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For a sacrament to be valid, three things have to be present: the correct intention, the correct matter, and the correct form. With baptism, the correct intention is to do what the Church does, the correct matter is water, and the correct form is the baptizing "in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (Matt. 28:19).
Unfortunately, not all groups use this form. Jehovah's Witnesses use no formula at all in their baptisms, and an even larger group, the "Jesus Only" Pentecostals, baptize "in the name of Jesus." As a result, the baptisms of these groups are not scriptural(edited) These groups are not orthodox Christians, but pseudo-Christian, religious organizations. "Jesus Only" Pentecostals note that Jesus told the apostles to baptize in "the name" (singular) of the Father, the Son, and the Spirit, but they make the mistake of assuming that name is Jesus. In reality, the single name shared by the three is almost certainly Yahweh, the personal name of God in the Bible.
This name is applied to both the Father and the Son in the New Testament.
In Philippians 2:10-11, Paul quotes Isaiah 45:19-24, applying a prophecy about the Lord to the Son. And in the Old Testament original, the term "Lord" in this passage is actually Yahweh. Jesus applied the name Yahweh ("I AM") to himself in John 8:58, and his audience understood exactly what he meant and tried to stone him. Since the Bible applies the name Yahweh to the Father and the Son, it is almost certainly possessed by the Spirit and thus is a name of all three Persons of the Trinity.
"Jesus Only" Pentecostals argue that the New Testament talks about people being baptized "in the name of Jesus," but there are only four such passages (Acts 2:38, 8:16, 10:48, and 19:5); they don't use the same designation in each place (some say "Lord Jesus," others say "Jesus Christ"), meaning they were not technical formulas used in the baptism but simply on-the-fly descriptions by Luke. The four cannot stand up against the divine command of the Lord Jesus Christ to "make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (Matt. 28:19).
The phrase "baptized in the name of Jesus" is not a technical version of the baptismal formula, simply Luke's way to distinguish Christian baptism from other baptisms of the period, such as John's baptism (which Luke mentions in Acts 1:5, 22, 10:37, 11:16, 13:24, 18:25, 19:4), Jewish proselyte baptism, and the baptisms of pagan cults such as Mithraism. It also indicates the Person into whose Mystical Body baptism incorporates us (
The Church Fathers, of course, agreed. As the following quotations show, Christians from the beginning have recognized that the correct form of baptism requires one to baptize "in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit."
"After the foregoing instructions, baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, in living [running] water. If you have no living water, then baptize in other water, and if you are not able in cold, then in warm. If you have neither, pour water three times on the head, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Before baptism, let the one baptizing and the one to be baptized fast, as also any others who are able. Command the one who is to be baptized to fast beforehand for one or two days" (Didache 7:1 [A.D. 70]).
"Then said Jesus unto them, 'I have been given all authority in heaven and earth; and as my Father has sent me, so I also send you. Go now into all the world, and preach my gospel in all the creation; and teach all the peoples, and baptize them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit; and teach them to keep all whatsoever I commanded you: and lo, I am with you all the days, unto the end of the world'" (Diatesseron 55 [A.D. 170]).
"When the one being baptized goes down into the water, the one baptizing him shall put his hand on him and speak thus: 'Do you believe in God, the Father Almighty?' And he that is being baptized shall say: 'I believe.' Then, having his hand imposed upon the head of the one to be baptized, he shall baptize him once. Then he shall say: 'Do you believe in Christ Jesus . . . ?' And when he says: 'I believe,' he is baptized again. Again shall he say: 'Do you believe in the Holy Spirit and the holy Church and the resurrection of the flesh?' The one being baptized then says: 'I believe.' And so he is baptized a third time" (The Apostolic Tradition 21 [ A.D. 215]).
"After his resurrection he promises in a pledge to his disciples that he will send them the promise of his Father; and lastly, he commands them to baptize into the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost, not into a unipersonal God. And indeed it is not once only, but three times, that we are immersed into the three Persons, at each several mention of their names" (Against Praxeas 26 [A.D. 216]).
"Why, when the Lord himself told his disciples that they should baptize all peoples in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, does this apostle employ the name of Christ alone in baptism, saying, 'We who have been baptized into Christ'; for indeed, legitimate baptism is had only in the name of the Trinity" (Commentary on
Acts of Xantippe and Polyxena
"Then Probus . . . leapt into the water, saying, 'Jesus Christ, Son of God and everlasting God, let all my sins be taken away by this water.' And Paul said, 'We baptize thee in the name of the Father and Son and Holy Ghost.' After this he made him to receive the Eucharist of Christ" (Acts of Xantippe and Polyxena 21 [A.D. 250]).
"He [Jesus] commanded them to baptize the Gentiles in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. How then do some say that though a Gentile be baptized . . . never mind how or of whom, so long as it be done in the name of Jesus Christ, the remission of sins can follow-when Christ himself commands the nations to be baptized in the full and united Trinity?" (Letters 73:18 [A.D. 253]).
"We believe . . . each of these to be and to exist: the Father, truly Father, and the Son, truly Son, and the Holy Ghost, truly Holy Ghost, as also our Lord, sending forth his disciples for the preaching, said, 'Go teach all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost.' Concerning whom we confidently affirm that so we hold, and so we think, and so we have held aforetime, and we maintain this faith unto the death, anathematizing every godless heresy" (Letter to the People of His Diocese 3 [A.D. 323]).
"You were led by the hand to the holy pool of divine baptism, as Christ was carried from the cross to this sepulcher here before us [the tomb of Jesus at
"And the whole faith is summed up and secured in this, that a Trinity should ever be preserved, as we read in the Gospel, 'Go ye and baptize all the nations in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost.' And entire and perfect is the number of the Trinity (On the Councils of Arminum and Seleucia 2:28 [A.D. 361]).
"Faith and baptism are two kindred and inseparable ways of salvation: Faith is perfected through baptism, baptism is established through faith, and both are completed by the same names. For as we believe in the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost, so are we also baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost; first comes the confession, introducing us to salvation, and baptism follows, setting the seal upon our assent" (The Holy Spirit12 [A.D. 375]).
"Moreover, Christ himself says: 'I and the Father are One.' 'One,' said he, that there be no separation of power and nature; but again, 'We are,' that you may recognize Father and Son, forasmuch as the perfect Father is believed to have begotten the perfect Son, and the Father and the Son are one, not by confusion of Person, but by unity of nature. We say, then, that there is one God, not two or three Gods" (The Faith 1:1[9-10] [A.D. 379]).
Gregory of Nazianzus
"But not yet perhaps is there formed upon your soul any writing good or bad; and you want to be written upon today . . . I will baptize you and make you a disciple in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost; and these three have one common name, the Godhead. And you shall know, both by appearances and by words that you reject all ungodliness and are united to all the Godhead" (Orations 40:45 [A.D. 380]).
"Seeing that a man, baptized in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost, becomes a temple of the Lord and that while the old abode is destroyed a new shrine is built for the Trinity, how can you say that sins can be remitted among the Arians without the coming of the Holy Ghost? How is a soul purged from its former stains which has not the Holy Ghost?" (Dialogue Against the Luciferians 6 [A.D. 382]).