In Acts 19, we read:

19:1 While Apollos was in Corinth, Paul went through the inland regions and came to Ephesus. He found some disciples there 19:2 and said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” They replied, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” 19:3 So Paul said, “Into what then were you baptized?” “Into John’s baptism,” they replied. 19:4 Paul said, “John baptized with a baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, in Jesus.” 19:5 When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus, 19:6 and when Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they began to speak in tongues and to prophesy. 19:7 (Now there were about twelve men in all.) [NET Bible]

This is the only time in the New Testament that any kind of rebaptism for disciples is explicitly mentioned. There are times, such as Acts 2, where we might assume at least some of the new believers had already undergone a Jewish ablution as it was a Jewish practice but their belief is new and the baptism as disciples of Christ is new. Consistently throughout Acts, Luke only calls followers of Jesus "disciples" so these men are believers in Jesus.

Why does Paul rebaptize the twelve disciples of Ephesus?

  • And I expanded my answer to show that Luke repeatedly draws a distinction between the two.
    – Frank Luke
    Jun 14, 2017 at 17:14
  • 2
    @user33515 I can't even see how you're getting where you're getting. This question has absolutely nothing to do with spirit baptism but only the two baptisms in water they received, first that of John then that in Jesus' name. Their receiving of the Spirit by laying on of hands is not part of my question.
    – Frank Luke
    Jun 14, 2017 at 23:11
  • Forget it. I deleted all my comments to this question and to your answer to the related question - which is really what prompted my comments to this one.
    – user33515
    Jun 14, 2017 at 23:24

7 Answers 7


The re-baptism of the eleven disciples from Ephesus was significant, as it points out the difference between the baptism of John and the baptism required after Christ's sacrifice on the cross. John's baptism was the one which was transitional, calling the people to repentance before the old covenant had been nailed to the cross (Matt. 3:2).

When Peter and the apostles were preaching on the day of Pentecost, a new covenant baptism for the remission of sins in the name of Christ was instituted, and there was no distinction called out for any that had already been baptized by John. They all had to be re-baptized in the name of Christ, and that would have also applied to the apostles. It is a matter of deduction that this must have been a universal requirement. Otherwise, Paul would not have made this distinction with the eleven disciples in Acts 19.

If the baptism of John was sufficient, Paul would have just proceeded with the laying on of hands to give them the gift of the Holy Spirit promised to that generation. That Paul even asked the question meant that he was in the habit of asking that question of the disciples as he came to them. The gift of the Holy Spirit was only made available after Christ's crucifixion (Acts 2:38-39), and was only available after the laying on of the hands of the apostles or one of their appointed presbyters (Timothy).

The gift of the Holy Spirit was promised to that generation for the miracles that confirmed the authority of the word from God, ie: prophesy, healing, speaking in foreign languages (tongues), etc. It was not a result of the baptism! If it was an automatic result of baptism, then Paul would not have had to lay hands on any of them after they were baptized in the name of Christ.

Notice what Paul tells Timothy in 1 Tim. 5:22,

"Lay hands suddenly on no man, neither be partaker of other men's sins: keep thyself pure."

The caution to Timothy was to be certain that the disciple was a true believer who had repented of his/her sins and had been baptized before he/she be given a gift of the Holy Spirit.

Many people confuse the promise of the gift of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2:38 to be an automatic result of baptism. But, they forget to read on to verse 39 which is connected by the conjunction "for."

" For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call."

The promise was to them - those of the first century AD, to their children, and to those far off gentiles who had yet to be grafted in (Cornelius, Acts 10:25-48). The gift of the Holy Spirit aided in the authentication of the word of God because the gospels and epistles had not yet been written and were not yet in circulation.

Acts 2:22,

"Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know:"

The miracles of the Holy Spirit confirmed the word. Peter told them that what they were seeing and hearing on that Pentecost day in that first century AD was what the prophet Joel had told them would happen (Acts 2:16). Those gifts were for a special generation, and a special time to establish the gospel of Christ with authority in the hearts of the people.

So, when Paul came to the eleven disciples from Ephesus and learned that they did not know of any gift of the Holy Spirit, he knew they had not been baptized in the name of Christ.

The three exceptions to the sequence were those who had received the Holy Spirit before their baptism... the apostles on the day of Pentecost (Jewish believers, Acts 2); Paul at the house of Judas in Damascus(apostate and converted Jew, Acts 9:3-18); and the house of Cornelius (gentile).

As we know that both Paul and the house of Cornelius were baptized with water after the Holy Spirit fell upon them, then the baptism in the name of Christ was still required of them.

God is not a respecter of persons (Acts 10:34), therefore all are required to meet the same conditions:

"Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins..." (Acts 2:38)

And some may say that baptism was of the Holy Ghost, and of fire, citing John's statement to the Pharisees and Sadducees in Matt. 3:11 -

"I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance. but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: 12 Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire."

John was not speaking of their conversion. He was telling the unbelieving Pharisees and Sadducees of the fire of God's judgment that would fall on them for denying and crucifying the Messiah. The fire of God's wrath is judgment language from all OT prophesy, and John used it in Matt. 3 against that "generation of vipers". (See Ezek. 22:31; Jer. 21:12; Nah. 1:6)

Luke 12:49,

" I am come to send fire on the earth; and what will I, if it be already kindled?"

Jesus used the same language that was used in all OT prophesy warning them of the judgment to come on that generation. (Matt. 3:10, Luke 3:9).

So, those disciples in Ephesus had to be re-baptized in the name of Christ before they could receive the promised gift of the Holy Spirit. The gifts of the Holy Spirit were for that special generation of the first century AD, and faded after the second appearance of Christ in AD 70 after the destruction of Jerusalem. As those of that generation died off, so did the miraculous gifts.

But the first part of the requirement of Acts 2:38 is still required of everyone.

  • "The gift of the Holy Spirit was promised to that generation for the miracles that confirmed the authority of the word from God, ie: prophesy, healing, speaking in foreign languages (tongues), etc. It was not a result of the baptism! If it was an automatic result of baptism, then Paul would not have had to lay hands on any of them after they were baptized in the name of Christ." Excellent point. One might also consider Acts 8:14ff - And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles' hands the Holy Spirit was given ...
    – user33515
    Jun 16, 2017 at 13:46
  • Yes. We just have to read more carefully. His word is very complete, and surface reading is not enough.
    – Gina
    Jun 16, 2017 at 22:29
  • I concur with Gina, you can't just skim over baptism scriptures, using Evelyn Wood Reading Dynamics (I'm dating myself here.) You have to go over them painstakingly, and that's not fun, it's hard work.
    – moron
    Apr 30, 2022 at 22:03

In my understanding, there are some differences between John baptism and Jesus (in water). John was baptizing people who repent, Jesus, however, added some "specifications" to how people should be baptized (John obviously didn't follow, since he was already dead when Jesus has thought his disciples about that). Here you can check:

Go then, and make disciples of all the nations, giving them baptism in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit: Teaching them to keep all the rules which I have given you: and see, I am ever with you, even to the end of the world. Mt 28:19,20

Compare to John's:

John came, and gave baptism in the waste land, preaching baptism as a sign of forgiveness of sin for those whose hearts were changed. Mark 1:4

So, in my understanding, to receive Jesus baptism, one should not only change its heart (and wait for the one that was to come after him), but also believe and follow Jesus. Also, Jesus baptism was "in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit". Two differences that might have been the reason for the re-baptism.


The Old Covenant 'Baptism of John' (Baptism of Repentance/Water) vs. the New Covenant Sacrament of Baptism (Water and the Spirit)

The Baptism of John was a separate thing from New Covenant baptism—which is a sacrament. John's was not a sacrament, since it did not actually confer grace, namely, New Testament Redemption through the blood and merits of Jesus Christ, applied through the act of baptism.

The Baptism of John did not constitute a sacrament (any real giving of grace through the use of outward signs or matter), since:

  • it was not ordained directly by God
  • no specific or explicit offer of grace, by God, was offered for performing it. It only functioned as other acts of penance could have, “repentence unto the forgiveness of sins:”

Mark 1:4

John was in the desert baptizing, and preaching the baptism of repentance, unto forgiveness of sins.

cf. Matthew 3:6

Not “the forgiveness of sins:”

Acts 2:38

And Peter said to them: Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of your sins: and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

Acts 22:16

And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on his name.

This slight distinction is important.

The utlimate end of the Baptism of John and the New Covenant sacrament is the same: forgiveness of sins. But the Baptism of John serves only to faciliate an attitude of repentance (Matthew 3:11)—a penitential attitude, hence Jerome's rendering the “do penance”. It doesn't so much merit forgiveness as produce that which leads us to a place where God is willing to forgive. The Baptism of John is simply to foster a sense of regret and repentance from sin (Matthew 3:11). Which will merit forgiveness not in the sense of earning it, as if God owed it, but in the sense that God is willing to forgive “if we confess our sins:”

Matthew 3:6 (Old Covenant)

And were baptized by [John] in the Jordan, confessing their sins.

1 John 1:9 (New Covenant)

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all iniquity.

The matter or physical element of the baptism was also the same (water):

Mark 1:8

I [John] have baptized you with water; but he [Jesus] shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit.

(The Spirit descending while Jesus is baptized with water foreshadowed this sacrament, and what occurs in it—Matthew 3:16; John 1:32)

John 3:5

Jesus answered: Amen, amen [a solemn truth] I say to thee, unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

We notice that they are not mututally exclusive: the Baptism instituted by Jesus is outwardly symbolized with matter (water) while inwardly conferring the grace given us through the Holy Ghost merited by Christ's Passion and death. This was further symbolized by the "living waters" (a Hebraism which means running, moving, gushing waters; one of the most common ways Scripture refers to the Holy Spirit) which flowed from the side of Christ as He hung on the Cross.. mingled with His blood (John 19:34): both are applied to the soul at baptism.

The blood of Christ applied and the Spirit given.

The Sacrament of Baptism

St. Peter describes the sacrament of Baptism as that which is “unto the forgiveness of your sins.” That is, in putting on Christ we recieve of the benefits of His Redemption.

Contrast this with the so-called Baptism of John which was a mere act of faith, leading to an outward repentence unto the forgiveness of sins and thus forgiveness by God on account of "an appeal to God" for a clean slate, as it were, and initial recieving of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38-29; 22:16) but since it confers New Covenant grace, this sacrament of baptism “now saves you” (1 Peter 3:18-21; cf. Ezekiel 36:25; 1 Corinthians 6:11), since it actually confers grace: New Covenant Redemption.

St. Paul described New Covenant/Testament baptism as that moment and act when one “[puts] on Christ” (Galatians 3:27) being 'put to death,' spiritually, with Christ: he teaches us that “through baptism” we are “buried with Christ”, and, on account of this walk in newness of life, being new creations (Romans 6:3-4; 2 Corinthians 5:17).

Acts 19

“Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?”

St. Paul asks this because he is ascertaining whether they have been baptized with the Baptism of John, a “baptism of repentance,” (Matthew 3:11; Acts 19:4) and in which the Holy Spirit is not given to the believer, or the sacrament of baptism wherein “you shall recieve the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38; John 3:5; Mark 1:8).


Acts 18:25

This man was instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, spoke, and taught diligently the things that are of Jesus, knowing only the baptism of John. [i.e which is insufficient]

The baptism of John, as we can see, is inadequate for effecting change such as given in the sacrament of Baptism, wherein we recieve the Holy Spirit and are renewed and 'created' anew:

Titus 3:5

Not by works done in righteousness, which we did ourselves, but according to his mercy he saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit

cf. Ezekiel 36:25

Thus, St. Paul is simply ascertaining who needs baptized—given the New Testament sacramenf of Baptism—and who doesn't.

  • 1
    When Jesus said "I will baptize you with the Holy Spirt", that should not be taken to mean "You don't need water baptism anymore, folks." People have gone completely off the rails on this point.
    – moron
    Apr 30, 2022 at 22:10
  • Literally every heresy would be solved if people refused to adopt a separate faith from the faith of the only church Jesus actually founded. Literally all of them. You can't be a heretic and be part of the church because your heretical beliefs are considered heretical and you can't remain in it. That's why a church was founded to begin with lol. Apr 30, 2022 at 22:19

"It is a matter of deduction that this must have been a universal requirement. Otherwise, Paul would not have made this distinction with the eleven disciples in Acts 19."

I have a different take. Peter asked them if they had heard about the gift of the Holy Spirit. When they answered in the negative, Peter realized they were baptized by someone without authority because they said they were baptized unto John's baptism but John ALWAYS preached that one would come after him who would baptize them with fire and the holy spirit.

Their baptism wasnt valid because it was done by someone who professed to follow John but hafn't receive the authority otherwise they would have mentioned Christ would come to complete the ordinances necessary for eternal life.


Baptism has benefits, although it's questionable if its performance confers salvation or if its non performance prevents salvation. Apart from salvation, baptism seems to avert wrath, since the Jews pestered John to be baptised by him, for that purpose. So we can assume that the disciples of John in Acts 19 were safe from wrath, an attribute shared by the remnant of Israel. They would not be rejoicing, but be mourning, as John's message was a funeral dirge. Confessing they were sinners, they would accept the situation sinners found themselves in, saved from wrath, but wandering in the wilderness, living in leanness. To clarify, the sin was in not living selfless lives required to serve God, but serving selfishness. The salvation process was reinstated, on repentance, changing, giving the extra coat to those without, but required following, believing in Christ, to be operationalised.

Acts 19 (NASB)

4Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in Him who was coming after him, that is, in Jesus.”

Paul's command to them to be baptised again, was in order for them to receive the benefits of following Christ.

Baptism in the name of Christ leads to the giving of the Holy Spirit, towards edification, building up of faith. Witness the situation of Israel in the wilderness. The text says they were baptised into Moses and were under a cloud and drank from the Rock and the Rock was Christ.

1 Corinthians 10(NASB)

1For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea; 2and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea; 3and all ate the same spiritual food; 4and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ.

What really happened? Israel was exposed to situations where she was at risk and God rescued. This was meant to show Israel that she would never be unprotected, as long as God was with her, conditional on loyalty, belief in God's power. You see a parallel in Abraham's situation, when He was exposed to risk to his life, on account of Sarah. Although he lied, it didn't take him out of danger, and his rescue was clearly through God's help.

These situations teaches two things, lessons Abraham learnt, but Israel did not. Abraham intuited that God required him to trust him, to be saved from danger. Second, these rescues were connected to the promise that the world would be blessed through him and his descendants. They were situations in which the great works of God would be displayed, so that those witnessing them would be motivated to serve God, like Abraham served God. You see similar parallels in the great works God empowered Christ and Moses with.

Exodus 4(NASB)

1Then Moses said, “What if they will not believe me or listen to what I say? For they may say, ‘The LORD has not appeared to you.’” 2The LORD said to him, “What is that in your hand?” And he said, “A staff.” 3Then He said, “Throw it on the ground.” So he threw it on the ground, and it became a serpent; and Moses fled from it. 4But the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand and grasp it by its tail”—so he stretched out his hand and caught it, and it became a staff in his hand— 5“that they may believe that the LORD, the God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to you.”


John 9(NASB)

3Jesus answered, “It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him.

So when God asked Abraham to sacrifice Isaac as an offering, Abraham thought that the event was just another opportunity to display God's great work, believing that God would raise his son back from the dead.

Hebrews 11(NASB)

19He considered that God is able to raise people even from the dead, from which he also received him back as a type.


Baptism in the name of Christ inducts a believer into edification, building up of faith, required to manifest God's great works, to motivate the world to serve God, just as the believer served God, thus blessing the world.


John baptized in the titles because Jesus had not yet been glorified. Jesus gave Peter the keys to the kingdom and told him that whatsoever he bound on Earth would be bound in heaven and whatsoever he loosed on Earth would be loosed in Heaven. In Acts 2:38 Peter presented those keys to us, binding the baptism of John and loosing baptism in Jesus name. No one was baptized after that in the ‘titles’ and those that had been baptized to the ‘baptism of John’ were baptized again in the name of Jesus. If we are not baptized in Jesus name we, effectively, ‘deny him before man’ and must accept that he will deny us no matter what miracles we ‘perform’ in his name.

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    Apr 19, 2022 at 23:59

Acts 2:38, Peter told those "cut to the heart" to repent and be baptized so that their sins would be forgiven and they would receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. John the Baptist never promised the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Matt 3:11) John baptized with water for repentance. The men of Acts 19 did not receive the gift of the Holy Spirit since they had never participated in baptism other than John's baptism of repentance. The result of the 12 men being rebaptized was them speaking in tongues (Acts 19:6). One can conclude that their second baptism was for the purpose of receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit (tongue speaking).

  • I'm not sure I would conclude that. The Holy Spirit is, itself, a "gift", but not to be confused with "gifts OF the Spirit", such as speaking in tongues. Speaking in tongues was given to some select individuals, not because they were special folks, but rather to give glory to God as a witness to unbelievers.
    – moron
    Apr 30, 2022 at 22:20

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