In 2013 we celebrated one hundred years of the restoration of water baptism in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. We find examples of this practice throughout church history, but key events in the early twentieth century led to the greatest revival of this message since the third century.
The Jesus Name message was renewed in the modern Pentecostal movement, which originated with a Bible school in Topeka, Kansas, in January 1901 led by Charles Parham and with the Azusa Street Revival in Los Angeles, California, from 1906 to 1908 led by William Seymour. Based on the examples in Acts, some early Pentecostals began to baptize in Jesus’ name, including Parham (1901), some in Los Angeles during the Azusa Street Revival (1907), and Andrew Urshan, a Persian immigrant in Chicago (1910).
The practice did not yet have strong doctrinal significance, however. Two notable events led to the development of the Jesus Name message as a distinct movement: the Worldwide Camp Meeting in Arroyo Seco in April 1913 and the rebaptisms of Frank Ewart and Glenn Cook in April 1914.
The Worldwide Apostolic Faith Camp Meeting was organized by R.J. Scott and George Studd and held at Arroyo Seco near Los Angeles, on a campground used by the Azusa Street Mission. The month-long meeting began on April 15, 1913, and perhaps two thousand people attended.
The main speaker was Maria Woodworth-Etter, a well-known Pentecostal evangelist. Expectations were high, and 364 people received the Holy Spirit. Many miraculous healings occurred as Woodworth-Etter prayed “in the name of Jesus.” At a baptismal service Robert McAlister, a Canadian minister, explained that single immersion was the proper mode for baptism, not triple immersion. As proof he cited the baptismal accounts in Acts. The apostles baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ; they never baptized using the words “Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,” as triple immersion requires.
McAlister’s observation planted a seed in the minds of several people. A man named John Schaepe was so inspired that he spent the night in prayer. Early the next morning he began running through the camp shouting that he had received a revelation of the power of the name of Jesus. Quite a few campers were greatly stirred as Schaepe fervently explained his newfound understanding.
Another man who was deeply impressed was Frank Ewart, originally from Australia, where he had been a Baptist bush missionary. In 1903 he immigrated to Canada, in 1908 he received the Holy Spirit in Portland, Oregon, and in 1912 he became pastor of a Pentecostal mission in Los Angeles founded by William Durham. Ewart had been studying the name and oneness of God for some time, so McAlister’s comments were especially intriguing to him. Ewart invited him to his home, where they discussed the theological implications of using the name of Jesus in water baptism. They concluded that when the apostles baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, they properly fulfilled Christ’s command to baptize in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost (Matthew 28:19).
After the camp, Ewart began working in Los Angeles with McAlister and Glenn Cook, a noted evangelist who had been the full-time business manager of the Azusa Street Mission. These men continued to study the name of Jesus and the doctrine of God. After several months McAlister returned to Canada and shared their thinking with ministers there, particularly Franklin Small. At some point they also included in their discussions G.T. Haywood, a ministerial friend and a prominent African American pastor in Indianapolis.
In November 1913 at a convention in Winnipeg, McAlister preached the first sermon on the name of Jesus in water baptism. Small had charge of the baptismal service and baptized thirty new converts in the name of Jesus Christ. These were the first Jesus Name baptisms to result from the Arroyo Seco meeting.
Back in Los Angeles, Ewart and Cook concluded that, following the apostolic pattern, water baptism should always take place with the invocation of the name of Jesus. They also concluded that Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are not three distinct persons but three manifestations of the one God, and Jesus is the revelation of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. The reason why there is such power when believers preach, pray, and baptize in Jesus’ name is that the fullness of the Godhead dwells in Jesus.
To proclaim this message, Ewart and Cook pitched a tent and began meetings in Belvedere, California, just outside Los Angeles. On April 15, 1914, Ewart preached his first sermon on Acts 2:38. He proclaimed that the full message of salvation consists of repentance, water baptism in the name of Jesus Christ, and the baptism of the Holy Ghost; and he associated Jesus Name baptism with the oneness of God in Christ. Then Ewart baptized Cook in the name of Jesus Christ, and Cook baptized Ewart.
This action—the first rebaptisms in the name of Jesus Christ—decisively identified Oneness Pentecostalism as a distinct movement. As the Jesus Name message was preached, a great revival broke out in Los Angeles. Many were miraculously healed and many received the Holy Ghost in the waters of baptism. Soon the Jesus Name message began to spread around the world.