Working the Word Wednesday
God bless you and greetings in the name of Jesus Christ who commanded the twelve to make disciples of all nations in his name (Matthew 28:19 NKJV).
Matthew 28:19: NKJV
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,
When reading this verse right where it is written, it seems to interpret itself very plainly. However, the phrase “baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” has been the source of much confusion. Many question the authenticity of this phrase because there is no Scriptural evidence that this type of baptism was ever carried out. Certainly, it would seem, that if these were among the last words of Jesus Christ before his ascension, the apostles would have remembered them and carried them out. However, these words “baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” never occur in the Book of Acts. Throughout the Book of Acts people were baptized with the holy spirit in the name of Jesus Christ. Never were they baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost as Matthew 28:19 seems to command.
On the Day of Pentecost, which happened not many days after the apostles heard the words of Jesus in Matthew 28:19, Peter taught in the temple and spoke of baptism. In Acts 2:38 he said, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” One would think that if Matthew 28:19 recorded the very words of Jesus, Peter at this important occasion would have been faithful to carry them out. Rather, Peter said, “Be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ.”
When Philip preached the Word of God in Samaria, the people were born again, but they did not speak in tongues. Peter and John went down to find out what the problem was and help them receive the holy spirit into manifestation. Acts 8:16 is a parenthesis to explain what had happened. It says, “(For as yet he [it, the holy spirit] was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.)” Later in Acts 10, when Peter went to the household of Cornelius, it says, “He commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord.” Finally, in Ephesus, an explanation was made of what happened when the disciples received Apollos’ teaching. Acts 19:5 records that when they heard it, “they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.”
In no place in the Book of Acts is anyone baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Scholars have been very ingenious in their explanations of why the Book of Acts records baptism in the name of Jesus Christ instead of following the apparent Trinitarian formula of Matthew 28:19:
♦ Some have thought that the apostles had gotten used to baptizing in the name of Jesus before the Day of Pentecost and having become accustomed to it, continued to use it during their lifetimes in spite of Jesus’ apparent instruction to change.
♦ Others declare that the records in Acts of baptism in the name of Jesus Christ or in the name of the Lord Jesus indicated simply that the rite was Christian distinguishing it from the pagan rite and even the water baptism of John.
♦ Others assert that the Trinitarian formula was always used, but that the accounts in Acts are merely brief summaries that simply fail to mention it.
♦ Another explanation asserts that baptism in the name of one was sufficient evidence of baptism in the name of all three.
♦ While yet others declare that Matthew 28:19 does not actually give the very words of Jesus, but puts in his mouth what was commonly used at the time that Matthew was written, which was much later than the Book of Acts.
Whatever theory is used to explain away the absence of the formula in Acts, they all acknowledge the apparent contradiction between the words of Jesus in Matthew 28 and the record of the Book of Acts. It would only be logical to ask if the words were really recorded in the original text of the Gospel of Matthew. The truth is that this Trinitarian formula does not even occur outside the Bible until the fourth century.
In the fourth century, Eusebius was asked by the Emperor Constantine to make fifty copies of the New Testament on fine vellum. None can be found today–most likely they have been amended, mutilated, lost, or destroyed. There are only two extant manuscripts from the fourth century which contain Matthew 28:19 and none from previous centuries. However, there is evidence from the early writings of the Church fathers who quoted this verse that the phrase “baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” was not in the original text. Instead, it simply read, “…make disciples of all nations in my name, teaching them….” Aphrates of Nisibis quoted the verse without the words “baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” Eusebius quoted this verse correctly eighteen times without using those words prior to the Council of Nicaea, where the subject of the person of Christ was brought to a head. After the council, Eusebius quotes it three times using the Trinitarian formula. This shows the political and religious impact of the Nicene decision. There is evidence that Justin Martyr, who lived in the mid-second century, did not have these words in his manuscripts? These men were quoting from manuscripts that were older than any that we now have. This clearly indicates that the original of Matthew 28:19 read, “Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all nations in my name.” The remainder of the verse was added later. (Jesus Christ Our Passover, American Christian Press, New Knoxville, OH, pages 371-372)
Certainly, if Jesus had told his disciples to baptize in the name of the Father, the son, and the holy spirit the disciples would have gladly obeyed and done as they were instructed. The God-breathed Word in Acts gives no indication that the apostles ever followed that instruction. The quotations of the early Church fathers of this verse did not include the Trinitarian formula. Therefore, they must have had access to texts that were older and closer to the original God-breathed Word given to holy men who spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit than what we have now. Colossians also gives us reason to reconsider.
And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.”
It seems to me that “whatsoever ye do in word or deed” would include “baptizing.” Simply reading Matthew 28:19 without remembering what was recorded in the Book of Acts could lead one to the private interpretation imposed on the text by the translators. However, having a greater scope of the Word and remembering other verses that deal with the same subject allows us to rightly divide this verse without any private interpretation. The principle is that God’s Word interprets itself in the verse, understanding that the verse must be in harmony with all other verses on the same subject.