The Timing of Baptism
“Recently someone told me that a person should be baptized soon as possible after he is saved. In my case, it was about one year after I was saved that I was baptized some 10 years ago. In other words, I invited Jesus into my heart ten years ago and about a year later I was baptized. What should I do now? Do I need to be baptized again?”
The timing of baptism! We are so glad that you raised this important topic! We’re glad that you have the desire to understand this important topic better, for your own sake and for the sake of others you have contact with. Nothing is more important than the issue of following the Lord, obeying God and His Word, and relating to salvation issues!
As I understand this matter, there are three dates involved: (1) You believe that you were saved at one point—about 11 years ago; (2) then a year later, you were “baptized”; (3) now, some 10 years later, you are wondering where you are spiritually and how you should view this question of your baptism.
It would seem that there are at least three different matters you are raising or three different ways to answer your concerns.
First, were you really saved, forgiven, born again, and did you receive the Holy Spirit about ten years ago, when you thought you “invited Jesus into your heart”? I know of no Bible passage that would say that one is saved and forgiven if he “invites Jesus into his or her heart.” We realize that this is a common view in some Protestant churches, but I find no warrant for it in the Scriptures. This seems to come from nineteenth and twentieth century evangelism efforts rather than a study of New Testament conversions. Therefore, if your experience did not reflect New Testament teaching, why would you want to cling to that presumed experience?
Second, if you were “baptized” a year after you went through the above form of “conversion,” it was far different from New Testament baptism. When one separates baptism from conversion and salvation, it becomes something less than what we read about on the pages of the Bible. It generally becomes a memorial to an assumed previous conversion event. Or it is supposed to add the person to a local church or denomination. Or it may give a “testimony” to what the person thought happened a year earlier. New Testament baptism is far richer and fuller than this.
Third, if your “baptism” (i.e., church baptism or denominational baptism) was different from New Testament baptism, would you want to maintain a loyalty to that defective (or invalid!) baptism? If Biblical baptism is meant to express faith in God and Christ (Acts 8:12; 18:8; Galatians 3:26-27; Colossians 2:12), meant to embody our repentance of sin and renunciation of the world (Acts 2:38; cf. Mark 1:4; Luke 3:3), and is meant to relate us to Christ and His death and resurrection (Romans 6:3-5; Colossians 2:11-12), would we want to hold tenaciously to a church baptism that had somewhat of a different meaning?
Maybe an illustration will help. Suppose that you partake of leavened white bread and Coke for the Lord’s supper, then learn that the early Christians partook of unleavened bread and the “fruit of the vine,” would you cling to your defective partaking of communion (1 Corinthians 10:16-17; 11:17ff)? Again, if you were a bishop or pastor in a denominational church, and you discovered that the early believers only had the positions of elder (shepherd or overseer), servant (or deacon), proclaimer/preacher (or evangelist), and teacher in the assembly (Acts 20:17, 28; Philippians 1:1; 1 Timothy 3:1-13; Titus 1:5-9; 2 Timothy 4:5), would you want to cling to your unscriptural position and work—or would you change your views and position? The list could go on and on to show a contrast between present belief and practice as compared with New Testament belief and practice.
Hopefully, you are able to see how God views your situation. Rightfully, you are confused about this issue for you have seen that your former belief and experience differs markedly from that which is revealed in Scripture. We can see that you are perplexed as to how to fit your unscriptural experience and belief into a different experience and belief described in the Scriptures. It is best to accept your defective past baptism—or would it be more honoring to submit your will to what you now know to be God’s ultimate will?
Hopefully, you will be willing to faithfully, lovingly, and submissively turn to a full commitment to the Lord in baptism that reflects truly what we read on the pages of the inspired Scriptures!
(The question was altered to reflect the original question and concern but not to reveal the questioner.)