"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, 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. And he said unto them, Unto (eis) what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto (eis) John's baptism. 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. When they heard this, they were baptized in (eis) the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied. And all the men were about twelve." (Acts 19: 1-7 KJV)
1. Was there in fact a re-baptism in water?
2. If so, what was the reason for the re-baptism?
3. Was it because they were not truly converted when first baptized?
4. Was it because all who had been baptized with John's baptism needed Christian baptism?
5. Was it because their baptism was not in the name of Jesus or of the Trinity?
6. Was it because the administrator of baptism was not authorized to baptize?
7. Are the words "when they heard this..." the words of Paul or Luke?
8. If the words of Paul, then a re-baptism did not take place.
9. If the words of Paul, then Paul testifies that John baptized "in the name of Jesus."
10. If the words of Luke, then a re-baptism took place.
Wrote John Gill in his commentary:
When they heard this,...That is, the people to whom John preached, his hearers; when they heard of the Messiah, and that Jesus was he, and that it became them to believe in him:
they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus; not the disciples that Paul found at Ephesus, but the hearers of John; for these are the words of the Apostle Paul, giving an account of John's baptism, and of the success of his ministry, showing, that his baptism was administered in the name of the Lord Jesus; and not the words of Luke the Evangelist, recording what followed upon his account of John's baptism; for then he would have made mention of the apostle's name, as he does in the next verse; and have said, when they heard this account, they were baptized by Paul in the name of the Lord Jesus: the historian reports two things, first what Paul said, which lies in Acts 19:4 then what he did, Acts 19:6 where he repeats his name, as was necessary; as that he laid his hands upon them, which was all that was needful to their receiving the extraordinary gifts of the Holy Ghost, having been already baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus: which sense is the more confirmed by the particles μεν and δε, which answer to one another in verses 4 and 5, and show the words to be a continuation of the apostle's speech, and not the words of the historian, which begin in the next verse. Beza's ancient copy adds, "for the remission of sins".
Based upon this commentary by one of the greatest commentators of all time, it is certainly not absolutely certain that there was in fact a re-baptism. Also, there have been others who have agreed with Dr. Gill. The Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary says:
Beza, Calixtus, Calov., Suicer, Glass., Buddeus, Wolf, and al., wishing to wrest this weapon out of the hands of the Anabaptists, oddly enough suppose this verse to belong still to Paul’s discourse, and to mean, ‘and the people when they heard him (John), were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus.’
Besides Dr. Gill, many of these men were Greek scholars, such as Theodore Beza. They believed that "when they heard this" referred to people hearing John's message and were the words of Paul. Of course, there are other Greek scholars who disagree and think that "when they heard this" are the words of Luke the historian and refers to the twelve disciples hearing Paul's words.
For instance, in "The Expositor's Greek Testament" we read:
Acts 19:5. ἀκούσαντες δὲ: neither grammatical nor in accordance with fact can these words be regarded (as by Beza and others) as part of St. Paul’s words, as if they meant, “and the people when they heard him,” i.e., John.
Not being expert on Greek particles, I cannot say yea or nay on this point. Gill is just as strong on the Greek. Recall that he said - "which sense is the more confirmed by the particles μεν and δε, which answer to one another in verses 4 and 5."
Further, on the grammatical argument, Gill also gave good arguments for why "when they heard that" cannot be the words of Luke the historian. Recall he said - "not the words of Luke the Evangelist, recording what followed upon his account of John's baptism; for then he would have made mention of the apostle's name, as he does in the next verse; and have said, when they heard this account, they were baptized by Paul in the name of the Lord Jesus: the historian reports two things, first what Paul said, which lies in Acts 19:4 then what he did, Acts 19:6 where he repeats his name, as was necessary." All this makes sense also.
Luke, as an historian, is very careful in marking the places where Paul is speaking or doing something and where someone else is speaking or doing. He was very careful in writing so that readers would know when he was quoting the words of another and when he was recording his own words. This is clear in the context of our disputed passage. In the passage he would begin Paul's words by saying "he said." When he was giving the words of the twelve disciples, Luke would say "they said." All this lends credence to Gill's interpretation.
It seems to me that there is nothing defective in their prior baptism. They were "disciples" and "believers" at the time of their baptism. Such a baptism was "unto" Christ the Messiah. They were immersed. And, there is nothing said about their baptism being invalid due to an unqualified administrator. So, if they were re-baptized by Paul, then why? Those who affirm the fact of re-baptism must tell us why it was done. Some say that it was because the baptism of John was no longer valid. But, this cannot be the case, for then we would read of all the original apostles being re-baptized. Some say that they were re-baptized because they were not true believers in Jesus when they were first baptized. But, this is assumption. The text calls them both disciples and believers with no idea that their faith was not genuine. Some argue that their not knowing about the Holy Spirit was proof of their not being saved. But, this too is not tenable. Many believe that their statement that they had not heard whether there be a Holy Spirit means not that they did not know of the Holy Spirit but that it had been given, as it was on Pentecost. This is entirely plausible. (See John 7: 39)
In summation we must acknowledge that this passage affords no warrant for the re-baptism of those who are judged to have had an unqualified administrator.