The climax of Peter’s Pentecost sermon was found in these words: “Let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God hath made him both Lord and Christ this Jesus whom ye crucified”. Many of his hearers, pricked in their hearts by his words, immediately cried out, “Brethren, what shall we do?” Peter’s response was, “Repent ye, and be baptized everyone of you, in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins …” (Acts 2:36-38).
Some view the command to repent and be baptized “in the name of Jesus Christ” as a formula which must be uttered in baptism before remission of sins is possible. The phrase was used repeatedly by first Christians and preachers many times and in different circumstances not only baptized “in the name of Jesus Christ”, but they healed the lame and cast out evil spirits. In fact, Paul commanded, “And whatever ye do, in word or in deed, do all in the name of the Lord” (Colossians 3:17). In Ephesus Paul used the phrase “in the name of Jesus” when God used him to work miracles among the people. Seven sons of Sceva, a chief priest, hearing Paul heal people “in the name of Jesus” attempted to cast an evil spirit out of a man saying, “I adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preaches” (Acts 19:13). However, the results were very different. The evil spirit in the man said unto them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know, but who are you? And the man in whom the evil spirit was, leaped on them and mastered both of them, so that they fled out of the house, naked and wounded” (Acts 19:15-16). These men learned there was more in the expression “in the name of Jesus Christ” than just words to be uttered when either commanding men to be baptized or to cast out an evil spirit from one who was possessed. Peter, who was the first to command baptism “in the name of Jesus Christ” or to heal a lame man, did not always use the phrase, nor even utter the name “Jesus Christ” when working a miracle. There was a noble sister named Tabitha or Dorcas who lived in Joppa. The sister fell ill and died, and brethren, hearing that Peter was nearby in a city called Lydda, sent and urged Peter to come to Joppa. Peter did and when he entered the death room of the sister, said simply, “Tabitha, arise” (Acts 9:40). Tabitha opened her eyes and sat up. Saying the phrase, “In the name of Jesus Christ” was not an essential element in raising Dorcas from the dead.
There is no magical power to be found by simply uttering the words “Jesus Christ”. The power to heal the lame, cast out evil spirits, raise the dead, or to have one’s sins washed away in baptism lay in the power which Jesus possessed to grant miracles to be done by His will or for one to secure remission of sins. When Jesus commissioned His apostles to teach all nations, He said, “All power (authority) hath been given unto me in heaven and earth …” (Matthew 28:18). Paul explained why Jesus had been given such power. He wrote the Philippians, urging them to have the mind of Christ: “Who, existing in the form of God, counted not the being on an equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking on himself the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of man. And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, becoming obedient even to death, yea the death of the cross. Wherefore God highly exalted him and gave unto him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven and things on the earth, and things under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:6-11).
The power to work miracles or to secure remission of sins by being baptized in water lies with Jesus Christ. He is the ruler of the kings of the earth, of every living creature wherever it may be found. Because Jesus was willing to take on flesh like a man (whom He formed) was made of, to die the cruel death of the cross so that all men might be saved from the consequence of their sins, the Father placed all authority into the hands of His Son. He placed Him at His right hand as He promised He would (Psalm 110:1): “The Lord said unto my Lord, sit thou at my right hand until I make all thy enemies the footstool of thy feet”. On the mount of transfiguration when Peter had proposed making “three tabernacles” — one for the Lord, one for Moses, and one for Elijah — a bright cloud overshadowed them and a voice spoke from heaven saying, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased. Hear ye Him” (Matthew 17:5). Peter, who heard God’s voice, preached to a group of people in a temple porch and said, “A prophet shall the Lord God raise up unto you from among your brethren, like unto me; to him shall ye harken in all things whatsoever he shall speak unto you. And it shall be that every soul that harkeneth not to the voice of that prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people” (Acts 3:22-23).
To repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ to obtain remission of sins means that in order to be forgiven of sins, one must repent and be baptized because Jesus said so. There is no greater reason to be baptized than this.