Some say that Peter told them to be baptized in Jesus' name because they were Jews and this baptism was to make them acknowledge Jesus Christ. But let us go with Peter to the house of Cornelius several years later. Cornelius and his household were Gentiles, yet there again Peter "commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord" (Acts 10:48 ). (Most translations actually say, "In the name of Jesus Christ.") If Peter was wrong on the Day of Pentecost, he surely had ample time to be corrected before he went to the house of Cornelius. Was Peter wrong on the Day of Pentecost? When the hearers were pricked in their hearts, they spoke to Peter and the rest of the apostles (Acts 2:37 ).This included Matthew, who wrote Matthew 28:19 . Moreover, when Peter preached, he stood up with the eleven (Acts 2:14 ).
Matthew was there, yet we find no words of correction from him. He surely would have spoken up if Peter had disobeyed the Lord. Bit all the apostles understood and carried out the Lord's commission. As Jesus said in a prayer, "I have manifested thy name unto the men (the apostles) which thou gavest me out of the world . . . and they have kept thy word" (John 17:6 ). The Samaritans, who were not Jews, were also baptized in the name of Jesus. "Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them . . . .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. . . .They were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus" (Acts 8:5,12 ,16).
Let us see how Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles, baptized. He went to Ephesus many years after the Day of Pentecost and found some disciples of John the Baptist there. "He said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost. And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John's baptism. 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. When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus" (Acts 19:2-5 ).
Although these disciples had already been baptized, the name of Jesus was so important as to cause them to be rebaptized in His name. We do not believe that Paul changed the formula or mode of baptism when he baptized Lydia and her household (Acts 16:14-15 ) or the Philippian jailer. The latter came trembling and fell down before Paul and Silas, saying, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. And he took them the same hour of the night (shortly after midnight), and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway" (Acts 16:30-33 ).
How can we doubt that Paul baptized these people using the same mode and formula that he used elsewhere, that is, immersion in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ? Paul was not with the apostles when Jesus gave His final instructions to them in Matthew 28:19 and Luke 24:47 , yet Paul baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. How did he know what to do? He said that his gospel was not a tradition of men but a revelation from God. "I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it from of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ" (Galatians 1:11-12 ). Paul was chosen to bear Jesus' name to the Gentiles, and he wrote many divinely inspired epistles to the church. To this apostle, God revealed the mystery of the church, "which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit" (Ephesians 3:5 ). Paul claimed to have divine authority: "If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord" (I Corinthians 14:37). And Paul wrote, "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" (Colossians 3:17 ). Water baptism is done both in word and deed.
We cannot afford to overlook this command to the church. The church is "built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone." (Ephesians 2:20 ). The apostles not only preached baptism in Jesus' name, but they practiced it. Nowhere can we find that they baptized using the words "in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." Instead, we find them baptizing in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. In baptizing in Jesus' name, they fulfilled the command of the Lord in Matthew 28:19 . Paul said, "But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed" (Galatians 1:8 ). Let this be a solemn warning to us. Some say that they will accept the words of Jesus in Matthew 28:19 but not those of Peter in Acts 2:38 . But Peter spoke on the Day of Pentecost under the anointing of the Holy Ghost. Peter was one of the apostles, and to him had been given the keys of the kingdom, so we have no right to discredit his words.
In Mark 7:8 Jesus said, "Laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men." History tells us that it was not until many years after the apostles that the mode and formula of baptism in the name of Jesus Christ were changed. (See Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible, vol. 1, p. 241.) Which means more to you, the command of the Lord or the tradition of men?