Jesus commanded, in Matthew 28:19, that the believers should be baptized in “the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” And the book of Acts states that Peter exhorted the believers to be “baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38 also ch. 10:48; 19:5).
So, why does the name of Jesus appear alone in the book of Acts?
It is clear that Luke the author of the book of Acts was not speaking about the baptismal formula, but rather he was simply recording Peter’s exhortation for the people to accept Jesus Christ as their Messiah. Peter’s listeners already believed in God the Father. But the real test for them was if they would accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.
The disciples were just filled with the Holy Ghost, and they came to understand the meaning of John the Baptist’s prophecy that Christ would be the One who would baptize them “with the Holy Ghost, and with fire” (Matt. 3:11). Thus, Christ’s ministry on their behalf was very important to them.
This is why it was reasonable that Christian baptism sometimes may be addressed in the only name of Jesus, since of the persons of the Godhead, it is Christ specifically to whom baptism points. Only by recognizing Him could the new converts now come to baptism.
In this context, the apostles used both the single name of Jesus and the three names of the Godhead in baptism. This early practice was recorded by Ambrose (d. A.D. 397), who declared concerning the baptismal formula: “He who says the one signifies the Trinity. If you say Christ, you have designated also God the Father from whom the Son was anointed, and also the Son, the very One who was anointed, and the Holy Spirit by whom He was anointed” (De Spiritu Sancto i. 3; J. P. Migne, ed., Patrologia Latina, vol. XVI, col. 743).
In His service,
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