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Matthew 28:18-20 - implies baptizing in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age."

Yet Act 2:38 Peter who arguably would have been the most knowledgeable and trusted says to baptise in the name of Jesus only.

And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Note a few important point to consider:

  1. Matt 28: mentions All authority given to Jesus this would clearly imply a higher power has given him authority not an equal power. God can not give God authority.

  2. Matt 28 - order is mentioned first Father (God), then son (Jesus) again confirming God's higher authority

  3. All though they are grouped together - that does not prove co-existence, rather that they should all be mentioned

  4. Peter says - Repent to Receive the HS - not that the HS is an Entity

  5. other references that mention baptism in Christ only - Acts 8:16, 19:5, Galatians 3:27

  6. Matthew 4:1-2 - 4 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. (Clearly the spirit can not lead Jesus if they are the same and God can not be tempted)

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There WOULD be a contradiction between Matt 28:19, 20 and Acts 2:38 IF Matt 28:19 said something like:

... baptize in the names of the Father and Son and Holy Spirit.

But, in fact, it does NOT say that. What it does say is:

... baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

That is, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit have a single NAME (singular). Thus, when Acts 2:38 says to

be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ

... it is saying exactly the same thing as Matt 28:19 - it is the same singular name. The comparison of these two texts actually teaches something quite fundamental about the perfect unity of the Godhead, which has a singular name!

We see allusions to this in other places:

  • Matt 21:9 - The crowds that went ahead of Him and those that followed were shouting: “Hosanna to the Son of David!” “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Hosanna in the highest!” (see also Luke 9:38, John 12:13)
  • Acts 9:27 - Then Barnabas brought him to the apostles and described how Saul had seen the Lord, who spoke to him on the road to Damascus, and how Saul had spoken boldly in that city in the name of Jesus.
  • James 5:14 - Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord.
  • 2 Tim 2:19 - Nevertheless, God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: “The Lord knows those who are His,” and, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord must turn away from iniquity.”
  • Acts 4:10 - then let this be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed.
  • Acts 3:16 - By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know has been made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through Him that has given him this complete healing in your presence.

What is that name??

A simple comparison with numerous texts of the OT easily reveals it.

NT Reference to Christ OT Quotation
Heb 1:10-12 - “In the beginning, O Lord, You laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of Your hands. They will perish, but You remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will roll them up like a robe; like a garment they will be changed; but You remain the same, and Your years will never end.” Ps 102:25-27 is directly quoted and describes the LORD Jehovah.
Phil 2:9-11 - Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name above all names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord ... Ps 45:23 - By Myself [the LORD Jehovah] I have sworn; truth has gone out from My mouth, a word that will not be revoked: Every knee will bow before Me, every tongue will swear allegiance.
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    @AlexBalilo - then you have not read Matt 28:19 (the very verse the question!!) - where the noun "name" is singular and NOT plural as in other instances such as Matt 10:2. BTW - if you downvote, please at least have the courage to offer a valid criticism.
    – Dottard
    May 17 at 7:16
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    the construction of theophoric names, starting with the letters “Jeho” is evidence that God’s name is actually ‘Jehovah’ (and that Christ’s name is actually Jehoshua)” – Smith’s 1863 “A Dictionary of the Bible” Section 2.1 So what is the singular name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Spirit? May 17 at 8:23
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    @AlexBalilo - agreed - no debate - that is the singular name as shown above.
    – Dottard
    May 17 at 9:09
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    What is shown above is not a singular name for the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Jesus said “I have come in my Father’s name….” (John 5:43) If Jesus" name is actually Jehoshua “Jesus.is taken from the Hebrew name ‘Yehoshua’, which in English is translated as Joshua. or Jehoshua, from the Hebrew – which means “Yehovah Saves”. “ -Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, What then is the name of Jesus' Father and God who gave Jesus his name? Is it Jehovah or Jesus? Where then can we find your assertion that the Father, and the Son and the holy spirit have a single NAME (singular)? May 17 at 11:27
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    @AlexBalilo - in Matt 28:19.
    – Dottard
    May 17 at 11:38
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Daniel Wallace, in his book "Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics," offers a very good explanation of the use of the term in the original language using this text as an example.

Since I do not have Wallace on hand, I am not going to try to quote him. I will just give the sense of his explanation. In the classical style of the first century language, the phrase "εἰς τὸ ὄνομα" - "into the name of" was often used as a legal term. This expression is found among ancient legal documents that recorded the transfer of property. If one purchased a section of land or a dwelling for example, a title transfer would be drawn up to show that this property was now εἰς τὸ ὄνομα - in the name of - the new owner.

When Jesus commanded his disciples to preach the gospel to every creature and "baptize them into the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit," he was not presenting a linguistic formula to be repeated like an incantation to make the baptism legitimate. He was commanding them to baptize them into the possession of God. Christians are thus the objects of a property transfer - "out of the kingdom of darkness and into his marvelous light." Baptism then is a property transfer. This same language is used in Acts 2:38 when Peter commanded those present to be baptized ἐν τῷ ὀνόματι - into the name of - thus into the possession of Jesus Christ. This was for a two-fold purpose 1. For the removal of sin - Spiritual circumcision, Colossians 2:9-13. 2. To receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. He is the seal of the transfer of property, Ephesians 4:30, 1 Corinthians 6:19-20. He is the seal of ownership to show that we have been bought with a price.

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    That is very interesting. Here are few articles that say similar things. "Through baptism eis to onoma tinos those who are baptized become the possession of and come under the dedicated protection of the one whose name they bear." ‪1903 work by Wilhelm Heitmüller entitled Im Namen Jesu‬. The person baptized was dedicated to Jesus, having become his property.... The understanding of those who are baptized become the possession of and come under the dedicated protection of the one whose name they bear. ibiblio.org/bgreek/forum/viewtopic.php?t=1846
    – Sherrie
    May 19 at 22:45
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There is no readily apparent resolution to this paradox.

As instruction is given but no one, in the entire NT, ever followed this instruction as far as the record shows.

There is little reason however to think the instruction is a corruption.

If the current (longer) manuscript reading of Matthew 28 is not correct, that would mean that all the “correct” manuscripts, and the literature of the early church including the quotations of Matthew 28:19 in the writings of the Church Fathers, would have had to have been destroyed or altered, and in general the early church was too fragmented and not centralized enough for that to happen (for a more compete discussion of this, see “Is Matthew 28:19 a Forgery” by Sean Finnegan on biblicalunitarian.com).

What is often inferred unfortunately, that this is a good proof-text for those believing the Holy Spirit is a person/entity apart from the Father simply because it is named alongside the Father and the son. Of course, that is only by inference as Matthew 28:18-20 says nothing about this matter. Unfortunately, it then sits alongside (by association) the 1John 5:7b which is an absolute corruption.

the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one.

The disciples understood the Holy Spirit and the Father were descriptors of the same 'one true God' that Jesus referred to. John 17:3

When one is baptised into the name of Jesus - as all the Apostles did, we die (by immersion) with him as he died, and we live with him as we arise from the water as he now lives.

This symbolism of the new life automatically joins one to the Father through Jesus, and by the new holy spirit life (1Pet 3:18) dwelling in that one at the new birth. God, the Father, is present in the person via the son and God's spirit. In this age we only have the deposit of God's spirit as a down-payment of the fullness yet to be given (2Cor 1:22, 5:5).

So while there remains a paradox that has no solid explanation, we must be careful to not extrapolate the words given to make up erroneous doctrine based on imagination and speculative ideas.

Baptising one in the name of Jesus, carried with that name great authority. God has given Jesus all authority under Him to manage everything! So we can understand that by noting the name of the Father and the holy spirit (which has no name) the authority Jesus has is affirmed by the One from whom it came - his God and Father, John 20:17 etc.

And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Matt 28:18

Clearly he didn't always have this authority as he could do nothing or speak of himself - the Father provided all he needed. The name of Jesus carries the same authority of his God so there is no real need to follow the instruction mentioned in Matt 28:19. Perhaps that is the best reasonable explanation - that no one ever used this supposed baptismal formula in the entire NT.

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As the OP has correctly noted in the recent edit, there is nothing to force an understanding that the titles of Holy Spirit and Son are somehow equal to God as distinct entities of a Godhead. This has little to do with the main Q regarding an apparent 'contradiction' - better called a paradox as the two passages regarding the instruction to be baptised and the practise of baptising in Jesus' name only are not expressly at odds with each other.

The practise however reveals an important distinction that dismisses any particular importance of the 3 titles in this process of baptism. To invite deeper speculation is to also invite conjecture. We are warned against adding to the words and truth God has provided through His son and the Apostles to the fledgling church.

For a longer study on this matter from which some of this answer is derived.

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In short, no. To see why there is no contradiction, let us look at the context of Acts 2:38. Peter's words in v38 come after his sermon (VSS 14-36).

Verses 14-21 are the introduction to Peter's sermon. Beginning in v22, Peter's focus is on Jesus Christ. It is in this very verse that he brings the audience's attention to:

Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know [ESV]

Peter continues speaking about why Jesus is important and why he died. He is reminding his audience about what the prophets wrote concerning the Messiah. Peter doesn't leave out Jehovah God but does remind his audience how important Jehovah God is in regard to the Messiah, Jesus Christ:

23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God
24 God raised him up
30 Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne
33 Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit
36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ,
The scriptures quoted above are from the [ESV]

The majority of Peter's sermon is focused on Jesus as the promised savior but nowhere does Peter leave out the importance of Jehovah God in this.

Matthew 28:19 is Jesus' own words as to what is required for salvation. The study note for this verse in the New World Translation helps to understand this:

the Father . . . the Son . . . the holy spirit: Recognition of the Father, Jehovah God, is natural, since he is our Creator and Life-Giver. (Ps 36:7, 9; Re 4:11) However, the Bible also shows that no human can gain salvation without recognizing the role of the Son in God’s purpose. (Joh 14:6; Ac 4:12) It is also vital to recognize the role of God’s holy spirit because, among other things, God uses his active force to give life (Job 33:4), to inspire his message to humans (2Pe 1:21), and to empower them to do his will (Ro 15:19).

[Unless otherwise noted, all scripture quotations from the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures (Study Edition)]

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acts 2:38. Being baptized in the name of Jesus Christ means being baptized while confessing that Jesus is the Messiah. It has nothing to do with what the baptizer says. Since Jesus is the Son of God the Father, confessing the identity of Jesus includes the Father and His Spirit. Matthew 28 refers to the function of baptism. One is baptized into the possession of and protection of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

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The history of this hermeneutical question is fascinating. Evidently, there has been in church history different practices in the Christian church based upon this variation.

For example, an article in Wikipedia notes:

Martin Luther in his Prelude on the Babylonian Captivity of the Church describes disagreements over the wording of the baptism as "pedantry" and argues for acceptance of baptisms in the name of Jesus if carried out with proper intent.

The early second century document, Didache, encourages a trinitarian wording in the rite of baptism. However, it uses the singular name of Jesus as a type of synecdoche to say, "Do not let anyone eat or drink of this Eucharist who has not been baptized into the name of the Lord,..."

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