As it relates to baptism:

The definition of “baptism” in its mechanical usage is that of placing a person or thing into union or a new environment with something else so as to alter its relationship or condition to its previous condition or environment – Dr. K. Wuest, Wuest’s Word Studies in the Greek New Testament, vol. 3, “Vocabulary”, p. 72.  This fits well with Rom. 6:3-6; Gal. 3:27; and Col. 2:11, 12 where the believing sinner is spiritually baptized/placed into vital union with Jesus Christ. By this action, the believer’s condition is changed from that of an unconverted sinner to that of a saint or new creation (2 Cor. 5:17; Heb. 3:1; Eph. 1:1; Phil. 1:1; Acts 9:13; Col. 3:12).

Water baptism (submersion; immersion) pictures/symbolizes the fact of the believing sinner’s identification with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection – Wuest’s, p. 75; Dr. C. Brown, The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, vol. 2, p. 655.

So, what does “baptizing in(to) the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” mean?

First, a “name” represents the one who bears it. Therefore, “baptizing into the name” means “being brought into vital relationship with” that One, viewed as He has revealed Himself – Dr. W. Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary, The Gospel of Matthew, p. 1000. The word “name” in the New Testament refers to all that the person/people so mentioned is/are. The name of Christ refers to all that Jesus is to men – Dr. M. Unger, Unger’s Bible Dictionary, p. 776.   “The name” is “the person” as used in many biblical passages – Dr. J. Douglas, The New Bible Dictionary, p. 862.  Second, the Greek word “eis” can mean either “in” or “into”, but “into” makes better sense in the context of  “baptism in the name of” – Dr. W. Hendriksen, pp. 1000, 1001; Dr. H. Bietenhard, Theological Dictionary of the N.T., vol. 5, p. 275; and Dr. L. Berkhof, Systematic Theology, p. 625.

So, baptism “in the name” of Jesus or of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is an affirming of the truth of the believer’s identification with Christ or the Trinity – Dr. L. Richards, Expository Dictionary of Bible Words, p. 454.  Or, as Dr. M. Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament, vol. 1, p. 84, states regarding Matthew 28:19, “into the name of” means “into spiritual and mystical union with God the Holy Trinity”.  “Name” is equivalent to the being of God.  According to Drs. J. Walvoord and R. Zuck, The Bible Knowledge Commentary, New Testament, p. 94, the act of baptizing in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit “would associate a believer with the person of Jesus Christ and with the Triune God”.

Drs. C. Pfeiffer and E. Harrison, The Wycliffe Bible Commentary, p. 1231, state that the phrase, “into the name” in 1 Cor. 1:13, 15 means into “identification with”.  Or, as Dr. L. Morris, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries – The First Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians, p. 42, says, “into the name” implies entrance into fellowship…”  Or, as Drs. R. Jamieson, A. Faussett, and D. Brown, Commentary on the Whole Bible, p. 1188, state, “into the name” implies “incorporation” in (1 Cor. 1:13, 15).

So, does baptism in(to) the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 2:38; 8:16; 10:48; 19:5) conflict with Jesus’ words in Matt. 28:19 regarding baptizing “in(to) the name of  the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit?  No!

By metonymy (a figure of speech where one word or phrase is substituted for another with which it is closely associated – The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 3rd edition), the word “Jesus” can represent the Trinity or Godhead, as Jesus is closely associated with the Father (Jn. 10:30, 38; 1:1, 14; 14:9-10; 17:10; Heb. 1:8) and with the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:9; Gal. 4:6; Jn. 2:19-21 with Rom. 8:11; Psa. 104:25, 30 and Job 33:4 with Col. 1:13, 16).  Or, by synecdoche (a figure of speech by which a less comprehensive or inclusive term is used for a more comprehensive or inclusive term – The Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd edition; or, where a part is used for a whole – New Webster’s Dictionary and Thesaurus of the English Language), the word “Jesus” can represent the entire Trinity.

Other examples of metonymies and synecdoches in Scripture are seen in:

Jn. 4:1 where the word “Jesus” is used for “His disciples” (see Jn. 4:2).

2 Kings 10:17 where the word “him”, referring to Ahab, is used for “all Ahab’s family, relatives, and friends (see 2 Ki. 10:7, 11, 17).

Joshua 10:40-42; 11:9-10, 12 where the word “Joshua” is used for “all of Israel or the army of Israel, including Joshua” (Josh. 10:29-39; 11:7, 11).

2 Chron. 4:17-22 where the word “king”, referring to Solomon, is used for “Huram-abi and his skilled men” (2 Chron. 4:16; 2:13-14).

2 Sam. 10:18 where the word “David” is used for “all the army of Israel, including David” (2 Sam. 10:17).

1 Kings 12:16 where the word “David” is substituted for “Rehoboam” (1 Ki. 12:12, 17).

As “in the name” relates to other issues or people:

“In the name” can mean “according to the will of and in his authority” (speaking in his behalf, 2 Cor. 5:20) as seen in 1 Kings 21:8; 1 Sam. 25:5; Deut. 18:20 – (Dr. J. Douglas, The New Bible Dictionary, p. 863).

When referring to Christ, “in My name” can mean “representing the authority of Christ” (e.g., Matt. 24:5; 18:5; Jn. 14:26; 16:23). Or, it can mean “in the power of” (e.g., Lk. 10:17; Acts 3:6; 4:10; 16:18). Or, it can mean “in recognition of the authority of and relying on Him” (e.g., Matt. 18:20; Jn. 14:13; 15:16; Eph. 5:20; Col. 3:17) – Drs. W. Vine, M. Unger, and W. White, An Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words, New Testament, p. 772).

It can mean “on behalf of” (e.g., 1 Sam. 25:9; Jer. 23:25; Deut. 18:20) – Dr. C. Brown, The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, vol. 2, p. 650.  Or, when referring to God, it can mean some aspect of God’s revealed character/attributes, as in Jn. 17:11, where it means “God’s protecting power” – (Dr. Brown, p. 653).  Or, when referring to Christ, it can mean: “according to His will and instruction” (e.g., Jn. 14:13; 15:16); “in His power” (e.g., Lk. 10:17 with Lk. 9:1; Acts 3:6, 12, 16); or, “as one commissioned and authorized by Him” (e.g., 1 Cor. 5:4; 2 Thes. 3:6) – Dr. Brown, p. 654.

According to Matthew Henry’s Commentary, vol. 3, p. 735, “in the name of” can mean “by the authorization of” in some passages.

So, we see that the phrase “in the name” can and does have various meanings. Context usually determines which of these meanings is the correct one for each particular passage.


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