A gracEmail reader writes that he has been a Christian for some time but has recently been concerned by a relative’s comments. That relative says that his baptism in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is inadequate, and that he should be baptized “in the name of Jesus Christ.” He also wonders if he should go to his relative’s church, where people prophesy and speak in tongues. Can I offer any comment?
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The New Testament speaks of being baptized into the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:19) and also in the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 2:38; 10:48). Neither of these is a formula or ritual which must be said or done. Each points to a reality involved in baptism when done as an act of repentance and faith, of obedience to Christ, of trust in his atoning sacrifice. When done in that spirit, baptism formalizes union with Christ and with God in his fullness (the Trinity), expresses trust in Jesus’ atoning sacrtifice, demonstrates submission to Christ and to his lordship — just the sort of things “the name of” indicates in each usage mentioned above.
Jesus himself baptizes all true believers in the Holy Spirit into the one body (Mk. 1:7-8; 1 Cor. 12:13). The New Testament urges believers to desire spiritual gifts, not to extinguish or quench the Spirit, not to look down on prophecy and to be filled with the Spirit (1 Cor. 14:1; 1 Thes. 5:19-20; Eph. 5:18). Some believers in New Testament times prophesied and spoke in tongues but not all did (Acts 10;46; 19:5; 1 Cor. 12:30). I believe the same is also true today. The same Lord still gives gifts to his people, the same Spirit still enables and empowers, and the same God is still sovereign in this matter (1 Cor. 12:4-7, 11).
I do not know any biblical teaching which suggests that you need to be rebaptized with some particular words said, or that you need to go to any particular preacher or church to receive God’s gifts. The same Lord is over all, and he meets his children anywhere who are seeking more of him — which often really means that they are surrendering more of themselves to God. It might be that the extraordinary gifts of prophecy and tongues are less familiar in many churches and church families (denominations), including my own, because the people do not expect to receive them, are not looking for them, and sometimes are not open to them. God deals with individuals, however, and he sees the heart. If you sincerely ask God to give you whatever will enrich you as a Christian and enable you better to serve others and to magnify God, you may have confidence that he will do just that.