If Mathew 28:19 (and the Great Commission therein) is considered an authentic verse, why aren’t there any instances in the NT where the apostles actually baptized someone using the Trinitarian formula (i.e., “in the name of Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”)?

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, (Mathew 28:19, NKJV, 1982)

I'm looking for explanations given by defenders of Trinitarianism.

  • according to our local pastor, the word translated as "in" should actually be translated as "into". He held an entire sermon on this.However, I have my douts so not posting an answer. Jan 10, 2017 at 14:35
  • @MarkGardner - Go to Acts 8:16; 19:5 which says that believers had been baptised "into the name of the Lord Jesus. Romans 6:3 says they "were baptised into Christ Jesus" and Galatians 3:27 which says they were "baptised into Christ". It may depend on which manuscripts were being used in various translations.
    – Lesley
    Nov 13, 2022 at 16:58

3 Answers 3


In Acts (2:38, 8:12, 8:16, 10:48, and 19:5), baptism "in the name of the Lord Jesus" is mentioned. By saying "name" (singular), the Divine Essence of the Holy Trinity is signified, not the Persons individually. It is not not solely the Second Person of the Holy Trinity who effects baptism, but all the Persons working together as one.

As the Catechism of the Council of Trent §The Sacrament of Baptism, says regarding the form of the sacrament of baptism,

Baptism is the work not of the Son alone, of whom St. John says, He it is that baptizeth (John 1:33), but of the Three Persons of the Blessed Trinity together. By saying, however, in the name [singular], not in the names [plural], we distinctly declare that in the Trinity there is but one Nature and Godhead. The word name is here referred not to the Persons, but to the Divine Essence, virtue and power, which are one and the same in Three Persons.

Also, see these sections of idem:

Essential And Non­-Essential Words Of The Form

It is, however, to be observed that of the words contained in this form, which we have shown to be the complete and perfect one, some are absolutely necessary, so that the omission of them renders the valid administration of the Sacrament impossible; while others on the contrary, are not so essential as to affect its validity.

Of the latter kind is the word ego (I), the force of which is included in the word baptizo (I baptise). Nay more, the Greek Church, adopting a different manner of expressing the form, and being of opinion that it is unnecessary to make mention of the minister, omits the pronoun altogether. The form universally used in the Greek Church is: Let this servant of Christ be baptised in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. It appears, however, from the decision and definition of the Council of Florence, that those who use this form administer the Sacraments validly, because the words sufficiently express what is essential to the validity of Baptism, that is, the ablution which then takes place.

Baptism In The Name Of Christ

If at any time the Apostles baptised in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ only, we can be sure they did so by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, in order, in the infancy of the Church, to render their preaching more illustrious by the name of Jesus Christ, and to proclaim more effectually His divine and infinite power. If, however, we examine the matter more closely, we shall find that such a form omits nothing which the Saviour Himself commands to be observed; for he who mentions Jesus Christ implies the Person of the Father, by whom, and that of the Holy Ghost, in whom, He was anointed.

And yet, the use of this form by the Apostles seems rather doubtful if we accept the opinions of Ambrose and Basil, holy Fathers eminent for sanctity and authority, who interpret baptism in the name of Jesus Christ to mean the Baptism instituted by Christ our Lord, as distinguished from that of John, and who say that the Apostles did not depart from the ordinary and usual form which comprises the distinct names of the Three Persons. Paul also, in his Epistle to the Galatians, seems to have expressed himself in a similar manner, when he says: As many of you as have been baptised in Christ, have put on Christ, meaning that they were baptised in the faith of Christ, but with no other form than that which the same Saviour our Lord had commanded to be observed.


The Trinitarian doctrine was not formulated until the Council of Nicaea in 325. The final version was written at the Council of Constantinople in 381, so the official creed is known as the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed. As the word 'trinity' does not appear in the Bible anywhere, it might be helpful to speak of the baptismal formula as stated in Christ's commission to his followers (as in Matthew 28:19), without use of the word 'trinitarian' alongside it.

It only needs to be said that Trinitarians use that verse to point out that Jesus did NOT say, "to baptise in the name of the Father, and in the name of the Son, and in the name of the Holy Spirit". He didn't say that, because that would mean three separate names. Jesus said all three - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit - have the one name.

The other thing that needs to be said is that it's wrong to try to make an argument from silence. There certainly is no record in the New Testament of any Christian baptism being performed where the very words Jesus spoke in Matthew 28:19 were repeated, and recorded. That cannot be taken as proof that no Christians in the first century ever repeated that baptismal formula.

As a trinitarian, I see no need to say anything else, because there is no proof that (as the question claims) the disciples didn't use the baptismal formula of Matthew 28:19 while performing baptisms.

  • Acts 2:38 -- Peter baptizes "in the name of Jesus Christ"; Acts 8:12 -- Philip preaches "the name of Jesus Christ" when baptizing; Acts 8:16 -- "they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus"; Acts 10:48 -- "baptized in the name of the Lord"; Acts 19:5 -- "baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus"; Acts 22:16 -- "baptized...calling on the name of the Lord"; Rom. 6:3 -- "baptized into Jesus Christ "; Gal. 3:27 -- "baptized into Christ": The evidence is ALL on baptizing in Jesus' name. Not one verse shows any other form of baptism, such as invoking the Father or the Holy Spirit.
    – Biblasia
    Nov 13, 2022 at 19:11
  • 1
    Given the evidence on hand, when you say "there is no proof that...the disciples didn't use the baptismal formula of Matthew 28:19" it's akin to saying there is no proof that Jesus didn't smoke marijuana. If doctrines are based on what is not written in the Bible, we open ourselves up to all kinds of presumption. You've said: "it's wrong to try to make an argument from silence." . . . but isn't that what you are doing?
    – Biblasia
    Nov 13, 2022 at 19:12
  • @Biblasia. No, I'm simply pointing out that the OP tried to make an argument from silence. All I'm saying on that point is that, whatever the NT does say about baptismal formulas used, that does not prove the Mat.28:19 was not also used.
    – Anne
    Nov 14, 2022 at 12:43
  • I believe the Matthew 28:19 formula was used--that's why the disciples baptized only in the name of Jesus. They understood the formula, unlike many today who think to know better than Jesus' own disciples. To say, however, that the formula is "Trinitarian" and baptism should be worded as “in the name of Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”, would most certainly be attempting to argue from the complete silence of scripture on those points. Your answer is not clearly against such an argument from silence, and if you don't mean it this way, could be improved by clarification.
    – Biblasia
    Nov 14, 2022 at 14:08

From a Trinitarian perspective, why didn’t the disciples baptize using a trinitarian formula as commanded in the Great Commission?

Going therefore, teach ye all nations; baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. - Matthew 28:19

The controversy of this subject matter will never end, but there are small glimmers of possibilities as to why here and there.

The Catholic Encyclopedia gives two possible reasons:

    1. The Disciples of Jesus might have acted with a dispensation from Christ.

Or more probably:

    1. Scripture was worded in such a way as to distinguish the Baptism in the name of Christ as to be distinguished from the Baptism of John the Baptist.

The singular form "In the name", not "names", is also to be employed, as it expresses the unity of the Divine nature. When, through ignorance, an accidental, not substantial, change has been made in the form (as In nomine patriâ for Patris), the baptism is to be held valid.

There has been a theological controversy over the question as to whether baptism in the name of Christ only was ever held valid. Certain texts in the New Testament have given rise to this difficulty. Thus St. Paul (Acts 19) commands some disciples at Ephesus to be baptized in Christ's name: "They were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus." In Acts 10, we read that St. Peter ordered others to be baptized "in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ". Those who were converted by Philip. (Acts 8) "were baptized in the name of Jesus Christ", and above all we have the explicit command of the Prince of the Apostles: "Be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of your sins (Acts 2).

Owing to these texts some theologians have held that the Apostles baptized in the name of Christ only. St. Thomas, St. Bonaventure, and Albertus Magnus are invoked as authorities for this opinion, they declaring that the Apostles so acted by special dispensation. Other writers, as Peter Lombard and Hugh of St. Victor, hold also that such baptism would be valid, but say nothing of a dispensation for the Apostles. The most probable opinion, however, seems to be that the terms "in the name of Jesus", "in the name of Christ", either refer to baptism in the faith taught by Christ, or are employed to distinguish Christian baptism from that of John the Precursor. It seems altogether unlikely that immediately after Christ had solemnly promulgated the trinitarian formula of baptism, the Apostles themselves would have substituted another. In fact, the words of St. Paul (Acts 19) imply quite plainly that they did not. For, when some Christians at Ephesus declared that they had never heard of the Holy Ghost, the Apostle asks: "In whom then were you baptized?" This text certainly seems to declare that St. Paul took it for granted that the Ephesians must have heard the name of the Holy Ghost when the sacramental formula of baptism was pronounced over them. - Baptism.

I am simply offering this answer as a possible explanation and I do not want any arguments to be held as a response.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .