I am reminded of an episode of Andy Griffith titled Barney Gets His Man. In the opening scene, an escaped criminal manages to lose the state policemen who were attempting to recapture him. He eventually finds his way to Mayberry where he encounters Barney Fife who tries to give him a ticket for littering. As he is writing the citation, the state police arrive and see the escapee who also sees them. As he attempts to flee, he accidentally runs into Barney and gets tangled up. This held him up long enough for the state policemen to capture him. As a result, Barney receives high praise from the officers and townspeople who thought he had apprehended the man. In true Barney Fife fashion, he soaked up the accolades with swelling pride. However, he had really done nothing but fall down and accidentally get tangled up with the man.
Sometimes we unknowingly take this approach to religious practices. One such issue is the practice of Christian baptism. Most in our religious world do not associate the practice with salvation, claiming it is an act of obedience done after one is already saved. The biblical picture is quite different as the Bible says it is “…for the forgiveness of sin” (Acts 2:38), to wash away sin (Acts 22:16), into Christ’s death (Rom. 6:3-6), into His body (1 Cor. 12:13), into Christ (Gal. 3:27), and the point at which salvation is granted (Mk. 16:16; 1 Pt. 3:21). With no interpretive artwork, this is the plain biblical teaching on the matter. Many people have learned this to be true after further review of the subject and submitted to the true biblical command.
However, many who have previously submitted to a “baptism” for reasons other than those stated in Scripture believe there is no need to subsequently be baptized for the right reason. Luke’s record in Acts 19:1-7 will not allow for such a position. When Paul recognized they had not been baptized properly, he had them be baptized for the right reason and into the right name/authority. This is the straightforward message of the passage. If the power were in the water, then it would not matter why someone got “baptized.” However, since the power of baptism is “…through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead” (Col. 2:12), the biblical picture is that for baptism to be effectual it must be the result of a properly informed faith. In other words, baptizing for the wrong reason has no more saving power than to “push ‘em in the pool”.