Not only do groups like the Boston Church of Christ movement mistakenly make baptism a necessary means of salvation, but they also prescribe a particular pattern for the baptism rite itself. In their case one must be baptized as a disciple (fully conscious of what that means) by the “true church” in order to be saved. (Even those who were previously elders in other Churches of Christ are told they must be rebaptized in the Boston movement in order to be saved.)

The United Pentecostal movement is another group that teaches that unless you are baptized using the correct formula, which they prescribe, you are not truly saved. In their case the magic formula is “in the name of Jesus.” In their theology, those who are baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are not truly born again.3

In sharp distinction Scripture does not point people to a prescription or to a magic mantra, but rather to the very person of Jesus Christ. To baptize converts “in the name” of Christ or “in the name” of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is to baptize them into the authority of God. When Peter urged those who believed the gospel to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 2:38), he was not prescribing faith in a formula, but rather faith in the authority vested in the name of Jesus Christ.

Similarly, when a police officer commands someone to “stop in the name of the law,” the power is not in the phrase, but in the authority it signifies. An Old Testament example is when David’s servants gave Nabal a message “in David’s name” (1 Sam. 25:9). They were not trusting in this phrase for protection, but rather in the power of the person it represented.

When a physician provides someone who is sick with a prescription, their trust is not in the paper on which it is penned, but rather in the person who issued it. So it is with baptism. The power is not in a prescribed formula, but in the heavenly physician.

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