Acts 19:3
And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John's baptism.
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(3) Unto what then were ye baptized?—The answer of the disciples had shown (1) an imperfect instruction, falling short of that which catechumens ordinarily received before they were admitted to the new birth by water and the Spirit; (2) an imperfect spiritual experience. Could those who made it have been admitted into the Church of Christ by baptism in His name? The answer to that question showed their precise position. They were practically disciples of the Baptist, believing in Jesus as the Christ, and thinking that this constituted a sufficient qualification for communion with the Church of Christ.

19:1-7 Paul, at Ephesus, found some religious persons, who looked to Jesus as the Messiah. They had not been led to expect the miraculous powers of the Holy Ghost, nor were they informed that the gospel was especially the ministration of the Spirit. But they spake as ready to welcome the notice of it. Paul shows them that John never design that those he baptized should rest there, but told them that they should believe on Him who should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus. They thankfully accepted the discovery, and were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. The Holy Ghost came upon them in a surprising, overpowering manner; they spake with tongues, and prophesied, as the apostles and the first Gentile coverts did. Though we do not now expect miraculous powers, yet all who profess to be disciples of Christ, should be called on to examine whether they have received the seal of the Holy Ghost, in his sanctifying influences, to the sincerity of their faith. Many seem not to have heard that there is a Holy Ghost, and many deem all that is spoken concerning his graces and comforts, to be delusion. Of such it may properly be inquired, Unto what, then, were ye baptized? for they evidently know not the meaning of that outward sign on which they place great dependence.Unto what - Unto what faith or doctrine. What did you profess to believe when you were baptized?

Unto John's baptism - See the notes on Acts 18:25.

2. Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed?—rather, "Received ye the Holy Ghost when ye believed?" implying, certainly, that the one did not of necessity carry the other along with it (see on [2053]Ac 8:14-17). Why this question was asked, we cannot tell; but it was probably in consequence of something that passed between them from which the apostle was led to suspect the imperfection of their light.

We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost—This cannot be the meaning, since the personality and office of the Holy Ghost, in connection with Christ, formed an especial subject of the Baptist's teaching. Literally, the words are, "We did not even hear whether the Holy Ghost was (given)"; meaning, at the time of their baptism. That the word "given" is the right supplement, as in Joh 7:39, seems plain from the nature of the case.

Unto what then were ye baptized? What doctrine did you make profession of? And what religion did you seal unto at your baptism?

Unto John’s baptism; the doctrine that John taught, and the religion that he professed and preached. Thus the Jews are said to be

baptized unto Moses, 1 Corinthians 10:2, being engaged to believe the doctrine and observe the law delivered by Moses. Now the Baptist, as Acts 18:25, preached indeed Christ; but many things concerning him he could not preach, unless as of things to come; as his death, and resurrection: the Baptist being beheaded before our Saviour’s death, and the Holy Ghost was not poured out in that extraordinary manner until after our Saviour’s resurrection and ascension; which pouring out of the Spirit, these disciples at Ephesus, having been baptized by John in Judea, and afterwards returning home, might not have heard of.

And he said unto them, unto what then were ye baptized?.... The apostle takes it for granted that they were baptized, since they were not only believers, but disciples; such as not only believed with the heart, but had made a profession of their faith, and were followers of Christ; but asks unto what they were baptized; either in whose name they were baptized, since Christian baptism was administered in the name of the Spirit, as well as in the name of the Father and of the Son; or what attended or followed their baptism, seeing sometimes the Holy Ghost fell upon persons, either before baptism, or at it, or after it:

and they said, unto John's baptism; some think they had never been baptized at all with water baptism, only had received the doctrine preached by John, concerning repentance and remission of sins, and so were baptized unto him, professing the same doctrine he did, just as the Israelites were baptized into Moses; others think they were baptized, but very wrongly, being baptized in the name of John, and not in the name of Jesus Christ; and so, as it was not Christian baptism they had submitted to, it was right to baptize them again: but neither of these are probable, for it is not likely that they should receive John's doctrine, and not his baptism; that they should be his disciples and followers, and not attend to the more distinguishing branch of his ministry; and it is still more unlikely that they should be baptized in his name, who preached Jesus Christ to his followers, and pointed out to them the Lamb of God, and declared him to be greater than he; it seems rather that they were baptized, and that they were baptized in the name of Christ, as John's disciples were, as the apostle affirms in the following words.

{2} And he said unto them, Unto {b} what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto {c} John's baptism.

(2) John only began to instruct the disciples whom Christ would make perfect.

(b) In what doctrine then are you taught and instructed?

(c) To be baptized into John's baptism is to profess the doctrine which John preached and to be identified with his baptism.

Acts 19:3. Εἰς τί] reference of the baptism (Matthew 3:11; Matthew 28:19; Romans 6:3; 1 Corinthians 1:13; 1 Corinthians 10:2; 1 Corinthians 12:13; Galatians 3:27): unto what, then, as the object of faith and confession, to which you were referred, were ye baptized?

οὖν] accordingly, since the matter so stands, since ye have not even heard of the existence of the Holy Spirit. The presupposition in this εἰς τί οὖν is, that they, baptized in the name of Christ, could not but have received the Holy Spirit.

εἰς τὸ Ἰωανν. βάπτ.] in reference to the baptism administered by John, so that thus the baptism performed in our case was to be the baptism of John, in relation to which we were baptized.

Acts 19:3. οὖν: presupposes that if they had been baptised into the name of Jesus, they would have received the Spirit at Baptism.—εἰς: “to baptise into” (R.V.) may have been suggested by the original practice to baptise by dipping or plunging, see Humphry, Comment. on R. V., in loco.—εἰς τὸ Ἰ. βάπτισμα, i.e., into or unto repentance. For the strange notion that they were baptised into John as the Messiah see Hackett’s note.

3. And he said] The oldest authorities omit “unto them,” and it is more natural to do so in the account of these brief questions and answers.

Into what then were ye baptized?] The New Testament phrase is “baptized in” or “into,” to express the close union with God into which men are brought by baptism.

And they said, Into John’s baptism] They may have been disciples of Apollos and have been baptized by him before his more full instruction by Aquila and Priscilla.

Acts 19:3. Οὖν, then, therefore) This question contains the idea of astonishment: from which it follows as a consequence, that all who were expressly baptized in the name of Jesus, received the Holy Spirit at that time. Nor does Paul inquire whether they were baptized, but εἰς τί, into what: for all were baptized.—Ἰωάννου, of John) We have received (taken up) the baptism of John, say they, so as to give ourselves up to his teaching. Therefore the baptism of John was most widely propagated, as well as his teaching; but, as often happens, in the case of those more remote and later in point of time, the ordinance was administered less purely or less fully.

Verse 3. - He said for he said unto them, A.V. and T.R.; into for unto (twice), A.V. Into what then were ye baptized? Nothing can mark more strongly the connection between baptism and the reception of the Holy Spirit than this question does. For it implies, "How could you be ignorant of the giving of the Holy Ghost if you were duly baptized?" (comp. Acts 2:38) The answer explains it, "We were baptized with John's baptism, to which no promise of the gift of the Holy Ghost was attached." Acts 19:3Unto what (εἰς τί)

Rev., more correctly into. See on Matthew 28:19.


The last mention of John the Baptist in the New Testament.. "Here, at last, he wholly gives place to Christ" (Bengel).

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