Baptism in Jesus’ Name
Many suppose that being baptized in Jesus’ name means that the baptizer must pronounce the name of Jesus over the one being baptized. But that is not the usual meaning of the phrase “in the name of” in Scripture. To do something “in the name of” another usually means in the place of another, or by the authority of another (cf. Matthew 10:41-42, Matthew 21:9, Acts 4:18, Acts 9:27).
Consequently, to be baptized “in the name of Jesus Christ” means to be baptized with the baptism Jesus Christ commanded the Apostles to preach and practice on His behalf. There are no examples in Scripture of a particular formula being spoken over someone being baptized; only that it was done by the authority of Jesus Christ.
The idea of baptism “in the name of Jesus Christ” is that the person baptizing stands in the place of Christ Himself, and acts on His behalf and by His authority. Consequently, it is as though the subject is being baptized by Christ Himself. Remember, John said that Jesus would baptize in the Holy Spirit (Mark 1:8). That is, Jesus Himself is the one performing the baptism.
Christians Role In Baptism
A human stands in Jesus’ place and submerges the recipient in the water. That another acting on Jesus’ behalf in baptism is equivalent to Christ Himself baptizing is clearly seen in the language of Scripture. “Therefore, when the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John (though Jesus Himself did not baptize, but His disciples)” (John 4:1-2).
Jesus practiced baptizing by proxy using His disciples from the very beginning. So, when He commanded the Apostles in the Great Commission to make disciples of all nations, “baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,” there is every reason to think the Apostles understood this as a continuation of baptizing by proxy, but in Jesus’ absence.
There is no contradiction between this passage and the Great Commission in Matthew 28, where the Trinitarian statement appears. The Trinitarian statement is the natural continuation of the previous statement: “And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 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,” (Matthew 28:18-19). Because Jesus was sent by the Father, He carried the authority to speak on behalf of the entire Trinity. And since Jesus authorized the Apostles to baptize in His absence, they were necessarily baptizing “in the name of” the entire Trinity.
Acts 19:3-5 And he (Paul) said to them, “Into what then were you baptized?” So they said, “Into John’s baptism.” (4) Then Paul said, “John indeed baptized with a baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe on Him who would come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.” (5) When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
Galatians 3:27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
Romans 6:3-8 Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?
To be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ is the same as being baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, because the authority of the Trinity was passed to Jesus, who then passed it to His Apostles regarding baptism. What is important here is not the words spoken by the one baptizing, but the confession of the one being baptized (Romans 10:9-10).