Vol.XX No.V Pg.8
July 1983

Stuff About Things

Robert F. Turner

Many years ago a preacher called long-distance to tell me he had just signed a debate proposition with a "Jesus Only" man, and wanted me to give him some pointers. I asked him to read the proposition, and it was something like, "The Scriptures teach that one administering valid baptism must say, 'in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.' "I told him I did not believe I could help him on that, and when he asked why not, I said I was on the other side. He said, "Quit kidding, this is a long-distance call."

But I was not kidding. I explained he had offered to prove something he could not prove. Baptizing "in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit" is not the same as saying those or certain words. His opponent would cite Acts 2:38 "in the name of Jesus Christ" as a practice of the great commission, and conclude that "Jesus Christ" IS the name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. ("Jesus only" see!!)

Of course one may cite Acts 19:5 where some were baptized "into the name of the Lord Jesus," and point out there is no uniformity in a formula; but more basic is the fact that baptism is not a "sacrament" which is "administered" by some clergy priesthood, nor does it have a verbal formula essential to its validation.

The preacher "saw the light" and asked, "What am I going to do?" My suggestion was to admit the proposition was an error, make appropriate explanation concerning the meaning of "in the name," and then tackle other misconceptions of deity. Yes, he took a lot of ribbing over that, but it is better to honestly acknowledge error than to fight vainly to defend it.

All this comes to mind as current studies of deity are reviewed. (Just hope I didn't use this story in some earlier, forgotten issue.) We often have some over-simplified concept of great Bible themes. If these do not violate some basic truth they may be very helpful in teaching. At the very best, conceptions of deity and eternity are "seen through a glass, darkly" as finite minds wrestle with revelation from infinity. But there is a point where we must be content with Bible language to explain Bible matters, and we must not go beyond.