Thoughts for the Day

Monday, 22nd May 2023: Baptism - John the Baptist and Jesus

Ephesus Acts 19 Holy Spirit Baptism Paul John the Baptist Jesus

Reading : Verses from Acts, Chapter 19


* The great library of Celsus, Ephesus.

Paul passed through the inland regions and came to Ephesus, where he found some disciples. He said to them, ‘Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you became believers?’ They replied, ‘No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.’ Then he said, ‘Into what then were you baptized?’ They answered, ‘Into John’s baptism.’ Paul said, ‘John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, in Jesus.’ On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. When Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied — altogether there were about twelve of them.

(Lectionary, New Revised Standard Version)


Ephesus was the most important city in Western Asia Minor (modern Turkey) in the first century CE. It had an estimated population of around 200,000 – 250,000, and rivalled Antioch, Alexandria and even Rome itself. Paul was to spend over three years here during his Third Missionary Journey. During this time he comes across twelve disciples who had been baptised by John the Baptist, but knew nothing about the Holy Spirit. Luke the writer of Acts uses the word 'disciple' so it seems they had heard of Jesus and were Christians, otherwise he would surely have called them 'John's disciples'.

Why does this matter? Well the story highlights the differences between baptism by John the Baptist and Jesus. John's baptism is one of giving repentance to God. It is a clearing away of sin, if you like, when the person admits their failures to God. But Jesus' baptism is one of receiving a gift from God in the form of the Holy Spirit. In the baptism service today we (or godparents for a baby) turn away from sin and reject evil. We are then baptised in the name of "the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit". One prayer often used asks that we "may daily be renewed by His anointing Spirit".

We may not feel as though we received the Holy Spirit at the time, but He has been there with us, aiding us, rescuing us, and encouraging us throughout our life. Without God's power source we wouldn't have got where we are today!


O Holy Spirit,
Power of God,
Who comes to us in the quiet of a night,
when we lie awake and worry,
Who engages with our struggles
during the day,
and Who gives us the strength to continue
when we are down,
may we never forget that You are there
to teach, to guide and to nourish us
whenever we need You.

Follow Up Thoughts

You might like to find out more about Ephesus:

Or about Baptism:

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