Acts 18: 19 to 19: 7 describes how the church at Ephesus began. At first, Paul stayed only a short time, but he promised to return. Later, he found a group that had likely learned from Apollos, a powerful teacher who taught accurately about Jesus, but knew only the baptism of John.
Paul’s questions connected belief, baptism in Jesus‘ name, and the gift of the Holy Spirit. After they were baptized into Christ, Paul laid his hands on them and they received gifts from the Holy Spirit. This is a separate issue from the gift of the Holy Spirit that all Christians receive (Acts 2: 38, 39;
Romans 8: 9-11). Anyway, the Ephesians were exposed to three baptisms that we know of: 1) John’s baptism, 2) baptism into Christ, and 3) what is commonly called Holy Spirit baptism.
Paul later told the Ephesians that there is one baptism (Ephesians 4: 4-6). Which of the three baptisms is the one Paul referred to and the only one to be desired? First, the Ephesians were told that John’s baptism pointed to Christ and was no longer valid (Acts 18: 25, 26; 19: 4, 5). Second, Holy Spirit baptism is not related to salvation because the miraculous gifts were given as the Spirit saw fit and not everyone received them (1 Corinthians 12 and 13).
In Galatians 3: 26-4: 7, Paul said that, through baptism into Christ, we become Abraham’s descendants and children of God so he sends the Spirit of his Son into our hearts. Romans 2: 28, 29 says that one becomes Abraham’s descendent by circumcision of the heart done by the Spirit. Colossians 2: 9-12 says that this takes place during baptism. The Ephesians became Christians the same way as the Colossians, the Galatians, and the people on the day of Pentecost because the promise and requirement was made for all men everywhere at all times, even today (Acts 2: 38, 39).
Whatever scripture says about salvation by grace (Ephesians 2: 8), there is no conflict because all scripture comes from God who doesn’t lie (2 Timothy 3: 16, 17; Hebrews 6: 17, 18). So, it must never be discounted that there is one baptism (Ephesians 4: 4-6). The history of the Ephesian congregation shows that the one baptism is for the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2: 38, 39).
This baptism is by immersion in water (Ephesians 5: 25-27) because it unites us with the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ and frees us from sin (Romans 6: 3-8, 17, 18). This is the baptism that counts.
In addition to one baptism, there is only one faith (Ephesians 4: 5). That faith is the word of truth the Ephesians heard from Paul and obeyed (Acts 2: 41; 1 Peter 1: 22; James 1: 22), becoming sealed with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1: 13, 14). Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed (Acts 19: 2)?
Were you baptized? Unto what were you baptized? Or, what baptism did you receive when you believed (Acts 19: 3)? Were you baptized as an infant, not knowing what was being done? Eight-day-old Hebrew sons were circumcised without consent (Philippians 3: 5). Now, God wants people to choose him. Jesus connected baptism and belief (Mark 16: 16). An infant cannot believe.
Were you sprinkled rather than immersed? We would never consider one buried if we merely dropped a few dirt clods on them. Were you baptized to become a member of a church? Properly baptized believers are added to the church by the Lord because they have accepted his message that baptism brings forgiveness (Acts 2: 36-47). This church is not an independent congregation or a denomination. It is the universal body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12: 12, 13), which is one body (Ephesians 4: 4), united on New Testament doctrine (1 Corinthians 1: 10).
We simply need to be baptized into Christ for the reasons the Bible gives. Forgiveness is the primary function of baptism (Acts 22: 16), but it leads to many benefits promised to those who obey all the commands of Jesus (Matthew 28: 20; John 14: 15-21), not the least of which is salvation. Will you be reaping those benefits (Galatians 6: 7, 8)?