Question [composite of several]: Why do you ignore the evidence in Scripture that the early church baptized “in the name of Jesus”? Even if Matthew:28:19 is correct [for the baptismal formula]…, Peter carried it out, as in Acts:2:38. Are you saying that Peter was wrong to baptize in the name of Jesus alone?
Response: “Even if Matthew:28:19 is correct?” Do you really believe that the inspired words spoken by the Lord Jesus Christ are “incorrect?” The one true God eternally exists in three Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Among those denying God’s triune nature is the United Pentecostal Church (UPC). It also teaches that baptism is necessary for salvation and that it must be done only “in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.” Yet Christ told His disciples to baptize “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” (Mt 28:19).
A major verse for the UPC is Zechariah:14:9: “And the Lord shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall there be one Lord, and his name one.” That doesn’t mean that He will have a single name—much less that it is “Lord Jesus Christ.” Moreover, “that day” hasn’t yet come, so this verse won’t help the UPC now. As the context shows, during the Millennium the entire world will know who the one true God is, and He will not be called by any false names.
Jesus said to baptize specifically in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Nothing could be more fitting to symbolize the believer’s identification with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection. The Father gave and sent the Son to be our Savior; the Son died for our sins; and it was through the Holy Spirit, by which we are born again, that Christ “offered Himself without spot to God” (Heb:9:14).
Paul demonstrated this in Ephesus when he asked whether they had received the Holy Ghost, and they said, “We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost.” Paul’s shocked response was, “Unto what then were ye baptized?” (Acts:19:2-3). Why ask about their baptism? Because no one could be baptized “in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost” and not hear of the Holy Ghost! Paul wouldn’t have asked that question if baptism was to be only “in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
The UPC also argues that “Without...water baptism...it is impossible to enter into the Kingdom of God.” Paul’s understanding of baptism, however, was quite different. He writes to the Corinthians, “I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius...and [the] household of Stephanas...” (1 Cor:1:14-16). Yet Paul calls himself the “father” of the Corinthians and explains why: “For in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel” (4:15). They had been born again into God’s family as His children, and Paul had been the means of their salvation—without baptizing them.
Paul reminds the Corinthians that they were saved through believing the gospel (1 Cor:15:3). He repeatedly declares that we are saved only by believing the gospel: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth [it]” (Rom:1:16). Salvation comes through believing the gospel, not by being baptized. Paul declared, “For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel” (1 Cor:1:17). Clearly baptism is not part of the gospel and thus has nothing to do with salvation.