About Jesus     Steve Sweetman

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The Formula of Baptism

What I am about to say may sound heretical to some of you, but let me assure you that it isnít.

To help explain what I am about to say, let me explain to you what I believe the phrase "in the name of Jesus" means. First of all "in the name of Jesus" is more than a few words that you attach to the end of a prayer. It is much more than a few words or a formula you use when you baptize someone. There is great significance to this phrase.

When someone is doing something in the name of Jesus, they are representing Jesus because He cannot be there in human form. The person is acting on behalf of Jesus.

Here is an analogy from daily life. If you are a sales person working for Joe Smith, then when you go out to sell, you are representing Joe Smith. You are selling Joeís product, not your own. You must act and sell the way Joe wants you to act and sell, or else you are in danger of being fired. You represent Joe, so you follow his rules. You sell in his name.

This is what "in the name of Jesus" is all about. We represent Jesus in all we do. We bare His name as we go about doing His work. Therefore, when Jesus tells His disciples to baptize in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, He is not giving them some kind of formula to use. He is not suggesting that they say certain words like, "I baptize you in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit", or as some say, "I baptize you in the name of Jesus".

In fact what Jesus means is this. When you baptize people, you represent me, the Father and the Spirit. Since Christians were not the only ones baptizing in those days, Jesus wanted everyone to know that His followers were baptizing as His representatives. They werenít baptizing in someoneís name, or some other religion. They represented Jesus when they placed someone under the water.

So the key point to this is that those who watch you water baptize should understand that you are doing this in Jesusí name, as His representative, because He is not present in human form. This means that you donít necessarily have to attach a particular formula, or particular words to the baptism. You donít have to say, "in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit". You could just as easily say, "because I represent Jesus, I now baptize you". Whatever you say should convey the idea that you represent Jesus as you baptize. We donít need to get caught up in discussions about words and formulas.

If a non-Christian is watching you baptize someone, they will have no clue what the phrase "in the name of Jesus means". My guess is that many Christians really donít understand what that phrase means. Everyone will understand what you are doing if you say something like, "I am baptizing my friend Jim because I represent Jesus, and Jim has just given his life to Jesus".

Consider what I say, and the Lord give you the understanding in all things.



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