Bible Question:

In Matt 28:19 Jesus commissioned the disciples to baptize people in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Then 50 days later Peter commanded the crowd to be baptized in the name of Jesus (Acts 2:38). This leads me to believe Peter recognized the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost to be the same as Jesus. I cannot quote the year or volume, but I remember reading a quote from the Catholic Encyclopedia that the Catholic church changed their stand on the proper form of baptism from Jesus' name to the trinitarian formula. I am comfortable with the trinitarian formula. In pertaining to a three person Godhead, does it not seem more likely that God is one entity and the Father, Son and Holy Ghost are titles we give the different ways we perceive God, much like we perceive air?

Bible Answer:

The early church rejected the theological teaching of a few individuals who claimed God played the role of the Father sometimes, the Son on other occasions, and the Holy Spirit still at other times. This teaching has been called Modalism. It is clear from several examples in scripture that this teaching was false.

The baptism of Jesus Christ is one of the best examples that shows the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are different. For example, during Jesus’ baptism we discover that God the Father was speaking from heaven as the Holy Spirit was descending upon Jesus while Jesus was being immersed into the Jordan river (Matt. 3:16-17; Mark 1:10-11; Luke 3:21-22).

After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him, and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.” (NASB) Matt. 3:16-17

Here we see all three at the same time. The Father is different from the Son and the Holy Spirit. The Son and Holy Spirit are different from each other and the Father. Yet, scripture teaches that they are one God. Christians do not worship three Gods. The explanation that they are one God is discussed in a study called, “Who Is God?

The Bible reveals that God the Father elects men and women to salvation (John 6:65). The Holy Spirit draws them (John 6:44; 16:8-10) and gives them faith to believe (Eph. 2:8-9). When they believe in Jesus, they are saved (John 3:16). The entire Godhead has a role in the salvation of each person. Therefore, it should not be a surprise that Jesus commanded the apostles to make converts and baptize those converts in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit just before He left this earth and returned to heaven.

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. (NASB) Matt. 28:19-20

When Peter told the crowd in Acts 2:38 to be baptized in Jesus name he was not necessarily indicating that the baptismal ceremony would eliminate the use of “in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” We do not know what happened during those baptismal ceremonies in the early church. But it is clear that Peter was telling them in Acts 2:38 that their baptism was an identification into Jesus.

Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (NASB) Acts 2:38

Conclusion:

Acts 2:38 is not about salvation by baptism but about baptism that shows one’s identification with Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. We do not know what ritual or formality the early church used when baptizing people with water. Acts 2:38 does not provide us enough information.

Reference Links:

Who is God?
Jesus Our Savior
The Holy Spirit
If God is one, why is He divided into three?
The Bible never says that we don’t have to be baptized to be saved.
Baptism and Salvation
Do you believe that baptism is a part of salvation?