I read something interesting about baptism written over 100 years ago. Charles Parham wrote about the dilemma on baptismal formula in the book “A Voice Crying in the Wilderness.” This book was originally written in 1902. The dilemma was between Acts 2:38 “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ…” and Mt. 28:19 “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (NIV).
Without trying to reduce Father, Son, and Holy Spirit down to titles, Parham simply thought he heard from God that “We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life” Ro. 6:4 (NIV). Since Jesus was the one to die, He is the only one that we can be baptized into his death.
I can’t say exactly what Mt. 28:19 means, but when compared with Peter’s words on Pentecost, and the purpose of Jesus’ coming to take man’s place in the punishment for sin (Death). We should understand the importance of being baptized into Christ.
Just by saying we do not understand Mt. 28:19, but we do understand the purpose of baptism is a lot safer than teaching things like Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all titles for Jesus, which some oneness believers teach erroneously. Teachings like that deny the distinction between the Father and Son, and create cult “Jesus only” churches. It also completely sidetracks the issue of showing someone the importance of being baptized into Christ, our propitiation, our atonement.
I can’t say exactly what Mt. 28:19 means, but when compared with Peter’s words on Pentecost, and the purpose of Jesus’ coming to take man’s place in the punishment for sin (Death). We should understand the importance of being baptized into Christ. Just by saying we do not understand Mt. 28:19, but we do understand the purpose of baptism is a lot safer than teaching things like Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all titles for Jesus, which some oneness believers teach erroneously.
I was taught that the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is Jesus, and for awhile I bought that idea. However, after thinking about that for a decade, I decided that this was bogus. After all, it is obvious that Jesus is the name of the Son, but it is not obvious that Jesus is the name of the Father and the Holy Spirit. In fact, we have the Lord Jesus Himself teaching His disciples how to pray, saying, "Our Father in heaven, hollowed by Your name..." So obviously God the Father has His own name... Likewise, the Holy Spirit is said to have spoken in the OT, and when you read those passage, it is apparent that God was the one speaking, moreover God was identified by name... In both cases, the name we are given was YHVH, which are the four letters of the tetragrammaton - the name of God. Traditionally this was pronounced Jehovah, however modern linguists are convinced that no one can be absolutely convinced exactly how it was pronounced, except to say that Jehovah was not it. Thus many Hebrew scholars today advocate for Yahweh, or Yahvah, or even Yahovah... of these Yahweh seems to be the most favored pronunciation.
So we are left with no clear answer as to what name (singular) to baptize into... if that is, we are determined to baptize into Their name. Historically, there is no question that the apostles and first century Church practiced baptism in the name of Jesus. But it is also clear that somewhere in the second century, the Church began to favor baptizing in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Most people do not seem to know why they changed... I do.
The early Church was faced with a dilemma. Gnostic Christianity began falling apart beginning in the late second century, and thousands of Gnostic Christians began seeking acceptance in the early Catholic Church. Problem was, they were heretics, and the Church wanted them to renounce their false beliefs before accepting them into the Church. But in as much as they had already been baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, and the ancient Church believed in baptismal regeneration, the bishops of the Church agreed to rebaptized them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, in recognition of the Trinitarian faith of the Church. And so, for about a century, the Church was busy rebaptizing thousands of former Gnostics in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, so much so that that became the norm.
Oneness Christians often favor creating a dilemma out of Matt 28:19 and Act 2:38, which they then solve by claiming "Jesus is the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit!" But they are wrong about that, Jesus is the name of the Son, not the Father and the Spirit. Therefore, rather than looking for one name that fits the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I believe we are to simply baptize by the authority of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We are to baptize those who believe in Jesus into the death and resurrection of Christ, either in His name, or by the authority of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit... both ways work just fine. No big mystery...
Problem arises when people starting making the Baptism formula into a litmus test on the nature of God and Christ. Trinitarians are given to baptize into the name of the Trinity, which is how they look at Matt 28:19, and Oneness Pentecostals are determined to baptize in Jesus name, because they believe Jesus is the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. As far as I am concerned, both sides are right for the wrong reasons. Matt 2:19 and Acts 2:38 are both in the Bible... folks, neither of these passages are wrong. We can baptize people both ways and still be 100% scriptural, both ways are in the Bible. The important thing is that those who are baptized, are baptized into Christ, into His death burial and resurrection. And this is not negated when someone gets baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit - because the Son is still in there. So really, there is no need today to rebaptize people in Jesus name, or into the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit... both are 100% scriptural. The only people who should get rebaptized, are those who were baptized into non-Christian Churches... Mormons, JWs and Apostate Churches come to mind.