Does baptism in the name of Jesus mean in the authority of Jesus?

There is no account of any baptism performed in the name of the Trinity. Some try to explain away the scriptural examples of baptism in the name of Jesus by claiming this phrase refers to baptizing by the power or authority of Christ. They argue that this does not mean that the disciples actually called on the name of Jesus at baptism. Do the accounts in Acts simply mean that the disciples baptized with the authority of Christ but said, “in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost?”

 1. Matthew 28:19 is not a formula, but rather it is a reference to Christ's authority.

The Greek wording for the phrase, “in the name of” is identical in Matthew and in Acts. There is no grammatical reason to give preference to the account in Matthew 28 as the formula for baptism. Is it more likely that the correct method of baptism was mentioned one time in one gospel and never repeated or that the correct method of baptism was repeated multiple times? Is it possible that Jesus in giving His commandment in Matthew 28 was letting the disciples know that when they baptized in His name it would be with the full authority of God?

Matthew 28:18-19 (NKJV)

And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 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,

In context, it seems quite clear that the baptism command in Matthew 28 is not a formula at all, but it emphasizes the authority that Christ and His name have. The disciples knew Jesus as a humble man. He was their friend. Now He was claiming His full Deity and acknowledging that He had all power in heaven and earth.

 Philippians 2:10

that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth,

 2. Father, Son, and Holy Ghost aren’t names.

If we are to obey, Matthew 28:19, we must know what the name of the Father is. We must know what the name of the Son is. We must know what the name of the Holy Ghost is.

Jesus said that He came in His Father’s name (John 5:43) and that the Holy Ghost would come in His name (John 14:26)

 3. The phrase, “in the name” accentuates the fact that a single name is in view.

 The “Father, Son, and Holy Ghost” all describe the singular name. They are descriptions not names, but even if they were, we would need to determine which of the names, Father, Son, or Holy Ghost, that we are to baptize in. It can only be "in the name of" not "In the names of ."

This is not just a silly grammar lesson. The exact wording in scripture is inspired. In Galatians 3, Paul showed that salvation is available through Christ based on a particular detail of the Old Testament text.  

 Galatians 3:16

16 Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as of many, but as of one, “And to your Seed,” who is Christ.

Paul’s entire argument is based on God’s promise to Abraham's seed and not to his seeds. It was not for the many natural seeds of Abraham, but rather the promise was to the one seed, Christ. We see that there is scriptural precedent that whether a word is singular or plural can have serious theological consequences.

 What is the singular name that we should baptize in? Jesus is the only name given for salvation (Acts 4:12). It is far above every name that is named (Ephesians 1:21).

 Colossians 3:17

17 And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus

4. Baptism is for the remission or forgiveness of sins and for salvation. The name of Jesus is the only name with the power to forgive sins and save.

 1 Peter 3:21

21 The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ:

 Acts 4:12

12 Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.

 Acts 2:38

Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins…

 1 John 2:12

12 I write to you, little children,
Because your sins are forgiven you for His name’s sake.

 Acts 10:43

43 To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins.”

 5. Acts not only instructs us to be baptized in Jesus name, it very clearly demonstrates that when the disciples acted in Jesus's name that they called out His name.

 Jesus said that His disciples would cast out devils in his name and heal the sick in his name (Mark 16).

Paul cast out devils by invoking the name of Jesus.

Acts 16:18

But Paul, being grieved, turned and said to the spirit, I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her. And he came out the same hour.

 Peter healed the sick by speaking the name of Jesus,

Acts 3:6

6 Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk.

These miracles were performed "in the name of Jesus" by saying His name aloud. How much greater of a miracle is God washing away all of our mistakes and sins in the waters of baptism? When we are asking for the forgiveness of sins, we shouldn’t speak His name? When we baptize in His name, we shouldn’t call on His name?  I won’t even pray over my food without saying "Jesus" much less ask for salvation from my past without using His name.

 Acts 22:16 clearly shows that baptizing in the name of Jesus means calling out the name of the Lord.

Acts 22:16

16 And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.

 This can also be seen in Acts 2.

Acts 2:21, 38

21 And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved… 38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

 6. No one is ever instructed to be baptized “in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.” Peter instructed "everyone” to be baptized in Jesus name.

The phrase “in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost” was used in Jesus's instructions to the disciples that were going to be doing the baptizing. He only used this expression after opening their understanding to the scriptures. The disciples were responsible to fulfill the Lord’s command. They all left with the same understanding of His intentions. This is first seen in Acts 2:38 when Peter stood up with all the apostles and gave the command, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins”.  

What – Repent and Be Baptized

Who – Everyone of You

How – In the name of Jesus Christ

Why – For the Remission of Sins

This commandment was given to instruct sinners concerning what they should do (Acts 2:37). We are all responsible to obey this command. In fact, every single baptism in the New Testament church was done exclusively in Jesus's name. Every sinner that was given instructions on baptism was told to be baptized in the Lord's name. They were all baptized in the one saving name.

7. When examining the evidence, it is clear that the early church baptized exclusively by calling on the name of Jesus.

Ephesians 4:5

5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism;

There is only one baptism. If you were given a Bible and told to find the "one baptism," what would your conclusion be? How should you be baptized? Just looking at the evidence, which one is it?

Baptism in the name (singular) of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost

1. Matthew 28:19

Baptism in the name of Jesus

1. Luke 24:47

2. Acts 2:38

3. Acts 8:12

4. Acts 8:16

5. Acts 8:35-38

6. Acts 10:48

7. Acts 19:5

8. Acts 22:16

9. Romans 6:4

10. Galatians 3:27

11. Col. 2:8-12

12. I Cor.6:11

The one mention of "the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost” is easily explained. Judging from their actions, it was obviously understood by those present as referring to the name of Jesus. Jesus’s commandment is not intended to be parroted but rather to be obeyed. Have you been baptized in that one name?