A deeper look at Matthew 28:19

by Tad Lindley

Reverend Shoup would have held my infant body and put his hand in a bowl of water. Then he must have held that dripping hand over my head, letting the water drip down on me. Three times he would have done this, saying, “In the name of the Father, in the name of the Son, in the name of the Holy Ghost.” I have absolutely no memory of this. I can only base it on similar ceremonies I have witnessed many times since.

Matthew 28:19

Jesus told his disciples that all power had been given to him in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18). Then he instructed them, Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost (28:19). Many refer to this and several other scriptures as The Great Commission. It was Jesus instructions to Peter and the others for building up the religious movement that would eventually be called Christianity.

Was my experience Biblical?

Let us look deeper into Matthew 28:19. In the original New Testament, the word that is translated as baptizing in English is baptizo. In Greek this means to fully cover with water. Had Jesus taught the disciples to sprinkle people, he would have used the term rhantizo (as used in Hebrews 9:19). The Yup’ik translation for baptizo is angllurcelluki. The root word, angllur- means to submerge. Whether we consider it in English, Yup’ik, or Greek, Jesus was telling them to put people under water. There is no place in the Bible where anybody was sprinkled or had water poured over them under the guise of baptism. My experience was not consistent with the Bible. In fact, although the preacher called it a “baptism,” I had never been baptized. Reader, have you been baptized?

Atranun wall’ atratnun

As I began to read scriptures as an adult something else began to become painfully obvious to me. At my sprinkling, the preacher had not used the same name that they used in the Bible. Apparently he had misunderstood Matthew 28:19 to read “baptizing them in the names.” He took those names to be Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

The Bible that you have will show you that Jesus was talking about putting people under water in one name, not multiple names. If you have a Yup’ik Bible, you will see that in Matthew 28:19 Jesus plainly told his disciples atranun (in his name, or in a name), not atratnun (in their names). Clearly Jesus is telling his disciples that there is one name that is the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.

What is that name?

About a week after Jesus told Peter and the others to baptize people in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, they began to do it. Remember, we are looking to see whether the apostles used one name or many names, and which name(s) they used. Here are all scriptures where the name(s) used in baptism are stated: 1) Acts 2:38 …be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ…, 2) Acts 8:16 …they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus, 3) Acts 10:48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord…, 4) Acts 19:5 When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus., and 5) Acts 22:16 …wash away thy sins calling upon the name of the Lord. When Peter and the Apostles baptized, they always did it using one name. That name is Jesus Christ. Reader, have you been baptized in the name of Jesus Christ?

Am I withholding evidence?

Even from early times, I am told that writings such as the Didache record people sprinkling or pouring instead of baptizing. Am I hiding those things? No. All they do is tell me that as the church spread, some people deviated from the Biblical example. Even in the time of Jude this was going on, causing him to write ye should earnestly contend for the faith that was once delivered to the saints (Jude 3).

Obeying Matthew 28:19

Some might think, “I haven’t been put under water in the name of Jesus Christ, but God knows my heart.” Red flags should be going up. If our heart is truly set on the things of God, then we will do everything we can to make our life match the scripture. As an adult I had to admit to myself that I had never been put underwater in Jesus’ name. I wrestled with it. Finally my desire to follow in the footsteps of scripture caused me to swallow my pride.

Friend, I urge you to search the scriptures thoroughly. Will you be able to stand before God and say, “Lord, I did everything I could to make my life match your word”?

Tad Lindley is a minister at the Bethel United Pentecostal Church.

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