A bit of time in Branson…

Susan and I are enjoying a brief visit in Branson. Already today, at a live performance by Dino, we have heard two songs identifying Jesus according to biblical insight. First, “Down from His Glory,” written by early twentieth century Oneness Pentecostal William Booth-Clibborn, and second, “Mary Did You Know,” written by Mark Lowery.

Regardless of who plays or sings, the Spirit of truth arises within us when Jesus is proclaimed as the Great I AM.[archive]

A small family reunion …

Since I am an “only child,” there are family experiences I know nothing about, like sibling rivalry. Also, the first time I attended a Segraves family reunion was just a few Saturdays ago. About twenty people related in some way to the Segraves name gathered to share a meal, pictures and music. My cousin Donnie joined me for 1:05 minutes of “No One Ever Cared for Me Like Jesus.”

[archive]

The Grand Finale

On July 4, 2018, Susan and I enjoyed the Independence Day fireworks at the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Missouri (my home town). To avoid the traffic, we spent the night in a beautiful hotel just steps from the arch. In the afternoon, we ascended and descended the arch in the barrel-like ride inside its south leg. Although we were warned by a staff member to duck upon entering and exiting the barrel, I bumped my head both times.

The thoroughly renovated museum beneath the arch was worth the visit. As we viewed the film showing the breathtaking construction of this “Gateway to the West,” we were reminded that although it had been predicted that thirteen workers would lose their lives in the construction of the arch, none did.

[archive]

Catching up on writing assignments

About one year ago, I stated my intention to keep up to date on writing assignments I accepted by posting their completion here on my blog. In addition to whatever interest this may have to you, it would function as a kind of diary for my recollection.

I have failed.

I still think this is a good idea, so this post is an attempt to catch up on what I have written this year in response to assignments for Pentecostal Life, the official monthly magazine published by the United Pentecostal Church International, and for Word Aflame and The Discipleship Project, both part of the educational endeavors of the UPCI.

Word Aflame: Winter 2018-2019

Lesson 10: “His Love Shines Through.” Focus Thought: Because God loves and cares for us, He places people in our lives who will love and care for us. Focus Verse: I Thessalonians 2:8.

Lesson 11: “A Life that Pleases God.” Focus Thought: In response to His great love for us, we must live in a way that pleases God. Focus Verse: I Thessalonians 4:1.

Lesson 12: “Our Ultimate Hope.” Focus Thought: Because Jesus conquered death, we can live with hope and expectation of our resurrection. Focus Verse: I Thessalonians 4:17-18.

Word Aflame: Winter 2020-2021

Lesson 1: “Walking in the Light.” Focus Thought: We can find forgiveness and fellowship by walking in the light. Focus Verse: I John 1:9.

Lesson 2: “Rejecting the World.” Focus Thought: We must reject the world by doing God’s will. Focus Verse: I John 2:15.

Lesson 11: “Fight the Good Fight of Faith.” Focus Thought: We must remember we are in a battle for our souls and fight the fight of faith every day. Focus Verse: I Timothy 6:12.

Word Aflame: Summer 2021

Lesson 9: “Life and Hope.” Focus Thought: God’s Spirit gives life and hope for the future. Focus Verse: Joel 2:28-29.

Lesson 13: “The Role of the Prophet and Prophecy.” Focus Thought: Prophets speak on behalf of God. Focus Verse: Exodus 7:1-2.

The Discipleship Series: Spring 2019

Lesson 1 Big Idea: “So that others may see Jesus through us, we must be doers and not just hearers of the word.” Scripture: James 1:22-25.

Lesson 2 Big Idea: “So that others may see Jesus through us, we must refuse to allow prejudice in our hearts.” Scripture: James 2:1-13.

Lesson 3 Big Idea: “So that others may see Jesus through us, we must speak blessing and not cursing.” Scripture: James 3:8-10.

Lesson 4 Big Idea: “So that others may see Jesus through us, we must exercise patient endurance.” Scripture: James 5:7-8.

The Discipleship Series: Winter 2019

Lesson 1 Big Idea: “We can have hope for the last days because Jesus is returning for His people.” Scripture: I Thessalonians 4:18.

Lesson 2 Big Idea: “As in the days of Noah, God is directing His church toward His promise of salvation.” Scripture: Luke 17:26.

Lesson 3 Big Idea: “God is gathering His church for His soon return, so we must stay ready.” Scripture: Matthew 25:13.

Lesson 4 Big Idea: “We should find hope in God’s promise of eternity with Him.” Scripture: I Corinthians 15:54.

Pentecostal Life Articles

“The Seven Motivators”

“Yahweh, Jehovah, and Jesus”

“Marriage without a Helpmate?”[archive]

 

 

 

 

Seventy-three years ago today …

Seventy-three years ago today, I took my first breath at 4318 North Broadway in St. Louis, Missouri. The house where I was born no longer exists. In its place is a vacant lot.

Some people think I’m from Southeast Missouri. Others are convinced I’m from California. But for the first few years of my life, my family, consisting of Mom, Dad, and me, lived in St. Louis and its environs. We moved to Southeast Missouri when I was about five years old and to Rector, Arkansas when I was about halfway through the third grade. We moved to Kennett, Missouri in 1959, where I completed grades 8-12.

After graduation from high school in 1964, Judy Miller and I married and moved to Stockton, California. After the first year of Bible college, we returned to Kennett for the summer. Then we went back to Stockton, where I completed the second and third years at WABC.

After I graduated with the Diploma in Bible and Theology in 1967, Judy and I returned again to Kennett (with our daughter, Sharon, who was born November 13, 1966). We worked in the church there until March 1968, when we moved to St. Louis, where I served as Director of Promotions and Publications for the General Sunday School Department and Editor of Junior High Literature for Word Aflame Publications. Our son, Mark, was born in 1970.

In 1971, I began working as Minister of Christian Education at the First Pentecostal Church, located in Maplewood, Missouri, a St. Louis suburb. This was the first Oneness Pentecostal church in St. Louis. In 1974, I taught for one semester at Gateway College of Evangelism in Florissant, Missouri, another St. Louis suburb. From 1975 to July, 1982, I was pastor of the First Pentecostal Church in Dupo, Illinois, about fifteen minutes from downtown St. Louis.

We left this pastorate to move back to Stockton, California, where I served as executive vice-president and president of Christian Life College for twenty-five years before returning to the St. Louis area in 2007 to teach at Urshan Graduate School of Theology.

When Judy passed away in 2011, I remained where I was and continued to teach. On June 22, 2013, Susan Fuller said, “Yes, I will,” when I asked, “Will you marry me?” Today, we continue to live in St, Peters, another St. Louis suburb.

So, from whence do I come?[archive]

Answering questions from a member of the Church of Christ

About five weeks ago I received an email from a member of the Church of Christ. The writer said he had heard I would be “apt to answer some questions” he had about Oneness Pentecostal doctrine. The document attached to the email included questions calling for “true” or “false” responses and lists with possible answers to circle. I could not answer by these means, because the questions asked and the possible answers listed did not always allow for what I would consider correct answers. I found several questions to be repetitive (e.g., I responded to the questions in points H, I, J, K, and L in point F), and some questions assume views I don’t hold.

I responded to the document one month ago today, informing the person who sent the email of my plan to post the original document and my responses here on my website. The document and my responses appear below.


Questions 

  1. True or False (T/F)
  • There is relationship in the one Godhead.
  • There is no relationship in the one Godhead.

Response

This question requires defining what is meant by “Godhead.” The King James Version and related English translations render the Greek θεότητος and related words as “Godhead” three times (Acts 17:29; Romans 1:20; Colossians 2:9). Most English translations follow more closely to the essential meaning of these words, which includes “divinity,” “divine,” “divine nature,” or “deity.”[1] There is nothing in θεότητος to suggest more than one “person” or any kind of relationship in the divine nature. Colossians 2:9 points out that everything that makes God, God dwells bodily in Christ.

In the Incarnation, God added human existence to His unmitigated deity: “And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: ‘God was manifested in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen by angels, preached among the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up in glory” (I Timothy 3:16).[2] To understand this more fully, we can accurately paraphrase as follows: “God was manifested in the flesh, [God was] justified in the Spirit, [God was] seen by angels, [God was] preached (i.e., proclaimed) among the Gentiles, [God was] believed on in the world, [God was] received up in glory” (NKJV).

Although there is no indication of relationship in the word θεότητος, the manifestation of God in flesh (σαρκί [as a complete and authentic human being])[3] introduced relationship. This is a mystery, as Paul indicated. It is a mystery because the Incarnation is a miracle. By definition, miracles are mysterious. None can be explained by human reasoning. Anything that can be accurately comprehended and explained by the human intellect is no miracle.[4] The answer to our questions about miracles is, “For with God nothing will be impossible” (Luke 1:37).

The fullness of the Incarnation means God was manifest completely in all that is inherent to human existence, materially and immaterially (e.g., body, soul, spirit, mind, will, emotions, etc.). Whatever humans need to do, Jesus needed to do. Thus, He prayed, He ate, He slept, He grew weary, He rested, He fellowshipped with other people, and so forth. As any person can relate to God, Jesus related to God. In the miracle of the Incarnation, He did all that is intrinsic to human existence even while God was manifest in His body, soul, spirit, mind, will, emotions, and so forth. How this could be is beyond human comprehension; it is something, like any miracle, that must be accepted by faith. Attempts to explain how this worked will always err and result in compromises to Christ’s humanity and/or deity. Any discussion of relationship must take into consideration that Jesus was both God and man. He was not two persons. He is one person who at once is both fully God and fully human. His deity did not overwhelm or limit His humanity. His humanity did not compromise His deity.[5]

  1. In the light of: (1)  Bible teaching that Jesus is the Son of God (Matt 16:16; John 20:30-31) and (2) Your contention that the Godhead is comprised of only one person, answer true or false T/F below.
  • Jesus is the Father of the Father.
  • Jesus is the Father of the Son.
  • Jesus is the Father of the Holy Spirit.
  • The Son is the Father of the Father.
  • The Son is the Father of Jesus.
  • The Son is the Father of the Holy Spirit.
  • The Holy Spirit is the Father of the Father
  • The Holy Spirit is the Father of Jesus.
  • The Holy Spirit is the Father of the Son.
  • The Father and the Son are not distinct persons.
  • The Father is the Father of Jesus.

Response

Two things must be noted before discussion of the word “Father” as it pertains to the Messiah. First, my understanding of the English word “Godhead,” translated from θεότητος, is seen above. Qεότητος is about deity, not “persons.” Second, when discussing the word “person” in the context of trinitarian or binitarian assumptions, the word must be defined. Are we to think of “person” as the word is used in today’s English, or as it was used in the third century? Alister E. McGrath addresses this question as follows:

The word “person” has changed its meaning since the third century when it began to be used in connection with the “threefoldness of God”. When we talk about God as a person, we naturally think of God as being one person. But theologians such as Tertullian, writing in the third century, used the word “person” with a different meaning. The word “person” originally derives from the Latin word persona, meaning an actor’s face-mask – and, by extension, the role which he takes in a play.

            By stating that there were three persons but only one God, Tertullian was asserting that all three major roles in the great drama of human redemption are played by the one and the same God. The three great roles in this drama are all played by the same actor: God. Each of these roles may reveal God in a somewhat different way, but it is the same God in every case. So when we talk about God as one person, we mean one person in the modern sense of the word, and when we talk about God as three persons, we mean three persons in the ancient sense of the word. . . . Confusing these two senses of the word “person” inevitably leads to the idea that God is actually a committee . . . .[6]

Richard A. Muller points out that in theological usage, persona does not

have the connotation of emotional individuality or unique consciousness that clearly belongs to the term in contemporary usage. It is quite certain that the Trinitarian use of persona does not point to three wills, three emotionally unique beings or . . . three centers of consciousness; such implication would be tritheistic. . . . [T]he patristic, medieval, Reformation, and Protestant scholastic definitions of the term persona are united in their distinction from colloquial modern usage.[7]

As we have seen in our first response above, Jesus is God manifested in a human person.

None of the eleven propositions above reflect the biblical use of the word “Father” as it relates to the Messiah. These propositions assume that the “Godhead” consists of three “persons.” Instead, messianic prophecy uses “Father” of the Messiah in Isaiah 9:6: “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” The name theology of the Hebrew Scriptures means these names identify the Messiah. If we reject “Everlasting Father,” we shall also have to reject “Mighty God,” and so forth.

Isaiah had no trinitarian concept in view. He was not thinking of any notion expressed in the eleven propositions above.

James 1:17 may also refer to Jesus as the “Father of lights,” as discussed in my paper “James and First Century Jewish Christology.”

  1. When Jesus uses “I”, “Me”, “My”, and “Mine”, He refers to: (Circle the number)
  • The human nature (of Jesus) only.
  • The divine nature (of Jesus) only.
  • Both the human nature and the divine nature (of Jesus).
  • The human nature (of the Father) only.
  • The divine nature (of the Father) only.
  • Both the human nature and the divine nature (of the Father).

Response

As is always the case with language, words are defined by the context in which they are used. None of the six suggestions above is adequate to capture Jesus’ use of personal pronouns in every case, for Jesus was both God and human. He was God manifested in human existence, as declared by Paul in I Timothy 3:16 and discussed above.

Jesus did everything He did and said every word He spoke as who He was: God manifested in flesh. His deity and humanity cannot be fragmented so as to say or do some things as God only and other things as only a human being. For example, when Jesus said to Philip, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father,” (John 14:9) He spoke as God manifested in a human being; when He said, “I thirst” (John 19:28), He spoke as God manifested in a human being.

In His incarnation, Jesus fully embraced all the consequences of His human existence; He shirked none.[8] (See Philippians 2:5-11.)

  1. According to John 1:1, 14 (Circle the number of each true statement)
  • The Word became flesh.
  • The Father became flesh.
  • The Holy Spirit became flesh.
  • Jesus became flesh.
  • God became flesh.
  • Deity became flesh.

Response

So far as it concerns the precise words of the six statements above, it is, of course, only the first that includes “Word became flesh” (John 1:14). John 1:1 tells us, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” In I John 1:1-3, in an apparent response to first century Docetism, John wrote, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life— the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you, that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us— that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.” In John and I John, logos is translated “word,” as in Revelation 19:13, also written by John.

In his first letter, John further developed “Word.” The “Word” of John is the “Word of life” of I John. The “Word” that was “with God” in John is the “eternal life which was with the Father” in I John. The “Word” that “became flesh” in John is the “eternal life” that “was manifested to us” in I John.

John warned, “Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father either; he who acknowledges the Son has the Father also” (I John 2:23). As already mentioned, John’s concern is with the error of Docetism, an error that denied the Incarnation. He wrote, “By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God” (I John 4:2-3).

Statement five above (i.e., God became flesh) is quite close to Paul’s “God was manifested in the flesh” (I Timothy 3:16), but the rest of the statements call for further definition (i.e., Deity became flesh), reflect trinitarian assumptions (i.e., The Father became flesh and The Holy Spirit became flesh), or assume the preexistence of the Messiah, Jesus, in a way other than that found in Philippians 2:5-11 (i.e., Jesus became flesh).[9]

A more fruitful treatment of John’s use of logos is to explore the use of the Aramaic Targums. Aramaic was the conversational language of first century Israel. The Targums were Aramaic translations of the Hebrew Scriptures. As John Ronning points out,

John’s decision to call Jesus “the Word,” the Logos (ὁ λόγος), was influenced by the Targums . . . many or most of which were prepared for recitation in the synagogue after the reading of the Hebrew text. In hundreds of cases in these Targums, where the mt refers to God, the corresponding Targum passage refers to the divine Word. Considered against this background, calling Jesus “the Word” is a way of identifying him with the God of Israel.[10]

The Targums make no contribution to the development of Trinitarian speculations over the centuries leading up to Chalcedon.

  1. According to John 5:31,32 and John 8:16-18 (Circle the number of each true statement)
  • There was only one witness.
  • Jesus was the only witness.
  • There were two witnesses.
  • One witness was sufficient.
  • Jesus was one witness and the Father was another witness.
  • Jesus was not alone.
  • The law required two witnesses.
  • According to the law one witness was sufficient.

Response

“If I bear witness of Myself, My witness is not true. There is another who bears witness of Me, and I know that the witness which He witnesses of Me is true” (John 5:31-32).

And yet if I do judge, My judgment is true; for I am not alone, but I am with the Father who sent Me. It is also written in your law that the testimony of two men is true. I am One who bears witness of Myself, and the Father who sent Me bears witness of Me” (John 8:16-18).

John 5:31-32, 36-37 and John 8:13-19 do not indicate more than one divine Person in the Godhead.  The point of the requirement in the law for two or three witnesses was that they had to be independent witnesses with the potential of giving conflicting testimony.  This was for the protection of an innocent person falsely accused.  There would be no possibility of “Persons” in the Godhead giving independent testimony.  Had this been possible, and if the Son were an eternally distinct “Person” from the Father, each could give independent testimony at any time before and after the Incarnation.

The idea of coinherence in the historic doctrine of the Trinity,[11] which means that all three “Persons” mutually interpenetrate each other and participate in the actions of any one “Person,”[12] prohibits the possibility that the Son could be a witness distinct from the Father.[13]  Also, we would ask why the Holy Spirit is not mentioned as a third witness. The meaning of these texts is that Jesus, due to His humanity, was one witness.  His Father was another witness.  But, as John 8:19 indicates, to know Jesus is to know the Father, because God was manifest in the Son (see also John 14:5-11).

If the Son were separate and distinct from the Father so as to be able to give independent and at least theoretically conflicting testimony from the Father, we shall have to abandon monotheism and take up ditheism. If the Holy Spirit is a third separate and distinct “Person,” who could also give independent testimony, it will be tritheism we must embrace.

When Scripture speaks of God as Father, it speaks of God in His transcendence, above and beyond the realm of creation. When it speaks of the Son of God, it has in view God as He is manifested in human existence. When it speaks of the Holy Spirit, it refers to God in His immanence, omnipresence, with us, among us, and in us. But there is only one God. The God we know as Father is the same God who is manifested in flesh and who dwells within us. There are not three Gods. Since Jesus was a human being, He spoke as a human being, but as a human being who was God manifested in human existence, with all of the consequences we can understand and those we cannot comprehend. The Incarnation retains the mystery of which Paul wrote.

  1. In light of your contention as to the obligatory nature of a formula to be stated in connection with water baptism, in regard to the passages stated below, please indicate (Circle the correct answer) whether we are told: What to do or What to say.
  • Acts 2:38 What to do.                        What to say.
  • Acts 8:16 What to do.                        What to say.
  • Mark 9:39 What to do.                        What to say.
  • Matt 18:5 What to do.                        What to say.
  • Mark 9:41 What to do.                       What to say.
  • Acts 19:5 What to do.                       What to say.
  • Acts 10:48 What to do.                       What to say.
  • Col 3:17      What to do.                       What to say.

Response

I have no “contention” as to the obligatory nature of a precise formula to be stated in connection with water baptism.” I do contend, however, that throughout the Book of Acts and the epistles, water baptism is always seen as identifying the believer with Jesus Christ. This is also true of Matthew 28:19. Anything that falls short of this is not in harmony with New Testament doctrine and practice.

On the Day of Pentecost, Peter responded to the question, “What shall we do” with these words: “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). In Samaria, the believers had “been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.” When speaking to Cornelius, his family, and his close friends, Peter “commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord” (Acts 10:48). This is the reading of the NKJV, but the older manuscripts read “in the name of Jesus Christ.” At Ephesus, the disciples of John, after hearing Paul, “were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 19:5).

To the church at Rome, Paul wrote, “Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:3-4).

In his letter to the Galatians, Paul wrote, “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Galatians 3:37).

In his rebuke for the favoritism shown by the Corinthians, Paul wrote, “Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, lest anyone should say that I had baptized in my own name” (I Corinthians 1:13-15). Paul’s point is that we are baptized in the name of the One who was crucified for us.

Baptism in the name of Jesus is called for even in Matthew 28:19: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” The grammar of the text reveals that it is a singular name into which we are to be baptized. Jesus did not say, “Into the names.”

Jesus’ Jewish disciples knew that the name by which God revealed Himself in the Old Testament was Yahweh [rendered Lord in many English translations], the third person singular form of hayah, the Hebrew “to be” verb. They also knew that the Holy Spirit is referred to as the Spirit of Yahweh in the Hebrew Scriptures. And they knew that the name “Jesus” was a transliteration of “Yahweh-Savior” or “Yahweh will save.”[14]

Baptism does involve the invocation of the name of Jesus. It is indispensable to Christian initiation. Murray J. Harris discusses the various prepositions used with baptizō. Concerning the use of eis in the phrase εἰς ἄφεσιν τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν, he remarks,

            From the book of Acts we may deduce that there are five components in the brief or prolonged process of Christian initiation—repentance, faith, baptism, forgiveness of sins, and receipt of the Spirit. Each element is an essential ingredient in the whole, which forms a single conceptual unity. Accordingly, when any one or two elements are mentioned in Scripture, apparently in isolation, the others are presupposed. For example, in Ac 16:31, 33 (“Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household . . . he and all his family were baptized”), the Philippian jailer’s repentance is presupposed and presumably his being “saved” involved forgiveness and receipt of the Spirit. Similarly, in 1 Peter 3:21 (“baptism now saves you”) the readers are assumed to have experienced the other four aspects of Christian initiation.

            In seeking to formulate the relation between the five elements, we are probably wiser to speak in terms of concomitance rather than causation . . . since salvation from first to last results from God’s action. But whereas repentance and faith are prerequisites for receiving forgiveness and the Spirit (cf. Ac 20:21), baptism seems to be a natural and necessary concomitant of repentance and faith and therefore of the receipt of forgiveness and the Spirit.[15]

In a further discussion of the phrase εἰς τὸ ὄνομa, Harris says, “Since the salvific work of Jesus is inextricably linked to his name, ‘to baptize into the name of the Lord Jesus’ means to endow a person through baptism with the benefits of the salvation accomplished by Jesus Christ.”[16] In addition, he notes, “It is a remarkable fact that the NT records no case of baptism in the triune name, only of baptism ‘into the name of the Lord Jesus’ (Ac 8:16; 19:5) or ‘in the name of Jesus Christ’ (2:38; 10:48).”[17] This “may reflect the fact that in the baptismal ceremony, ‘the name of Christ is pronounced, invoked and confessed by the one who baptises or the one baptised (Acts 22:16) or both” (A. Oepke, TDNT 1:539-40).[18]

Finally, in a discussion of the use of the function of the prepositions in the phrase en/epi tō onomati, Harris concludes, “when these two expressions are used with βαπτίζω in the NT, no distinction between them should be pressed: both mean “in the name of” = “with use of the name of”/“while naming the name of” (cf. BDAG 713a, 713d—14a), referring to the baptismal candidate’s calling on the name of Jesus Christ in a confession of faith and also on the administrant’s invocation of Jesus as the authenticating authority for and witness to the rite.”[19]

Any of the baptismal events conducted by first century believers and recorded in their acts (as in the Book of Acts) provide trustworthy examples of how baptism should be accomplished, both as to the practice of immersion and appropriate words to be spoken. James wrote in what may well be a reference to baptism, “Do they not blaspheme that noble name by which you are called?” (James 2:7).  The aorist passive form of ἐπικληθὲν (called) is recognized by many English translations to mean a specific name had been called over the believers to whom James wrote. For example: “that was invoked over you” (NAB; NRS); “which has been pronounced over you” (NJB); “which was invoked over you” (RSV); “that was called upon you” (YLT); “spoken over you at your baptism” (CEB).

We are to do all things, whether “in word or deed,” in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him (Colossians 3:17). This does not suggest that we vocalize the words “in the name of the Lord Jesus” before or after every word we speak or every deed we do.

One of the most important matters in biblical interpretation is context. Context influences meaning. In the case of Mark 9:39, 41; Matthew 18:5, and Colossians 3:17, baptism is not near in the context. The phrase “in the name of” someone can have a variety of meanings, included, but not limited to, “on behalf of” that person, “by the authority of” that person, “resting on” that person, “devoted to” that person, “into the possession and protection of” that person, “in according with the character” of that person, “in accord with the mind” of that person, “in according with the purpose” of that person.[20]

The context of Acts 2, however, is influenced by Joel 2:32: “And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (See Acts 2:21.) After quoting from Joel and Psalm 16 to proclaim the resurrection of Jesus, Peter said, “God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36). This profound proclamation, identifying the One upon whose name a person must call, provoked Peter’s hearers to say, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:38).

There is no biblical record of the precise words each of the some 3,000 believers prayed in their repentance, but we can be sure their repentant prayers included calling on the name of the Lord just revealed to them in the person of Jesus Christ. As Ananias later said to the newly converted Saul, “Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). The name of the Lord upon whom Saul called was the same as the name of the Lord upon whom the new believers called in Acts 2. Indeed, when Saul was struck to the earth on the road to Damascus, he said, “Who are You, Lord?” The Lord answered, “I am Jesus” (Acts 9:5).

Paul himself linked Joel 2:32 with the experience of salvation in Romans 10:13: “Whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” In this context, he wrote, “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” Paul does not exclude baptism from Christian initiation. He was himself baptized, and he baptized many. (See Acts 9:18; 16:33; 18:8; 19:1-5; 22:16.)

But it is not only the new believer who must call on the name of the Lord, so must the prophetic person who speaks on God’s behalf to accomplish the act of baptism. Again, we must keep in mind the fact that those upon whom the Spirit came on the Day of Pentecost were enabled to prophesy (Acts 2:17-18). To prophesy, by definition, is speak on behalf of God. (See, e.g., Acts 2:20-31.) Those who heard Peter’s sermon recognized him and the others present as prophetic people who could, on God’s behalf, tell them what to do.

Peter’s perspective was the perspective of the Hebrew Scriptures, as seen in his use of the Scriptures in his sermon. The phrase “in the name of” recalls one of the earliest biblical prophets, Moses, who, in prayer, said to the Lord, “I came to Pharaoh to speak in Your name” (Exodus 5:23). When commissioned, the Lord had told Moses, “You shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the Lord: “Israel is My son, My firstborn” (Exodus 4:22). To speak in the name of the Lord requires vocalizing the Lord’s name. Thus, when Moses (or Moses’ brother Aaron, who spoke on Moses’s behalf [Exodus 4:15-16]) spoke to Pharaoh in the name of the Lord, he said, “Thus says the Lord” (Exodus 4:22).

The point is that, in the Septuagint translation of the Hebrew Scriptures, the phrase translated “in Your name” is ἐπὶ τῷ σῷ ὀνόματι. In Acts 2:38, Peter similarly said, “ἐπὶ τῷ ὀνόματι Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ [in the name of Jesus Christ].” In Moses’s encounter with Pharaoh, to do something in the name of the Lord involved speaking the name of the Lord. Likewise, to baptize someone in the name of the Jesus involves speaking the name of Jesus Christ. There is biblical evidence of this in both the Old and New Testaments, and there is no suggestion in the Book of Acts that baptism was performed without calling on the name of Jesus. There is no testimony of a silent baptism.

For example, when Peter and John ministered healing to a certain lame man at the gate Beautiful, Peter said, “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth,” rise up and walk (Acts 3:6). This event, following shortly after the Day of Pentecost, demonstrates what Peter meant when he said, “Be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.”

  1. The formula which the administrator of baptism must say when he is baptizing (immersing) someone in water is _________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________________________________

And that formula is stated exactly in (Circle the correct answers)

Matt 28:18-20                                 Acts 2:38                              Acts 8:16

Acts 10:48                                        Acts 19:5                              Some other passage _____________________

Response

See the response to point F above. Any of the words spoken in the Book of Acts in Christian baptism are acceptable. There we see “Jesus Christ” and “Lord Jesus.” As pointed out above, translations that follow the tradition of the KJV have “Lord” in Acts 10:48,” but the more ancient manuscripts read, “Lord Jesus.” There is no biblical evidence for Christian baptism that does not call on the name of Jesus. Even in the reading “Lord” in later manuscripts of Acts 10:48, it is understood contextually from Peter’s sermon that the Lord is Jesus (Acts 10:36).

As it relates to my personal practice, I have always baptized believers “in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

  1. The expression “in the name of” (Circle the number of all true statements)
  • Always demands the recitation of a formula.
  • Demands the recitation of a formula on some occasions, but not on other occasions.
  • Never demands the recitation of a formula.

Response

See the response to point F above.

  1. Circle the numbers of the correct statements below
  • To be saved one must repent in the name of Jesus Christ.
  • To be saved it is not necessary to repent in the name of Jesus Christ.

Response

See the response to point F above.

  1. The formula which must be spoken by the administrator when baptizing someone is ( Circle the correct answer(s) )
  • “….in the name of Jesus Christ”
  • “….in the name of the Lord Jesus”
  • “….in the name of the Lord”
  • “….in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ”

Response

See the response to point F above.

  1. Of the 4 following passages that mention baptizing “in the name of….” (Acts 2:38, Acts 8:16, Acts 10:48, Acts 19:5) who baptized correctly? (Circle the number)
  • Peter on Pentecost
  • Philip in Samaria
  • Peter in Caesarea
  • Paul in Ephesus

Response

See the response to point F above.

  1. Based on Acts 2:38, “…repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ…” are the following statements true? (Circle the number of the true statements)
  • The command to repent and the command to be baptized are joined by the conjunction “and”.
  • This conjunction demands that both repentance and baptism be in the name of Jesus Christ.
  • Therefore, if to be baptized “in the name of Jesus Christ” means reciting a formula, then a formula must be recited when one repents “in the name of Jesus Christ”.

Response

See the response to point F above.


[1] In Colossians 2:9, the NET, NIB, NIV, NRS, RSV, and CEB translate θεότητος as “deity,” the NIRV as “nature,” the NJB as “divinity,” and the NLT as “God.”

[2] Unless otherwise noted, all translations quoted in this paper are from the New King James Version (NKJV).

[3] See Louw-Nida Lexicon, 8.1-8.8. The sin “nature” is not inherent in human existence. Both Adam and Eve were humans before their fall into sin. Jesus was spared this mar on human existence by virtue of His conception by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the virgin Mary. Although Jesus partook “of flesh and blood” (Hebrews 2:14) and was tempted, He was without sin (Hebrews 4:15). He “knew no sin” (II Corinthians 5:21). The genuineness of His humanity was not compromised in any way.

[4] Mary had her own question about this. When Gabriel told her she would conceive in her womb and bring forth a Son, she asked, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?” Gabriel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God . . . . For with God nothing will be impossible” (Luke 1:31-37).

[5] A more complete discussion of this is seen in my paper, “Philippians 2:5-11: Greek Exegesis.”

[6] Alister E. McGrath, Understanding the Trinity (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1988), 130-31.

[7] Richard A. Muller, Dictionary of Latin and Greek Theological Terms (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1985), 226.

[8] A more complete discussion of this is seen in my paper, “Philippians 2:5-11: Greek Exegesis.”

[9] A more complete discussion of this is seen in my paper, “Philippians 2:5-11: Greek Exegesis.”

[10] John Ronning, The Jewish Targums and John’s Logos Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2010), 1.

[11] Other theological terms expressing the same idea as “coinherence” include “circuminsession,” “perichoresis,” and “interpenetration.”

[12] As the concept of perichoresis pertains to Christology, Jürgen Moltmann, for instance, “contends that because of the perichoresis of the divine in the human it can and must be affirmed that God suffered in the death of Christ” (Walter A. Elwell, ed., Evangelical Dictionary of Theology [Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1984], s.v., “Perichoresis”).

[13] For example, Karl Barth said, “The divine modes of being mutually condition and permeate one another so completely that one is always in the other two” (quoted by S. M. Smith in Walter A. Elwell, ed., Evangelical Dictionary of Theology [Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1984], s.v., “Perichoresis”.) See also Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1985), 335-36 and Donald K. McKim, The Westminster Dictionary of Theological Terms, Second Edition, Revised and Expanded. (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2014), 234.

[14] This is explained in Daniel L. Segraves, The Messiah’s Name: JESUS, Not Yahshua (N.P.

[15] Murray J. Harris, Prepositions and Theology in the Greek New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2012), 227-28.

[16] Harris, Prepositions and Theology, 229.

[17] Harris, Prepositions and Theology, 229.

[18] Harris, Prepositions and Theology, 229.

[19] Harris, Prepositions and Theology, 232.

[20] See R. Youngblood, “Significance of Names in Bible Times,” Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, Walter A.  Elwell, ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker), 750) and Harris, Prepositions and Theology, 232.

(c) 2019 by Daniel L. Segraves[archive]

Oneness insight on Colossians 2:2-3

This morning, as I was doing some work in the Greek text of I Timothy 3:16 and Colossians 2:2-3, I noticed an interesting textual variant that contributes to an understanding of the Oneness of God. The New King James Version (NKJV) which, of course, follows the same Greek text as the King James Version (KJV), translates this text as follows:

that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, and attaining to all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

Our interest here is in the phrase “both of the Father and of Christ, in whom.” I had previously noted in the margin of my Bible that the pronoun “whom,” which in the NKJV has “the Father and of Christ” as its antecedent, is singular. This would, of course, indicate the singularity of the Father and Christ.

But the phrase καὶ πατρὸς καὶ, translated “both of the Father and” is found in the Byzantine text, which represents more recent Greek manuscripts. The phrase is not found in the earlier manuscripts. For that reason, many English translations render the latter part of Colossians 2:2 something like these:

that they may know the mystery of God, even Christ, (Col. 2:2 ASV)

the certain knowledge of the secret of God, even Christ, (Col. 2:2 BBE)

the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ,
(Col. 2:2 ESV)

for the knowledge of the mystery of God, Christ, (Col. 2:2 NAB)

They will know the mystery of God. That mystery is Christ. (Col. 2:2 NIRV)

This singular reading would certainly anticipate the singular pronoun of Colossians 2:3. There is but one mystery here, and it is the same mystery Paul had in mind in I Timothy 3:16. It is the miraculous mystery of Incarnation, God manifested in human existence in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ.[archive]