What happened in Acts 19:6-7? Were these believers in Jesus or disciples of someone or something else?
The passage you are referring to is as follows:
And it came about that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper country came to Ephesus, and found some disciples, and he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said to him, “No, we have not even heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.” And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” And they said, “Into John’s baptism.” And Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in Him who was coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” And when they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking with tongues and prophesying. And there were in all about twelve men. (NASB) Acts 19:1-7
When the apostle Paul found these men, they were disciples of John the Baptist. They had been baptized by John and had followed him. John’s baptism was symbolic of a change in their heart attitude and of their faith in the coming Messiah – Jesus Christ. John only baptized those who were confessing their sins and were getting ready for their Messiah – Jesus Christ.
And all the country of Judea was going out to him, and all the people of Jerusalem; and they were being baptized by him in the Jordan River, confessing their sins. (NASB) Mark 1:5
These men had done that. The Acts 19:6-7 passage also tells us something not revealed in the gospels. It tells us that John the Baptist told those who were baptized to believe in Jesus .
Believers in Jesus
The passage also reveals that these men believed in Jesus. Apparently, there was a conversation between Paul and these disciples that is not given to us. They had been baptized as a symbol of a changed heart – a heart that is committed to Jesus. They were now ready to receive the Holy Spirit. Paul laid hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit. Why did they receive the Holy Spirit at this point? The answer is found in the fact that they believed before Pentecost and the Holy Spirit had not yet come. Therefore, the Lord used the apostle to help them understand that Jesus, their Messiah, had come.
When we become Christians, the Holy Spirit becomes active in our lives. It is His presence in our life that convinces us that we belong to Him. It is His presence that empowers us for victory over sin. It is He who helps us pray. What a joy to know that God has not left us here on this earth by ourselves!