The doctrine of some “oneness Holiness” groups is that the correct formula, or wording, must be said by the preacher baptizing you, or your baptism is invalid. According to them only words such as these are to be said: “I baptize you in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ,” though the exact wording may vary between groups.
Financial rewards have been offered to anyone that can find that passages where the apostles ever baptized anyone, saying over them, “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” They conclude that since no such passage can be found, it is therefore error, and even sin to so baptize.
They argue that all of the baptisms recorded in the New Testament were performed in the name of Jesus only. See Acts 2:38; 8:16; 10:48; 19:5. They believe very strongly that they have discovered a consistent pattern.
In response: first, I would suggest that their consistent pattern isn’t nearly as consistent as they think. Let us look closer at the aforementioned records of baptisms. (A) Acts 2:38, “…be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ…” The preposition is epi. The literal meaning is “…be baptized on or upon the name of Jesus Christ.” (B) Acts 8:16, “…they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.” The preposition is eis. The literal meaning is, “…they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus.” (C) Acts 10:48, “…he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord.” Watch the fact that the words “Jesus” and “Christ” are missing. The preposition is en. The literal meaning is “…be baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.” (D) Acts 19:5, “…they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.” The preposition is eis. The literal meaning is, “…they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.” It is similar to Acts 8:16.
The wordings are different. They are not consistent. Three out of four of these wordings are clearly different. Moreover, there is a world of difference between being baptized into Jesus’ name and being baptized in, on, or upon the name of Jesus. The wording to be baptized in, on, or upon the name of Jesus means to be baptized in accordance to, or on, or based upon the authority of Jesus. Thayer – “by the commandment and authority of …” The words, “in the name of” or “on the name of” is a wording of authority. But to be baptized “into the name of” Jesus has a distinct and different meaning. The words “into the name” is a common Greek wording for possession.
“Okay, Bryan, however it must be admitted that every one of these divers wordings has a reference to Jesus, not the Father or the Holy Ghost. Maybe we should only say Jesus’ name when baptizing?”
This brings us to my second point. Where is the passage which says what was said by the preacher when baptizing? You will not find it! All of the aforementioned passages inform us what was done (they were baptized into the name of Jesus), or what the people were to do (be baptized on the name of Jesus), but not what was said.
Colossians 3:17 reads, “Whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus” (The preposition is en – literally meaning ‘in’). Does this refer to what we are to say, or what we are to do? Does anyone take this to mean that before we do anything (read the paper, open the door, start the car, etc.) we must say the right words over the activity (i.e. – “In the name of the Lord Jesus I put my clothes on)? Of course not! The meaning is simply that we are to have Jesus’ authority for what we do. Even so, to be baptized in the name of Jesus – simply means to submit oneself to this act, having recognized Jesus’ authority, and based upon His authority.
There is no record of what any of the first century preachers said when baptizing. One could scripturally baptize without saying anything – though, a preacher normally does say something to remind the one being baptized and others present what is taking place.
My third argument is found in Matthew 28:18-20. Verse 19 reads, “baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” The preposition is eis. The wording literally is, “…baptizing them into the name of…” This wording was used of possession. Ed Wharton wrote that this was “a common phrase for transference of ownership” (The Church of Christ, pp.46-47) . Arndt-Gingrich said “through baptism…the one baptized becomes the possession of and comes under the protection of the one whose name he bears.” But, here is my point: If the Holy Spirit could record for us that Jesus said that this is what is to be done, then how could we err in repeating these same words?