Many non-trinitarians deny the Great Commission command of Jesus in Matthew 28:19 to “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” [aka the long form].
They claim that this text is a “trinitarian formula” that replaced the original which simply read: “Go and make disciples of all the nations in my name” only [aka the short form].
This supposed original “short form” removes both the command to baptize and the so-called trinitarian formula “In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.”
I was savagely reminded of this recently when I was attacked online and told “perhaps you have come out of the Trinity but the Trinity has not come out of you.”
At first I found this funny since, as some of you know, I was raised agnostic! That is someone who claims neither faith nor disbelief in God.
But the attack did not stop there!
“And I say, regarding all those souls that you have falsely baptized, shame on you, you have done them a great disservice.”
Now…although this came from a couple of people I’m sad to report that there are whole non-trinitaran denominations out there who continue to spread this rather sad and ignorant point of view.
For example, some of you might be familiar with The Way International, an ultra-dispensationalist group who popularized what’s been labeled “holy spirit baptism” over and against water baptism, since the 1970s.
You might also know some of their breakaway groups like Spirit and Truth Fellowship International who, through their Christian Educational Services publishing wing, put out their own translation of the Bible years ago called the Revised English Version (the REV).
At the time this was the first ever Bible translation in history (as far as I know) that removed and replaced the text of Matthew 28.19 because they had decreed it a trinitarian corruption. And even though they recently, but quietly, reversed this injunction (due to our influence, I hope) you can still find this in their current REV commentary:
“If baptism became a requirement for salvation during the ministry of John or Jesus, the Bible should tell us that, and it never does.”
“There is one baptism for the Christian, and it is spirit, not water….There is no reason to baptize in water today. Nevertheless, the practice continues, and sadly some even teach that it is necessary for salvation.”
But following are a few reasons why the text of Matthew 28.19 is inspired scripture.
The text as it is neither trinitarian nor a formula!
1. Manuscript, patristic evidence
The reason we know Matt 28:19 is not a corruption is simply because every single Greek manuscript has the text just as your Bible shows it.
In fact, if you check any standard critical textbook you’ll find that there are no variants and/or grammatical errors of any kind when it comes to this verse. That’s quite amazing considering the fact that scholars, to this day, continue to find so-called textual problems with many other verses.
Furthermore, apart from this textual critical analysis scholars have to rely on quotations from non-canonical Christian works and from the so-called early “Church Fathers.”
For example, the earliest known Christian document called the Didache (as early as 50AD.) even mandates would be converts “to pour out water thrice upon the head into the name of Father and Son and Holy Spirit.”
For the sake of time I won’t cite all of the 15 patristic quotes I have found but you can easily find them online.
These quotes are important because they all predate Nicaea by hundreds of years. They put to rest the notion that the long baptismal form was introduced during the Arian-Nicene battles of the 4th century. And no respectable Bible scholar or trinitarian apologist would ever claim that any of these early Christian groups, or so-called Church Fathers, were Trinitarian before 325AD!
So in order for this supposed grand conspiracy-corruption to even work you need to buy the story that some small, yet unnamed “trinitarian” (no less) breakaway group searched out and successfully either altered, changed or simply destroyed every single ancient Greek manuscript containing the so-called original, short form.
Yet, this same crackerjack group was not able to meddle with other verses where people are baptized “into the name” of Jesus only like Luke 24:47 and all the verses in the book of Acts 2:38; 8:12, 16; 10:48; 19:5!
Oh! And by the way! Like Mat 28:19, none of these verses show any textual problems!
2. Eusebius, the unitarian whistleblower
Most supporters of the supposed corruption-conspiracy theory point to the 4th century bishop Eusebius of Caesarea as their primary source.
You see, our non-trini friends argue, Eusebius quotes only the short form and not the “trinitarian” long form. That’s because Eusebius was an Arian sympathizer at the time of Nicea, i.e., he was unitarian! We know this because he’s accused by other bishops of the time with “falsifying the faith of Nicea”!
But this is only part of the story since Eusebius quotes the long baptismal form many times before 325AD and even after Nicea!
Again, for the sake of time I won’t read all of his quotations but if you’re interested they’re online as well.
Now why would this unitarian whistleblower quote a so-called “trinitarian corruption” both leading up to and after 325AD?
The truth is that if you read Eusebius’ writings he has a tendency to abbreviate many other NT verses.
So the real question you should ask yourself is: What did Jesus mean in Mat. 28:19?
First, the false premise is that Jesus is referring to an actual name in Mat 28.19. Even Trinitarians would agree that “Father, Son and Holy Spirit” is not the actual Name of their Trinity God! After all, these are clearly titles and not names as such, let alone a singular name like “Bob” or “Jane”!
Similarly, when Jesus elsewhere says “the works that I do in the name of my Father” or “I have manifested your name to the people” he wasn’t referring to the actual Divine Name, YHWH!
So obviously the word “name” in Mat 28.19 must have another meaning. And according to the context “into the name” would be better understood as a reference to either “authority,” “agenda,” “power,” or even all three!
That is, Jesus is simply describing the shared agenda and authority of the Father and the Son through the power of the Holy Spirit.
So my fellow non-trinis should not be alarmed by the fact that this triadic baptismal scheme [if you will] of Father, Son and Holy Spirit is quoted or alluded to throughout the Apostolic writings: Titus 3.5-6
“God our Saviour saved us through the washing into a new life by the Holy Spirit, poured out upon us through Jesus.”
1 Corinthians 6.11
“You were sinners. But you have been washed/purified and made holy, and you have received God’s approval in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.”
1 Peter 1.1-2
“The foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ.”
Also see: 2 Corinthians 1.21-22; 3.14; Hebrews 9.14
Again, the Apostles are simply describing the one indivisible experience that the would-be convert has after obeying Jesus’ commandment to be baptized.
This was to be a public demonstration of their Conversion-Baptism-Integration into the one body that is the Christian church community.
Note that at Pentecost, after the Apostles were baptized by God’s spirit, they preached to the people who “were pierced to the heart” and then asked “What should we do, brothers?”
Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Acts 2.38
This is obviously a reference to water baptism.
Peter did not say “be baptized in holy spirit so you can receive holy spirit.”
Actually what he says is “Baptism…saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”