If Jesus said that all his followers need to be baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, why did they baptize people in the name of Jesus only in the Bible book Acts of Apostles?
Some relevant Bible texts
First let’s confirm in the Bible in whose name Jesus asked the disciples to baptize people, and also in whose name the disciples actually baptized people.
- Jesus said: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20).
- At Pentecost: “Then Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’” (Acts 2:38).
- Peter in the home of Cornelius: “And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.” (Acts 10:48).
- Paul in Ephesus: “On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.” (Acts 19:5).
What does ‘in the name of’ mean?
Did the disciples not obey what Jesus told them to do? Let’s find out. First we need to find out what ‘in the name of‘ actually means. It means ‘by the authority of’, ‘by the power of’, ‘on behalf of’. It is an expression showing that one individual is acting as the representative of another, acting in accordance with his will and instructions and by his authority. When Jesus told the disciples to baptize in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, He was telling them to do so by the authority of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The will or authority of Father, Son and Holy Spirit is exactly the same, for they are completely in harmony and united in will. What one authorizes is what the others authorize. What one says to do is what the others say to do. To act by the authority (in the name of) one, then, is to act by the authority (in the name of) all three, for it is the same authority.
Being baptized by Jesus’ authority
So ‘in Jesus’ name’ is not a formula for what must be specifically stated when baptizing a person. ‘In Jesus’ name’ simply means by Jesus’ authority or power. To baptize in Jesus’ name simply means to do so in obedience to His power or authority. His authority is the authority of God, which is the same power as that of the Father and the Holy Spirit. So to baptize in accordance with Jesus’ name is to baptize according to His power or authority, which is the same as baptizing according to the name or authority or power of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
The name/names in which we are baptized is not as important as the recognition that baptism identifies us with the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, our Savior. We are buried with Him and risen to walk with Him in newness of life. We now belong to the Father, are saved by the Son and indwelt by the Holy Spirit. May this be reflected in our day-to-day life.