Acts 19:1 says, “And it happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the inland country and came to Ephesus. There he found some disciples.” These were disciples of the late John the Baptist.
And Paul said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” (v2). In the early church, as the gospel was spreading into new territories, the Spirit would sometimes fall in a special way, like on Pentecost in Acts 2 or on Cornelius and his family in Acts 10. And in every instance of conversion, the Spirit gave spiritual gifts to every believer. Paul seemed to have discerned that the Holy Spirit had not fallen on these people.
They replied to him, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit” (v2). So, Paul asked them, “‘Into what then were you baptized?’ They said, ‘Into John’s baptism.’ And 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, Jesus’” (v3-4). They had been given faith to believe in John the Baptist’s message, like Apollos had been given. They were looking forward to this Messiah, but they hadn’t known the whole story. Paul was providentially there to share it with them.
We read that “upon hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus” (v5). We see, here, God’s preparation of these new converts. He apparently had been drawing them, including giving them faith to believe in the message of John the Baptist. And He completed the process by sending Paul to them to preach to them the gospel of Jesus. This is one of the ways that God is pleased to work. He works circumstances in the lives of His elect to draw them to Himself on His own timing.
If you are a believer, what has God done throughout your life to draw you to Himself? Some have the benefit of growing up in church, hearing about Jesus all of their lives. Others are brought through certain trials to make their hearts hungry for God. He works in so many different ways in His perfect wisdom and timing. And as we’ve seen again and again, He always gets His sheep.