Were the 12 Apostles rebaptized?

Question or Topic

Did the twelve apostles, who had been baptized by John, have to be baptized a second time into Christ? Was Apollos, who knew only the baptism of John (Acts 18:25), required to be baptized a second time into Christ?


John 3:22-23; 4:1-2


The Importance of Example

There is no direct reference that the apostles themselves were personally baptized. It is reasonable to infer that they were baptized in the name of Jesus Christ from several references in the gospel of John and the book of Acts:

"After these things came Jesus and his disciples into the land of Judaea; and there he tarried with them, and baptized. And John also was baptizing in Aenon near to Salim, because there was much water there: and they came, and were baptized." (John 3:22-23) When therefore the Lord knew how the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John, (Though Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples,)" (John 4:1-2)

It would be most unlikely that the immediate disciples of the Lord would be baptizing men and women if they had not submitted to it themselves, even as the Lord himself did at the hands of John. Therefore, it would appear that the apostles were baptized during the period of our Lord's ministry before his offering. The reference above in John indicates that it was not the custom of the Lord himself to baptize, lest any should suppose their baptism, if performed by the Lord, gave to it special meaning beyond the meaning of the ordinance itself. (Consider the reasons given by Paul in 1 Corinthians 1:14-17.)

On the day of Pentecost, the multitude that heard Peter asked him and the rest of the apostles, "Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." (Acts 2:37,38) It is difficult to imagine that Peter's instructions on this matter, to be baptized every one in the name of Jesus Christ, would have been received by the multitude unless they knew that the apostles had been baptized in the name of Jesus Christ first. Among those who were baptized that day, it is reasonable to expect were some who had been baptized by John during his ministry. The fact that they had been baptized by John did not exempt them from Peter's commandment. Is it not also most unlikely that Peter would urge a course on the people of Israel that he and the rest of the apostles had not followed first?

The only apostle whose baptism is specifically recorded is that of the apostle Paul. Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord. (Acts 9:18, 22:16). This was the first baptism for the apostle Paul.

The Case of Certain Disciples At Ephesus

We learn from the Scriptures that there were certain disciples at Ephesus for whom it was necessary to be re-baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus, their baptism by John not being sufficient. "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 Spirit since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Spirit. And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto 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 the name of the Lord Jesus." (Acts 19:1-5)

The Scriptures do not directly state why the baptism of John was inadequate and why baptism in the name of the Lord Jesus was essential. There was a transitional period between the end of the dispensation of Moses and the rise of the dispensation of Christ. The baptism of John was a bridge between these two dispensations. As there was nothing in the Law of Moses which spoke about the baptism of John, it was a witness to the righteousness of God "without the law." (Romans 3:21) That is, those who submitted to it recognized that salvation could not be gained by keeping the works of the Law and that another means for the forgiveness of sins was needed, which did not involve animal sacrifice. The baptism of John witnessed to the means that God was to appoint in the Lord Jesus. (John 1:31) However, the baptism of John was not complete because it did not constitute baptism into the only name "under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved." (Acts 4:12) Baptism in the name of the Lord Jesus of certain disciples in Ephesus was therefore necessary in order that they might be joined to the name: "For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise." (Galatians 3:27-29) Although the baptism of John was for "the remissions of sins," (Mark 1:4) it did not involve "putting on" Christ and becoming "Abraham's seed" by faith.

Was Apollos Baptized Into The Name of the Lord Jesus?

The question of our correspondent is whether Apollos had to be re-baptized after the same manner as the "certain disciples" in Ephesus. His case appears to be parallel: "And a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man, and mighty in the scriptures, came to Ephesus. This man was instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in the spirit, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord, knowing only the baptism of John. And he began to speak boldly in the synagogue: whom when Aquila and Priscilla had heard, they took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly. And when he was disposed to pass into Achaia, the brethren wrote, exhorting the disciples to receive him: who, when he was come, helped them much which had believed through grace: For he mightily convinced the Jews, and that publicly, showing by the scriptures that Jesus was Christ." (Acts 18:24-28). There is no mention of Apollos' baptism as part of the fuller instruction he received. Apollos had left Ephesus for Achaia before the incident about the "certain disciples" in the following chapter is recorded.

There is no Scripture that conclusively states Apollos was baptized in the name of the Lord but there are two indications that he was. The "certain disciples" in Ephesus who knew only the baptism of John were likely ones taught by or associated with Apollos, when he was there, before he was shown the way of God more perfectly by Aquila and Priscilla. That being the case, it is difficult to suppose that the teacher did not also need to be re-baptized, even as the disciples who learned from him. A second subtle clue occurs in the book of Hebrews and depends, for its validity, on the supposition that Apollos was the author of the book. In Hebrews 6:2, the writer speaks of first principles: "Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment." Although Paul testifies in Ephesians 4:5 that there is "one baptism," the writer to the Hebrews speaks of the doctrine of "baptisms" in the plural. Given that the book of Hebrews was written to Jewish believers, for whom the baptism of John was originally designed, this reference to "baptisms" in the plural appears to include both the baptism of John, as a transitional arrangement, and baptism into the name of the Lord Jesus, as a permanent and final arrangement given by God. By identifying both baptisms as "first principles," it would have been necessary that Apollos submit to the baptism in the name of the Lord Jesus.

These conclusions concerning the baptism of the apostles and of Apollos in the name of the Lord Jesus are reasoned from what has been revealed but not directly recorded in the Scriptures.