriptions, it is done in the “name of Jesus.”

There is no indication that initiates were given lengthy instructions before baptism, or that there was any kind of probationary period. Once someone repented, he or she was baptized in water, and in the name of Jesus.

Water baptism is usually paired with baptism in the Spirit. However, the two are distinct experiences. The Spirit was received by converts both before and after water baptism.

None of the relevant passages states directly that converts were immersed completely in water. The incident with Philip and the eunuch does indicate that the latter was immersed since they stopped for his baptism when they found a pool of water. If baptism only necessitated sprinkling a small amount of water on someone’s head, there would be no need to seek out larger sources of water. The contents of one’s canteen would suffice.

Having said that, “immersion” is the meaning of the underlying Greek verb, not “sprinkle” or “pour.” Without any contradictory evidence, the word should be given its true and original sense.

Finally, nowhere does the book of Acts claim or suggest that water baptism must be administered by an apostle. While we find several of the apostles baptizing converts, neither Philip the Evangelist nor Ananias were apostles, yet the former baptized the eunuch, and the latter Saul of Tarsus.



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