Is Jesus the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit?

In this part (https://answeringislamblog.wordpress.com/2020/07/07/is-jesus-name-god-the-father/), I will address the practice of baptism and whether this supports the oneness/modalist position.

Baptizing them in the Name of Who Exactly?

After his physical, bodily resurrection, and right before his ascension into heaven, the Lord appeared to his followers in order to commission them with the task of preaching the Gospel throughout the world. One of the risen Christ’s instructions to them was to make sure to baptize all who freely choose to become his disciples:

“having gone, then, disciple all the nations, (baptizing them — to the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit (eis to onoma tou Patros, kai tou Hyiou, kai tou Hagiou Pneumatos),” Matthew 28:19 YLT

The Trinitarian nature of baptism is quite explicit:

There are a number of scriptural indications for three-in-oneness in the Godhead. Perhaps one of the best illustrations is Matthew 28:19. After Jesus had been resurrected from the dead, He referred to all three Persons of the Trinity while instructing the disciples… It is highly revealing that the word ‘name’ is singular in the Greek, indicating that there is one God, but three distinct persons within the Godhead–the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.6 Theologian Robert Reymond draws our attention to the importance of this verse for the doctrine of the Trinity:

Jesus does not say, (1) ‘into the names [plural] of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,’ or what is virtually equivalent, (2) ‘into the name of the Father, and into the name of the Son, and into the name of the Holy Spirit,’ as if we had to deal with three separate Beings [akin to the Muslim charge of tritheism]. Nor does He say, (3) “into the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit’ (omitting the three recurring articles), as if ‘the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost’ might be taken as merely three designations of a single person. What He does say is this: (4) ‘into the name [singular] of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,’ first asserting the unity of the three by combining them all within the bounds of the single Name, and then throwing into emphasis the distinctness of each by introducing them in turn with the repeated article.(Rhodes, Reasoning from the Scriptures with Muslims [Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, Oregon 2002], 7. The Biblical View of God, pp. 118-119)

THE BAPTISMAL FORMULA:

Meanwhile, the nearest approach to a formal announcement of the doctrine of the Trinity which is recorded from our Lord’s lips, or, perhaps we may say, which is to be found in the whole compass of the New Testament, has been preserved for us, not by John, but by one of the synoptists. It too, however, is only incidentally introduced, and has for its main object something very different from formulating the doctrine of the Trinity. It is embodied in the great commission which the resurrected Lord gave His disciples to be their “marching orders” “even unto the end of the world”: “Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Mt 28:19). In seeking to estimate the significance of this great declaration, we must bear in mind the high solemnity of the utterance, by which we are required to give its full value to every word of it. Its phrasing is in any event, however, remarkable. It does not say, “In the names (plural) of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost”; nor yet (what might be taken to be equivalent to that), “In the name of the Father, and in the name of the Son, and in the name of the Holy Ghost,” as if we had to deal with three separate Beings. Nor, on the other hand does it say, “In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost,” as if “the Father, Son and Holy Ghost” might be taken as merely three designations of a single person. With stately impressiveness it asserts the unity of the three by combining them all within the bounds of the single Name; and then throws up into emphasis the distinctness of each by introducing them in turn with the repeated article: “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost (the King James Version). These three, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost, each stand in some clear sense over against the others in distinct personality: these three, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost, all unite in some profound sense in the common participation of the one Name. Fully to comprehend the implication of this mode of statement, we must bear in mind, further, the significance of the term, “the name,” and the associations laden with which it came to the recipients of this commission. For the Hebrew did not think of the name, as we are accustomed to do, as a mere external symbol; but rather as the adequate expression of the innermost being of its bearer. In His Name the Being of God finds expression; and the Name of God — “this glorious and fearful name, Yahweh thy God” (Dt 28:58) — was accordingly a most sacred thing, being indeed virtually equivalent to God Himself. It is no solecism, therefore, when we read (Isa 30:27), “Behold, the name of Yahweh cometh”; and the parallelisms are most instructive when we read (Isa 59:19): `So shall they fear the Name of Yahweh from the west, and His glory from the rising of the sun; for He shall come as a stream pent in which the Spirit of Yahweh driveth.’ So pregnant was the implication of the Name, that it was possible for the term to stand absolutely, without adjunction of the name itself, as the sufficient representative of the majesty of Yahweh: it was a terrible thing to `blaspheme the Name’ (Lev 24:11). All those over whom Yahweh’s Name was called were His, His possession to whom He owed protection. It is for His Name’s sake, therefore, that afflicted Judah cries to the Hope of Israel, the Saviour thereof in time of trouble: `O Yahweh, Thou art in the midst of us, and Thy Name is called upon us; leave us not’ (Jer 14:9); and His people find the appropriate expression of their deepest shame in the lament, `We have become as they over whom Thou never barest rule; as they upon whom Thy Name was not called’ (Isa 63:19); while the height of joy is attained in the cry, `Thy Name, Yahweh, God of Hosts, is called upon me’ (Jer 15:16; compare 2 Ch 7:14; Dan 9:18, 19). When, therefore, our Lord commanded His disciples to baptize those whom they brought to His obedience “into the name of ….,” He was using language charged to them with high meaning. He could not have been understood otherwise than as substituting for the Name of Yahweh this other Name “of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost”; and this could not `possibly have meant to His disciples anything else than that Yahweh was now to be known to them by the new Name, of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost. The only alternative would have been that, for the community which He was rounding, Jesus was supplanting Yahweh by a new God; and this alternative is no less than monstrous. There is no alternative, therefore, to understanding Jesus here to be giving for His community a new Name to Yahweh, and that new Name to be the threefold Name of “the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost.” Nor is there room for doubt that by “the Son” in this threefold Name, He meant just Himself with all the implications of distinct personality which this carries with it; and, of course, that further carries with it the equally distinct personality of “the Father” and “the Holy Ghost,” with whom “the Son” is here associated, and from whom alike “the Son” is here distinguished. This is a direct ascription to Yahweh, the God of Israel, of a threefold personality, and is therewith the direct enunciation of the doctrine of the Trinity. We are not witnessing here the birth of the doctrine of the Trinity; that is presupposed. What we are witnessing is the authoritative announcement of the Trinity as the God of Christianity by its Founder, in one of the most solemn of His recorded declarations. Israel had worshipped the one only true God under the Name of Yahweh; Christians are to worship the same one only and true God under the Name of “the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost.” This is the distinguishing characteristic of Christians; and that is as much as to say that the doctrine of the Trinity is, according to our Lord’s own apprehension of it, the distinctive mark of the religion which He founded. (The Life, Thought, and Works of Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield (1851–1921), “Trinity”; underline emphasis mine)

This is where the oneness/modalists come in with their objection. They argue that in the book of Acts the Apostles went around baptizing folks in the name of Jesus (Cf. 2:38; 8:12, 16; 10:48; 19:5). They argue that this is proof that the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is Jesus, since they are not three eternal divine Persons, but three different modes/manifestation of a single divine Person. The oneness/modalist is assuming that “in the name of Jesus” is an actual phrase uttered when a repentant believer is immersed in water.

Suffice it to say there are major problems with this view.

First, the wording and the prepositions used are not uniform, as the following verses explicitly show:

“and Peter said unto them, `Reform, and be baptized each of you on the name of Jesus Christ (epi too onomati ‘Iesou Christou), to remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit,” Acts 2:38 YLT

“as yet he was fallen upon none of them, and only they have been baptized — to the name of the Lord Jesus (eis to onoma tou Kyriou ‘Iesou);” Acts 8:16 YLT

“he commanded them also to be baptized in the name of the Lord (en to onomati tou Kyriou); then they besought him to remain certain days.” Acts 10:48 YLT(1)

“and they, having heard, were baptized — to the name of the Lord Jesus (eis to onoma tou Kyriou ‘Iesou),” Acts 19:5 YLT

In light of the foregoing, is the baptismal formula on/into/in (epi/eis/en) Jesus Christ, the Lord Jesus, or simply the Lord?

This brings me to the second problem with the oneness/modalist assertion. The expressions “in/on/through the name of,” “his name,” etc., are used in Acts in reference to the authority/power of Christ, which the risen Lord invested his emissaries with to proclaim the message of salvation and perform miracles:

“and Peter said, `Silver and gold I have none, but what I have, that I give to thee; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth (en too onomati ‘Iesou Christou tou Nazooraiou), rise up and be walking.’… and Peter having seen, answered unto the people, `Men, Israelites! why wonder ye at this? or on us why look ye so earnestly, as if by our own power or piety we have made him to walk? The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, did glorify His child Jesus, whom ye delivered up, and denied him in the presence of Pilate, he having given judgment to release [him], and ye the Holy and Righteous One did deny, and desired a man — a murderer — to be granted to you, and the Prince of the life ye did kill, whom God did raise out of the dead, of which we are witnesses; and on the faith of his name (epi te pistei tou onomatos autou), this one whom ye see and have known, his name made strong, even the faith that [is] through him did give to him this perfect soundness before you all.’” Acts 3:6, 12-16 YLT

“And it came to pass upon the morrow, there were gathered together of them the rulers, and elders, and scribes, to Jerusalem, and Annas the chief priest, and Caiaphas, and John, and Alexander, and as many as were of the kindred of the chief priest, and having set them in the midst, they were inquiring, `In what power, or in what name did ye do this?‘ Then Peter, having been filled with the Holy Spirit, said unto them: `Rulers of the people, and elders of Israel, if we to-day are examined concerning the good deed to the ailing man, by whom he hath been saved, be it known to all of you, and to all the people of Israel, that in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth (en too onomati ‘Iesou Christou tou Nazooraiou), whom ye did crucify, whom God did raise out of the dead, in him hath this one stood by before you whole. This is the stone that was set at nought by you — the builders, that became head of a corner; and there is not salvation in any other, for there is no other name under the heaven that hath been given among men, in which it behoveth us to be saved.’ And beholding the openness of Peter and John, and having perceived that they are men unlettered and plebeian, they were wondering — they were taking knowledge also of them that with Jesus they had been — and seeing the man standing with them who hath been healed, they had nothing to say against [it],” Acts 4:5-14 YLT

“And having called them, they charged them not to speak at all, nor to teach, in the name of Jesus (epi too onomati tou ‘Iesou),” Acts 4:18 YLT

“in the stretching forth of Thy hand, for healing, and signs, and wonders, to come to pass through the name of Thy holy child Jesus (dia tou onomatos tou hagiou Paidos sou, ‘Iesou).” Acts 4:30 YLT

“And to him they agreed, and having called near the apostles, having beaten [them], they commanded [them] not to speak in the name of Jesus (epi too onomati tou ‘Iesou), and let them go;” Acts 5:40 YLT

“And when they believed Philip, proclaiming good news, the things concerning the REIGN of God and the NAME of Jesus Christ (kai tou onomatos ‘Iesou Christou), they were baptized both men and women.” Acts 8:12 YLT

“and this she was doing for many days, but Paul having been grieved, and having turned, said to the spirit, `I command thee, in the name of Jesus Christ (en onomati ‘Iesou Christou), to come forth from her;’ and it came forth the same hour.” Acts 16:18 YLT

The foregoing helps us to appreciate the point of Jesus’ followers commanding their hearers to be baptized in/into/on the name of Jesus.

Individuals were to be baptized as a sign that they were coming under the headship of Christ, in recognition that they were submitting to Jesus as their sovereign Lord who had complete authority over their lives to command them how to live and what to do:

And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say? Every one that cometh unto me, and heareth my words, and doeth them, I will show you to whom he is like: he is like a man building a house, who digged and went deep, and laid a foundation upon the rock: and when a flood arose, the stream brake against that house, and could not shake it: because it had been well builded. But he that heareth, and doeth not, is like a man that built a house upon the earth without a foundation; against which the stream brake, and straightway it fell in; and the ruin of that house was great.” Luke 6:46-49 ASV

“The word which he sent unto the children of Israel, preaching good tidings of peace by Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all)— ” Acts 10:36 ASV

“For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living.” Romans 14:9 ASV

This is further brought out by the following texts:

“And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on his name.” Acts 22:16 ASV

“because if thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus as Lord, and shalt believe in thy heart that God raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved: for with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be put to shame. For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek: for the same Lord is Lord of all, and is rich unto all that call upon him: for, Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Romans 10:9-13 ASV

The aforementioned texts make it crystal clear that the Lord whose name Paul (and all others) called upon during baptism was none other than Jesus whom he/they had to verbally confess as Lord in order to be saved.

This indicates that the phrase “in/into/on the name” of Jesus wasn’t a baptismal formula, but a command to undergo baptism for the express purpose of demonstrating one’s willful acceptance and submission to the sovereign Lordship of Christ.

As such, the texts in Acts concerning baptism provide absolutely no support for the oneness/modalist assertion that Jesus is the actual name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Endnotes

 (1) There is an important variant in the manuscripts in regards to 10:48, since some of the earlier Greek witnesses read the following way:

“So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ (en too ‘onomati ‘Iesou Christou). Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days.” New International Version (NIV)

Regardless, the point still stands that there is no uniform formula or phraseology employed by the Apostles when commanding sinners to repent and be baptized in the name of the risen Lord.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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