WHY DO MATTHEW 28:19 AND ACTS 2:38 SAY DIFFERENT THINGS?
by Shawn Brasseaux
Water baptism, the most divisive issue within Christendom, is rightly called “religious TNT.” There is tremendous confusion about water baptism. Who should administer it (priest, pastor, deacon)? What is the proper mode (sprinkling, pouring, immersion)? What words should be said? Who should be water baptized (adults only, or adults and babies)? How many times forward and backward? Where should it occur? For salvation, for a testimony, or not at all?
Two particular verses regarding this topic are Matthew 28:19 and Acts 2:38.
Jesus Christ commanded His twelve apostles, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:” (Matthew 28:19).
Strangely, we read in 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, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.”
Does the Bible contain a mistake here? How do we resolve Jesus Christ’s instructions in Matthew 28:19 with what the Holy Spirit spoke through the Apostle Peter in Acts 2:38? Do you see why people get confused when they read the Bible? The Bible seems to be contradicting itself, does it not? Which is it? Water baptize “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost,” as Jesus Christ declared (Matthew 28:19)? Or, be baptized “in the name of Jesus Christ,” as the Holy Spirit through the Apostle Peter taught (Acts 2:38)? Even today, some denominations follow Matthew 28:19 while others obey Acts 2:38, fervently accusing each other of not having the valid baptism!
Resolving the apparent contradiction between Matthew 28:19 and Acts 2:38 is as simple as reading and believing the verses and their context. To whom does Matthew 28:19 refer? “All nations”—Gentiles—just as the verse says. Whom does Acts 2:38 involve? “All the house of Israel” (verse 36).
Matthew 28:19 refers to believing Gentiles in Christ’s millennial kingdom (verse 20) being cleansed from their pagan idolatry and embracing the triune Godhead, the only true God. Acts 2:38 is God’s plan of salvation for Israel: Peter is instructing Jews to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, the Person they rejected and crucified on Calvary’s cross. Peter said, “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36), and then he urged to be baptized in Jesus’ name (verse 38).