This lesson (based on the reading of Acts 18:1 – 19:7), offers an investigation into one of the least taught and understood portions of the New Testament. I know of others who ignore this study because they state the conclusions were “insignificant” or “coincidental.” However, I cannot think of a portion of scripture that is either one of those. You may well disagree with the exegesis, but at least it takes a serious look at the topic. Perhaps it may help or cause any interested persons to try to understand this portion of Acts better. We are not in danger of learning too much.
The scriptures tell us that John the Baptist came teaching a “baptism of repentance for the remission of sins” prior to the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven. When he did he brought something previously unknown to the Jews. No one had ever heard of immersion for repentance for the remission of sins. In fact, baptism or immersion for any purpose, beyond cleansing was unknown to them. And, it had no link to the Old Testament teaching or the Law of Moses. They knew of the sacrifice for atonement where the sins of the people were put away – but they knew nothing of remittance. They knew of the Kingdom of Heaven and thought they were awaiting the Messiah. But, for the most part, they had a very different notion as to how those things would come about.
They came out to Aenon to hear John, and word spread that there was again a prophet in Israel (even though John did no signs). Multitudes were being baptized by him and were seeking to make things right in their lives by preparing for the coming kingdom. “Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand” is both what he and Jesus taught. Do you suppose they were being taught and believed that their sins were to be remitted when the Christ, who was to shortly follow would offer himself for the atonement? Or, do you suppose (as some do), that in spite of what the scriptures state: That John could not quite get it right and could not put his part of the Good News out clearly? Did the many who heard him misunderstand both what he said and what he taught?
Do you suppose that the baptism of John was of limited efficacy and that those who came under his baptism had to be baptized again once Christ appeared, as were the twelve men mentioned in Acts 19? Was there one water of baptism for John’s disciples, another for the disciples of Christ, and perhaps another to be saved? Is one baptism sufficient? And which one is that? Which immersion is the “one baptism” that Paul later mentioned?