Why We Must Baptize in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit

Josh Buice

Doctrine matters.  Have you witnessed a baptism in recent days in the company of your gathered church only to ask yourself inwardly why the pastor makes such an emphasis about the baptism being performed in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit?  Does it really matter?  Is it appropriate to merely baptize in the name of Jesus?

Testimony of Being Saved by God

The biblical formula of baptism is the Trinitarian formula of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  There is something clearly communicated to all witnesses as the new believer is immersed beneath the water in the name of the Trinity.  The salvation of every sinner is completed by all three persons of the Trinity.  Therefore, it is most appropriate that the sinner is to give praise to the triune God in the water as a profession of faith in the one true and living God.  When Jesus instructs his disciples to go and make disciples of all nations and to baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit—it’s worth pointing out that the noun (ὄνομα) translated “name” is singular in Matthew 28:19.  Therefore, the three distinct co-equal and co-eternal persons of the Trinity are not three different deities, but three distinct persons who make up the one true God who saves sinners.

B. B. Warfield once said the following, “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.” [1]  It’s vitally important to teach new believers that when they enter the water they will be baptized in the name of the Father who chose them before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:2), the Son who died for them on the cross (John 10:11, 15), and the Spirit of God who convicted them of sin and brought them to a place of repentance and submission to God through the Word of God (1 Pet. 1:2).  New Christians should not be confused by the Trinitarian formula while they’re standing in the water during their baptism.

Jesus Commanded the Trinitarian Formula

When it comes to faith and practice, it’s critical to build your doctrinal positions and formulate your positions of how to live out your faith based on Jesus’ clear teachings.  If Jesus commands something, there is no need to pray about it or consider it.  The commands of Jesus should never be lowered down to the level of a consideration.  Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15).

Just before the ascension of Jesus following his death, burial, and resurrection—Jesus made a statement that we have memorized and used as our marching orders as the church of Christ.  He said:

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age (Matthew 28:18-20).

While we do have Scriptural evidence of new believers being baptized in the name of Jesus in the New Testament, it seems clear that the reason for that particular statement was centered on the fact that Jesus was largely rejected as the Messiah of God and the early disciples were elevating Jesus to a position of prominence.  In short, they were embracing Jesus as the Christ.

However, when we see Jesus’ words at the end of his public ministry, we notice that he commands the Trinitarian formula as opposed to the “Jesus only” formula.  Furthermore, all throughout history, the “Jesus only” formula has been used by heretical groups such as the Oneness Pentecostals who have aberrant and deficient doctrinal positions that are clearly beyond the boundaries of orthodoxy.  The church of Jesus must follow Jesus’ commands regarding baptism.

The Trinitarian Formula was the Pattern of the Early Church

The early church believed and embraced the doctrine of the Trinity and pointed to this reality in how they baptized new converts.  Just as Jesus commanded, the early church put the Trinitarian formula into practice.  According to the Didache, we find the following words pertaining to baptism:

“But concerning baptism, thus baptize ye: having first recited all these precepts, baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, in running water,” (Didache 7:1).

The Didache was an early church treatise that explained the teachings of Jesus by the apostles.  The first line describes the document as “The teaching of the Lord to the Gentiles (or Nations) by the twelve apostles.”  It should likewise be noted that as Jesus commanded and the early church practiced the Trinitarian formula of baptism, apparently they were teaching some doctrine prior to baptizing people as followers of Christ.  Don’t you think it would be strange to have everything focused on Jesus and then be baptized in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit?  Doctrine matters.

James White has written the following:

We see, then, why baptism in the name of the Father, Son, and Spirit is so important: because this is baptism in the name of our God, the triune God we worship and serve and adore, the triune God who has saved us.  The father—source of all, eternally gracious.  The Son—Redeemer who left the glory of heaven to save His sheep.  Spirit—indwelling Comforter who makes the truths of the Christian faith alive in our hearts.  What other name would we wish to bear than the triune name of Father, Son, and Spirit? [2]

  1.  B. B. Warfield, “The Biblical Doctrine of the Trinity,” The Works of Benjamin B. Warfield, (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1981) II: 143.
  2.  James White, The Forgotten Trinity, (Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany House Publishers), 184.
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Author Why We Must Baptize in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit

Josh Buice

Pastor Pray's Mill Baptist Church

Josh Buice is the founder and president of G3 Ministries and serves as the pastor of Pray's Mill Baptist Church on the westside of Atlanta. He is married to Kari and they have four children, Karis, John Mark, Kalli, and Judson. Additionally, he serves as Assistant Professor of Preaching at Grace Bible Theological Seminary. He enjoys theology, preaching, church history, and has a firm commitment to the local church. He also enjoys many sports and the outdoors, including long distance running and high country hunting. He has been writing on Delivered by Grace since he was in seminary and it has expanded with a large readership through the years.