Monday, July 17, 2017

The Insufficiency of Jesus-Name Baptism

"Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John, who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, for he had not yet fallen on any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit."
- Acts 8:14-17

This is a very difficult passage. We see some events following the visit of Philip to Samaria, as Jesus had commanded (Acts 1:8). As a result of his visit, a number of people are converted. This man was one of the seven appointed as deacons in chapter 6, men who are explicitly described as "full of the Holy Spirit and of wisdom" (Acts 6:3). When they received news of this work of God among the Samaritans (compare John 4:39-42 and Matthew 10:5-6), the Apostles sent Peter and John to examine the situation there. We are told that Philip had baptized the Samaritans "only in the name of the Lord Jesus" (8:16), yet they had not received the Holy Spirit.

As Oneness Pentecostals love to point out, all of the baptisms in Acts are done in some variation of the name of Jesus. We do not see the Trinitarian formula of Matthew 28:19. The significance of that is merely that the Apostles have undertaken the authority that Jesus gave them, an important consideration now that the Lord was no longer physically among them. However, this is the only occasion where Luke refers to it as only the name of Jesus, or gives it any negative consequences.

The answer is actually pretty simple.

Acts is a book of transitions. In it, Luke describes the transition from the direct authority of Jesus to that of the Apostles and elders and of the change from a predominantly-Jewish Church to a predominantly-gentile Church. The first is the reason for the extraordinary signs we see in chapter 2; the latter is what we see here in chapter 8. Luke gives us some out-of-sorts events, not to say anything about baptism, but rather to show the Holy Spirit's sign to the Apostles that the Gentiles were coming in. This lesson took some work, as we can see, because it isn't until chapter 11 that they get the point: "[The Apostles] glorified God, saying, 'Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.'" (Acts 11:18).

T^his passage is a problem, however, for the Oneness Pentecostals. On the basis of their bizarre interpretation of Acts 2:38, their doctrine of salvation is that profession, baptism (in Jesus's name only), and "the baptism of the Holy Ghost," which necessarily includes speaking in tongues, all must occur, and in that order. Yet, baptism, supposedly in the form these people enjoin, left its recipients with no Holy Spirit. While I understand that this was as a sign to the Apostles, it is devastating to Oneness doctrine, because it disconnects the events required in their soteriology!

The error of the Oneness theology is that it assumes that what is temporary, i. e., for a specific purpose, is to be normative for all times. Yet, if baptism in Jesus's name only and speaking in tongues are essential for salvation, are the Apostles not to be rebuked for their failure to say any such thing in any of their epistles? Of course they are! But that actually demonstrates the difference between the historical emphasis in Acts from the doctrinal explanation that is central to the epistles. Oneness theology fails to distinguish between what happens under particular circumstances and that which was intended to be eternal.

And this isn't simply a mistake. I fellowship with Christians who are mistaken all the time. However, a false doctrine of salvation is a dividing line. I must reject as a brother, and, in fact, oppose as an enemy, anyone who denies salvation by grace through faith alone (Ephesians 2:8-9) because he is throwing a stumblingblock between sinners and their only Savior Jesus Christ.

This is the biblical doctrine of salvation: "We hold that one is justified by faith apart from works" (Romans 3:28). No works of men stand between the sinner and salvation in Jesus Christ, including ceremonies like baptism or speaking unknown languages. the Prophet Isaiah said that God offers salvation "without money and without price" (Isaiah 55:1), but the Oneness cult tries to set up a toll road and demand fees before the sinner can come to Christ. That makes them a foe, and I must oppose them.


8 comments:

scott phillips said...

So if I understand your reasoning,

We are to discount the fact that all baptisms were done in Jesus name as insuffiencent proof of their understanding and practice.

All baptism was done by immersion.
All baptism was done specifically into Jesus, in the Name of Jesus, Jesus Christ, the Lord Jesus Christ.

But because they did not say... "THIS IS THE ONLY WAY TO DO IT." It is error to assume that the only way they did it is the only way to do it.

I see you are an advocate of the Westminister confession that has no basis in scriptural practice. I have known Presbyterians who worship almost the Westminister Confession as more authoritative than the scriptural precedence. Peoples loyalty to it is a veneration of tradition to the point of castigating those who dismiss it or reject it.

So though everyone in scripture was immersed, one sprinkles or pours that is contrary to Scriptural norms.

That is no problem for you I guess.

How can one dismiss scriptural precedent as simply temporary, yet venerate a "Tradition" that is contrary to scriptural practice and command?

Paul Baptized in Jesus Name.
Peter Baptized in Jesus Name.
Philip Baptized in Jesus Name.

Paul connected the doctrine of Baptism in his Epistles to the Name, Person and Burial of Jesus Christ.

You say the name of Jesus CHrist is insufficient.

What a provocative title to a case built solely on the hubris of ignorance and worship of tradition.

There is only one saving name. Every knee will bow to that name. We are exhorted to do everything in that name.

And yet to Baptize in that Name is insufficient because you say so.

Get over yourself and be delivered from the Diabolical doctrines that is Calvinism.

Wow... that gave me more energy than two cups of coffee.

I pray if there is a place of hunger in your heart that Jesus will help you as he did Paul to become a preacher of the very thing he fought against.

In Jesus Name I pray!

Chris Cole said...

Scott, you went on a rant without interacting with anything I said. I take that as a concession of the case I made.

Chris Cole said...

Scott, sorry, but I clicked "delete" by mistake, instead of "publish," for your second comment. Please rewrite it it, and I will publish it.

Jonathan Arneault said...

I will post a point by point commentary in sections that fit into the 4,096 character limit of this blog site.

Scott may not be a theologian, but I am. He also may have gone on a bit of a rant, but I shall endeavor to point out the logical and biblically heretical flaws in your article, while being kind.

This article is faulty on a number of fronts: theologically, intellectual honesty, and logical integrity, and rhetorical accuracy.

Firstly, it begins, regarding Acts 8:14-17: “This is a very difficult passage
Logically, this is “begging the argument”. It is only difficult if your theology is challenged by the plain statements of the actions and statements made by it. As classical logical dictates, any argument made on “begging it” can not be accepted as true based on that foundation.

Secondly, the rhetorical argument made that "only in the name of the Lord Jesus" somehow is meaning “in the name of Jesus exclusively” is disingenuous and does not reflect the meaning of the text. I acknowledge some have used this in preaching to substantiate the biblical theology of an individual and non-binary/trinary/polinary Godhead, this verse is not saying that. It means, in the Greek, and in the plain reading of the text, that these disciples had been baptized only, and that they hadn’t yet received the promise of regeneration by the Spirit, as Jesus gave it (Luke 24:49) and Peter preached (Acts 2:38-39), and we see witnessed being received, as you quote, later in this same chapter. This rhetorical polemic on your part is both incorrect biblically, and intellectually.

You also comment, without any textual support, that Apostles in Jerusalem sent Peter and John “to examine the situation”. On its face, this isn’t an issue, yet, it isn’t fully true, as you diminish the full textual context of what is actually said here. They were
[απεστειλαν προς αυτους τον πετρον και ιωαννην] – “sent” (Apostolos) in Apostolic authority to bring “the promise of the Father” – which we see occur in the next verse (as in all other cases in the New Testament where it gives the details of conversion of a new people-group).

As Oneness Pentecostals love to point out, all of the baptisms in Acts are done in some variation of the name of Jesus. We do not see the Trinitarian formula of Matthew 28:19.” – Yes we do love to point it out, as it is biblically and historically true, and we do not believe Matthew 28:19 is a “trinitarian formula” at all – as it grammatically in Greek, Latin, and English, it explicitly demands one, and only one, name.

You then, again, postulate an theology that is presumptive, though not biblically correct. You state “The significance of that is merely that the Apostles have undertaken the authority that Jesus gave them”. Yet, Acts 2:21 states clearly (quoting Joel 2:32, and quoted again later Romans 10:13) that “whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” We see this clearly being attached to baptism in the name of the Lord Jesus in Acts 2:38, in this chapter (Acts 8:14), and again in Acts 10:48, Acts 16:31-33, Acts 19:3, and Acts 22:16. The early church (and the Apostolic church throughout history) continued to practice this, and clearly saw that “the Name of the LORD” in Joel 2:32 (YHVH) was indeed Jesus (Acts 2:36 as case in point), and that “calling on the name of the LORD” meant doing so in baptism, through His name (Isaiah 43:10-11) incarnate – Jesus.

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Jonathan Arneault said...

You say “Acts is a book of transitions.” While this poetic appeal is true where it is so, you then argue “the change from a predominantly-Jewish Church to a predominantly-gentile Church” – that’s not true. The church population during the book of Acts did rise to include Gentiles beginning in Acts 10, but the Jewish population of believers, and more importantly – the Old Testament foundation of the church’s theology, continued strong and dominant. We follow Paul and the Gentile church after Acts 13, but that is not a complete view of the early church, as we see from the breadth of Jewish idioms, references and complete books to “Jewish Christians” in the book of Acts and Epistles.

Yet you use this phrase “transitions” to dismiss the bible itself, giving your OPINION (and I presume it is based on the vast writings of others who have never actually experience or witnessed the things written in the bible, including the book of Acts, for themselves) for the reasons these things are recorded as happening. You dismiss the birth of the New Testament church and its ongoing teachings and practices as “extraordinary signs”. This is a fundamental abandonment of biblical theology to a post-apostolic, proto-pagan one.

Further, you state “This lesson took some work, as we can see, because it isn't until chapter 11 that they get the point: "[The Apostles] glorified God, saying, 'Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.'" (Acts 11:18)”. You somehow reason here that the Apostles didn’t see Repentance as integral to the New Covenant (or rather, it appears you postulate that “repentance ONLY” is that New Covenant initiation). However, the very first sermon preached by Peter in Acts 2, declares that repentance is absolutely part of, but not the end of, the initiation into new life (“Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. [Acts 2:38]). Peter directly followed the final command of Jesus in Luke 24:46-49, and Peter’s entire sermon does exactly as commanded - He preached the Death, Burial and Resurrection of the Christ, and the repentance, remission of sin in Jesus’ name, and the receiving of the Holy Spirit of Christ (the promise of the Father). Further, every other sermon in the book of Acts records this same methodology and command to the sinner. Every place where see the details of people responding in belief to the gospel (i.e., not simply stating ‘they obeyed what was preached’), we see them baptized in the name of Jesus, and receiving the Spirit.

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Jonathan Arneault said...

You opine that “Oneness Pentecostals” have a “bizarre interpretation of Acts 2:38". Overwhelmingly, as a matter of biblically sound theology, “Oneness Pentecostals” take that verse to mean EXACTLY what it says. If you insist that accepting the bible on its clear, original meaning which we are informed is consistently practiced by the church in the scripture is “bizarre”, you are claiming a theological context that has no claim to actual Christianity as recorded in the scriptures. This is more than an ad hominem on your part – it argues against the very words of the text which are a direct command given to individuals to follow.

You also state that the Acts 8:14-16 is problematic for Oneness Pentecostals based on your erroneous statement that “their doctrine of salvation is that profession, baptism (in Jesus's name only), and "the baptism of the Holy Ghost," which necessarily includes speaking in tongues, all must occur, AND IN THAT ORDER”. You are correct in the first elements of your statement, but because of the insistence of “and in that order”, you claim some difficulty based on a claim that is totally untrue. “Oneness Pentecostals” (or better called Apostolic Christians/Apostolic Pentecostal Christians), see in Acts 2, Acts 8, Acts 10, and Acts 19, that while all of these stated elements are detailed (faith, repentance from sin, baptism in the name of Jesus, and receiving His Spirit [which is has the supernatural evidence of speaking in a language not learned by the believer]), that the order of baptism of water in Jesus’ name, and baptism of Jesus’ Spirit are not specified as to order, and experientially have proof that whether water or Spirit baptism precede, the other is commanded by the Apostles (Acts 8:16, Acts 10:47-48). I know of no “Oneness Pentecostal” who’s theology is anything but STRONLY AFFIRMED by these verses.

You correctly point out, as is the point made in these verses that: “baptism [of water in the name of Jesus], supposedly in the form these people enjoin, left its recipients with no Holy Spirit.” You then postulate this is “devastating to Oneness doctrine”, to which I point out, above, is a wholly incorrect assessment, as your insistence of what Oneness doctrine is, is wrong. The scripture plainly, forthrightly, in the Greek, Latin, English (and French, Italian, and checking with my father-in-law, in the Norwegian) all clearly state that the Samaritans, who had repented, had been baptized in the name of Jesus for the forgiveness of their sins – DID NOT YET RECEIVE THE HOLY SPIRIT. To state they did is absolutely to say the Bible is lying in these verses, regardless if your personal or creedal theology claims some other soteriological formula.

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Jonathan Arneault said...

Again – you beg a further argument which is a false premise: “The error of the Oneness theology is that it assumes that what is temporary, i. e., for a specific purpose, is to be normative for all times.” The thing you argue is that the practice of the Church, as commanded by Jesus Himself, (that the church preach the death, burial, resurrection, repentance, remission of sins in Jesus’ name, and the promise of the father – Luke 24:46-49) – WAS TO ONLY BE TEMPORARY. Forgive me for being so direct, but Jesus isn’t a liar, and His word is never temporary.

Further, you beg the question based on a post-Apostolic era theological construction. You state:
Yet, if baptism in Jesus's name only and speaking in tongues are essential for salvation, are the Apostles not to be rebuked for their failure to say any such thing in any of their epistles? Of course they are!” The early church taught, preached, and experienced only one theology of salvation. You argue they should have presumed there were others (which heresies you make mention of, were not invented until much later, including triune theology around 186 AD, and triune baptism in the late 300’s), and they should have preached a list of explanatory descriptions to a group of heretics, rather than the clear words they used in writing to the church, which the entire body of believers had experienced and understood in their historical-grammatical context. This is akin to you arguing that the Apostles should have included arugements against the modern “Pastiferians” (who humoursly claim to follow the Great Spaghetti Monster). It is a false logical comparison.

Despite your claim, we do actually see the Apostles LOUDLY and CLEARLY say that any other soteriology than that which they preached in the book of Acts was ACCURSED (Galatians 1:8). They directly point back to what they preached, and experienced (1 Corinthians 15:3), and make numerous references to salvation being evidenced through speaking in tongues (such as in Romans 10:9-10). Romans 6:4, to those who had experienced those things preached in the book of Acts, held no mystery as to its meaning – it obviously meant those baptized in the name of Jesus and filled with His spirit. Your claim that the Apostles didn’t write about baptism of water and Spirit in the name of Jesus (exclusively) is clearly false based on a non-biased perusal of the Epistles.


But that actually demonstrates the difference between the historical emphasis in Acts from the doctrinal explanation that is central to the epistles. Oneness theology fails to distinguish between what happens under particular circumstances and that which was intended to be eternal.” – This is utterly a human opinion meant to discount the preaching and practice of the Apostles and replace it with a post-Christian theology. It presumes the words of Christ and His apostles were “temporary”- - which argument any faithful Christian is honor bound to reject.

I must reject as a brother, and, in fact, oppose as an enemy, anyone who denies salvation by grace through faith alone (Ephesians 2:8-9)” – here, you use the common “additive clause” of “alone”, removing from the teaching of this very Epistle, the efficacy of the Gospel. In doing so, you further a false doctrine, which you state doing so makes one an enemy of the gospel. By adding this word (alone), you call Jesus a liar, and make many of His words (such as John 3:5) and His apostles words (Ephesians 4:4-6). This is quite troubling, as it appears you argue from a creedal confession rather than one from Christ.

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Jonathan Arneault said...

No works of men stand between the sinner and salvation in Jesus Christ, including ceremonies like baptism or speaking unknown languages.” is wholly a non-biblical proclamation, and stands in direct opposition to the words of Jesus in John 3, Mark 16, Matthew 28, and Luke 24, as well as the many references in the book of Acts, and the Epistles. Faith in the words of Jesus requires our response in accordance to the direction of those words, and not some later formulated construct or Nicolatian / Gnostic ideology that “we’re saved by out thoughts and nothing else” as you postulate.

This requires further stating: “faith alone”, as you phrase it, means “what a person thinks [regarding Jesus] is the only requirement to be redeemed by His blood, regardless of actual “fruits meet for repentance”, removal of sins, calling upon His name, or being regenerated by His Spirit. This change in the “biblical plan of salvation” to just some proper thoughts, is quite heretical.

Further, in my secular work – I get paid to think. Literally – THINKING IS A WORK. Your entire argument is undone by this fact. If you are believing that the commands of Jesus and His Apostles are false and temporary, replaced by merely thinking – THEN YOU ARE PREACHING SALVATION BY WORKS.

You state “the Oneness cult tries to set up a toll road and demand fees before the sinner can come to Christ. That makes them a foe, and I must oppose them.” – Forgive me, if I preach, teach, and quote to sinners, the very words of Jesus and the Apostles for their deliverance from sin – makes me your foe, but I’ll continue on doing so, lest I fall into the condemnation of Galatians 1:8….

“But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it: the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. [Romans 3:21-26]

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? We were buried therefore with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with Him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like His. [Romans 6:3-5]


"Heaven and earth shall pass away, but words shall never pass away"
...In Jesus name, amen!

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