A reflection on Acts 19:1-7 for ’The Baptism of Our Lord’ Sunday – January 10, 2021.
While Apollos was in Corinth, Paul passed through the inland regions and came to Ephesus, where he found some disciples. He said to them, ‘Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you became believers?’ They replied, ‘No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.’ Then he said, ‘Into what then were you baptised?’ They answered, ‘Into John’s baptism.’ Paul said, ‘John baptised with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, in Jesus.’ On hearing this, they were baptised in the name of the Lord Jesus. When Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied—altogether there were about twelve of them.
Acts 19:1-7 (NRSVA)
Paul’s brief excursion to the city of Ephesus reads as quite an intriguing event – especially in light of the Gospel reading that, today, sits alongside it.
Mark 1:4-11 clearly links John’s baptism with his message that one ‘more powerful’ will come after him. John encouraged an active search for the one who will baptise in the ‘Holy Spirit’.
Yet here, so far from the Jordan River, Paul meets twelve ‘disciples’. They are, initially, disciples of John. We presume from this that they are learning to live in the light of John’s call to repentance.
Paul clearly sees this as a good place to start his account of Jesus. He can affirm John while still insisting that there is more. In harmony with Mark’s gospel account the apostle believes that there were two parts to the message of John: repent and look for the one to come.
Even if this group of believers have – so far – missed the message of Jesus – they certainly seem well equipped to hear it. Our passage is so very brief – and yet takes these people from knowing nothing about Jesus to speaking in unknown languages and prophesying by the Spirit of God.
Yes, the baptism of John prepared them well. They are clearly people of peace and open to the message of Jesus.
I cannot help but think that this passage functions as something of a fulfilment passage. It affirms – and brings to completion – the hope and action of John the Baptist and his mission.
Even so far from the Jordan John’s mission is still bearing fruit!
What do you see as the link between John’s baptism and baptism in the Holy Spirit? How are they similar? How are they different?
In this story, how does repentance from sin prepare for recognising Jesus?
Do you think water baptism must precede Holy Spirit baptism? What brings you to this position?