Yes is true that in the book of Acts we do see water baptisms but we also see other rituals being performed for example Paul circumcised a boy (Acts 16:3) Paul also practiced a rite of water before going into the temple (Acts 21:26) but none of them tell us that water baptism is necesary. In fact we either see this examples happened because they have received the Holy Spirit or if they water baptised before receiving the Holy Spirit; the Apostles seemed concerned for the new believers to receive the Holy Spirit. We have to also keep in mind that the primitive church was composed of Jews and it was hard for them to leave things of the Jewish Law behind, just like is hard for us to leave things of the world behind when we first convert or even years later. They had long discussions about this subject (Acts 15:1-32). But now we are not imposed the law including tevilah (water baptism) we have never lived under the law. We should only keep laws of morality (abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood). Because the apostles believed that He purified our hearts by faith, “He made no distinction between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith…..we believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they were” (Acts 15:9 and 11). We also have to keep in mind that the protagonist should always be the Holy Spirit when it says that they were baptised unless it explicitly tells us that it was in water we should never exchange the Promised baptism of the Holy Spirit for a ritual ceremony in physical water that would never have the power of regenaration and to remit our sins like only the Holy Spirit through Jesus the mediator does (Hebrews 9:15).
But when they believed Philip as he proclaimed the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Simon himself believed and was baptized. And he followed Philip everywhere, astonished by the great signs and miracles he saw. When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to Samaria. When they arrived, they prayed for the new believers there that they might receive the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit had not yet come on any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit. Acts 8:12-17
While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?”
They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” So Paul asked, “Then what baptism did you receive?”
“John’s baptism,” they replied.
Paul said, “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. Acts 19:1-6
In these two passages we see the believers water baptising before receiving the Holy Spirit. In Acts 8:12-17 we see that Peter and John came so that they would receive the Holy Spirit because they had only been baptised in water. In Acts 19:1-6 we see Paul questioning new believers over being baptised but not receiving the Holy Spirit. It was like Paul almost said this “So let me get this straight you got baptised but you did not receive the Holy Spirit, so what did you baptised in? They responded with John’s baptism so if you did not receive the Holy Spirit then why did you tell me you got baptised?” For Paul baptism meant receiving the Holy Spirit. John’s baptism was with water Matthew 3:11; Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16; John 1:33; Acts 1:5 and Acts 11:16. The only important baptism is Jesus Holy Spirit baptism. We see another passage where a believer was only baptised with water (John’s baptism)
He had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and he spoke with great fervor and taught about Jesus accurately, though he knew only the baptism of John. Acts 18:25
The Jews that had converted brought this baptism along with them because John could not baptise them since he only baptised in Israel (Acts 13:24), many Jews still wanted to convert gentiles to Judaism (Acts 15:10). We also have the passage with the Ethiopian Eunoch.
Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus. And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him. Acts 8:35-37
Notice how Philip did not offer to baptise him, it was the Eunoch that asked to be baptised in water. Then Philip asked him if he had believed with all his heart and he responded yes. In Acts 15:9 we see that hearts had to be purified by faith “for he purified their hearts by faith” Philip made sure that the Eunoch had truly believed in the only one that can purify his heart, the water baptism would not save him and if it was even necesary wouldn’t Philip offer?
While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God. Then Peter said, “Surely no one can stand in the way of their being baptized with water. They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.” So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days. Acts 10:44-48
Then we see Peter narrating the same story Acts 11. Curiously in Peter’s narration does not mention the baptism in water and they rejoice that God had given the baptism of the Holy Spirit. If water baptism was absolutely necesary then why didn’t Peter emphasize it? Instead he emphasized the promised Holy Spirit baptism only given through Jesus Acts 1:4-5. If Cornelious and his people received the Holy Spirit without being water baptise then why is it necesary? If it was not necesary for the Holy Spirit to take possesion of Cornelious? If the Holy Spirit took possesion of him and the Holy Spirit is our only gurantee for salvation? (2 Corinthians 1:22; 2 Corinthians 5:5; Ephesians 1:13-14 and 4:30). The Holy Spirit did not have any objection to posesing Cornelious and the rest because he is sufficient to clean us from sin.
“As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them as he had come on us at the beginning. Then I remembered what the Lord had said: ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ So if God gave them the same gift he gave us who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could stand in God’s way?” When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, “So then, even to Gentiles God has granted repentance that leads to life.” Acts 11:14-18
Then we see a negative reference to water baptism in 1 Corinthians 1:10-17. It was dividing the church because they were choosing to follow whoever baptised them. Water baptism has divided the church through its history. Water baptism was being controversial since the very begining of the church.
I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought. My brothers and sisters, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, so no one can say that you were baptized in my name. (Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don’t remember if I baptized anyone else.) For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. 1 Corinthians 1:10-17
Paul was even grateful for not baptising anyone else and then said that he was not sent to baptise but to preach. Personally I only belong to Jesus for that reason I only accept his baptism and none other (Matthew 3:11; Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16; John 1:33; Acts 1:5 and Acts 11:16). These are the only examples found specifically of water baptism. Believers can water baptise if they really need to have a ritual performed just like Paul performed circumcision and also pratice a water rite before going into the temple and we also have to remember Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23. Its ok to do this only if we do it for the benefit of the gospel; but avoided if posible so that the Holy Spirit can be glorified even more through us and we can give glory to Him, the only one that deserves the glory for our salvation without us having to do anything. When we read the bible and read the word baptism we cannot quickly assume they are water baptisms since that would be downplaying and believing more in water baptism then in the power of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. The bible says that the Holy Spirit is the guarantee of our salvation.
Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. 2 Corinthians 5:5