Today’s reading comes from Acts 19:1-10. In this passage St. Paul travels to Ephesus where he finds some disciples, who had only been baptized with the Forerunner’s baptism. Paul learns they never received or heard of the Holy Spirit. So he explains that St. John’s baptism was for repentance and they were baptized into the death and resurrection of Christ. Paul then laid hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit. These disciples then spoke in tongues and prophesied. Paul stayed in this region for three months preaching about the Way. Then he was pretty much kicked out and those who opposed him, talked against Jesus and the Way for two years after this, so everyone heard about the Lord.
Now I am not one for re-baptizing people, because if it is done correctly once it is not needed again. However, this is one place where being re-baptized is correct because they were not baptized into the name of the Trinity or had the baptism of Jesus. They only had John’s baptism, something we do not have to worry about today. However, there are some churches that follow Luke’s exact wording in this passage and just baptize people into the name of Jesus. People who are only baptized into the name of Jesus can be re-baptized because we can and should follow the command of Jesus to baptize into the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (something Paul probably did here, but Luke just didn’t word it this way). But baptism is a sign of belonging to the Kingdom of God and once you are in, there is no need to try to come in again. Even if it was done while you were a baby or if you left the church for some time, God’s grace was still poured out on you in the waters of baptism and it does not need to happen again, even if might make you feel better.
Paul also laid hands on the disciples and told them to receive the Holy Spirit. This is something that seems to be neglected in many churches today or over emphasized in others. The Holy Spirit and the gifts of the Holy Spirit were not just for the early church, but was sent to all the church throughout history. The laying on of hands is very important because it is a sign of the person having hands laid on him/her submitting to the will of the Spirit. This act of submission can make the person more receptive to the Holy Spirit, but we receive the Holy Spirit when we confess Jesus Christ. The laying on of hands and the prayers of Christians for the strength of the Holy Spirit, as we see in Paul ministry, can be very powerful. What happened in Ephesus can and does still happen today. It can also be a loosing of the other gift of the Spirit, be they wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, prophesy, miracles, discernment, tongues, interpenetration of tongues, encouragement, evangelism, apostleship, shepherding, serving, giving, compassion, or administration. Sometimes we just have to get out of God’s way to allow him to work and confirmation or laying on of hands allows us to do this sometimes.