His Doing With His Name
Thursday of Pentecost 21
13 October 2016
Church leaders often trot out Matthew 28:19 as though it is the passage by which the church stands or falls. They are right, it is the passage by which the church stands or falls, but not in the way the passage is actually used by them. For them the passage is primarily the command to the church about what she needs to be doing, even to the exclusion of all other churchly gifts from our heavenly Father: "You need to get out there and baptize. Go on. Get going! Make converts!" Such minimalism exhibits a poverty of understanding about what the Lord is giving to His church in this text.
 
This text gives not only the acts that Christ commands the church to perform, but it also contains an insight into the divine nature in whose name we are to baptize all people, the exact baptismal formula, and the command for full teaching of the gospel truth. The church is not to willy nilly baptize, like the ambitious child who baptizes his playmates in the lawn sprinkler on a hot day. The church may not baptize like this. She is to baptize only in connection with the full divine revelation so that she also conveys the fullness of the divine nature by teaching all that Christ commanded. Properly understood in its sublime fullness, this Word of Christ is the passage upon which the church stands or falls, because all comes to us through the giving of the divine name. This passage then is a gift of God revealing the depth of God's nature, power, and grace. It is about His nature and His doing, not ours.
 
Hilary of Poitiers perceived this long ago. What a breath of fresh air we receive when we read someone like Hilary. Such fresh air rescues us from the legalistic bent that contemporary church leaders put on these sublime words of our Savior. And remarkably, Hilary and his contemporaries were extremely adept missionaries, leading the church as she grew exponentially in her late infancy in the fourth century. God was doing and is still doing with His name all that we need to be saved.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

Hilary of Poitiers
 
"Believers have always found their satisfaction in that divine utterance, which our ears heard recited from the Gospel at the moment when that power, which is its attestation, was bestowed upon us [in baptism]: 'Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age' (Mt 28:19-20). What element in the mystery of man's salvation is not included in these words? What is forgotten, what left in darkness? All is full, as from the divine fullness; perfect, as from the divine perfection. The passage contains the exact words to be used, the essential acts, the sequence of processes, an insight into the divine nature.
 
"He told them to baptize 'in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,' that is with confession of the Creator and of the Only-begotten, and of the gift of the Spirit. For God the Father is one, from whom are all things; and our Lord Jesus Christ the Only-begotten, through whom are all things, is one; and the Spirit, God's gift to us, who pervades all things, is also one. Thus all are arranged according to powers possessed and benefits conferred; the one power from whom all exist, the one offspring through whom all exist, and the one gift who gives us perfect hope. Nothing can be found lacking in that supreme union that embraces, in Father, Son and Holy Spirit, infinity in the eternal, His likeness in His express image, and our enjoyment of Him in the gift." 

Hilary of Poitiers, On the Trinity, 2.1
Matthew 28:11-20

While they were going, behold, some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests all that had taken place. And when they had assembled with the elders and taken counsel, they gave a sufficient sum of money to the soldiers and said, "Tell people, 'His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.' And if this comes to the governor's ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble." So they took the money and did as they were directed. And this story has been spread among the Jews to this day.
 
Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." (ESV)
Prayer
Lord Jesus Christ, in holy baptism You have set Your name upon us and in that revelation of Yourself given forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation. Grant that alive to You we might aspire to share these blessings with a world benighted by sin. Amen.
 
For all those who are threatened by inclement weather, that our heavenly Father would keep them safe under His loving care
 
For the Nicaragua Mission, that the Lord would encourage God's people to support the work of preaching the gospel among our friends in Nicaragua
 
For Executive Director Bob Bennett and the members of the Luther Academy board, that they would serve the needs of confessional Lutherans across the globe
Art: Durer, Albrecht   The Adoration of the Trinity (1515) 
Memorial Lutheran Church
smurray@mlchouston.org
http://www.mlchouston.org
©  Scott Murray 2016