Is not Psalm 48: 10, when read in the light of the baptismal formula of Matthew 28: 19, proof that the Holy Spirit is to be addressed by Christians in prayer and song?

Psalm 48: 10, “According to thy name, O God, so is thy praise unto the ends of the earth” is sometimes brought forward in combination with Matt. 28: 19, “baptising them to the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”—the inference being that praise is due to the Spirit distinctly since He is included in the name of God.

   Connecting Matt. 28: 19 with Christianity not only overlooks the profound Jewishness of the passage, but also ignores the characteristic features of the present era. Matthew’s baptismal formula is followed by the Lord promising His disciples that he would be with them until the “completion of the age” (v20). The same phrase occurs earlier in the same Gospel several times (see Matt. 13: 39, 40, 49; 24: 3) and refers to the time of Christ’s public appearance in power and the ushering in of the millennium or “age to come” (Heb. 6: 5). It has nothing to do with His coming for the Church (see 1 Thess. 4: 16, 17), for when “Christ is manifested”, the Church will “be manifested with him in glory” (Col. 3: 4). The disciples in Matthew 28 are typical of those in a coming day who will be employed in the preparation for the incoming kingdom of Christ. The correspondence with John the Baptist is clear, but the scope will then have widened beyond Israel to “all the nations” (Matt. 28: 19), and the baptismal formula (which will be employed on earth after the rapture) has in view the submission of the heathen to the true nature of God. Matthew’s Gospel does not mention the ascension of Christ into glory, nor the consequent descent of the Holy Spirit to earth to permanently indwell the Church (see John 7: 39; 15: 26)—both these characteristic features of the present era are overlooked. In Matthew 28, Christ is presented as risen, (but not ascended) and as having taken up kingdom power. In that context, He has promised to be with His disciples on earth until His throne is established (compare 1 Kings 2: 46). Hence the chapter has nothing to do with the present time, and thus has no bearing on how Christians should worship.

   Turning to Psalm 48, we find that the connection with Matthew 28 is contrived. The word name needs to read in context. The simple fact is that it does not always carry the sense of identity, but can mean renown or prestige. Thus on the occasion of the building of the tower of Babel the men said: “let us make ourselves a name” (Gen. 11: 4). Now Psalm 48 begins “Great is Jehovah …” and ends “for this is our God for ever and ever …” (vs 1, 14)—thus the greatness of God is before the psalmist. It is in that context that verse 10 is placed: “According to thy name, O God, so is thy praise unto the ends of the earth”. The sense is clearly that God’s praise is to correspond to His greatness, or, as we might put it, ‘according to thy renown, so is thy praise’. Introducing the idea of a distinct name of God into the Psalm has no warrant whatsoever, and ignores what the Psalm actually says.

   It is an unhealthy practice to take an OT Scripture like Psalm 48: 10, and use it to shape Christian doctrine and practice. The Old is to be interpreted in the light of the New—not the other way round. Suppose it is insisted that the word name in Psalm 48: 10 means identity, then it is abundantly evident that the Psalmist would be referring to God as Jehovah, and not as Father, Son and Holy Spirit (see Ps. 20: 5, 7; 68: 4 etc.). However, leaving aside that significant problem, consider now whether it is possible that name, when taken out of its OT context and ‘interpreted’ in the light of the NT, will inevitably expand its meaning beyond Jehovah to Father, Son and Holy Spirit. If it does not do this in every case, then the premise is false. Psalm 48: 10 is not quoted in the NT, but there is a well–known Psalm that is quoted in the NT and can therefore definitely be interpreted in the light of Christian revelation: “I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the congregation will I praise thee” (Ps. 22: 22, my emphasis). In Heb. 2: 12 these words are applied to the Lord Jesus. Now it is hardly intelligent, let alone reverent, to suggest that Christ sings to the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Heb. 2: 12 refers to the Lord, as Man, addressing His God and declaring His name as v13 shows: “Behold, I and the children which God has given me”. Thus if the name of God in the NT need not refer to Father, Son and Holy Spirit, it is wholly spurious to inject such a meaning into Psalm 48: 10—particularly when that verse is not even ever quoted by NT writers.