Acts 19:1-5

Which baptism did you receive? – Acts 19:3


While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples and asked them, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?" They replied, "No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit." So Paul asked, "Then what baptism did you receive?" "John's baptism," they answered. Paul said, "John's baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus." On hearing this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus.


Faith in Jesus Christ is stressed yet again as a prerequisite to baptism. It cannot be looked back on in retrospect (as is practiced with infant baptism). These disciples had been baptized, but they did not have faith in Jesus at the time of their immersion. Therefore, they needed to be baptized correctly.  They lacked a complete teaching on baptism (one element was missing--faith in Jesus), so Paul deemed it insufficient, taught them what they lacked, and baptized them properly.


Paul taught only ONE baptism. (Ephesians 4:4-5 ) This ONE baptism is into Christ for the forgiveness of sins after a person hears, believes and repents. John the Baptist’s baptism was one of repentance (for the forgiveness of sins nonetheless) These disciples only knew John’s baptism. They did not know yet the baptism of Jesus Christ that had replaced John’s starting when the Spirit was poured out at Pentecost in Acts 2. Since there is only ONE baptism and the baptism of John’s was no longer valid, Paul had them baptized right, with the ONE baptism.


“Baptism” that is not “for the forgiveness of sins” is not that one baptism and should be looked on in the same manner as a “baptism” that occurs before a person has faith in Christ—it needs to be done in the correct Biblical manner. If these disciples could not look back and apply their newfound faith in Christ retroactively to a different baptism (John’s), how then, can we look back on a different baptism (one that is NOT for the forgiveness of sins) and apply our newfound faith to it?


We know John the Baptist preached a baptism for the forgiveness of sins. (Mark 1:4, Luke 3:3)

We know Peter preached a baptism for the forgiveness of sins. (Acts 2:38)

We know that Jewish baptism (Tevillah) was for the forgiveness/removal of sins. (See John 3:3-5)

Before the protestant reformation movement, baptism was always for the forgiveness of sins.


Baptism that is not for the forgiveness of sins is a different baptism than the ONE baptism in Scripture. It is for a different purpose. It is NOT for the purpose that scriptural baptism is for—which is for the removal of our sins. And if it is NOT for that purpose, how then can our sins be forgiven? If we deny baptism is when our sins are forgiven and we pass from death to life, are we not denying the resurrection as well as the Word of God? And if we deny the resurrection, we deny Christ. So if a person did not understand baptism is when they become saved (i.e. their sins are forgiven) then they must have been receiving a different baptism. Anyone who has received the ONE baptism understands and believes this is when their sins are washed away. If we believe we receive forgiveness before baptism we have believed something contrary to the word of God. Furthermore, if we say we are saved prior to baptism we are not believing the Gospel message and are contradicting God. We are not acknowledging our state of being lost, or, our sins. That’s not a very good way to approach God if we are wanting Him to forgive our transgressions.


The idea that baptism is not for the removal/forgiveness of sins is a modern day idea that is contrary to the Word of God, the practices of the first disciples, and the teaching of Jesus. Jesus taught one cannot be saved unless one is baptized (see also Mark 16:15-16) If sin is what separates us from God, then our sins would have to be forgiven in order to be saved. If sins are forgiven at baptism, this would account for His teaching that we must be baptized in order to enter the kingdom of God. If sins are not forgiven at baptism, then His teaching is inconsistent with the rest of Scripture.


Certainly if Jesus, who was sinless, was concerned with “fulfilling all righteousness” in His baptism, we, as sinners, should be even more concerned about doing the same with ours.



Some (such as Baptists) may ask if what we believe about baptism at time of immersion matters. I.e., Is it important for us to believe that God is forgiving our sins in baptism when we are baptized? The answer is, yes, it is vital that we believe and understand what baptism is about, otherwise we are undergoing a different baptism, which is not the ONE baptism of Ephesians 4:4-5. The Colossians believed that God was working to make them a new creation in baptism. Notice the phrase “through faith in the working of God”:


Colossians 2:12

and you were buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.


Hebrews 11:6

And without faith it is impossible to please God…



See also “Commanded but not essential”



Which baptism did you receive? Acts 19:3    BE HONEST (Your life depends on it)



The ONE baptism in the Bible

“Baptist” or “non-denominational” baptism

Full water immersion?

Acts 8:36-39, Colossians 2:12



For the purpose of having your sins forgiven/washed away?

Acts 2:38, Acts 22:16



To save you?

1Peter 3:21



To be reborn?

John 3:3-5



To have new life?

Romans 6:3-4



Required for salvation/criteria for judgment?

John 3:5, Mark 16:15-16



United with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection THROUGH baptism?

Romans 6:3-6



Saved before baptism?





Biblical baptism

Non-Biblical baptism--needs to be corrected


            A study on “re-baptism”


Some different “baptisms” that are taught today:

Which baptism is Biblical today?



“Baptism of the Holy Spirit”

Happened once to the Jews in Acts 2 and once to the Gentiles in Acts 10. Has since passed away 2000 years ago.

Acts 2, Acts 10

See here also

Infant baptism

Must believe, repent, and make conscious decision to follow Christ. Doctrine of “original sin” false.

Acts 16:30-33

Baptism for the dead

Man faces judgment after death

Hebrews 9:27

Baptism as a “public confession of faith”

Not taught in bible


Baptism for the forgiveness of sins into Christ

The ONE baptism spoken of in Ephesians 4:4-5

Acts 2:38, Acts 22:16, 1Peter 3:20-21, Colossians 2:12, Galatians 3:26-27, John 3:3-5, Mark 16:15-16, Titus 3:5, Matthew 28:19-20


A study on “re-baptism”


To determine if the disciples in Ephesus had been baptized correctly, the question Paul asked them was, “What baptism did you receive?”  By asking ourselves the exact same question today, we can determine if we were baptized correctly. Did you receive the baptism for a “public confession of faith”? Did you receive the baptism for infants? Did you “receive” the “baptism of the Holy Spirit”? Did you receive the baptism into Judaism, which is called tevillah in a mikvah?* If you have received any baptism other than the ONE baptism of Ephesians 4:5, which is a full immersion in water into Christ for the purpose of having God forgive your sins after you have come to faith and repentance, then you have not yet received a scriptural baptism. Fortunately, there is no need to panic because the situation is easy enough to remedy.


Click here to read the James Burton Coffman commentary on Acts 19, excerpt quoted below:


Are there any today whose baptism was so defective or inadequate that they should be baptized again "into the Lord Jesus"? The answer without any doubt whatever is affirmative. And who are they? (1) Those who were baptized in infancy, or at a time in childhood so early that no adequate understanding of the ordinance was possible. Millions today have never in any sense obeyed the apostolic injunction to "have yourselves baptized" as Peter commanded (Acts 2:38) F15 That passage makes it absolutely clear that the convert must consciously, and of his own will, submit to Christian baptism. If infant baptism is adequate, then baptism without faith, confession, or repentance is valid; and this we hold to be absolutely impossible of acceptance. (2) Those whose baptism was by some action other than the immersion submitted to by Christ, taught by the apostles, and practiced by the apostolic church, which action was denominated by the Holy Spirit as a figure of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ (Romans 6:3-5), making it certain that forms of baptism (so-called) without such a likeness are invalid. (3) Those whose baptism was an action initiated by others, not themselves, or whose baptism was in their hearts undertaken for any unscriptural purpose, such as (a) merely going with the group, (b) primarily to please parents, husband, wife, or other persons, or (c) any purpose other than that of surrendering the soul to the Lord as commanded in the gospel and for the purpose of coming "into Christ," receiving the forgiveness of sins and the promise of the Holy Spirit. (4) Those whose baptism was understood by themselves as having no connection with salvation, or as being, in their view, absolutely unnecessary, irrelevant, or unessential. (5) Those whose baptism, instead of being "into Christ," was into some organization unknown to the Scripture, operating contrary to New Testament authority, and constituting some kind of fellowship other than that of Christians "in Christ."

This writer earnestly prays that all who read these lines will ask himself in all humility, "Was I Scripturally baptized?" If the answer is negative, the rebaptism of these twelve disciples at Ephesus, long ago, provides an inspiring example of what should be done. There was nothing wrong with their baptism, except that it had been for the wrong purpose; but that was enough to invalidate it. One hundred sixty-nine times, in the writings of Paul alone, the New Testament uses the expression "in Christ," "in him," or its equivalent; F16 and that says as loudly as it could be said that this purpose of Christian baptism is absolutely vital and should be honored by all men (Romans 6:3-5; Galatians 3:26,27). “


…in other words, you can’t be taught wrong and be baptized right


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*Footnote: See page on John 3:3-5


For further study, see the History of Baptism page



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This page last updated: May 9, 2013