The original book of Matthew has been lost since the days of Eusebius or from around 348 A.D. In legal practice where copies of an original lost document vary, the “Internal Evidence” is used to resolve the discrepancy. That is, a comparison of the undisputed text with text in question, in order to determine which of the variant wordings is more likely to be the original. With both variants in mind, we will now turn to the scriptures themselves for our internal evidence.
“Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.” (1 Thessalonians 5:21) In this verse, the Greek word translated as “prove” is dokimazo, and it means, “to test, examine, prove, scrutinize (to see whether a thing is genuine or not), to recognize as genuine after examination, to approve, deem worthy.”
In our efforts to determine which reading of Matthew 28:19 is original, we will submit both renderings to ten “tests”. In doing so, we will be able to recognize the genuine, and expose the spurious.
1. The Test of Context
When examining the context, we find that today’s Trinitarian wording lacks logical syntax, that is, the true understanding of the verse is obscured by a failure of the varying concepts to harmonize. If however, we read as follows, the whole context fits together and the progression of the instructions is comprehensible:
All power is given unto me…go therefore…make disciples in my name, teaching them…whatsoever I have commanded …I am with you… (Matthew 28:18-20)
2. The Test of Frequency
Is the phrase “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” used elsewhere in the scripture? Not once.
Did Jesus use the phrase “in my name” on other occasions? Yes, 17 times to be exact, examples are found in Matt. 18:20; Mark 9:37,39 and 41; Mark 16:17; John 14:14 and 26; John 15:16 and 16:23.
3. The Test of Doctrine
Is any doctrine or concept of scripture based on an understanding of a threefold name, or of baptism in the threefold name? None whatsoever. Is any statement in scripture based on the fact of baptism in the name of Jesus? Yes! This is clarified in 1 Corinthians 1:13: “Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?” These words, when carefully analyzed, suggest that believers should to be baptized in the name of the One who was crucified for them. The Father, in His unfathomable love, gave us His only Son to die in our stead, He being later raised to incorruptibility by the Spirit of God. But it is the Lord Jesus Himself who was crucified, and therefore in His name believers must be baptized in water.
According to Dr. Thomas, in Revealed Mystery Article XLIV:
There is but one way for a believer of ‘the things concerning the Kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ’ to put Him on, or to be invested with His name, and that is, by immersion into His name. Baptism is for this specific purpose.” “As for it’s significance, baptism is linked inseparably with the death of Christ. It is the means of the believer’s identification with the Lord’s death. – God’s Way, pg. 190. The Father did not die, nor the Holy Spirit. As the scripture says, “buried with Him (Jesus) in baptism,” not with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. (Romans 6:3-5)
R. Roberts used this explanation in “The Nature of Baptism”, page 13):
According to trine immersion, it is not sufficient to be baptized into the Son. Thus Christ is displaced from His position as the connecting link, the door of entrance, the ‘new and living way.’ And thus there are three names under heaven whereby we must be saved, in opposition to the apostolic declaration, that ‘there is none other name (than the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth) under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved.’ (Acts 4:12).
This, of course, is the same reasoning offered by Paul. Were ye baptized in the name of Paul? Or in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, or in any other name that replaces Christ from His position as the sacrificial Lamb and the only name given to us for salvation?
Based on the above understanding alone, we can ascertain the genuine text of Matthew 28:19 confirming the use of the phrase, “in my name.”
4. The Test of Analogy
Does any other scripture make reference to baptism in the Triune name? No. Does any other scripture reference baptism in the name of Jesus? Yes! The Father baptized the disciples with the gift of the Holy Spirit, a promise that came according to Jesus “in His name.” (John 14:26) This is because Jesus is the “common denominator” [Literally: Name] in both water baptism and baptism of the Holy Spirit, as made apparent by the following scriptures:
John 16:7 Nevertheless I tell you the truth; it is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.
John 14:26 But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. (See also John 7:39).
Acts 8:12 But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.
Notice that they were baptized as a result of the preaching of the name of Jesus Christ, not the titles “Father, Son and Holy Ghost.” By analogy, we should therefore be baptized in Jesus’ name, because the invoking of His Name is the catalyst of understanding that prepares us for the baptism of the Spirit, which is also given in His name. (Acts 2:38-39, 19:1-5, John 3:3-5)
5. The Test of Consequence
When we are baptized, do we “put on” the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost? No. Do we put on the name of Jesus? Yes. When we are baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, according to all baptismal accounts recorded in scripture, we are quite literally being baptized “into” the name of Jesus Christ.
Galatians 3:27 For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
No mention is made in scripture of any baptism being related to the titles of Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Every actual account mentions a clear connection with the person of Christ, and His atoning sacrifice.
6. The Test of Practice
Did the disciples, as they were implementing the “Great Commission” ever once baptize into the Trinity? Never! Did they baptize in the name of Jesus? Always! (Acts 2:38; 8:16; 10:48 (inferred); 19:5, etc.) The argument has been made when defending Triune immersion; “I would rather obey Jesus, than to imitate the Apostles.” This kind of reasoning though, places the Apostles in rebellion, and makes all Apostolic baptisms contrary to the word of God. If all of God’s Word was inspired, and it was, then we should not try to pit one verse against another, but rather seek to reconcile all of God’s Word in proper context, and rightly apply it to our lives. It is easier to believe that the disciples followed the final instructions of Christ, than to believe that they immediately disobeyed His command.
7. The Test of Significance
What significance is mentioned in scripture for baptizing believers in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost? None. What significance is conveyed toward being baptized in the name of Jesus? First, scripture teaches that baptism in the name of Jesus is an act of repentance leading to the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38). Second, baptism in His name alone is associated with the promise of God’s Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38, 19:1-5). Third, baptism in the name of Jesus is compared to our personal willingness to be living sacrifices or even die with Christ. (Romans 6:1-4 and Colossians 2:12). Fourth, being baptized into Christ is how we ‘put on’ Christ (Galatians 3:27). Fifth, baptism in His name is called the “circumcision of Christ,” and reflects our “putting off” of the man of sin, therefore becoming a “new creature in Christ Jesus.” (Colossians 2:11-12, 2 Corinthians 5:17). Baptism in the name of Jesus expresses faith in the physical life of Jesus, the crucifixion of the Son of God for our sins, and the remission of sins through His name. Trinitarian baptism can only express faith in Catholic theology itself.
8. The Test of Parallel Accounts
Matthew 28 is not the sole record in the gospels of the “Great Commission” of the Church. Luke also recorded this event in great detail. In Luke 24:46-47, he wrote of Jesus speaking in the third person: “And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations.” This passage alone, in contradiction to the falsified text, establishes the correct wording of Matthew 28:19, where Jesus spoke in the first person, “in my name.” Further, the Gospel of Mark also records another version of the “Great Commission,” using some of the same patterns of speech: “Go ye…all the world…preach the gospel…every creature …baptized…in my name…” (Mark 16:15-18) Of course, it is not baptism that “in my name” refers to here, but rather the works that the disciples would do. Yet compared to Matthew, the similarity is striking, for neither is baptism explicitly mentioned there, but that disciples should be made, “in my name.”
9. The Test of Complimentary Citation
While there is no text that offers a complimentary citation of Trinitarian baptism, there is a striking resemblance between the actual wording of Matthew 28:18-20 and Romans 1:4-5. Matthew contains the Commission of Christ to His Apostles, while the Romans account is Paul’s acceptance of his own commission as an apostle. Consider the following similarities:
Matthew 28:18-20………………………………….Romans 1:4-5
“all power is given unto Me”……………………“the Son of God with power”
“Go ye” ………………………………………………. “received…apostleship”
“teaching them to observe”………………………“for obedience to the faith”
“all nations”…………………………………………..“all nations”
“in My name”…………………………………………“for His name”
10. The Test of Principle
It is written: “whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus…” (Colossians 3:17). In this principle laid down by Paul, the implication is clear. The word “whatsoever” would of certain necessity include baptism, which is a command involving both word and deed. The traditional wording of Matthew, containing the Trinitarian wording, is clearly not in accordance with the above principle. The shorter wording, without the falsified insertion, follows this principle. This establishes which of the two wordings is the contradictory one. God’s Word does not contradict itself; rather it compliments and completes itself. Paul not only expressed this principle, but he applied it specifically to the topic of baptism. In Acts 19:1-6 there is an account concerning the disciples of John who had been baptized under his ministry. Like baptism in Jesus’ name, John’s baptism was one of repentance for the remission of sins (Mark 1:4, Acts 2:38). John message, which accompanied his baptism, was that One would come after him, who would “take away the sins of the world” and “baptize with the Holy Spirit.” Paul introduced these disciples to that One, and applied the above principle re-baptized them. “When they heard this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came upon them…” And so, applying the test of principle to our two readings in Matthew 28:19, we find very strong support for the phrase “in My name.”