IN WHOSE NAME?
T. PIERCE BROWN
Most of my readers are aware that preachers in the Lord’s church usually teach that when a thing is done as a matter of religious practice, it should be done in the name of Jesus, for Colossians 3:17 says, “And whatsoever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father through him.” We teach correctly that this means that it must be done by his authority. We then sometimes go on to explain the difference between generic and specific authority, which also needs to be understood.
But this articles is dealing with another aspect of the expression, “in the name of” which is not as easily understood, or well explained. The three most commonly used expressions translated “in the name” are “en onomati” as in Col. 3:17, “epi to onomati” as in Acts2:38, and “eis to onoma” as in Matthew 28:19. These three expressions mean slightly different things, sometimes overlapping, and neither mutually exclusive nor contradictory.
A careful study of every place the expression is used leads me to this conclusion: In the approximately two dozen times the expression “en to onomati” is used, its basic meaning is “by the authority”. In the dozen or so cases where “epi to onomati” is used, its basic meaning is “upon the awareness or recognition of the importance of the name (including all the name stands for)”. The ultimate meaning is therefore about the same as “en to onomati”. For example, in Acts2:36, Peter points out that the Jesus whom they crucified is Christ and Lord. Then in verse 38, he teaches that in the awareness of that fact (epi to onomati), they are to be baptized for the remission of their sins. So “epi to onomati” suggests INDIRECTLY the authority of the name, whereas “en to onomati” refers DIRECTLY to that authority.
However, “eis to onoma” as used in Matthew 28:19 has a slightly different meaning. The basic idea of “eis” is related to a transition, and may involve a change of relationship. When a person is baptized INTO (eis) Christ, he puts on Christ (Gal.3:26-27). When a person is baptized into the name (eis to onoma) of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit he enters into a changed relationship with them. It is by the authority of Jesus, but that authority is found in verse 18 in the explicit statement, connected with “therefore” of verse 19, and not in the expression “eis to onoma”. It is worthy of note that if the authority for your baptism is your parent, parent or priest, no matter what verbal expression may have been used at that time, your baptism is not REALLY in the name (“eis to onoma”) of Jesus, and your relationship with God, Christ and the Holy Spirit has NOT been changed! This is one reason why baptism into some denomination is not valid, no matter what the person was saying when he administered it. One cannot, by the authority of Christ baptize anyone into a denomination!
It is our judgment that expressions such as Matthew10: 41,42 do NOT mean “Whosoever receives a prophet BY THE AUTHORITY OF a prophet shall receive the reward of a prophet”. The expression is not “en to”, but “eis onoma”. This means that whosoever receives a prophet INTO a position of honor which is inherent in the name of a prophet shall receive the reward of a prophet. This is equivalent to saying, “If you receive a prophet as if he were INDEED a prophet, you will be rewarded properly.” The same is true about a righteous man. He is NOT instructing us to receive a righteous man BY THE AUTHORITY of a righteous man, but to receive him AS SUCH, because you recognize he IS SUCH. The “eis” here again indicates transition. Here was a person who was not being treated as a prophet or righteous. But because you recognize him to be such, you receive him INTO that position and treat him as such.
When Paul gives thanks in 1 Corinthians 1:14-15 that he had baptized few, he was not talking primarily about the idea that some would say he had baptized by his own authority. Even less was he suggesting that he was glad he had baptized few because it was a “mere ritual”, unimportant in its import! But what he says is, “lest any should say they were baptized in my own name (eis to emou onoma), or into a relationship with him in which they would feel an allegiance to him rather than to Christ.
When my wife calls herself “Brown” instead of “White”, it is indicative of the fact that she came INTO a marriage relationship with a Brown and is no longer a White. So if a person has a relationship with Paul because he was baptized INTO Paul’s name, he would properly call himself after Paul’s name. The same would be true with Peter, John or Luther. But if a person is baptized INTO (eis) the name of Christ, his relationship with Christ is changed, and he will wear the name of Christ and honor and exalt it.
To summarize, a person who is a penitent believer needs to be baptized UPON (epi) the name of Christ, recognizing the dignity and authority of that name (Acts 2:38), IN (en) the name of Christ, or specifically by HIS authority (Mt. 28:18, Col. 3:17), and INTO (eis) he name of Christ (coming into a changed relationship with him as Lord and Savior). Of course this is not three different baptisms, but simply the one he does as he obeys the gospel.