Rebaptism: A Detailed Study
Paul’s rebaptism of the disciples in Acts 19:1-7 explained honestly and carefully in the light of the New Testament.
1. The King James Version is Holy Scripture, and may be trusted and used as the Scriptures were trusted and used in the New Testament (Acts 17:11; II Timothy 3:15; John 10:35; Galatians 3:16; Hebrews 8:13; II Peter 1:19-21).
2. The man of God, by diligent study and right division of the Word of truth, with the light of the Holy Spirit, is able to obtain God’s approval and avoid doctrinal shame for false positions (II Timothy 2:15; 3:16-17; Matt 22:29; II Peter 1:20).
3. Intellect (I Cor 2:11), education (I Cor 1:19-20), age (Job 32:5-14), tradition (Matt 15:9), longevity (Matt 5:27-32), man’s approval (John 12:42-43), or so-called church fathers (Ps 119:99-100; Matt 23:9) make neither wise men nor sound doctrine. God reveals by His Spirit (I Cor 2:6-16; Job 32:6-14; Eph 1:15-20).
Anabaptism. 1. A second baptism, re-baptism. The baptism over again as a due performance of what has been ineffectually performed previously. 2. The doctrine of the Anabaptists; also applied, by opponents, to that of modern ‘Baptists.’
This derisive term was created by enemies of those faithful Christians who, from shortly after the apostles, required the rebaptism of those with incorrect previous baptisms, consistently rejecting the baptism of infants and the use of sprinkling or pouring as unscriptural corruptions of the apostolic ordinance.
Baptists have generally repudiated the term, for they only baptize once, according to Christ’s commandments; they do not properly baptize again, for they do not consider any sprinkling or infant dipping to be baptism at all.
Induction, or inductive reasoning, is a logical method which draws conclusions or arrives at general principles by reasoning from particular facts. All the specific features of a case are combined together in such a way to arrive at one or more general principles, which satisfy all the particular facts without violating any of them. Thus, a general or major conclusion is drawn from the accurate reconciling of all specific or minor premises.
We have two applications of this form of reasoning. First, we will establish that a rebaptism took place in Acts 19:1-7; and second, we will establish the purpose and nature of that rebaptism and our dutiful obligation in consequence.
1 And it came to pass, that, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper coasts came to Ephesus: and finding certain disciples, 2 He said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost. 3 And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John’s baptism. 4 Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus. 5 When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6 And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied. 7 And all the men were about twelve. 8 And he went into the synagogue, and spake boldly for the space of three months, disputing and persuading the things concerning the kingdom of God.
Facts Bearing on the Interpretation of Acts 19:1-7
1. The simple, straightforward, obvious, natural, and historical reading of this passage indicates a rebaptism.
2. These men were disciples, who had believed on Jesus Christ before meeting Paul; for they are called disciples, Paul admitted their belief by his first question, and Paul did not question or correct their faith, but only corrected their baptism and lack of spiritual gifts. (If converted by Apollos, they would know of Christ; for he was instructed in the way of the Lord and spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord.)
3. Context indicates that these disciples were likely converts of Apollos, who had baptized them unto John’s baptism of repentance prior to his conversion by Aquila and Priscilla (Acts 18:24-28).
4. Context further indicates Aquila and Priscilla likely informed Paul of these disciples and explained their disorder and deficiency for Paul to remedy by apostolic authority (Acts 18:24-28).
5. Paul’s two questions, and their order, indicate, by his superior apostolic knowledge and Holy Spirit direction, that an invalid baptism was the cause of them lacking the Holy Ghost and spiritual gifts (Acts 19:2-3). This observation should be obvious and conclusive.
6. Paul’s first question, about the Holy Ghost, indicates his knowledge and perception of their incomplete conversions and lack of apostolic administrative authority (Acts 2:38-39; 10:44-48; 8:12-19).
7. Their first answer, about the Holy Ghost, likely does not mean they had no knowledge of the Holy Ghost. Even the Old Testament declares concerning the Spirit of God (Genesis 1:2; Isaiah 61:1; Zechariah 4:6), and John taught plainly about the Holy Ghost (John 1:33; 3:34); but rather it indicates their ignorance of any fulfilled special baptism or pouring out of the Holy Ghost, as at Pentecost.
8. Paul’s second question, about their baptism, dictates our understanding of the rest of the narrative; for he clearly perceived a baptismal problem; and since there does not follow any clarification or justification of their situation, then he must have rebaptized them to remedy the problem.
9. Their second answer, about their baptism, is key, in that they confessed being baptized unto John’s baptism. So from this answer the rest of Paul’s words and actions are obviously conclusive and easily understood: their baptisms were invalid, which identified a problem not requiring any further examination.
10. Their second answer, about their baptism, is key, in that they confessed being baptized unto John’s baptism. For it is clear from the previous history in Acts that baptism had changed from that of John and repentance to identification with Jesus Christ (Acts 2:38; 8:16,37; 9:17-18; 10:48; 16:14-15,31-33; 18:8).
11. The baptism question and answer are very specific, in that they are neither asked nor do they confess being baptized by John, but that they were baptized unto John’s baptism (being baptized unto Moses is not the same as being baptized by Moses; I Cor 10:2). If John had baptized them himself, they would surely have admitted such; and they would not have been as ignorant of the Holy Ghost, for John taught concerning the Holy Ghost (Matthew 3:11; John 1:33; 3:34).
12. Paul’s response to their answers, by explaining John’s baptism in verse four, indicates his immediate focus on their baptisms; and his description of John’s baptism is disapproval, rather than approval, of their obsolete baptism, which explained their deficiency.
13. Paul’s response to their answers explains John’s baptism being anticipatory of believing in Christ, for John simply preached the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins and taught faith toward a future Messiah, Who would yet be revealed (Matthew 3:6,11; Mark 1:4; Luke 1:13-17; 3:3-18; Acts 13:24-25).
14. John’s baptismal authority ended when he died, and his preparatory baptism of repentance ended at Pentecost. For that event manifested the glorified Christ and His promised baptizing with the Holy Ghost, which John proclaimed as superior to his baptism (Matt 3:11; Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16; John 1:33; Acts 1:5; Luke 7:28).
15. Prior to Pentecost, even our Lord’s apostles did not understand His death or His resurrection; therefore it is impossible to consider them baptizing in the name of Jesus Christ, as the risen Lord and Saviour, which they later did (Matthew 16:21-23; Mark 9:31-32; Luke 9:44-45; 18:31-34; 24:13-27; Acts 2:33-38).
16. Prior to Pentecost, Jesus of Nazareth was not officially announced as resurrected and glorified, therefore it is impossible for baptism to have been a figure of His death and resurrection, as it would be (Rom 6:3-5; Colossians 2:12; I Peter 3:21).
17. Jesus was not officially, formally, or publicly announced as both Lord and Christ with the gifts of the Holy Ghost until Pentecost, therefore precluding any baptism in such a name prior to that event (John 2:4; 7:1-8,30,39; 8:20; Acts 2:33-38; 13:30-33; Matthew 19:28; Romans 1:4).
18. Pentecost was an event of great spiritual significance, so much so that Joel’s prophecy of it and Peter’s fulfillment of it confuse men to this day; for they cannot grasp the extravagant description of its spiritual changes by Joel’s extraordinary prophetic language of natural signs and phenomena (Acts 2:14-24).
19. The change in baptismal authority and identifying formula were merely two of many changes as the new covenant replaced the old (Luke 16:16; Hebrews 9:10).
20. The baptism and gifts of the Holy Ghost, which these twelve disciples lacked, were not given until Pentecost; and they were connected to a reformed baptism in the name of Jesus Christ, which included reference to the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:18-20; John 7:39; Acts 1:5; 2:33-38; 8:12-19; 10:44-48).
21. These twelve disciples had not been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus, or the Trinity. Prior to Pentecost that identification was not used; and neither was it used by strict disciples of John after Pentecost (Matt 16:20; 17:9; 28:18-20; Acts 2:33-38; 8:12,16,37; 10:47-48; 18:24-28; Rom 6:3; I Cor 1:13-15; Gal 3:27).
22. After Pentecost, all authority was in the apostles, which Apollos or other disciples of John completely lacked (Matthew 28:16-20; Acts 5:13; I Cor 12:28; Eph 2:20).
23. The baptism here, in verse five, cannot be John baptizing his hearers (as some would have us believe), for John did not baptize in the name of Jesus (Luke 3:1-18; John 7:1-8; Matt 16:20; 17:9; 28:18-20; Acts 2:33-38; 8:12,16,37; 10:47-48).
24. The baptism here, in verse five, cannot be John baptizing his hearers (as some would have us believe), for only after Pentecost was baptism performed in the name of the Lord Jesus (Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 2:38; 8:16,37; 10:48; 16:14,31-33; 18:24-28; 22:16; Romans 6:3; I Corinthians 1:13-15; Galatians 3:27).
25. The baptism here, in verse five, cannot be John baptizing his hearers (as some would have us believe), for then the explanation of John’s baptism would have no purpose, since these disciples already believed on Christ and had John’s baptism.
26. The baptism here, in verse five, cannot be John’s baptism, for then Paul would not have provided any remedy for the baptismal deficiency on the part of these disciples he had already identified. He would simply have laid hands on them as Peter and John did the baptized disciples in Samaria (Acts 8:12-19).
27. If their baptism was true Christian baptism, and they only needed Paul to lay hands on them for the Holy Ghost, as in Samaria (Acts 8:12-19), then the question about baptism, their answer, and the explanation of John’s baptism are vain and confusing diversions with no meaning.
28. Paul explains and applies John’s message by the words “that is,” for John did not testify of the name of Jesus Christ nor baptize in His name. Jesus was always the One coming after him; and He did arrive as prophesied, when He came with power and the Holy Ghost after being glorified (Matthew 3:1-12; Acts 13:24-25).
29. The twelve responded to Paul’s explanation (“that is”) of John’s baptism, pointing to identification with the risen Jesus Christ, and were baptized in His name.
30. As we enter verse four, we have one speaking, Paul, and we have twelve listening, the disciples from verse one. And it was these twelve in verse five, having heard Paul’s explanation of Christ’s fulfillment of John’s anticipatory baptism, who responded by receiving baptism in the name of the Lord Jesus. Paul spoke to the twelve in verse four; the twelve heard and were baptized in verse five.
31. It is an axiom of language, that pronouns should not be used instead of their antecedents, when their use would obscure the sense of the passage in which they occur, much less when they make the passage doubtful or contradictory. Therefore, the pronouns of verses five and six have the same antecedent, the twelve disciples of Ephesus needing proper baptism in the name of Jesus Christ.
32. The ones baptized were the same ones given the Holy Ghost and the gift of tongues by the laying on of Paul’s hands (5-6); and since Paul did not lay his hands on those baptized by John, he must have baptized the twelve disciples.
33. If we multiply the antecedents represented by these identical pronouns, we make the narrative very confusing; but it appears rather obvious that the antecedent is the twelve disciples still being considered.
34. There are no grammatical indications, such as the use of disjunctives, to suggest any alternative or adversative connection between these verses or their pronouns to indicate a change in antecedent or subject or interruption of the narrative.
35. “When” (starting verse 5) denotes a new speaker, and “and” (starting verse 6) denotes continuation of verse 5; and since verse 6 is clearly Luke’s record of Paul laying hands on the twelve, then verse 5 is Luke’s record of Paul baptizing them.
36. Our concluding verse seven describes twelve men, which were the same men identified in the first verse; for there is no explanation or grammatical indication for us to leave these twelve and learn actions of John’s hearers.
37. Infant sprinklers, faithful to the Mother Church, have zealously interpreted this passage without a rebaptism, in order to steal from the true disciples of Christ any Scriptural justification for the practice of baptizing those sprinkled as infants. They do so by making verse five Paul’s description of John’s hearers receiving John’s baptism, rather than Luke’s description of these twelve being baptized by Paul. Rather than closing Paul’s spoken words at the end of verse four, they close them at the end of verse five.
38. Baptists, in an effort to establish John’s baptism prior to Pentecost as proper Christian baptism (to deny his baptism as a mere Jewish rite for proselytes), have appealed to this false interpretation by Rome’s poets (Calvin in particular) to show Paul’s approval of John’s baptism. So we find even Baptist commentators (John Gill for example) denying any rebaptism in this place.
Conclusive Interpretation of Acts 19:1-7
Paul rebaptized, in the name of the Lord Jesus, twelve disciples of Jesus Christ, who had been baptized after Pentecost, likely by Apollos, unto the obsolete baptism of repentance of John the Baptist; which baptism, after Pentecost, lacked both the administrative authority and the identifying formula of proper Christian baptism.
Related Baptism and Other Facts of the New Testament
1. The forty-year time period of about 30-70 A.D. was the time of reformation and transition from the law and prophets to the kingdom of God, in which both covenants operated side by side, until the Old Covenant vanished away with the destruction of Jerusalem, the temple of God, and the Jewish people (Hebrews 9:10; 8:13; Micah 7:15; Luke 16:16; John 1:17; 4:20-24; Acts 15:13-21; Galatians 3:24-25; I Corinthians 13:8-13).
2. John the Baptist, introducing the time of reformation and this profound transition, was sent from God with the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins in preparation for the promised Messiah and Saviour of Israel (Luke 1:17; John 1:6-8,33; Mark 1:4; Matthew 3:15; 11:11; Luke 7:29-30; Acts 13:24; 19:4).
3. John the Baptist baptized Jesus Christ (Matthew 3:15).
4. Jesus Christ did not baptize anyone (John 4:2).
5. John the Baptist baptized the apostles of Jesus Christ (Acts 1:21-22; John 1:35-42; Luke 7:29-30; 11:20; 16:16; Matthew 23:13).
6. The apostles, and all other persons baptized by John, were not rebaptized (Acts 1:15-26; Matthew 3:15; John 1:6).
7. Jesus and His apostles preached the same message of repentance with an identical baptism to that of John (Matthew 4:17; 10:7; Mark 1:14-15; Luke 1:67-80), which was a preparatory and anticipatory view to the kingdom of God being established with power and the Holy Ghost at Pentecost, under a glorified Lord and Christ.
8. We may easily answer our Lord’s question regarding the authority of John’s baptism; for it was from heaven by Divine appointment, its reception fulfilled all righteousness, and it was never repeated (Matthew 3:15; 21:23-27; Luke 7:28-30; John 1:6; Acts 1:15-26).
9. John was authorized by God to initiate Christian baptism, so far as it went prior to Pentecost; but he had no authority to appoint other administrators to perpetuate his baptism; and he was to decrease as Christ was to increase (Mark 1:5; Luke 7:30; John 3:26-34).
10. Our Lord’s official work of baptizing with the Holy Ghost began at Pentecost (Mark 1:8; John 1:33; 2:4; 7:39; Acts 1:5; 2:33-38; 8:12-19; 10:44-48; 11:15-17; 15:7-11; Hebrews 2:3-4).
11. The administrative authority for baptism was fully changed at Pentecost, based on the glorified Lord Jesus Christ, from that of John to that of Christ and His apostles (Matthew 19:28; 28:18-20; Mark 16:14-20; Acts 2:36-38; 5:13).
12. The identifying formula for baptism changed at Pentecost, based on the glorified Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 2:36-38; 8:12,16,37; 19:5; 22:16).
13. Apollos, knowing only the baptism of John, that is, being baptized by John before Pentecost, was not rebaptized before going to Corinth (Acts 18:24-28; Heb 7:14).
14. Apollos taught the things of the Lord at Ephesus, knowing only John’s baptism; so his baptisms lacked both the administrative authority and identifying formula in use since Pentecost (Matt 28:16-20; Acts 2:38; 5:13; 8:12-19; 18:24-28).
15. The twelve disciples at Ephesus, whom were baptized unto John’s baptism and had never heard of the Holy Ghost, likely by Apollos, were rebaptized by Paul in the name of the Lord Jesus (Acts 19:1-7). [See the previous induction.]
16. Baptism in the name of the Lord Jesus still required apostolic authority for the gifts of the Holy Ghost during this special, transitory period of time (Acts 8:16).
17. Proving all things to hold fast only the good is Christ’s order (I Thess 5:21), and it was kept well by the church of Ephesus later in trying false apostles (Rev 2:2).
18. There is one baptism – one true baptism, and all others are counterfeits of the true and are to be rejected (Ephesians 4:5). There is no more a plurality of acceptable baptisms than there are acceptable Lords (I Corinthians 8:6) and faiths (Jude 1:3).
19. Paul’s question about the baptism of the twelve disciples – unto what then were ye baptized? – proves the necessity of verifying baptisms; for he knew they were baptized already, since they were believing disciples (Acts 19:1-7).
20. We learn from Paul’s rebaptism of the twelve, that though disciples are sincerely and conscientiously satisfied with their baptisms, as they were, yet if the act is not a Scriptural act, their baptisms are null and void.
21. We do not rebaptize for every increase in faith or knowledge, for then we must be baptizing the same saints perpetually. The minimum amount of doctrine for a proper baptism is that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the Saviour from sin by His death and resurrection (Mark 16:15-16; Acts 2:38; I Cor 15:1-4; I Peter 3:21).
22. Unless Paul’s jealousy is only foolish fear, there is another Jesus, gospel, and spirit, which are actually satanic counterfeits (II Corinthians 11:1-15). And if another Jesus, gospel, and spirit are used by our adversary, there should be no surprise to learn of counterfeit baptisms as well.
Anabaptism Justified from the Scriptures
Baptism requires certain essentials, which include among others the God-appointed administrative authority and the correct identifying formula or doctrine. Baptisms of repentance by John the Baptist and our Lord’s apostles were valid Christian baptisms until Pentecost, when they were superseded by apostolic administration in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. [For a complete study of the essentials of proper baptism, see the study entitled, “Requirements of a Scriptural Baptism.”]
Apollos was not rebaptized, for he received John’s baptism while it was still valid, as did the Lord Jesus Christ, His apostles, and thousands of others.
However, the disciples at Ephesus, receiving John’s obsolete baptism some time after it was cancelled, were rebaptized by the apostle Paul. For Paul had both the administrative authority and the correct identifying formula after Pentecost to give them a valid Christian baptism.
As Paul immediately questioned their baptism to verify its validity and then corrected the costly deficiency, it is our Christian duty to verify and correct the baptisms of sincere disciples we meet in this world.
However, we must profess that the word Anabaptist does confuse in a certain respect; for its definition to baptize again cannot apply to the first immersion of those sprinkled in infancy, for such aspersion of water on an unbelieving subject is no baptism at all.
The Anabaptists (and their faithful ancestors and descendants going under many different names at different times), slurred with this term of ridicule, did nothing more offensive than earnestly contend for proper Christian baptism by denying the validity of any baptism performed on infants or by sprinkling.
Would to God that all those professing the name of Jesus Christ were as fervent and faithful in proving all things and holding fast that which is good, especially as pertaining to proper baptism.
May the Lord Jesus Christ of Pentecost be praised forever and ever!