Have you ever wondered why when Jesus said to the apostles, to
make disciples of all the nations and to baptize them in the name of
the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, that when the apostles
baptized, they only baptized in the name of Jesus? The 'why' is not
as complicated as you may think. There was a reason that the
disciples went out and began to baptize in the name of Jesus. But
as the Church become more Gentile oriented, this 'knowing' was
lost to future generations.
Our study is not a debate on baptism. It is simply designed to show
why the earliest Jewish Christians baptized in the name of Jesus,
rather than use the expression, "in the name of the Father, and the
Son, and the Holy Spirit."
This is Bible Study HF056 - The Name Above All Names.
To begin this study we need to reach back in time. In the Old
Testament God had various names by which He was known.
Among these names you had, El, Elohiym, El Shaddai, Elyon,
Eloah, Adonai, and, Ba al'. But there was one name that was
consider God's personal or proper name. This name was known as
'the name above all names.'
The name above all names is spoken of as the Tetragrammaton, or
the four letters. It was designated by the letters yhwh (Or, yhvh.) To
this very day no one including the orthodox Jews, really knows how
yhwh was pronounced. It is generally thought that it was pronounced
as Yahweh, or Yahveh. (Ancient Hebrew had no vowels.)
Now lets carry forth into the New Testament. As we listen to Jesus
pray in John 17, we hear some interesting statements. He says, "I
have manifested Your name to the men whom You gave Me out of
the world," and, "Holy Father, keep them in Your name, the name
which You have given Me," and, "While I was with them, I was
keeping them in Your name," and, "I have made Your name known
to them, and will make it known."
The Jewish disciples knew that God's personal name was Yahweh.
No one had to tell them that. They knew that God was holy, and that
His personal name was also holy. To them, God was in His name.
By the way, the holiness of God's name is not lost in the new
covenant. Jesus taught believers to pray with a special reverence to
God's name. He said, "Pray, then, in this way, 'Our Father, who is
in heaven, hallowed be Your name."
In any event the ancient people believed that God's name spoke of
His power, of His presence, and of His authority. To invoke the
name Yahweh would cause God to manifest His personal presence.
So when Jesus prayed, "[Father] I have manifested Your name,"
this was a way of saying, 'I have manifested Your Power, I have
manifested Your Presence, and I have manifested Your authority.'
(This is exactly what Jesus did during His time of ministry in the
Now we need to go back in time again. One thing that frightened the
Jewish peoples had to do with pronouncing of God's holy name.
And in this they became superstitious to an extreme. But there was
also good reason. And this is why the ancient people began to use a
substitute for the name Yahweh. They would simply refer to God's
holy name, as 'ha Shem.' (Or, the Name.)
Let's gather some Scriptural background for the personal name of
God in the Old Testament. I am going to place the Hebrew name for
where our English Bible have 'Lord.' (In the case of yhwh.)
Genesis 4:26: "To Seth, to him also a son was born; and he called
his name Enosh. Then men began to call upon the name 'yhwh.'"
Genesis 12:8: "Then he [Abraham] proceeded from there to the
mountain on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, with Bethel on
the west and Ai on the east; and there he built an altar to 'yhwh' and
called upon the name of 'yhwh.'
Exodus 20:7: "You shall not take the name of 'yhwh' your God in
vain, for 'yhwh' will not leave him unpunished who takes His name
Exodus 34:5,6: "'yhwh' descended in the cloud and stood there
him as he called upon the name of 'yhwh.' Then 'yhwh' passed by in
front of him, and proclaimed, 'yhwh, yhwh, God, compassionate and
gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and
From this you can see how the ancients connected God's holy name
Yahweh with His presence. As I mentioned earlier, because they
considered this name so holy, they eventually stopped using it. (Not
at God's command. Just out of their fears and superstitions.)
Here is a case in view. There was a fight in the camp between an
Israelite and a man whose mother was an Israelite, but his father an
Egyptian. Listen; "The son of the Israelite woman blasphemed the
Name (ha Shem) and cursed."
What was the result? God spoke to Moses, saying, "Bring the one
who has cursed outside the camp, and let all who heard him lay
their hands on his head; then let all the congregation stone him."
Then He says, "Moreover, the one who blasphemes the name of
yhwh shall surely be put to death." (Cf. Lev24:10-16)
Keep in mind that the name Yahweh, or God's name above all
names, spoke of His power, His presence, and His authority. What
then does this have to do with Jesus and the name of Jesus? When
Paul was writing to the Church at Philippi, he said something that a
Jewish reader would have picked up instantly, but not necessarily
so quickly by believers of Gentile extraction. Listen carefully:
"Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus,
who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality
with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the
form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.
Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by
becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For
this reason, also, God highly exalted Him, ***and bestowed on Him
the name which is above every name***,
"...so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who
are in heaven, on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue
will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord [yhwh in Hebrew. kurios in
Greek], to the glory of God the Father." (Cf. Philippians 2:5-11)
Did you catch it? The name above all name is now Jesus. No one
today casts out demons in the name of Yahweh, or Eholim, or
Eloah, or El Shaddai, or any other appellation. The only name given
during the church age that carries all the power, the presence and
the authority of God Almighty, is the name Jesus.
This is why for men to be saved they must call upon the name of
the Lord Jesus. In the New Testament writings, wherever you see
the term Lord being used, even though it may not say Jesus
explicitly, it speaks of the name of Jesus.
Peter quoted the prophet, saying, "And it shall be that everyone who
calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." (Acts 2:21)
Paul says, "But what does it say, 'The word is near you, in your
mouth and in your heart', that is, the word of faith which we are
preaching, that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and
believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be
saved." (Romans 10:8,9)
In another place, Peter says, "If we are on trial today for a benefit
done to a sick man, as to how this man has been made well, let it
be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel, that by the
name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, whom you crucified, whom God
raised from the dead -- by this name this man stands here before
you in good health."
The apostle then says, "And there is salvation in no one else, for
there is no other name under heaven that has been given among
men by which we must be saved." (Cf. Acts 4:8-12)
I need to press this further so that you can see how very awesome it
is to call on the name of the Lord Jesus. Again we can compare an
Old Testament setting and see its fulfillment in the New Testament.
God speaks to Moses, and says, "In every place where I cause My
name to be remembered, I will come to you and bless you."
(Exo20:24) Remember when God says, 'My Name,' He is speaking
of the name above all names. But we have already seen where
God's power, presence and authority is now found in only one name
in the new covenant.
So how does the new covenant respond to this? Listen to Jesus;
"For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am
there in their midst." (Matthew 18:20'
Just a little side note at this point - I tell our folk not to be overly
concerned with they hear a politician say, "God bless America." But
do let your ears perk up if you hear, "God bless America, in the
name of Jesus."
Now we make full circle. So what about what Jesus said in Matthew
28:18-20. Perhaps I won't even have to explain it here. If you are
listening Hebraically, you will understand why the apostles went out
and baptized in the name of Jesus.
So listen: "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on
earth." (The Father has placed in Jesus all that He is as Yahweh.
And remember what Peter said about no other name.)
"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them
in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit." (Only
the term 'make disciples' is imperative in the Greek.)
I hate to use a worn argument because it really misses the point.
Yes, the word 'name' is singular, but that really isn't the issue in
itself. The disciples understood very clearly that Jesus was speaking
of Himself. He had just said that "all authority had been given to
Him in heaven and on earth."
So, saying Father, Son, and Holy Spirit was a way of defining that
all fullness of God, all the the power, the presence, and the
authority of God was now in Him. And He carries in His name what
Yahweh meant in the former covenant. He now carries in His name
the fullness of heaven.
Have you ever wondered why Jesus said that we are to always pray
in His name? Have you wondered why Paul tells believers that
whatever they do, they are do do it in the name of Jesus, and in this
way we give thanks to God the Father? (And so on.)
So, the Jewish apostles did not disobey or misunderstand what
Jesus was saying. They were obedient. This is why when reading
the Acts of the Apostles, in every case where baptism is mentioned,
it is always done in the name of Jesus. (Keeping in mind that where
the term 'Lord' is used, it is implicitly saying 'Jesus.')
But there is one other area we must consider. Although the apostles
baptized in the name of Jesus, not too long afterward there was a
dual baptism in place. You can read in the early Apostolic Fathers,
where baptism was administered in the name of the Father, and the
Son, and the Holy Spirit. In light of what we have seen in this study,
what can we do with this?
Actually there is nothing to be done. More and more believers are
returning to a baptism in the name of Jesus. But we also have to
keep in mind that the act of salvation is not in what the minister may
pronounce over a baptismal candidate. It is what the candidate
themselves have said. Have they called upon the name of the
Lord? Are they true confessors of the Lordship of Jesus? Then there
is nothing to add to this.
As for the Christian minister who administers the rite of baptism
using the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, which by
the way will take in the greatest percentage of baptisms, the
Christian minister is baptizing in good faith. And this is what counts.
One thing that is helpful for believers to understand is that the
Church we live in today is not a restrictive as the Church of
yesterday. As God's people gain a better understanding of the
Scriptures, and especially in the Hebraic thought forms in which our
Bible was written, many changes are being made. We ought to
thank God for this.
The study is open for discussion.
Shalom in Christ,
"See to it that no one comes short of the grace
of God; that no root of bitterness springing up
causes trouble, and by it many be defiled." (Heb12:15)