on Matthew 28 :19
Go ye therefore - Because I have the authority aforesaid, and can send whomsoever I will to do whatsoever I:please: - teach, μαθητευσατε, make disciples of all nations, bring them to an acquaintance with God who bought them, and then baptize them in the name of the Father. It is natural to suppose that adults were the first subjects of baptism; for as the Gospel was, in a peculiar manner, sent to the Gentiles, they must hear and receive it, before they could be expected to renounce their old prejudices and idolatries, and come into the bonds of the Christian covenant. But, certainly, no argument can be drawn from this concession against the baptism of children. When the Gentiles and Jews had received the faith and blessings of the Gospel, it is natural enough to suppose they should wish to get their children incorporated with the visible Church of Christ; especially if, as many pious and learned men have believed, baptism succeeded to circumcision, which I think has never yet been disproved. The apostles knew well that the Jews not only circumcised the children of proselytes, but also baptized them; and as they now received a commission to teach and proselyte all the nations, and baptize them in the name of the holy Trinity, they must necessarily understand that infants were included: nor could they, the custom of their country being considered, have understood our Lord differently, unless he had, in the most express terms, said that they were not to baptize children, which neither he nor his apostles ever did. And as to the objection, that the baptized were obliged to profess their faith, and that, therefore, only adults should be baptized, there is no weight at all in it; because what is spoken of such refers to those who, only at that period of life, heard the Gospel, and were not born of parents who had been Christians; therefore they could not have been baptized into the Christian faith, forasmuch as no such faith was at their infancy preached in the world. That the children and even infants, of proselytes, were baptized among the Jews, and reputed, in consequence, clean, and partakers of the blessings of the covenant, see proved at large by Wetstein, in his note on Matthew 3:16. - See the note on Matthew 3:6, and particularly on Mark 16:16 (note).
In the name of the Father, etc. - Baptism, properly speaking, whether administered by dipping or sprinkling, signifies a full and eternal consecration of the person to the service and honor of that Being in whose name it is administered; but this consecration can never be made to a creature; therefore the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, are not creatures. Again, baptism is not made in the name of a quality or attribute of the Divine nature; therefore the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, are not qualities or attributes of the Divine nature. The orthodox, as they are termed, have generally considered this text as a decisive proof of the doctrine of the holy Trinity: and what else can they draw from it? Is it possible for words to convey a plainer sense than these do? And do they not direct every reader to consider the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, as three distinct persons? "But this I can never believe." I cannot help that - you shall not be persecuted by me for differing from my opinion. I cannot go over to you; I must abide by what I believe to be the meaning of the Scriptures. Dr. Lightfoot has some good thoughts on this commission given to the apostles: -
"I. Christ commands them to go and baptize the nations: but how much time was past before such a journey was taken! And when the time was now come that this work should be begun, Peter doth not enter upon it without a previous admonition given him from heaven. And this was occasioned hereby, that, according to the command of Christ, the Gospel was first to be preached to Judea, Samaria, and Galilee.
"II. He commands them to baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; but among the Jews, they baptized only in the name of Jesus. See Acts 2:38; Acts 8:16; Acts 19:5. For this reason, that thus the baptizers might assert, and the baptized confess, Jesus to be the true Messias; which was chiefly controverted by the Jews. Of the same nature is that apostolic blessing, Grace and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ. Where then is the Holy Ghost? He is not excluded, however he be not named. The Jews did more easily consent to the Spirit of the Messias, which they very much celebrate, than to the person of the Messias. Above all others they deny and abjure Jesus of Nazareth. It belonged to the apostles, therefore, the more earnestly to assert Jesus (to be the Messias) by how much the more vehemently they opposed him: which being once cleared, the acknowledging of the Spirit of Christ would be introduced without delay or scruple. Moses, (in Exodus 6:14), going about to reckon up all the tribes of Israel, goes no farther than the tribe of Levi; and takes up with that to which his business and story at that present related. In like manner, the apostles, for the present, baptize in the name of Jesus, and bless in the name of the Father and of Jesus, that thereby they might more firmly establish the doctrine of Jesus, which met with such sharp and virulent opposition; which doctrine being established among them, they would soon agree about the Holy Ghost.
"III. Among the Jews, the controversy was about the true Messias; among the Gentiles, about the true God. It was therefore proper among the Jews to baptize in the name of Jesus, that he might be vindicated to be the true Messias. Among the Gentiles, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, that they might be hereby instructed in the doctrine of the true God. - Let this be particularly noted.
"IV. The Jews baptized proselytes into the name of the Father, that is, into the profession of God, whom they called by the name of Father. The apostles baptize the Jews into the name of Jesus the Son, and the Gentiles, into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
"V. The Father hath revealed himself in the old covenant; the Son in the new; in human flesh by his miracles, doctrine, resurrection and ascension; the Holy Ghost in his gifts and miracles. Thus the doctrine of the ever blessed Trinity grew by degrees to full maturity. For the arriving to the acknowledgment of which, it was incumbent upon all who professed the true God to be three in one to be baptized into his name." Lightfoot's Works, vol. ii. p. 274.
on Matthew 28 :19
Go ye therefore - "Because" all power is mine, go! I can defend you. The world is placed under my control. It is redeemed. It is given me in promise by my Father, as the purchase of my death. Though you are weak, yet I am strong! Though you will encounter many troubles and dangers, yet I can defend you! Though you die, yet I live, and the work shall be accomplished!
Teach all nations - The word rendered "teach," here, is not the one that is usually so translated in the New Testament. This word properly means "to disciple, or to make disciples of." This was to be done, however, by teaching, and by administering baptism.
All nations - This gracious commission was the foundation of their authority to go to the Gentiles. The Jews had expected that the offers of life under the Messiah would be confined to their own nation. Jesus broke down the partition wall, and commissioned his disciples to go everywhere, and bring the "world" to the knowledge of himself.
Baptizing them - as an emblem of the purifying influences of the Christian religion through the Holy Spirit, and solemnly devoting them to God.
In the name ... - This phrase does not mean, here, "by the authority" of the Father, etc. To be baptized in the name of the Father, etc., is the same as to be baptized "unto" the Father; as to believe on the "name" of Christ is the same as to believe "on Christ," John 1:12; John 2:23; John 3:18; 1 Corinthians 1:13. To be baptized "unto" anyone is publicly to receive and adopt him as a religious teacher or lawgiver; to receive his system of religion. Thus, the Jews were baptized "unto Moses," 1 Corinthians 10:2. That is, they received the system that he taught; they acknowledged him as their lawgiver and teacher. So Paul asks 1 Corinthians 1:13, "Were ye baptized in the name of Paul?" - that is, Were you devoted to Paul by this rite? Did you bind yourselves to "him," and give yourselves away to "him," or to God? So to be baptized in the name of the Father, or unto the Father, means publicly, by a significant rite, to receive his system of religion; to bind the soul to obey his laws; to be devoted to him; to receive, as the guide and comforter of the life, his instructions, and to trust to his promises. To be baptized unto the Son, in like manner, is to receive him as the Messiah - our Prophet, Priest, and King - to submit to his laws, and to receive him as a Saviour. To be baptized unto the Holy Spirit is to receive him publicly as the Sanctifier, Comforter, and Guide of the soul. The meaning, then, may be thus expressed: Baptizing them unto the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit by a solemn profession of the only true religion, and by a solemn consecration to the service of the sacred Trinity.
The union of these three names in the form of baptism proves that the Son and Holy Spirit are equal with the Father. Nothing would be more absurd or blasphemous than to unite the name of a creature - a man or an angel - with the name of the ever-living God in this solemn rite. If Jesus was a mere man or an angel, as is held by many who deny his divinity, and if the Holy Spirit was a mere "attribute" of God, then it would have been the height of absurdity to use a form like this, or to direct the apostles to baptize people under them. How absurd would be the direction - nay, how blasphemous - to have said, "Baptize them unto God, and unto Paul, and unto the "wisdom or power" of God!" Can we believe that our Saviour would have given a direction so absurd as this? Yet, unless he himself is divine, and the Holy Spirit is divine, Jesus gave a direction substantially the same as this. The form of baptism, therefore, has been always regarded as an unbreakable argument for the doctrine of the Trinity, or that the Son and Holy Spirit are equal with the Father.
on Matthew 28 :19