We often encounter and study the Bible with people from a denominational background. When we show them biblical passages that show water baptism as a requirement for salvation, some tell us that they have already been baptized, and they do not want to do it again (or maybe they honestly do not see/feel the need to be baptized “a second time”).
“It would not be proper to be baptized more than once, because the Bible says that there is only one baptism.” The biblical reference to “one baptism” (Ephesians 4:5) does not refer to the frequency of being baptized, but rather to the type/kind of baptism that was in effect when Paul wrote that epistle. While the Bible mentions several different types of baptism, the “one baptism” is water baptism – the baptism of Jesus’ “Great Commission,” the baptism that will be in effect until the end of the age/world.
“I have never read anywhere in the Bible about anybody being baptized more than once.” In fact, there is an example of such in Acts 19. A group of men, about twelve in number, had been baptized before they met the apostle Paul (19:3). They had been baptized “into John’s baptism” (19:4). After meeting Paul and hearing his message, they were immersed again, this time being “baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 19:5). Why would they choose to make a second trip to the water? Evidently they had received John’s baptism after Jesus gave instruction about baptism in His Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15,16); John’s baptism was not valid for anyone who received it after Jesus gave that commission.
All of this causes us to wonder, in modern times, under what circumstances would a person need to be “baptized” again? We have no right to try and bind commands that God has not given, but at the same time, we must not remove any requirements that He has made, either. Any action which men label as “baptism” but does not harmonize with the teaching of Jesus’ new covenant is not a valid “baptism.” Consider the following scenarios.
“I was baptized when I was a baby.” In truth, babies are not proper candidates for baptism. Why? Because they have no sins to be forgiven and cannot receive the gospel message (Acts 2:38,41). Baby “baptism” is not scriptural baptism.
“I was baptized with my friends when I was only fifteen years old. The minister sprinkled some water on our heads one at a time.” Regardless of one’s age, sprinkling is not scriptural baptism. In the Bible, water baptism is always an immersion – the Greek word “baptisma” means immersion or submersion.
“Our whole family was baptized the same day. I recall that I did not really want to be baptized, but I did it anyway because my parents said that it would look bad if I did not join them.” When we read the Book of Acts, we learn that those who were baptized in the first century were people who personally desired to be immersed – no one else made the decision for them or forced them into it (Acts 2:41; 8:35-39). Being baptized in order to please other humans makes the action invalid.
“I am sure that I was baptized after I was already saved.” With that mindset, a person obviously was not baptized in order to have his/her sins washed away (Acts 22:16). Many are immersed, yet not for the right purpose. Just as partaking of the Lord’s Supper is pleasing to God only when it is done for the proper purpose (in remembrance of Jesus), so one’s “baptism,” in order to meet God’s approval, must be for the right purpose. If a person was immersed, convinced prior to that action that he was already saved, then later learns the truth and wants to obey it, it will require another trip to the water.
“The only thing I know is that I was baptized in order to become a member of the _________ denomination.” Baptism that makes one a member of a man-made church/denomination is not Bible baptism. Joining a man-made church is not in harmony with God’s will. When the African eunuch was baptized, to what church did the Lord add him (Acts 8)? To His own church, not a denomination (Acts 2:47). What about Saul of Tarsus (Acts 9)? Same answer. No one about whom we read in the Book of Acts was baptized into a denomination of men. Let me add that there is no such thing as being baptized into a denomination, then later learning the truth about salvation and just praying for forgiveness – it is not possible to “transfer” membership into the Lord’s church through prayer.
If my “first baptism” was not in harmony with the Bible, then it never really counted in God’s sight. If I later was immersed a second time, and that second time I “got it right,” then only that second trip to the water counted as true, scriptural baptism.
— Roger D. Campbell