Matthew 28:19 and Acts 2:38
How are we to understand the references to baptism in the following texts: Acts 2:38 (baptized in “Jesus’ name”); Matthew 28:19 (baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost)? Why are they not the same?
The Lord’s instructions to His apostles that are set forth in Matthew 28:19 pertain to the time in Israel’s program when the “gospel of the kingdom” will be going out to “all nations” and they will be “teaching all nations.” The specified time for that was not immediately following the Lord’s return to heaven. But rather in accordance with the Lord’s teachings regarding the climactic stage of God’s program with Israel, it would come after repentance had been given to Israel and the final installment to Israel’s program involving the day of the Lord had begun. Then the “gospel of the kingdom” would be “preached in all the world for a witness to all nations.” And in view of the fact that it will be those of the “nations” that will be hearing the “gospel of the kingdom,” (who unlike Israel know not by nature the true and living God and the reality of the nature of the Godhead), they will be instructed in the truth of Who the true and living God is and then commanded to be baptized in the “name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” (the three persons of the Godhead) when any of them respond positively to the “gospel of the kingdom.”
The apostles’ preaching and practice in Acts 2:38, however, is not to the “nations” in accordance with Matthew 28:19-20. And the apostles knew it, hence they don’t operate on the instructions of Matthew 28. Instead their preaching and practice is to Israel in accordance with the extension of mercy and forbearance that God was giving to Israel following the rejection of their Christ. During that extension God was giving “repentance to Israel” before the scheduled final installment to Israel’s program was ready to begin, in which He would have His day of purging and avenging wrath. Therefore Peter preached the truth to the people of Israel regarding who Jesus of Nazareth is, (that He is their Christ and that they had rejected Him), and then he responded to those who were persuaded of the truth regarding what he said. When he did so the issue wasn’t one of baptizing them in the name of the Godhead, (as if they were ones who by nature didn’t know the true and living God but now were acknowledging the Godhead and were now identifying themselves with Him instead of idolatry or atheism). Rather the issue with the believing Jews was one of the apostles baptizing them “in the name of Jesus Christ,” (as ones who were now acknowledging the truth that Jesus is their Christ, and that they were now identifying themselves with Him and disassociating themselves from the rebellious element in Israel, which was soon to be destroyed). Hence the difference between the situation in Acts 2:38 and the Lord’s instructions to His apostles in Matthew 28:19.
Of course the use of water baptisms was a natural thing in God’s program with Israel, seeing He dealt with them as “children” and so employed various overt “rudiments of the world,” like water baptisms, along with other “carnal ordinances” in His interactions and dealings with them. Things, however, are different in this present dispensation of God’s grace with both Israel’s program suspended and God dealing with us as “sons” and not “children.” Water baptisms now have no role, function, or validity in this present dispensation.
– K.R. Blades