There are some who have put forward the notion that there was a difference between what John had baptized for and what Jesus’ disciples later baptized for. Then some extract from that: those who were baptized by John must have needed to be baptized again to be baptized “into Christ.” Such notions move in and out of a shadowy scriptural world where less is really said than might at first be thought, but where what was said is more than enough for us to rest our hope of salvation upon.
When looking into this it is recommended that, as learners, we should read Acts eighteen for the history and information, and then the first seven verses of Acts chapter nineteen through a few times. A second useful tool is to take a pencil or highlighter (a pencil has been said to be “one of the best of eyes”), and circle or underline any word or phrase that catches your attention in the readings. The last thing that might be useful is to write down all the major points. By using these tools, facts can be identified. And facts are funny little things.
The passage in question (Acts 19:1-7) reads as follows:
And it happened, while Apollos was at Corinth, that Paul, having passed through the upper regions, came to Ephesus. And finding some disciples said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said to him, “We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.” And he said to them, “Into what then were you baptized?” So, they said, “Into John’s baptism.”
Then Paul said, “John indeed baptized with a baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe on Him who would come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.” When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied. Now the men were about twelve in all.
With the passages in Acts (Acts 18, and 19:1-7) read and re-read, these are some of the important point we should have identified . First, these events took place at Ephesus, with the men in the narrative all identified as “disciples.” Second, Paul had asked a question of them: “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” He asked this and another question that is recorded, but this question frames the inquiry surrounding the events. Their answer to the first question was, “We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.” When queried further they answered that they only knew of and had been baptized “into John’s Baptism.” Third: Paul proceeded to teach them about Christ as is implied in the statement “John indeed baptized with a baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe on Him who would come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.” Then the record states, “…they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.”