The "Rebaptisms" of Acts 19

Discussion in 'Baptist Theology & Bible Study' started by rlvaughn, Jan 9, 2006.

  1. rlvaughn

    rlvaughn
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    On my blogsite, I started a topic entitled The "Rebaptisms" of Acts 19. I expected discussion but didn't get any, so I'm posting it here to get your thoughts. Feel free as well to go there and comment.

    Why did these people at Ephesus need baptism? They were baptized "unto John's baptism". A number of ideas have been posited -- because they had not received the Holy Spirit; they were not saved; that John's baptism was not Christian baptism, and perhaps others. I think these are untenable, though I am not sure I can offer an alternate explanation.

    The first two are usually tied together in the minds of folks that hold the idea. They did not have the Holy Spirit, so therefore they had not been born again, saved, regenerated, or whatever terminology they use to refer to faith in Christ through believing the Gospel. For example: "Rebaptism in the New Testament seemingly occurred only when a group of people never had received the Holy Spirit, who is the seal of salvation. Although the dozen people had John's baptism, they were then properly baptized as they trusted in Jesus and received the promised Holy Spirit." But this interpretation creates a problem with the Samaritan believers' experience (see Acts 8:5-17). The believers in Samaria were baptized, then afterwards the Apostles came to Samaria and laid their hands on them, and they received (same as Acts 19) the Holy Ghost. They WERE NOT "re"baptized. Compare the similarities of Acts 8:14-17 and Acts 19:6. If the absence of the manifestation of the Holy Spirit invalidated the baptism of these Ephesians, why not the Samaritans? Consider also that these Ephesians are plainly called "disciples" and "believers".

    Something lacking in John's baptism is another main reason given for these folks needing to be baptized. Apparently a number of the Anabaptists so believed. The Easton Illustrated Dictionary states, "John's Baptism was not Christian baptism...those whom John baptized were rebaptized by Paul." But consider: (1). John's authority was from heaven. Compare Matthew 21:25-27 and John 1:6. (2). John the Baptist preached the Holy Ghost (of whom they professed they had not heard). Compare v. 2 & Matthew 3:11. (3). John required evidence of repentance (Matt. 3:8), and no one can experience it without the influence and work of the Holy Ghost. (4). Their answer (v. 3 "Unto John's baptism"; eis to Ioannou baptisma) implies that they were not actually baptized by John, but perhaps by someone following his teachings. (5). Apollos, a disciple of John ("knowing only the baptism of John", Acts 18:25,26) was not "re"baptized. He only needed further instruction, which he received from Aquilla and Priscilla.

    If not these, then what? I would like to follow the interpretation of John Gill, who wrote, "...these are the words of the Apostle Paul, giving an account of John's baptism, and of the success of his ministry, showing, that his baptism was administered in the name of the Lord Jesus..." In other words, in verse 5, Luke is still recording what Paul is saying about people being baptized by John, rather than stating that the Ephesians were baptized. If Gill is correct, no actual baptisms occur in the Acts 19:1-7 pericope. Just discussion of John's baptism. As I said, I would like to follow Gill -- seems to wrap up and cut off any further questions about "re"baptism. I just can't see it fitting the sentence structure and context.

    That leaves me with only one other option of which I can think -- these disciples in Ephesus had been baptized by someone who had heard John preach the Messiah and then picked up an incomplete message and ran with it. This person would have been unauthorized to adminster John's baptism. This is similar to the position laid out by Elder David Pyle, "...those people were rebaptized. This was done notwithstanding the fact that those people were sincere in their convictions when they were first baptized, and notwithstanding the fact that the Bible considered them to be believers when they were first baptized." I certainly hate to hang theology out on supposes, but I've not been given a better answer.
     
  2. Helen

    Helen
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    Read your post awhile ago, and then had a cup of tea and fooled around on a couple of other threads, reading, responding, still thinking about this one.

    I'm not sure WHY, exactly, as a believer is a believer is a believer...

    But I think there is a picture here and one I have considered for a long time. I was just nervous about bringing it up here.

    Sometimes, when I am reading Bible, other passages will spring to mind and I will start exploring with connections between them. That is what sparked the following -- it started a number of years ago and I still am considering it, from the Bible alone, perhaps pretty accurate (not to a Calvinist, but I'm ready for the onslaught!):

    John the Baptist came ahead of Jesus, preparing the way.

    Preparing the way was repentance. His baptism was one of repentance, not of renewal.

    Every religion in the world is based on the inside knowledge every man has that something is not right, or needs fixing, or exchanging, or whatever. But no horse or dog or cat feels this way! Only man.

    Most people SEEM (I refuse to judge) to make excuses for themselves -- "Compared with Joe Blow, I'm not half bad!", or "If you knew the way I was raised...", or "Hey, the good I do really outweighs the bad, so I'm OK." This attitude is totally fed into by the New Age garbage and the "I'm OK, you're OK" stuff.

    But some don't buy it. Some respond to the truth the Lord confronts them with regarding the state of their own lives and instead of making excuses, they want to change. They are not at all fond of the mess they see inside themselves! Some call it low self-esteem and try to boost it artificially, but that is not the answer, as we know, at all.

    Nevertheless, some people don't like who they are and want to change.

    And that may well be the "baptism of John" in today's world. Admitting sin, however the person calls it at that point (maybe "I'm just not the person I want to be and I can't seem to get there!"), is part of repentance.

    But that is not enough.

    Jesus said, "Many are called, but few are chosen." "Seek the narrow way."

    Those who want to change are certainly invited by God to look at the truth of Christ and the change that is possible there.

    But again, it seems most people who want to change would rather have a go at it themselves. They strive for money, education, inner peace, physical beauty, good works....the list is pretty long. But all of it is a way a person tries to change himself. And he can't.

    Because there has to be 'step two.' One has to give up to Christ. One has to be willing to be put to death by our Lord and raised again as a new creature.

    And THAT, in its real essence, is the baptism of Christ, as Paul states in Romans 6:3.

    It is not enough to repent. John's baptism, whether real as a symbol or simply symbolic in and of itself, is only the first step. Only the preparation for Christ.

    Being killed and raised by Him and following Him is the second step. One cannot simply repent of being something, the old creature. But, then, one cannot be willing to die if one does not repent, can one?

    So it seems to me to be a two-step process, represented by the 'two baptisms.'

    Fire away...
     
  3. garpier

    garpier
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    Perhaps the reason is right in the text. They said they had not heard of the Holy Ghost but John had talked about Jesus coming and baptizing in the Holy Ghost. It would seem that these men had not heard the complete message of John and perhaps were not saved. Then when they heard the message they were saved and baptized after their salvation
     
  4. Scarlett O.

    Scarlett O.
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    I understand everything that you are saying, Helen. You make perfect sense to me.

    I sort of see it as they had a incomplete understanding of salvation.

    They were anticipating something and wanted to get their "life in order" in repenting and preparing for it, but they never quite reached it.

    To me, their baptism must have been a baptism saying, "I believe what John the Baptist is saying about Someone coming who will be our deliverer and I want to be obedient and repent in preparation for it."

    Because they did not know of the Holy Spirit and had not been indwelled by the Holy Spirit, they were not actually saved. The Holy Spirit, according to the Bible, dwells inside the believer. If he was not present in them, then they weren't saved.

    Because they were so ready to receive Paul's teachings and so ready to go beyond the fruition of their initial baptism to fully surrendering to Christ, then after they were truly made into the likeness of Jesus Christ by full and true salvation, then Paul was able to annoint them with marvelous gifts.

    These gifts, obviously, not being necessary for salvation, but were according to the will of God, bestowed on these people.

    The first baptism was a nice gesture of believing and trusting the words of a prophet.

    It changed them, but it did not save them.

    The second baptism was an act of obedience, not to a prophet nor to Paul, but to God, Himself. It was a true surrender to the saving sacrifice of Christ and the open-armed acceptance of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

    That's what saved them.

    Peace-
    Scarlett O.
    &lt;&gt;&lt;
     
  5. genesis12

    genesis12
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    Baptism is an act of obedience following salvation. One is not baptized in order to be saved, or in order to receive Christ as Savior. John's baptism was by a Jew for Jews under the old economy: law. There was no saving grace in that act. After these 12 had that explained, they received Christ as Savior and were simultaneously filled with the Holy Spirit. Then they were baptized (not for salvation) as an act of obedience under the new economy: grace. [​IMG]
     
  6. Scarlett O.

    Scarlett O.
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    OK, People!! You know you have been spending WAY too much time on the BB when you started quoting YOURSELF! [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    This statement I made is misleading and it was too late for me to edit it, so let me say it again, with clarification.

    "The second baptism was an act of obedience, not to a prophet nor to Paul, but to God, Himself. It came AFTER a true surrender to the saving sacrifice of Christ and the open-armed acceptance of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

    That's
    (the surrender and the acceptance) what saved them."

    My apologies if my original statement sounded like baptism saved you.

    It does not. [​IMG]

    Peace-
    S.O.
    &lt;&gt;&lt;
     
  7. rlvaughn

    rlvaughn
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    Thanks for the comments thus far. I have a couple of questions.
    Scarlet, how do explain the similarities between the incident in Acts 19 and the Samaritan believers in Acts 8? They seem almost identical, except it doesn't say that the Samaritans had not heard of the Holy Ghost, and they were not baptized again. I wonder also, does one have to be properly instructed about the Holy Ghost in order to be indwelt by Him? IOW, could one be indwelt by the Holy Ghost even though he/she had not been taught that believers are indwelt by the Holy Ghost?
    Am I understanding that you're saying their baptism was no longer good because performed by John under the law economy? If so, why was not Apollos rebaptized? He knew only the baptism of John (Acts 18).

    Thanks.
     
  8. MikeinGhana

    MikeinGhana
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    The book of Acts is a transitional book. We must be careful about formulating doctrine strictly based on what we read there. Always compare scripture with scripture, in context, according to historical and grammatical principles. The New Testament was not yet completed at the time Luke wrote the book. People have always been saved by faith in God (according to the revelaed Word of God.) Whenever there is a supposed problem withere it asppears that there is a conflict, ie., a difficult passage, we must realize that there is an answer, whether we have it revealed to us at this time or not. We must trust God that His Word is without werror on not in conflict with itself.

    I would like to believe that those baptized in Acts 19 came to a saving knowledge of Christ amd were baptized in obedience to our Lord's command.
     
  9. the headshrinker

    the headshrinker
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    There are two things that may help in your determinations. 1) Apollos was well versed in the Scriptures. The reference to "Scriptures" refers to the Old Testament Hebrew. He was an Alexandrian Jew, and was probably well educated at the College and Library there, which was considered one of the best in the then known world. Secondly, he preached the "pathways" of God, and He was called aside and the "Pathways of God" were expounded unto him more perfectly (completely). After that he went forth with recommendations.

    He had baptized these Ephesians and they were asked "unto" (Greek "eis" referencing) what were you baptized, or what was the reference point of your baptism? They replied their reference point was John's baptism, to which the apostle replied they John preached they should believe on Christ and when they heard this, (that is, when they heard of Christ). Paul preached unto them the story of Jesus, which they had evidently not heard. What they had heard is "prepare ye the pathway of the lord" etc by Apollos.

    When they heard they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus (He was the one they referenced in their baptism) and therefore they baptism at the hands of the apostle and for the right reason with the right reference was valid; the Holy Ghost signifying this by his presence upon them.

    In Acts 2:38 the phrase "eis aphesin harmartion" translated "remission of sin" was a phrase used in the Old Testament by the writers of the Septuagint when they translated the Hebrew into Greek. It was the phrase they used for the scapegoat in Lev 16. "All of you repent and each one of you get dipped referencing the scapegoat of your sins."

    Hope it helps some.

    Headshrinker
     
  10. rlvaughn

    rlvaughn
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    Mike, I am curious about what you say here. I think I can agree that Acts is a transitional book, if you have in mind something like "it took awhile for the apostles to teach and establish all the faith & practice in the churches", but not if you mean something like a change in dispensations. I also would like to observe that the New Testament was not completed at the time any of the NT writers wrote their books, with the exception of the last one. And even then not until the last stroke of the pen. Nevertheless, we do not question formulating doctrine from them.

    For anyone who takes the position that these 12 or so Ephesians had not come to a saving knowledge of Christ - how do you deal with the fact that Luke calls them disciples and believers, with no apparent distinguishing between them and any others called disciples of the Lord in the book (cf. Acts 1:15; 6:1,2,7; 9:1,19,25,26,38; 11:26,29; 13:52; 14:20,22,28; 15:10; 18:23,27; 19:1,9,30; 20:1,7,30; 21:4,16)?
     

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