by Luke Wayne
“And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age,” (Matthew 28:19-20).
The World Mission Society Church of God (WMSCOG) teaches that this verse demands that we have a personal name for the Holy Spirit.
“That’s why Jesus said to baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. It means that the Father has His name, the Son has His name and the Holy Spirit has His name.”1
They further teach that only baptism that includes that name is valid
“Baptism that is in accordance with the teachings of the Bible must be conducted in the name of the Father, Jehovah, and in the name of the Son, Jesus, and in the name of the Holy Spirit, Christ Ahnsahnghong. This is the baptism that saves.”2
This completely misrepresents this verse in at least two crucial ways.
How many names?
First of all, it should be noted that the passage does not say “names” but rather “name.” It doesn’t speak of one name for the Father, a second name for the Son, and still a third name for the Holy Spirit. Instead, it speaks of one, singular name that is the name of Father, Son, and Spirit. It is not a command to baptize in three separate names. The call is to baptize in the name of the Triune God.
What’s in a Name?
This brings us to the second error. This passage is not concerned with our saying a certain name in a verbal baptism formula. To baptize “in the name of” the Triune God means something much more than this.
If I do something in someone else’s name, it means I am doing it as their representative. I am doing it in their authority. If The United States sends me as an ambassador to negotiate a treaty with a foreign country in their name, it doesn’t mean that I walk in and announce “I negotiate this treaty in the name of the Government of the United States of America!” Rather, it means that when I carry out my ambassadorial duty, I am doing so on their behalf and not on my own. Jesus began His commission with “all authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth” and continued by commanding His followers to baptize in that authority, as representatives of the Triune God. This is what it means to baptize in the “name” of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. There is no mystical power in saying a certain set of words, nor is there any special need to figure out a personal name for the Holy Spirit separate from that of the Father and Son. In fact, nothing in scripture would lead us to believe that there is such a name.
2. https://www.wmschurchofgod.org/beliefs/baptism/ (Accessed 9/14/16)