Calvary Road Baptist Church


Acts 19.1-7

Please turn to Acts 19.1-7, and stand with me for the reading of God’s Word:

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.

This passage is rich with regard to the diversity of doctrines that are illustrated in the few comments written here by Luke, the beloved physician. As well, there is one aspect of Paul’s gospel ministry in evidence in this passage that is generally overlooked by most contemporary ministers of the gospel. Therefore, join me in considering some of the doctrinal issues related to Luke’s record of this episode in Paul’s ministry, as well as a part of his ministry that is too often ignored. Acts 19.1: “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.”

Why the mention of Apollos here? Two reasons come to mind: First, in addition to providing certain reference points for the ministries of Paul and Apollos, this verse is so constructed by Luke to provide a contrast for his readers between one disciple named Apollos and the disciples who are dealt with by Paul in this passage. Next, this verse gives us a marvelous insight into Luke’s use of the word “disciples.” Careful study will reveal that though there are similarities between these so-called “disciples” and Apollos, there are also marked differences. Apollos was a “disciple” who, though his knowledge was at first imperfect, was beyond doubt converted and benefited greatly from further instruction. Apollos is an illustration that you do not have to know much to be converted. However, these “disciples” were not actually converted, as Paul’s discerning examination of them revealed. These “disciples” illustrate that what you do know has to be true, and that there has to be some basis in fact for genuine saving faith. Not everyone referred to in the New Testament as a “disciple” is, in fact, born again.

Verse 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.” This is a very insightful question posed by Paul. He asked these men about their experience with the Holy Spirit, based upon their having believed. In other words, he did not ask them if they believed, which would have elicited an answer from them that he could in no way verify. Instead, he asked them an indirect question that was closely related to the gospel message by which all sinners are saved. What was revealed by their answer, in which they admit they have never heard of the Holy Ghost? Their answer provided Paul with a clue that something was amiss. There is definitely something wrong when believers indicate they have never heard of the third person of the triune godhead. Paul then proceeded with another question designed to reveal their spiritual condition. Please take note that few pastors conduct such interviews as Paul is seen engaging in here. The apostle is gathering information from these men without giving them a clue as to how they should answer, such as when a preacher asks, “Are you saved?” Such a question implies what should be answered. In other words, Paul was not trying to reinforce something by leading those men to recite words or phrases back to him that he had suggested to them, but is genuinely interested in discerning their spiritual condition.

Verse 3: “And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John’s baptism.” Several things here: First, just as Paul has serious reservations about anyone who has no knowledge of the existence of the Holy Spirit, so it was reasonable for him to presume that anyone claiming to be a believer would have been baptized. Therefore, he asks about their baptism. To claim they had been baptized “unto John’s baptism” makes it clear they were claiming to embrace the message and ministry of John the Baptist. However, keep in mind that John has been martyred for more than 25 years. What would the Apostle Paul know about John the Baptist’s ministry and message that would make him very suspicious at this point? Two things, actually: First, there is the passage of time. As I said, it has been a quarter century since John’s six-month long ministry in the southeast corner of far away Judea, on the banks of the muddy little Jordan River, had come to a sudden end. Thus, it is extremely likely that these men are not actually disciples of John the Baptist himself, but are almost certainly disciples of disciples who were John’s disciples. Next, and this is far more important, there is the crucial matter of their ignorance of the Holy Ghost. It is fair to say that Matthew 3.11 sums up the essence of John the Baptist’s message and ministry of preparing the way of the Lord. John’s oft repeated words were, “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.” How could men who were true disciples of John the Baptist never hear of the Holy Spirit of God? The Holy Spirit was vital if not central to John’s message, second only to lifting up the Lord Jesus Christ as the savior of sinful men’s souls. Therefore, when men come along twenty-five years later, claiming to be disciples of John, stating they were baptized unto John’s baptism, but who had no knowledge of the existence of the Holy Spirit, Paul could rightly come to only one conclusion. Those men were lost. How does Paul’s probing of those men apply to us today? It shows us the responsibility of gospel ministers to deal with professing believers about their true spiritual condition. It shows the necessity of exercising spiritual discernment when doing so. It shows that the gospel minister has no business taking anything for granted, but is obligated to satisfy himself when dealing with precious souls. If Paul had asked, “Are you saved?” those men certainly would have said, “Of course, we are.” Therefore, Paul exercised appropriate wisdom and judgment in discerning those men’s true spiritual condition.

Verse 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.” Though Luke cannot possibly give us all the minute details of this encounter, he does provide us with three important facts: First, when he discerned their lost spiritual condition, Paul proceeded to deal with them in an authoritative manner. They thought they knew what John’s ministry was all about, but Paul moved right past their false confidence and told them what John’s ministry was really all about. Next, Paul clarified their thinking by pointing out that John the Baptist “baptized with a baptism of repentance.” That is, John baptized those who had genuinely repented of their sins. The implication, of course, being that those men had not truly repented. Finally, Paul drives home the point that John the Baptist’s ministry was tied to the ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ. After all, John was the forerunner prophesied, the one who baptized the Savior, and the one who told everyone how the Savior could be identified once His earthly ministry began (He was the one who would baptize with the Holy Ghost and with fire).[1]

Verse 5: “When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.” There are three things to bring out here: First, it is abundantly clear that Luke does not record the entire encounter with these men, but gives us the high points and salient features of Paul’s interaction with them. What is not recorded here is Paul’s thorough presentation of the gospel and the subsequent conversion of these disciples. Next, it needs to be said here that it is clear to Baptists that these twelve men were lost, and that when Paul dealt with them they were eventually saved. What evidence is there that this was the case? He baptized them. To Baptists, this is a sure sign the men were initially lost, that they were subsequently saved as Paul dealt with them, and they were then baptized. Protestant commentators typically insist that Paul re-baptized those men even though they were supposedly saved all along, because they had been so woefully misinformed. However, such reasoning betrays the reluctance by paedobaptists to admit to the possibility that someone might be an unqualified baptismal candidate. Surely, if anyone is an unqualified baptismal candidate it would be an infant who is sprinkled. Protestants are likely to say that these men’s first baptism was not necessarily wrong; it was just that Paul wanted to re-baptize them again after properly indoctrinating them. Wrong! Real baptism occurs only once. If someone is supposedly baptized “again,” it is because he was not saved prior to his previous so-called “baptism.” Real baptism occurs only once, after real conversion. Third, we see here that baptism is performed on the authority granted by the Lord Jesus Christ. That is what the phrase “in the name of the Lord Jesus” means. United Pentecostal and Apostolic preachers, such as T. D. Jakes, claim that Paul was baptizing in Jesus’ name, as opposed to baptizing in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. However, their departure from the classic baptismal formula of baptizing in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost is the result of their heresy of denying the trinity. Let us rightly recognize that Paul would never disagree with the Lord Jesus Christ, and that what we have in this text is Luke’s record of Paul’s authority for baptizing, not an indication that Paul’s baptismal formula was any different from his Savior’s.

Verse 6: “And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied.” This is the final occasion in the Bible in which the baptism of the Holy Ghost actually occurs, thereby verifying that Jesus Christ is the Messiah of Israel, just as John the Baptist had predicted in Matthew 3.11. The public laying on of hands by Paul, signifying what the laying on of hands has signified since the days when animal sacrifices were offered in compliance with the Law of Moses, was a display of identification. They were now genuinely converted, true believers, baptized with a baptism of repentance in Jesus’ name, and so Paul lays hands on them to show that he and they are in agreement. The baptism of the Holy Spirit, you will note, just as John predicted and just as was the case on the Day of Pentecost, was accompanied by authenticating signs. This was to show that it truly was the same baptism of the Holy Ghost that John had spoken of in his day.

From time to time, here at Calvary Road Baptist Church, we will conduct a baptismal service following a message from God’s Word. Such a baptism, for it to be a scriptural baptism, must be properly authorized, which is when baptism is performed by the authority of this church. Important in all of this is that the baptismal candidate is hopefully converted. I say hopefully, because I will not baptize someone unless I think he is a Christian. I say hopefully, because a baptism candidate will not be baptized in this church unless he professes a conversion experience that closely resembles what the Bible tells us occurs when a sinner comes to Christ. I say hopefully, because I always quiz baptismal candidates on numerous occasions and will only proceed if such a candidate seems to grasp truths and concepts related to God’s simple plan of salvation that are usually lost on the unconverted. And I say hopefully, because a candidate’s lifestyle must appear to be consistent with the manner of life spoken of in the Bible. What will prove the baptismal candidate is a Christian will be his manner of life and service to Christ that is put on display during his remaining days on this earth, be it but a few days or be it many more years. I say that because what convinced the Apostle Paul the Thessalonian church members were the elect of God was their lifestyle; their work of faith, their labor of love, and their patience of hope.[2]

Believe me when I tell you that I will not baptize someone I think is not a Christian. Also, believe me when I tell you that I do not presume to know for sure what only God knows for sure. Our baptismal candidates’ testimonies and manner of life are quite thoroughly examined for evidence that they have passed from death unto life through faith in Christ. And their baptism will result in them being members of this church body, subject to this church’s authority, and under this church’s discipline. As for the baptisms that are administered, they will always be the full immersion of the candidate in water (which is what the word baptism means). They will always be, at one and the same time, baptisms performed in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost and a baptism in Jesus’ name. As well, they will always be baptisms of repentance, after the fashion of John the Baptist, as commanded by the Lord Jesus Christ, and as explained by the Apostle Paul in his epistles.

Why such an explanation of baptism? If you noticed the sign outside, we are a Baptist church. Being a Baptist church, we are Baptist people. Because the subject is so important, let me remind you of some things about baptism.


Let me read from an article written by David A. West, Sr., titled “What is an Historic Baptist?”

The Greek word for baptize or baptism means “to dip” or “to immerse.” This holds true in Classical Greek,[3] contemporary Greek,[4] and New Testament Greek.[5] The Greek language contains words for “to sprinkle” (rantizdo)[6] and “to pour” (ekcheo and katacheo),[7] which would have been used if either of these had been the intended mode. Historical evidence clearly indicates that immersion was the universal practice, regardless of the climate, for the first twelve centuries of Christianity.[8] Archaeological finds prove beyond a doubt that immersion was the practice of early Christians.[9] After His baptism, Christ “went up straightway out of the water” (Matthew 3:16a). When John baptized, he went where “there was much water” John 3:23b). The believer’s identification with the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ is only pictured by (the mode of) immersion (Romans 6:3-5). This evidence irrefutably shows that immersion is the only mode of baptism known in the New Testament.[10]


The practice of sprinkling and pouring, though loudly defended by those who practice it, really is an indefensible practice. I fully immerse our baptismal candidates because the scriptural evidence that baptism means immersion is incontrovertible. The practice of sprinkling babies or pouring water on babies, or anyone else, is both inexcusable and intellectually reprehensible. Shame on anyone who does it.


Though this seems to be obvious, there really are those who argue that Christian baptism and John’s baptism are not the same. I again quote David A. West, Sr.

John Calvin, who was no friend of the Baptists, wrote concerning this issue that “we are assured that John’s ministry was exactly the same as that afterward committed to the apostles. For the different hands that administer baptism do not make it different; but the same doctrine shows it to be the same baptism. John and the apostles agreed on one doctrine: both baptized to repentance, both to forgiveness of sins, both into the name of Christ, from whom repentance and forgiveness of sins came. John said that Christ was the Lamb of God, through whom the sins of the world would be taken away [John 1:29]. In this, he made Him a sacrifice acceptable to the Father, and the propitiator of righteousness and author of salvation. What could the apostles add to this confession? ... Therefore, let no one be troubled by the attempt of ancient writers to differentiate the one thing from the other.” John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, ed. John T. McNeill, trans. Ford Lewis Battles (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1960), 2: 1308. It should further be stated, “be not troubled by the attempt of modern authors to differentiate between the two.”


Let me also add that there is no record that the apostles had any baptism but John’s, though they baptized on the Day of Pentecost. As well, the Apostle Paul wrote to the Ephesians, informing them that “There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.”[11] The most potent proof that John’s baptism is Christian baptism can be found in Peter’s words on the Day of Pentecost. In Acts 2.38, we read his instructions: “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ . . . .” Notice the sequence. Repent first, and then be baptized. That is just what John the Baptist insisted on before he would baptize anyone, showing that his was just as surely Christian baptism as was administered on the Day of Pentecost.[12]


Baptism is rightly understood to be integral to the Great Commission our Lord Jesus Christ gave to churches. Only churches have granted to them the authority to make disciples of Jesus Christ by going, by baptizing, and then by teaching them to observe all things whatsoever Jesus commanded. Thus, only churches have the authority to baptize, something generally recognized by Baptists and not generally recognized by anyone else. So, though the pastor is usually the person who immerses baptismal candidates, it is the church that is actually authorized to do the baptizing.

Keep in mind that baptism is not only a church ordinance; it is also not a Christian sacrament. The word sacrament is associated with the unscriptural notion that something mystical happens when a person is baptized, or when someone takes the communion of the Lord’s Supper. People invariably make the mistake of thinking that when a person is baptized, or when someone takes the Lord’s Supper, sins are somehow removed. That is not true. The only thing that takes away sins is the blood of Jesus Christ. Therefore, let one and all understand that though this church is authorized to baptize hopeful converts, we are not authorized to forgive sins. It is for that reason we insist that baptism is a church ordinance and not a so-called Christian sacrament.


The Greek word that is translated “repentance,” metanoia, simply means “a change of mind.”[13] In the context of the gospel, however, it is the word that is used to explain a sinner turning about from his sins to Christ in faith, with the accompanying sorrow that accompanies his new frame of mind. Though the word is not necessarily used in connection with a right understanding of the gospel (the gospel of John does not make use of the word at all), the concept of forsaking your sins when coming to Christ by faith is a profoundly important feature of real conversion.

This brings us once again to baptism. What is baptism for? Why is baptism administered? The Bible teaches, and Baptists believe, that baptism is properly administered only to those who are already converted to Christ, and that baptism is predicated upon repentance. That is, baptism should only be administered when there has been a soul changing and a destiny altering change of mind, by God’s grace. This was the basis for John the Baptist administering baptism, and this is the basis for Baptists’ administration of baptism. Of course, the question that needs to be asked is how can there be any real assurance that baptism is administered following repentance when baptism is administered immediately, and when baptism is administered without any intelligent consideration of the hopeful convert’s testimony? Our conviction here at Calvary Road Baptist Church is that there cannot be real assurance unless one’s conversion testimony is carefully considered, only presumption. This is why we do not baptize immediately, and this is why we baptize only after a careful review of the baptismal candidate’s personal testimony.

I am fully aware that I have delivered far too much content this evening for anyone to retain. However, my goal was to put on record once again, and to restate once again, our church’s position on this very important issue of believer baptism. Should you want to review what I have said you can do so in three ways: First, you can order a CD of this sermon and listen to it at home. Second, you can go to our church web site and read the sermon. Or, third, you can go to our church web site and watch the sermon rebroadcast.

The single point that I would leave you with this evening is that baptism is supposed to be a “baptism of repentance,” a baptism that comes after a sinner has truly repented of his sins and come to faith in Christ. We work hard at our church to make sure that we do not baptize anyone who has not experienced evangelical repentance, because we do not want to give anyone false hope about his relationship with Christ.

If you have never experienced this thing called repentance, and it is considerably more than just feeling bad about sins for a while, please talk to me.

[1] Isaiah 40.3; Mark 1.9; Matthew 3.11-12

[2] 1 Thessalonians

[3] Henry G. Liddell and Robert Scott, comps., A Greek-English Lexicon, 9th ed., (Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1940), 305-6.

[4] James H. Moulton and George Milligan, The Vocabulary of the Greek New Testament Illustrated from the Papyri and Other Non-Literary Sources, (n.p., 1930; reprint, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1980), page 102.

[5] Joseph Henry Thayer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, 4th ed., (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1901; reprint, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1977), pages 94-95.

[6] Ibid., page 561.

[7] Ibid., pages 201, 338.

[8] William Cathcart, The Baptism of the Ages and of the Nations, (Philadelphia: The American Baptist Publication Society, 1878).

[9] Wolfred Nelson Cote, The Archaeology of Baptism, (London: Yates and Alexander, 1876).

[11] Ephesians 4.4-6

[12] Matthew 3.7-8

[13] Bauer, Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, (Chicago, Illinois: The University of Chicago Press, 2000), pages 640-641.

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