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Did Paul perform re-baptism?

03-05-2016 - Posted by Andre Piet


Received holy spirit?

In Acts 19 we find a history which has caused headaches to many interpreters. The story deals about Paul arriving in Ephesus and meeting twelve disciples there. Paul asks them if they have received holy spirit when they became believers. They answered him that they didn’t hear that holy spirit is present. After Paul asks them in which baptism they have been baptized they answer “In the baptism of John”. In Paul’s question there is the suggestion that in the baptism he knows, one receives holy spirit.

Didn’t hear that there is a holy spirit?

The first problem that presents itself is the rendition of the various translations where we read that the disciples of John have no clue about the existence of a holy Spirit. That is rather strange when we bear in mind that John the Baptist preached that he himself indeed baptized in water, but the one who would come after him would baptize in holy spirit (Luke. 3:16). If this was so emphatically taught by John, how could his disciples be ignorant of the existence of the holy spirit? The answer must be that the did know of the holy spirit, but that they were ignorant about the fact this promised holy spirit is already present. (compare John. 7:39).

Who are “they”?

Anyway, these disciples answered that they were baptized in the baptism of John. Paul then tells them that John preached a baptism of repentance to the people and that they should believe in Him who would come after him, i.e. in Jesus.  And then this statement follows in verse 5 (more literally translated):

And while hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.

The first question is: who are “they”? Are those the ones whom John was addressing at that time? But that would mean that John baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. But did John ever preach the name of Jesus explicitly? Moreover: During a part of his ministry John wasn’t even sure if Jesus was the one he was heralding (Mat.11:3).

Baptized in what?

In other words, the “they” in Acts 19:5 have to be the twelve men with whom Paul was having the conversation. While they hear Paul, they are “baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus”. They were baptized in what? Did Paul baptize these men in water again? Is that logical? When the One would come of whom John had spoken, He would then baptize in holy spirit, right? Isn’t this what distinguishes Christ from John? John baptized in water, He who would come after him would baptize in holy spirit. Why then would we in Acts 19:5 think of a re-baptism in water? These men heard Paul speak about the Lord Jesus as the one whom John had heralded. In what would they baptized other than in holy spirit? How this subsequently happens here, we read in verse 6.

And at the placing of Paul’s hands on them, the holy spirit came on them. Besides, they spoke languages and prophesied.

Exactly what the disciples of John could have expected happens here. Now they knew the name of the Lord Jesus, the holy spirit comes on them. Like before at Pentecost, here too there is a visible manifestation of the holy spirit. The speaking in tongues and prophesying is a sign for (an unbelieving) Israel.

Baptism = water ???

The problem with the prevailing explanations of this passage is that one thinks of water baptism by definition.  This is done wrongly. These twelve disciples were baptized in water and they were still waiting for Him who would come to baptize in holy spirit. About Him Paul spoke to them and they are promptly baptized in that name. So no re-baptism. It was the promised baptism in holy spirit. 1_blog_13 HB