|Volume 22 Number 5 May 2020||
Louis Rushmore, Editor
Someone asked, “In our private prayers, is it necessary to say, ‘In Jesus‘ name’?” The principle of praying to the Heavenly Father in the name of or through Jesus Christ is firmly established in the address of our Lord to His apostles. “You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you” (John 15:16 NKJV). “And in that day you will ask Me nothing. Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you” (John 16:23). Jesus spoke directly and only to His apostles in John 14-16, and so, many things in those three chapters were pertinent only to the apostles. However, the principle of prayer directed to the Father through Jesus Christ applied not only to the apostles, but it applies to all disciples (i.e., today—Christians). We know this because passages of Scripture pertaining to non-apostles about prayer exhibit the same principle—to the Father through Jesus Christ. “Giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:20). “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” (Colossians 3:17).
These passages and others treating other subjects that refer to “in the name of the Lord” tell us what to do and not necessarily what to say. “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” (Matthew 28:19). “Then Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins…’” (Acts 2:38; cf., Acts 8:16; 10:48; 19:4-5).
The child of God’s access to the Father is through Jesus Christ. “For through Him [Jesus Christ] we both [Jews and non-Jews] have access by one Spirit to the Father” (Ephesians 2:18). Prayer and baptism are both possible through Jesus Christ. Customarily, we say what we are doing through prayer and in baptism to reinforce for auditors and onlookers what we are doing. Yet, we would still be praying and baptizing through the name or by the authority of Jesus Christ even if we did not say so. It is wise to say what we are doing so that others understand, but someone could appear to be praying or being baptized by appealing to the name of Jesus without actually praying acceptably or genuinely submitting to our Lord in baptism.
To answer the original question about one’s private prayers, then, “No, it is not necessary to say in ‘Jesus’ name’ etc. when the prayer is exclusively between ourselves and our Heavenly Father.” Nevertheless, said or not stated, silently or aloud, an individual Christian’s prayer is to the Father through Jesus Christ. However, it is such a little thing that habitually acknowledging to ourselves and to God in even our private prayers “in Jesus’ name,” etc. is a good normality.
Can a Non-Christian
Baptize a Person?
A correspondent inquired, “Can a non-Christian baptize a person?” Perhaps if we pose some questions, at least some of which may appear to be rhetorical, a logical or a reasonable answer will be apparent.
Most members of the Lord’s church doubtlessly realize that the Restoration Movement in the 19th century describes a widespread exodus from denominational churches by religiously sincere people who desired to be merely members of the church established by Jesus Christ 2,000 years ago. Furthermore, generally, Christians understand those thousands of souls were not petitioning existing congregations of the Lord’s church for membership, but instead, they went about to reestablish the presence of the Church of Christ (Romans 16:16) in various communities, mainly in North America and in Europe. Almost universally if not altogether universally, there were no Christians or members of the Lord’s church to baptize those masses fleeing denominationalism and desiring to return to undenominational, pre-denominational, pure Christianity discernible upon the pages of the New Testament. Initially, they were baptized by non-Christians in the biblical sense. Usually respected as a leader in the Restoration Movement, Alexander Campbell was baptized by a Baptist minister named Matthias Luce, howbeit, according to New Testament teaching rather than according to Baptist doctrine.
It is true that Christians have the responsibility to herald the Gospel to “all the nations, baptizing them” (Matthew 28:19) or to “all the world…to every creature” (Mark 16:15). However, it is the responsibility of lost souls to submit to baptism (Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16). Whether or not someone presents the Gospel to a person, it is the individual’s responsibility to obey the Gospel (Romans 6:17; 2 Thessalonians 1:8). Even without a Christian to baptize him, a penitent sinner still needs to imitate the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ in baptism (Romans 6:3-5) to be saved (1 Peter 3:21) from his past sins (Romans 3:25).
Though we would prefer to see baptized Christians baptizing penitent believers, circumstances may make what we prefer or habitually or customarily do impossible. The fuller question posed by a brother illustrates this.
Can a non-Christian baptize a person? I have a prisoner friend in a California prison, and it looks like it will be difficult to find a Christian to baptize him. It doesn't appear that there is a congregation near that has a prison ministry, and I know it is not easy to get permission to even visit a prisoner. My friend is 76, disabled, in a wheelchair, has a pacemaker and is not in good health, but he is intelligent, understands the Scriptures and wants to be baptized.