Should I be Rebaptized?

Should I Be Rebaptized?

Should I Be Rebaptized?

Richard Hollerman

Many people have asked this question in their lifetime. Maybe you are asking it right now! We suppose that some of our readers have already been “rebaptized” at least once and maybe more than once!

It is quite clear from Scripture that, under certain circumstances and for certain reasons, it is quite proper to be baptized again! You may remember that Paul visited Ephesus on his third journey and encountered twelve “disciples” there who had only experienced the baptism of John. After asking whether they had received the Holy Spirit when they believed and learning that they had not even heard whether there was a “Holy Spirit,” Paul commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 19:1-7). Thus, using this incident as a precedent, we know that under certain circumstances, it is proper and even required that people be “rebaptized.”

The previous chapter in Acts tells us of Apollos, another person who was “acquainted only with the baptism of John” (18:25). Priscilla and Aquila “took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately” (v. 26). Although the text itself doesn’t say that he was rebaptized, we would suggest that he was since his baptism surely was not “Christian” baptism at all. Although John’s baptism and Christian baptism were both baptisms expressing repentance (cf. Mark 1:5; Luke 3:3; Acts 2:38), there were many vital differences. Those who have failed to have a true Christian baptism must be immersed or re-immersed in compliance with God’s will revealed in Scripture. People can be wrong about an important aspect of this meaningful act.

But you may reply that you have not been baptized with John’s outdated baptism (cf. Matthew 3:1-12; Mark 1:4-8; Luke 3:3-14), but still you wonder whether you should be baptized again. Yes, there are occasions when it would be God’s will that you be rebaptized! What are some of these?

You should be Rebaptized if. . .

  1. If you were only sprinkled or poured.

We know that hundreds of millions of people on earth have only been sprinkled or poured with the thought that these actions constituted baptism. We think of large churches or denominations such as the Catholics, Anglicans, Episcopalians, Methodists, Presbyterians, Lutherans, and others. But is this true? Should those who have only been poured or sprinkled with water assume that they have been baptized and have done what God desires?

The term baptisma (baptism) consists of “the process of immersion, submersion and emergence,” according to the Greek authority, W. E. Vine (Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, p. 50). That is, baptism means to immerse, submerge, dip, or (symbolically) to overwhelm.

Besides the Greek language (that God used to write to New Testament documents), various lines of evidence may be given to show that baptism indeed means to immerse or dip into water and then lifted from the water. You might think of the baptism of Jesus Himself. Matthew tells us that after Jesus was baptized by John in the Jordan River, He “came up immediately from the water” (Matthew 3:16). Why would our Lord have entered the water of the Jordan if He didn’t need to be immersed? Further, John the apostle tells us that John the immerser “was baptizing in Anon near Salim, because there was much water there; and they were coming and were being baptized” (John 3:23). Why did he choose this location? “Because there was much water there.” Sprinkling a few drops of water doesn’t require “much water”—but immersion does.

Should I be Rebaptized?

It would be good to notice the description of Philip’s baptism of the Ethiopian also. We read: “He ordered the chariot to stop; and they both went down into the water, Philip as well as the eunuch, and he baptized him. When they came up out of the water…” (Acts 8:38-39a). Here we see that both of these men (Philip and the Ethiopian) entered the water and came up out of the water, with the baptism occurring when they were in the water! You might also want to read Romans 6:3-5 and Colossians 2:12 where baptism is referred to as a “burial.” Would pouring or sprinkling require a “burial”? Not at all. But immersion does.

For centuries after the New Testament period, Christians immersed converts as a normal procedure. Yes, there was such a thing as “clinic” baptisms, in which a sick person was overwhelmed with water, but this was the exception. Thus,  if you have only been sprinkled or poured with water, thinking that this was a baptism, you should be truly baptized by means of immersion. (Baptism itself means immersion, thus when you use this term, you should immediately think of someone being dipped or immersed into water. To say that one is “baptized by pouring” makes no sense for it means, “immersed by pouring”!)

  1. If you were “baptized” as a baby or young child.

As in the previous case above, hundreds of millions of people think that they were “baptized” when there was a religious ceremony or ritual for a child conducted by a priest, minister, or pastor. It is the common practice in some religious organizations for a church authority to sprinkle or pour (or even immerse, in the case of the Orthodox Church) an infant and call this “baptism.” But is it really a “baptism”?

Most religious authorities and authors freely admit that they know of no example of “infant baptism” in the Bible. They will acknowledge that there are no instructions for us to baptize babies. Most defenses rest on conjecture and one of the leading ones is that under the Law of Moses, male (not female) babies were circumcised at eight (8) days of age. Thus, the conclusion is that in the New Testament age, babies need not be circumcised but they should be baptized. This is what is called “infant baptism” and vast numbers of people have believed this and experienced it. Maybe you have!

Should I be Rebaptized?

One other rationale is sometimes given to “prove” infant baptism. I refer to the “household” baptisms recorded in Scripture. These households who were baptized could contain infants or they could contain older children (along with servants who were part of the household). It is interesting that the description of these family baptisms  show that they contained mature people, those mature enough to personally respond to Christ.  The household (or family) of Cornelius were old enough to listen to Peter’s message (Acts 10:44), to speak with tongues (v. 46), to receive the Holy Spirit (v. 47), and to hear and respond to words (11:14). The house of Lydia appear to have responded as did Lydia—who responded to the message and was faithful (16:14-15). The household members of the jailer received the word of the Lord and believed and also “rejoiced greatly” (16:30-34). Crispus and the Corinthian households “believed in the Lord with all his household” and “were believing” (Acts 18:8). The household of Stephanas was also baptized, although nothing more is given (1 Corinthians 1:16). We can’t find realistic evidence of families here who were baptized without faith, repentance, or commitment.

But, as always, we must ask the insightful question, “What does the Scripture say?” (Romans 4:3a). Since we are going to be judged by God’s Word, we must discover whether early Christians baptized babies!

There are several clear reasons why infant baptism is not Scriptural. (We use “baptism” here to communicate, although we have discovered in the previous point above that baptism is immersion or dipping and not pouring or sprinkling.)  First, baptism must express our faith in Christ. As Jesus said, “He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved” (Mark 16:16a). He didn’t say, “He who has been baptized (as a baby) and later believes shall be saved.” There is a great difference. We also learn that the Samaritans first “believed” Philip’s preaching and then were “baptized, men and women alike” (Act 8:12). Notice again that one must believe (or have faith) before he is baptized.

Many other instances of faith and baptism are found in Scripture. Lydia first believed and then was baptized (Acts 16:14-15). The jailer and his family first believed and then were baptized (Act 16:31-34). The Corinthians believed and then were baptized (Acts 18:8a). “When they heard [the gospel] [they] were believing and being baptized” (Acts 18:8b). Paul wrote to the Galatians and said that they had “faith in Christ Jesus” and then “were baptized into Christ” and thus were “clothed” with Christ (3:26-27). When the Colossians were baptized, they were “raised up with Him [Christ]  through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead” (Colossians 2:12). All of this evidence shows that those wanting to become Christians first believed in Christ and then expressed this in being baptized. This is not the description of infant baptism.

Second, when a person came to Christ in the first century, they first repented of their sins—before baptism. When Peter spoke to the great crowd on Pentecost, he cried out, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). Notice that they had to “repent” and then this repentance was manifested when they were “baptized.” They did not experience baptism first and then repentance later, when they were older. This was similar to the baptism that John preached. Remember that he was “preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Mark 1:4; cf. Luke 3:3). In other words, his baptism in water expressed the repentance of their heart. Repentance came before the baptism—not after. We know that a baby of one week, one month, or one year cannot repent of his or her sins! In fact, an infant has no sins to remit.

Third, in Christ’s great commission to the disciples, He declared, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20; cf. Mark 16:15-20; Luke 24:46-48). In this important command, Jesus said that people from all the nations should be made disciples. How was this to be done? Two participles tell us how. First, they were to be immersed and second, they were to be taught to observe all that Jesus had commanded His disciples. Obviously, babies cannot become disciples. They cannot be taught to keep all of Christ’s commands. Thus, they cannot truly be baptized.

It is also interesting to notice that those on Pentecost were baptized “for the forgiveness of [their] sins” (Acts 2:38). These sins could be repented of and forsaken which is not true of babies. Further, the baptism was not for the forgiveness of Adam’s sin but the forgiveness of their own sin! (v. 38). Likewise, when Ananias confronted the repentant Paul in Damascus, he said, “Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name” (22:16). Again, notice that this was to do away “his” sins—not the sins of Adam.

  1. If you thought you were saved, forgiven, and regenerated before and without baptism (by a so-called “sinner’s prayer).

Not only are vast numbers of people “baptized” as babies or sprinkled/poured instead of baptized (immersed), but millions of people think that they were saved and “born again” before and without actual baptism. We all know the common scenario: People have read a little religious tract with a short “sinner’s prayer” at the end. It is thought that if the reader just repeats that written prayer, God will accept him and save him. Others hear a convincing preacher or pastor urge his hearers to “bow their head” and “invite Jesus into their heart.” Billy Graham and those like him might make an appeal and urge the audience to “make a decision” for Jesus. Thus, millions of people who are exposed to this “easy believism” or “sinner’s prayer” form of evangelism assume that they have been “born again” and saved through this means. But is this what the Scriptures teach?

Should I be Rebaptized?

Regardless of how popular this non-baptism form of regeneration is and how accepted it is to promote this “easy-believe” form of the “sinner’s prayer,” we must ask why this wasn’t the standard means of salvation in the first century. We already know that salvation is of Christ Jesus (Acts 4:12), for Paul wrote, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15). He did this by dying on the cross and rising again from the dead three days later, in victory over sin and death (see Romans 3:24-26; 5:6-11; 1 Peter 1:17-18, 2:24; 3:18; 1 Corinthians 15:1-22). Thus we must always view salvation as centered on Christ Jesus and all that we do must be done in relationship to His death and resurrection. This is the very basis of our salvation.

As we have seen, our faith (Acts 16:30-31; Galatians 3:26) and repentance (Acts 2:38) are focused on God and on His Son, Jesus Christ. But now we must ask, “What do we find in regard to baptism?” Is it simply something to add to our faith response of repentance, a mere “step” in our life of obedience? Or is baptism something much more crucial?

In the New Testament, we find that baptism is related to salvation itself: “He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved” (Mark 16:16a). And we read further, “Baptism now saves you” (1 Peter 3:21). Baptism is also related to the forgiveness of sins: “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins” (Acts 2:38), as well as the washing away of sins: “Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name” (22:16). Further, baptism is connected to entering into Christ or into a relationship with Christ: “All of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death” (Romans 6:3-4). “All of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ” (Galatians 3:27). We also are “circumcised” with “the circumcision of Christ” when baptized (Colossians 2:11-12), and are buried and risen with Him in baptism (v. 12).  Additionally we are baptized into Christ in order to become His disciple or follower (Matthew 28:18-19). All of this shows that baptism is to be a volitional act and not just something done to us by a third party (such as a parent).

The question then arises: What if we somehow have been told and have been led to believe that all of these blessings have been granted separate and apart from the act of baptism! If this were to happen, it would seem to break the unbreakable connection between baptism and these spiritual blessings in Christ (Ephesians 1:3). Thus our baptism would be something different from New Testament baptism. In this case, shouldn’t we conclude that we need to be immersed into Christ instead of thinking that we were in Christ before baptism? We do know that tens of millions have read such a tract as The Four Spiritual Laws, then make a “decision” and “repeat the little prayer of acceptance, then assume that they are saved. But, as we have noticed, this is not in harmony with what sinners did in the first century to be saved.

  1. If you thought that baptism made you part of a religious denomination or organization.

There are many churches and religious denominations who would say that when a person is baptized it is not only a means of testifying to a past salvation experience but it is a means of entering either a local church or congregation or a worldwide religious denomination. Thus, a person may think that he is entering the Baptist Church, the Mennonite Church, or another church body when he comes to baptism. Is this true?

Should I be Rebaptized?

No, it is not true. If one comes to Christ and is united with Christ when he is baptized, would it not also be true that he enters the body of Christ in the same act? This seems to be what we read in Acts 2:47, that “the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved” (see also vv. 38-41). We know that the Holy Spirit is bestowed when a person responds with a repentant faith in baptism (Acts 2:38-39). Thus we read, “By one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:13; cf. vv. 12-27). Baptism relates us to the body of Christ or the family of God, and not to a local denomination.

  1. If you had inner doubts or uncertainty.

We’ve already noticed that our baptism arises from faith and is expressive of faith (cf. Acts 8:12).  It also manifests a repentant heart (Acts 2:38). But it is important that you have an inner sincerity in your response in baptism. Any hypocritical response will not do. Any doubt as to the truthfulness of who Jesus is or who God is must be eliminated. Any uncertainty must be taken away since this is counter to an attitude of faith.

Paul says that love comes from “a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” (1 Timothy 1:5). Peter reminds us that baptism is “an appeal to God for a good conscience” (1 Peter 3:21). This could mean several things, but it appears to mean that when one is baptized he is “appealing” to God so as to have a good conscience by means of this act. Even Jesus emphasized that the heart must respond in worship and that outward actions mean nothing unless this inner faith response is present and is genuine (cf. Matthew 15:7-9).

Thus, baptism is a matter of genuine faith—not of doubt. And it is a matter of repentance—not of insincerity. God wants our baptism to be authentic and true rather than something mechanical and external. Baptism is an inner response of faith, submission, and committal and is not merely external or outward in nature.

  1. If you failed to have a Scriptural view of God, Christ, or the Spirit.

We know that millions of people have submitted to an act that they thought was baptism or assumed that it was baptism, but their faith was defective—and thus invalid.

Our faith must include the aspect of reliance or trust in Jesus as the “lifted up” Savior who gave Himself on the cross for our salvation (John 3:14-18). It includes a confidence in the truthfulness of God’s promises. But there is another aspect that definitely must be present—and that is the element of acceptance of the truthfulness of God, of Christ, of the Spirit, and of Scripture.

For example, we must believe that Jesus came in the flesh (2 John 7), that He was sinless (1 Peter 1:19; 1 John 3:3, 5, 7), and that He both died for our sins and was raised on the third day (Romans 5:6-11; 1 Corinthians 15:1-22). We must believe that Jesus was God’s Son (John 3:16-18), the Messiah or Christ (John 20:31), and  the Lord (Romans 10:9-10). In fact, He was not only man (1 Timothy 2:5) but also God (theos, John 1:1-5; 20:28; Titus 2:14; 2 Peter 1:1). Our faith in God and in Christ must be an inclusive faith that embraces the truth found in Scripture regarding God.

But there are numerous people who have failed to have a Biblical faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (or God the Father). The Mormons think that every faithful member of their organization will become a “god” himself after death. The Watchtower Witnesses think that Jesus was Michael the Archangel in the O.T. period, was only a man while on earth, and presently is a spirit creature below God. The United Pentecostals and other Apostolic people think that Jesus was and is God the Father. The Catholics worship (“adore” and “revere”) Mary and Catholic “saints” along with the Lord Jesus. Many mainline Protestants have a lower view of Jesus Christ and refuse to believe that He is the virgin-conceived, virgin-born, sinless, redemptive Son of the Living God who was resurrected to new life and who waits to return in power and glory at the end of time. The list could go on and on.

This means that many people have been baptized without a pure and unadulterated faith in God through Jesus Christ our Lord. They have allowed false teachings, false views, and false ideas to influence their faith so that it is no longer a genuine faith but a counterfeit one. Thus, baptism may be invalidated by an inadequate faith or trust in God through Jesus the Messiah.

7. If you were “baptized” for the wrong reasons.

What do we mean by this? Suppose that your friend decided to be baptized and, to follow his example, you chose to be baptized. Would this be acceptable to God? Of course not—since baptism is an individual decision and must be chosen to please God, not to please a friend. The same would be true if you wanted to be baptized to please your father or mother. Respect for parents is important (Ephesians 6:1-3), but when it comes to becoming a Christian, we must focus on God Himself! Further, many have undergone an act they called baptism since they wanted to impress or win the heart of their girlfriend or boyfriend. Such a baptism was not to please the Lord, but to impress another person!

We must also recognize that if you happened to think that it was time or past time for you to be baptized since others had been baptized at the same age, this just couldn’t be a true baptism at all. Further, some have been baptized to please a persuasive preacher or teacher—and not to please the Lord Himself. You might remember that Paul wrote, “We have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him” (2 Corinthians 5:9). Were you seeking to please a parent, a boyfriend or girlfriend, a spouse, a preacher, a teacher, or anyone else? Or were did you have as your aim to please God?

As you know, one of these different examples couldn’t be the proper motive for being baptized. We must want baptism and choose baptism in order to follow the Lord in this act that He Himself commanded.  We are to “please Him in all respects” (Colossians 1:10) for He is our Savior, our Lord, and our King!

We might add a caution here. Sometimes when baptism is discussed, people may tend to make this response the center of attention. No, Jesus is always central! We need to emphasize baptism as a personal response of repentance and faith toward God and toward Jesus Christ. We are not to have our mind fixed on the act of baptism, per se, but on the Lord who gave us baptism and is the focus of our faith! In other words, we do not have faith in baptism—but on the God of baptism! Our salvation is by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). Yes, it can be said that we are saved by baptism (cf. Mark 16:16; 1 Peter 3:21; Acts 22:16), but this baptism has no merit or worth in itself. It is merely the act that embodies repentance and expresses faith in Christ who Himself is the object of our faith and the very basis of our salvation!

Have You Experienced a Faulty and Invalid Baptism?

We have seen above that in at least six (6) ways people have neglected the genuine baptism described and taught in God’s written Word. They have accepted a counterfeit “baptism” that may be corrupted in various ways.

Some have failed to submit to an actual baptism (an immersion in water). Others have only been “baptized” as babies, long before they could have a true faith or repentance of sin. Still others have refused to become true disciples of Jesus through baptism. And many have been “baptized” to enter a religious organization rather than the body of Christ or family of God. Further, a great many people have thought that they were saved and became children of God by means of a little “sinner’s prayer” and some time later (a week, a month, a year, or even ten years!) they are baptized and think that this merely was a way of “testifying” to their previous conversion experience.

Do you recognize any of this yourself? Could it be that you personally have experienced a corrupted form of “baptism” that was not genuine and therefore not valid? Could it be that you have gone through life—whether 20 years, 40 years, or even 80 years—and thought you were baptized in the past but now you realize that you were not really baptized in the sight of God?

If this describes you and you now have a glimpse of the truth as it is in Christ, now is the time to go back and rectify the wrongs and submit yourself in faith to God! Friend, remember that we all will be gone in a hundred years, thus now is the time to truly repent of all your sins (including all of the doctrinal errors and sins of your life), to repent of all your moral lapses, to trust in God to save you for Christ’s sake, and to submit yourself to the Lord in humble surrender and absolute obedience.

Baptism is important and you now have the opportunity to experience a true, Scriptural baptism. Begin the remainder of your life in Christ and find the freedom that God promises to those who come to Him through a repentant faith expressed in genuine baptism.

 

 

 

 

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