Acts 19:1-5
Acts 19:1 (KJB)
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,
After Paul had visited the churches of South Galatia which he founded on his first missionary journey, he went through the higher-lying regions to arrive at Ephesus. When he was in Ephesus, he had found about twelve disciples who were truly godly and pious but at this juncture, it is not known if they were only followers of John the Baptist and not of the entire true Gospel. Nevertheless, Paul was able to find a group of people who welcomed him.
Acts 19:2 (KJB)
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.
These disciples no doubt had discussed some spiritual things with Paul but he no doubt sensed that something was missing from their testimony. He probably knew immediately that they were disciples of John. So he poses the question to them concerning receiving the Holy Ghost. They were completely ignorant of the fact of the Holy Ghost who indwells the believer at the moment of salvation. They no doubt heard of God the Father and no doubt heard of Jesus the Son of God, but did not know about the Third person of the Godhead. After hearing John, they probably did not know that the Holy Spirit had come at Pentecost about 20 years prior to this present time. This verse is not teaching that a person becomes saved and then at some future time they receive the Holy Spirit. (Rom 8:9 KJV) But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. If one does not have the Holy Spirit, and even if they were followers of John the Baptist, it meant they were still unsaved. It is like a person who is in the church all their life and is religious, then one day the Lord truly saves them, up until the time they were saved, they were still unbelievers but religious, meaning they were still unsaved because religion does not save.
Acts 19:3 (KJB)
And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John's baptism.
Since the true believer is baptized in the Holy Spirit upon salvation and a person cannot be a Christian unless they receive the Holy Spirit, Paul then goes on to ask them unto what were ye baptized? They could have been baptized unto Moses or for the dead. (1 Cor 15:29 KJV) Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead? Paul wanted them to tell him and then he would build upon that and show them the right way. They told him that they were baptized unto Johnís baptism.
Acts 19:4 (KJB)
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.
Paul had then explained to them that the baptism of John was a preparatory message and ministry. He explained to them that repentance was the beginning of Johnís message but the most important part of Johnís message was that the people were to believe on Him who came after him, that is, the Lamb of God. (John 1:27 KJV) He it is, who coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe's latchet I am not worthy to unloose. (John 1:29 KJV) The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. Salvation comes through the Lord Jesus Christ and it is to Him that we look.
Acts 19:5 (KJB)
When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
They may have received two baptisms that day. The first one is the important one which is the baptism in the Holy Spirit. (Acts 1:5 KJV) For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence. Then the second baptism is that of water as an outward testimony of what took place inside you. (Acts 8:36 KJV) And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?