In Matt 28:19, Jesus commanded the apostles to baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, but we see in Acts of the Apostles that they baptized in the name of Jesus only (Acts 2:38, 8:16, 19:5). Why did the apostles not adhere strictly to the instructions of the Lord concerning water baptism?
Acts 19:1-5 (DRB)
And it came to pass, while Apollo was at Corinth, that Paul having passed through the upper coasts, came to Ephesus, and found certain disciples. 2 And he said to them: Have you received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? But they said to him: We have not so much as heard whether there be a Holy Ghost. 3 And he said: In what then were you baptized? Who said: In John's baptism. 4 Then Paul said: John baptized the people with the baptism of penance, saying: That they should believe in him who was to come after him, that is to say, in Jesus. 5 Having heard these things, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
Notice that to be baptized into this "baptism into the name of the Lord Jesus" is baptism into "the Holy Ghost," per St. Paul's question, which implies, or rather necessitates that to be baptized in the aforementioned way is to be baptized into the name of the Holy Ghost also, not literally "I baptize you in the name of the Lord Jesus."
The fact that Peter says what he says in Acts 2:38 even precludes that "in the name of Jesus" is meant as any kind of exclusive formula for baptism. What does it mean then? It simply must be, contextually, a qualified way of identifying the kind of baptism, whether of John or Jesus (except with Jesus' you are baptized "into" Him, not just 'by Him'—and I need not explain the Hebraic use of 'name' here as designating a party or identity to belong to: "believed in His name" =" "believed in him").
So in summary, "in the name of Jesus" isn't the exclusive 'formula' of the baptism mentioned, but rather a primitive identification of that baptism among the different kinds (John's, and perhaps what would have been viewed as a baptism of the Holy Spirit in would be called centuries later the sacrament Confirmation or Chrism: Acts 8:16-17' Mk 1:8).
Sometimes the mutlivalence of meaning in the Greek word εις doesn't help here, since it can be read in the "into" or "in" sense. In English we sometimes associate an "in" + "[name]" formula to be literal, whereas the more Hebraic understanding would be the "into" sense: being radically united with Jesus in baptism:
Romans 6:3 (ESV) Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?
There is excellent evidence that Matthew 28:19 was added to the text so that the "Trinity" would be in the scriptures (kinda, sorta). The article I cited above begins:
A Baptismal Formula At Variance With NT The Trinitarian Baptismal Formula appears in only one place in the New Testament: in the canonical Greek Matthew at 28:19. The parallel in Mark 16:15 is otherwise identical except it lacks any trinitarian baptismal formula.
Indeed, every surviving Greek manuscript of Matthew 28:19 has the trinitarian formula. The only non-Greek texts which have a variant that omits it are the Shem-Tob Hebrew Matthew and some old Latin and Syriac texts. Is it possible Matthew 28:19 was fraudulently changed to vindicate trinitarianism because very conveniently every surviving Greek text of Matthew [28:19] dates from 340 AD or later? It clearly could be modified and no one would be the wiser. Only quotes by the church fathers from an earlier time could betray the truth, as indeed seventeen such quotes exist and do so—each one omitting the trinitarian baptismal formula in their direct quotes from Matthew 28:19
The evidence is compelling. And just as compelling is the confusion of the addition itself. It is full of self-contradiction. Name is singular while "Father, Son and Holy Ghost" are three. So what is the singular name of these three? The name of the middle "God" is "Jesus". The modified passage is drivel.
This source is even better. I quote:
...One might also ask why the apparent disobedience of the Apostles if this verse were genuine as there is not one who obeyed these supposed words of Jesus Christ from Matthew 28:19. Here are all the scriptures relating to baptism in the New Testament. New converts were all baptized into the name of Jesus Christ only.
Acts 2:38 “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.”
Acts 8:12 “But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.”
Acts 8:16 “For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.”
Acts 10:48 “And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days.”
Acts 19:5 “When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.”
Acts 22:16 “And now why tarriest you? arise, and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.”
Romans 6:3 “Know you not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?”
1 Corinthians 1:13 “Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” [Implied]
Galatians 3:27 “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.”
So should Matthew 28:19 read “baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” or “baptizing them in My name.” And based on your conclusion, which of the following is correct?
Colossians 2:12 “Buried with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in baptism, wherein also you are risen with them through the faith of the operation of God, who has raised them from the dead.” or Colossians 2:12 “Buried with him in baptism, wherein also you are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who has raised him from the dead.”
The question itself implies a correct understanding of how the disciples actually baptized, but it starts with an incorrect assumption about how Jesus was telling them to baptize in Matthew 28:19.
Let's review each of these two items in light of the scriptures themselves.
How the Disciples Baptized
The disciples consistently baptized in one name, and one name only. Never did they mention the "name" of the Father or the Spirit while baptizing, as the record shows; yet they consistently referred to the "name" of their Lord Jesus Christ.
Then Peter said unto them, 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. (Acts 2:38, KJV)
But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. (Acts 8:12, KJV)
(For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) (Acs 8:16, KJV)
And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days. (Acts 10:48, KJV)
4 Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus. 5 When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. (Acts 19:4-5, KJV)
And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord. (Acts 22:16, KJV)
Paul in Harmony
While Paul was not one of the disciples to whom Jesus had given the commission, he wrote in agreement with their practice.
Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? (Romans 6:3, KJV)
For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. (Galatians 3:27, KJV)
Paul never wrote that one should be baptized into the Father or the Spirit.
The New Testament record from John the Baptist through to Paul's teachings all emphasizes Christ as the focal point of baptism.
What Jesus Commanded
Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: (Matthew 28:19, KJV)
In Greek, the word "ὄνομα" ("onoma"), here translated as "name", is singular--just as it is in English. When one stops to think but a little, one realizes that "Father" is not a name; "Son" is not a name; nor is "Holy Ghost" (or "Spirit") a name. These are titles, but not names.
What is the Father's name?
Each of us who has a father well knows that "Father" is not his name. And the disciples knew this too. Jesus had taught them what the Father's name was.
I am come in my Father's name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive. (John 5:43, KJV)
In another place, the translation obscures this truth. The KJV has it as:
And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are. (John 17:11, KJV)
The Greek grammar is not so specific as to say "those." The ASV (1901) has a clearer rendition.
And I am no more in the world, and these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep them in thy name which thou hast given me, that they may be one, even as we `are'. (John 17:11, ASV 1901)
Weymouth makes it even sharper.
I am now no longer in the world, but they are in the world and I am coming to Thee. "Holy Father, keep them true to Thy name--the name which Thou hast given me to bear--that they may be one, even as we are. (John 17:11, Weymouth)
"Jesus" was the name of the Father, and was given also to Christ.
What is the Spirit's name?
But the Comforter G3875, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. (John 14:26, KJV)
The word "Comforter" in this translation comes from the Greek "παράκλητος" ("parakletos"). It can mean helper, counselor, advocate, comforter, advisor, etc. In the KJV, and most modern Bibles follow suit, this word is translated four times in one way ("Comforter" in the KJV), and only once using a different word ("advocate" in KJV). That once just so happens to identify, by name, whom the Comforter is.
My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate G3875, with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: (1 John 2:1, KJV)
So the Holy Spirit (KJV: Holy Ghost) is named as being "Jesus Christ."
The disciples, having just graduated from the school of Christ, having studied with him for three and a half years, understood that Jesus was telling them to baptize in his name--the same name as that of the Father. There is only one name.
10 Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole. 11 This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. 12 Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved. (Acts 4:10-12, KJV)
The disciples did adhere strictly to the baptismal directions given them by Christ. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit all share the same name, and it was in that name which they consistently baptized.