The Great Commission

Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: (Matthew 28:19)

The Trinitarian Question

The biggest problem that trinitarians face when trying to use the bible to present their view of the Godhead is that there are so few scriptures that even remotely mention Father, Son and Holy Ghost in the same verse. Matthew 28:19 is one of those few verses of scripture that does so.

In this verse of scripture, Jesus is giving the disciples a mandate to teach everywhere they go. He told them when they baptized people who they had taught that they should do so in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost (Mt. 28:19).

The question then that trinitarians ask is actually more of a statement then a question. They say that we see three persons in this verse because it mentions the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. This, they say, is sure proof of the trinity. If not, then who are the three that Jesus refers to?

The Trinitarian Dilemma

This verse is commonly known as the Great Commission. One of the main things we must understand, that most have missed concerning this great commission is the fact that it is exactly that; a commission. There was no one actually being baptized here. This was not a baptism taking This verse does not display any kind of a baptismal formula. This is Jesus simply talking to his disciples giving them a command to go out teaching, and baptizing their converts using the understanding that He imparted to them. The understanding of who He was – God.

Easy Religion

I want to talk about something else concerning baptism that does not necessarily fit in to the topic of this book, but is vitally important. The necessity of baptism is something that the church has gone away from teaching, but must be recognized again. In this day we live in mainstream Christianity has embraced this easy-believism. Most teachers, even those who embrace these teachings, will never say that they do. Most shun it with their words, but embrace it with their actions and teachings.

The vast majority of Christianity teaches that all you have to do to be saved is to accept Jesus Christ as your personal savior. He has given us an offer and we have a choice whether to accept his offer or reject it. Accepting Jesus as your savior is nowhere found in the scripture. No one in the bible ever asked the Lord into their heart as their personal savoir. Not one decision card was ever signed in the scripture. This is simply a biblical new birth experience.

In the generation we live in, it is unpopular to call people sinners. It is much more easily accepted to say that people made mistakes or bad choices. To say that mankind has a sin nature that separates us from God is not what people want to hear. We are considered judgmental if we tell someone that they must repent of their sins. Easy-believism has replaced repenting of your sins with, a much more easily swallowed, accepting Jesus as your personal savior. It went from us belonging to Him, to Him belonging to us. This may be the message of today, but it is not the message of the bible. The bible still says that if you do not repent, that you will perish (Lk. 13:5). It is time, in these last days, for true Christians to find religion that is not centered around us, but on Christ Jesus the Lord. We need a revival of repentance throughout our land.

Plan of Salvation?

Accepting Jesus as your savior has been coined the “plan of salvation”. They tell people to accept Jesus and to say a prayer with them. “If you want to be saved, say this prayer with me”. This is simply not biblical. Jesus never told people to have a plan of salvation, but always told them to be born again. We are not “saved” until we get to heaven. The bible says that when we endure until the end, then are we saved (Mt. 24:13). You do not become a Christian by obeying a plan of salvation, but by obeying the gospel (1 Cor. 15:1-4). This is better identified as a new birth experience.

Obey the Gospel

Paul said that the gospel is the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The bible tells us that those who do not obey the gospel will be punished with everlasting torment and separation from God (2 Th. 1:8). If we are to be saved, we must obey the gospel. This raises a great question. How do I obey the gospel? How do I obey a death, a burial or a resurrection?

Death

As we have already seen, there is a stringent call for New Testament believers to repent. The bible tells us that when we repent of our sins that our old sinful man is now dead and we become a new creature in Christ (Rm. 6:6). This is how -we identify with the death of Jesus. When we repent of our sins, we obey or identify with the death part of the gospel.

Burial

After Jesus dies, He was buried. This is the same process we must go through if we are to completely obey His gospel. The scripture we have been talking about in this chapter was a commission from Jesus to His disciples to teach sinners and lead them to conversion. As we briefly talked about earlier in this chapter, Jesus assumed that the converts would be baptized. Baptism wasn’t a suggestion. It wasn’t meant for those who felt lead or who were part of a certain church. It was absolutely essential that if somebody was going to be converted into the church that they were to be baptized.

Jesus said this to Nicodemus: “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (Jn. 3:5). This is a reference to water baptism and the baptism of the Holy Ghost. Mark recorded the great commission as well. He wrote it like this: “.. .Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” (Mk. 16:15-16) He was very clear here about the fact that Jesus required baptism for one to be saved. When the first converts in the book of Acts asked how they could be saved or what they should do, the apostolic response was to repent AND to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ FOR the remission of sins (Ac. 2:38). The word ‘for’ used here means; to obtain. Converts were baptized to obtain the remission of sins. They had to be baptized in order to have their sins remitted. If they were not baptized, their sins were not remitted. Water baptism is not a request, it is required.

Why is this so? Why is baptism required for salvation? Because it is a part of the new birth experience. Remember, we must obey the gospel. Paul said that we are “buried with Christ by baptism” (Rm. 6:3-4). This water baptism is more than some ritual we do to let people know we are Christians, but a meaningful burial with Christ into His death. When we are baptized, we are identified with His burial.  We are obeying the gospel.

Resurrection

Jesus Christ was raised back to life by the Spirit on the third day. His Spirit came back inside of His body and brought Him back to life. Every human is born with a sin nature; therefore, the Spirit of God must bring life into you, as it did with Christ in the tomb.

We are baptized into death, but if we are buried with Him in baptism, then we will also be in the likeness of His resurrection (Rm. 6:5). If we are dead with Him, we will also live with Him (Rm. 6:8). Just like with Jesus, this happens to us by the Spirit. We must be born of the Spirit (Jn. 3:5).

When a person receives the gift of the Holy Ghost, they are born of the Spirit. This is the experience of Christ coming to live in you. Most teach that Christ comes to live in you when we ask Jesus into our hearts. This is not what the bible says. Every person in the New Testament who ever received the baptism of the Holy Ghost did so with the accompanying sign of speaking in other tongues (Ac. 2:4, 10:46, 19:6). There is not one case where someone had this experience and did not speak with tongues. When someone receives this precious gift of the Holy Ghost, they have identified with the resurrection of Jesus. This is new life inside of a person.

The Key

Peter was given the keys to the kingdom and this is what he preached and taught. The gospel is like a three-toothed key that opens heaven’s door. If the key is missing one tooth it will not open the door, because it does not match the pattern. Repentance without baptism is an incomplete experience and does not fulfill the gospel. The key must have all three teeth in order to effectively open the door. Make sure you identify with all three parts of the gospel. It is the most important thing you will ever do.

A Biblical Illustration

People always ask for one scripture that says specifically that baptism saves us. Here is one scripture.

Peter uses an illustration about Noah and the floodwaters in his teaching about baptism. He said that in those days a boat was built and that by water eight souls were saved (1 Pe. 3:20). In other words, God destroyed all of the sin in the earth by the flood and eight souls were saved by this water. Then Peter makes his illustration clear in the next verse when he says openly that he is talking about baptism.

“Baptism does also now save us” is what peter said (1 Pe. 3:21). Now (the church age), just like the water saved them from sin in the days of Noah, so also does the water saves us from sin by baptism. Water baptism washes all the sin away. The flood was a type of baptism. Baptism is a part of how we experience the new birth.

Back To the Godhead

Let’s get back to the topic of the Godhead. Jesus said, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:” (Mt. 28:19).

Notice that is says in the NAME (singular) of, not in the NAMES (plural) of. If the words Father, Son and Holy Ghost referred to three separate and distinct persons of the Godhead, would it not have been more accurate to use the word ‘names’? It is spoken of here in the singular not plural form.

The word ‘of is used in this verse and it is very important. In the name of the Father, and o/the Son, and o/the Holy Ghost. The word ‘of means; belongs to or belonging to.

Understanding this, we can have a better grasp on what Jesus is saying here. What Jesus is actually telling the disciples to do is baptize converts in the one name that belongs to the Father AND belongs to the Son AND belongs to the Holy Ghost. This does not sound like three distinct persons to me. This sounds more like three titles that refer to one name.

Divine Power Struggle

When looking at this verse of scripture, one doesn’t have to go far to find another verse to cause a contradiction with the trinitarian view. “And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.” (Mt. 28:18) Only one verse before the great commission was given to the disciples, Jesus told that He had all the power in heaven and earth.

We know that heaven is the Father’s dwelling place; and we also know that God is omnipresent. How could Jesus make such a statement? The trinitarian doctrine says that all three persons are co-equal, but Jesus says all power has been given unto Him in heaven and in earth. This is a problem for the other persons of the trinity. ALL power, not some; not a portion; not the “second person’s” portion; ALL power. Since we know that all the power belongs to Jesus, does that make the Father and the Holy Ghost powerless? Does that mean neither one of them have any power? If we are talking about three separate and distinct persons and Jesus claims He has every bit of the power, wouldn’t that render the Father and the Holy Ghost powerless?

Even if I were a trinitarian, I would not want to serve a trinity of whom two-thirds of the substance was incapable. We know that Jesus cannot have more power than the Father because Jesus said the Father is greater than Him (Jn. 14:28). How can Jesus have all the power yet the Father be greater? How does that even make sense? Here is how the scripture is reconciled together: Jesus said, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth”.

The key to understanding this is realizing that the power was “given” to Him. He had to have it given to Him before it was His. Trinitarians say that Jesus is the eternal Son, therefore having always been the co-equal second person of the trinity. This cannot be true, because at what point did an eternally powerful person receive His power that was “given” to Him? If He is an eternal equal then He must have always had this power. The bible says otherwise. Again, I believe the bible.

When the Father manifested in His Son Jesus at His conception in the womb of the virgin, then and only then did Jesus begin to have all the power in heaven and earth. What Jesus was saying was that the Father has all the power, but the Father is in me which gives me all the power. “Because the Father is in me I have all the power in heaven and I have all the power in earth. If the Father was not in me, I would not have all the power in heaven and in earth. The all-powerful and Almighty Father dwells in me, therefore, I have all power in heaven and all power in earth.” From an oneness viewpoint, this does not render the Father and the Holy Ghost powerless because the Father and the Holy Ghost are one Spirit. That one Spirit of God dwells inside the person Jesus Christ giving Him all power.

Who Is With Us?

The next problem for the triune viewpoint is found in verse 20. “I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” (Mt. 28:20) Here is the problem. After fulfilling His duties of dying on the cross, Jesus ascended to the Father (Lk. 24:51). Was Jesus incorrect in His statement? He said He would always be with them and right after He made this statement He left. Jesus was about to give a whole new meaning to the expression “I’ll be with you in Spirit”.

Jesus said He was going to leave and send the Comforter. How can these things be? He tells them He is leaving and sending the Comforter; then He tells them He will always be with them as He is leaving. This sounds contradictory until we examine His words. Jesus made a statement to His disciples that gives us a better understanding on this topic. He said “I will not leave you comfortless, I will come to you” (Jn. 14:18). He said this right before telling them that the Comforter was the Holy Ghost (Jn. 14:26). What Jesus was saying to them was that when the Holy Ghost would come to them at Pentecost, it would actually be Him there with them as the Comforter. He would not leave them comfortless, He would come to them (Jn. 14:18). When someone receives the Holy Ghost they receive Jesus because Jesus and the Holy Ghost are not two different persons, but the Holy Ghost is the Spirit of Jesus that now dwells in the believer.

This is what gives Jesus the basis for making the statement that He did in verse 20; “…I am with you always, even unto the end of the world, Amen.” He is able to leave them in the physical and tangible sense and yet still be there with them, because He was speaking not only as the human Son, but as the divine Spirit. This sounds very oneness.

Conclusion

The great commission does not prove the trinity any more than it proves the triune baptismal formula. The reference to the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost are not a proof of three persons, but that one God has at least three titles. I am a Father, because I have children. I am a Son because I have parents. I am a preacher because I proclaim the gospel of Christ. This in no way makes me three persons, but one person who fulfills three offices. This is the same way that we can understand these titles as referring to God. He is the Father in creation; the Son in redemption and the Holy Ghost in regeneration.

What this commission also teaches us is that not one person in the New Testament was baptized any other way except for in the name of Jesus Christ, once the church began its work. The church, from day one, baptized exclusively in the name of Jesus Christ. Over 2,000 years have passed and that fact has still never changed. True baptism is still done in the name of Jesus Christ and is still essential to the new birth experience.

The most important thing to consider in this chapter is not whether you have a scholar’s understanding of the Godhead, but if you have experienced the new birth according to the scriptures. If you’ve never been baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, I urge you to do that today. If you have only been baptized using the titles Father, Son and Holy Ghost, merely repeating verbatim the words of Jesus and not fulfilling them, I am asking you to contact an Apostolic minister in your area and have him baptize you into the name of Jesus. If you are part of the bride you will never regret taking on the name of your husband.

Scripture References

Acts2:38

Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

Acts 10:48

And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days.

Acts 2:37

Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?

Luke 3:5

Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth;

Matthew 24:13

But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. 1 Corinthians 15:1-4

Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto i/oh, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of nil that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose ugain the third day according to the scriptures:

2 Thessalonians 1:8

In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ:

Romans 6:6

Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.

John 3:5

Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

Mark 16:15-16

And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.

Romans 6:3-5

Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection:

Romans 6:8

Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him:

Acts 2:4

And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

Acts 10:46

For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God. Then answered Peter,

Acts 19:6

came

And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied.

1 Peter3:20-21

Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water. The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ:

John 14:28

Ye have heard how I said unto you, I go away, and come again unto you. If ye loved me, ye would rejoice, because I said, I go unto the Father: for my Father is greater than I.

Luke 24:51

And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven.

John 14:18

I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. John 14:26

But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever 7 have said unto you.

Published by

Dr. Larry L Yates

Dr. Larry L Yates is a Minister, Author and Bible Teacher with Doctorates in Theology, Religion, and Ministry. He is President of Mineola Bible Institute as well as a member of the Board of the International Apostolic University-London, in the UK. He is the author of numerous books on apostolic theology, prayer, and healing.

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