Baptism (2)

(Matthew 28:16-20)

This passage contains the words: “Go [therefore] and make disciples of all the nations, baptising them to the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”. It is the Scriptural basis for Christian baptism, that is, Christian as distinct from other baptisms such as John’s baptism. The instruction is given by Christ in resurrection, and is the only injunction to baptise by Christ or his apostles. (There is a reference to baptism in Mark 16:16, but it is not an injunction to baptise and there is a question mark against the authenticity of the passage) The practice we find in the Acts.

There are certain things about this passage that we need to note.

The passage is not laid down as a baptismal formula. It is a simple statement of what the apostles were to do, that is, baptise and also what they were to baptise to. It is therefore a baptism distinct from baptism unto Moses (1 Corinthians 10:2) and unto John (Acts 19:3). (Note: to and unto are the same word in Greek, that is: eis). We have no reason for thinking that the words ‘ unto Moses’ and ‘unto John’ were ever used as a formula and therefore that the words of the Lord were intended to be used as a formula. However, having said this there is something to be said for using them as it then makes clear who the baptism is to.

There is a certain order. The Father is put first, then the Son and then the Holy Spirit. As we know, the Father sent the Son (1 John 4:14) and the Son then sends the Spirit (John 15:26). It may be argued that we should not make too much of the order because it is impossible to write or speak about three persons without putting them in one order or another. Further, we do know that sometimes Scripture uses a different order such as in 2 Corinthians 13:14 where we have: Christ, God and the Holy Spirit, and Revelation 1:4/5 where we have: God, the seven Spirits and Christ. However, the variety in the order would mean, inter alia, that it would be very dangerous to assume that the order means that Christ is laying down a Godhead hierarchy.