Calvin's explanation of the baptismal passage Acts 19:1-6
The men concerned were about twelve in number.276 In commenting,277 Calvin here denies that these confused men had been influenced by Apollos. "It is not likely that so few 'disciples' were left at Ephesus by Apollos…. They would have been instructed more correctly by him — seeing that he himself had learnt the way of the Lord precisely…. I do not doubt that the [Ephesian] ‘brethren’ whom Luke mentioned previously [Acts 18:27]…were different from these particular men" in Acts 19:1f.
Paul said: "John indeed baptized with the baptism of repentance!"278 Here Calvin comments279 "that the baptism of John was a sign of repentance…. Today, there is no difference between it and our own baptism…. It [baptism by John] was a token and pledge of the same adoption and the same newness of life which we receive in our baptism today. Therefore we do not read that Christ baptized afresh those who came over to Him from John!
"In addition, Christ received baptism in His own flesh — so that He might associate Himself with us by that visible symbol. But if that fictitious difference [between baptism by John and our own baptism today] be admitted — there will vanish and be lost to us this unique favour: that we have a common baptism with the Son of God." And He, the sinless One, was certainly not
Calvin continues: "It [baptism by John] is the same baptism” as Christian baptism. “But now, the question is asked whether it was right to repeat it…. Fanatical men of our day, relying on this evidence [cf. Acts 19:3-5], have tried to introduce Anabaptism…. I deny that the baptism of water was repeated!"
259) Acts 18:24,27f.
260) Acts 18:24a Apolloos…Alexandreus tooi genei aneer logios.
261) Acts 18:26b (akribesteron autooi exethento teen hodon tou Theou).
262) Acts 18:24b (dunatos oon en tais graphais).
263) Acts 18:25a (houtos een kateecheemenos teen hodon tou Kuriou); v. 25b (zeoon tooi Pneumati); v. 25c (epistamenos…to baptisma Iooannou).
264) Acts 18:24-28. 265) Acts 11:26 cf. Mt. 16:18 & 18:17.
266) Comm. on Acts 18:25. 267) Jh. 1:31-42f & 3:22-30f & 4:1-2.
268) Comm. on Acts 18:25. 269) Acts 18:24 – 19:3.
270) Mt. 3:3-11f & Jh. 1:25f cf. Isa. 11:1-10f & 61:1f and perhaps also Acts 19:4-6.
271) Acts 19:3 (eis to Iooannou baptisma).
272) Acts 19:2b (oud' ei Pneuma Hagion estin eekousamen).
273) Acts 19:4 (Eipen de Paulos. Iooannees men ebaptisen baptisma metanoias tooi laooi legoon eis Ton Erchomenon met' auton hina pisteusoosin, tout' estin Ton Christon Ieesoun. It is the Textus Receptus which here has men. See nn. 274 & 275 below. Note that Christon is omitted in P38, Aleph, A,B,E 614 pc lat, 13,25,40, Vulg., Boh., Syr. H., Aethrro.; so Tisch., W.H., RV, Weiss, Wundt & Blass. D has eis Christon . The reading eis ton Ieesoun Christon is found in : Sah., Gig. & Pesch. Other readings have: Christon Ieesoun.
274) Thus: Calvin, Beza, Calixtus, Lightfoot, Budde, Rambach, and others. See at nn. 275f. Acts 19:5 (akousantes de ebaptistheesan eis to Onoma tou Kuriou Ieesou). Here, akousantes is the aorist participle of the Greek verb for hear or hear-ken [akouein ]. This, like the word for hear-ken in the Germanic languages, cf. the German horchen [hearken] and its cognate gehorchen [obey], usually means not merely to listen but to hear well and hence also to heed . See too n. 273 above.
275) Gravemeijer (Reformed Doctrine of Faith , Wiarda, Sneek, 1888, III:175) argues that the verses Acts 19:4-6 do not at all teach that the heretics were then baptized by Paul with water.
Argues Gravemeijer: Paul there merely told those men at Ephesus that after John himself had urged the people to believe in Jesus the Christ-ed One alias the Spirit-anointed Messiah, those who then heard or obeyed John's urgings were soon baptized (by John himself !) in the Name of the One Who was then coming after him, that is the Lord Jesus . After Paul had finished telling the men this at Ephesus, claims Gravemeijer, Paul simply laid his hands 'waterlessly' on them etc .
Gravemeijer grounds this view on the fact that the "foundational text" (namely the Textus Receptus !) has men…de in Acts 19:4-5. Thus the various editions of the Textus Receptus . Compare those of Stephens (1550), of Bloomfield (1843), and of Knowling even in the 1908 Expositor's Greek Testament (where however the men is noted as omitted in AlephABD, Vulg., Sah., Arm., Tisch., W.H., RV, Weiss & Wendt).
Gravemeijer thus reads Acts 19:4-6 as follows: "Then Paul said, 'John truly (men) baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe in Him Who would come after him,' that is, in Christ Jesus. When (de) they [John’s people] heard [or heeded], they were baptized [by John and in Palestine] into the Name [or unto the authority ] of the Lord Jesus. Then, when Paul had laid his hands on them [the ex-unitarians in Ephesus], the Holy Spirit came upon them" etc . For the whole statement of Acts 19:4-5 in the Greek Textus Receptus , see at nn. 273-74 above.
These verses are thus to be taken together as stating what Paul said in corrective response to the heretics' statement anent "the baptism of John" at the end of Acts 19:3. Only after recording this statement of Paul to the heretics about what John had really taught, does Luke go on to mention what Paul the Apostle next did to them (in Acts 19:6). The heretics apparently repented under Paul's preaching. Yet further, Paul then applied no water whatsoever to those ex-heretics, but simply laid his hands on them.
If Gravemeijer is right in this, Calvin too would be right in suggesting that Paul did not at all apply water to those heretics. Consequently, there is no possibility of them having been rebaptized (with water) by Paul! See too at n. 283 below.
Against Gravemeijer's hypothesis, observe that the plural form ebaptistheesan here in Acts 19:5b, as well as the plural form akousantes in 19:5a at n. 274 above, both seem to refer to Paul's plural listeners. Compare their corresponding plurals(tinas matheetas and autous and hoi…eekousamen and ebaptistheete and hoi…eipan) in the immediately preceding Acts 19:1-3, and their corresponding plurals (autois and autous and elaloun and epropheeteuon) and eesan and hoi pantes andres hoosei doodeka in the immediately succeeding Acts 19:6-7.
To us, it seems to be of some significance that in Acts 19:4a, Paul refers in the singular (tooi laooi) to the people that John himself had addressed. This in turn strengthens Kuyper's thesis (which we endorse) against Gravemeijer's. See n. 284 below. On the other hand, even Acts 19:4b goes on to use the plural pisteusoosin (apparently still in respect even of the singular tooi laooi in 19:4a). This, together with the men…de factor discussed above, lends some credence to Gravemeijer's hypothesis.
276) Acts 19:1-7. 277) Comm. on Acts 19:2.
278) Acts 19:4a cf. 18:25 & 19: