Should One be Baptized Again?

by Steven Chan

From time to time, we have been asked this question: “If a person from another church has been baptized by immersion, does that person need to be baptized again so that he can be a member of the Klang church of Christ?” The teachings of the Bible as regards who one need to do in order to be saved or have one’s sins forgiven is clearly stated as follows:- John 8:24: “I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for except ye believe that I am he, ye shall die in your sins.” Luke 13:3: “I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all in like manner perish”. Rom 10:9-10: “because if thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus as Lord, and shalt believe in thy heart that God raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved: for with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. Mark 16:15-16: “And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to the whole creation. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that disbelieveth shall be condemned. Acts 2:37-38: “Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and the rest of the apostles, Brethren, what shall we do? And Peter said unto them, Repent ye, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins; and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. One good example in the New Testament of how one became a Christian is the account of the conversion of the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8-35-39: “And Philip opened his mouth, and beginning from this Scripture, preached unto him Jesus. And as they went on the way, they came unto a certain water; and the eunuch saith, Behold, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? And Philip said, If thou believest with all thy 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 both went down into the water, both Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him. And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip; and the eunuch saw him no more, for he went on his way rejoicing.” The example of the conversion of the Ethiopian eunuch shows us both the necessary pre-requisite for baptism as well as the urgency for baptism: the Ethiopian eunuch first confessed his belief or faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God and then immediately he was baptized/immersed in water so that his sins may be washed away (Acts 22:16). According to Acts 2:47, because he was saved, the Lord would have added him to His church which is His body. The Bible tells us that immediately after he was baptized, the Spirit of the Lord took Philip away and the eunuch went on his way rejoicing – he could rejoice because he had obeyed the plan of salvation as set out by Jesus in Mark 16:16; and the Spirit took away Philip the evangelist because he had completed his work of preaching the gospel and assisting the eunuch to be saved in accordance with the terms of salvation as set out in Mark 16:16. The baptism by immersion of Mark 16:16 is for the purpose or in order to receive salvation. In Acts 2:38, the apostle Peter declared to the people in Jerusalem that they needed to “repent and be baptized everyone of them for the forgiveness of their sins”. Acts 2:41: “Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.” And Acts 2:47 records thus: “praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.” So, daily, how were these people saved? When they repented of their sins and were baptized just as they did in Acts 2:38, and then like the 3,000 in Acts 2:41, they were “added” to the church by the Lord (Acts 2:47). So, the Bible does not teach that one can join a church of one’s choice. Only the Lord may add those who are saved to the church – which is His body: Eph 1:22-23: “And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body”. The church which is the body of Christ is important because Jesus died to purchase His church (Acts 20:28) and “Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body.”(Eph 5:23). Those who have been baptized for the forgiveness of sins (as in Acts 2:38) became members of the Lord’s church. Unfortunately, through the years, many denominations teach and practice the belief that one is saved already when (i.e. at the point) one believes and accepts Jesus as Saviour, prior to being baptized; and they are then taught to be baptized in obedience to the command of the Lord as a public confession of their faith in Jesus and to declare that they have already been saved when they first believed and accepted Jesus as Saviour. That represents a changing of the sequential steps for how one may be saved. According to Mark 16:16, one needs to believe and be baptized in order to be saved. Many modern day preachers unfortunately teach that when one believes then one is saved already – and then later on – some take months, others take years – they are taught to be baptized in obedience to the command of Jesus as a sign of an inward grace – but not in order to be saved but because they were already saved! In other words, baptism was NOT necessary for or unto salvation; one was saved when one believed, separate and apart from having been baptized. But the Bible says otherwise – that baptism saves us; I Pet 3:20,21: “when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water. The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ:” It is clear that there is a difference between being baptized in order to be saved, and being baptized because you have already been saved. So, is the reason one was baptized important? In the Bible, there was one incident whereby a group of believers were baptized again:- “And it came to pass, that, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper country came to Ephesus, and found certain disciples: and he said unto them, Did ye receive the Holy Spirit when ye believed? And they said unto him, Nay, we did not so much as hear whether the Holy Spirit was given. And he said, Into what then were ye baptized? And they said, Into John’s baptism. Paul said, John baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people that they should believe on him that should come after him, that is, on Jesus. And when they heard this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus.”(Acts 19:1-5). The afore-stated account tells us that the believers in Ephesus were baptized again because they had initially been baptized for a different purpose – under John’s baptism of repentance which was no longer applicable after the death of Jesus on the cross and the inauguration of the new covenant which now requires the baptism in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins. Realizing that they had not been baptized for the right purpose, they immediately were baptized in the name of Jesus Christ as they recognized the importance of being baptized for the right purpose as it is a very important step to one’s personal salvation. Following the Great Commission as announced in Matt 28:18-20 and after Acts 2, there is only one valid or acceptable baptism: Eph 4:5:”one Lord, one faith, one baptism;” prior to that there were the baptism of John, the baptism unto Moses (I Cor 10:2), baptism with the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:5) etc (Heb 6:2). In being baptized into the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (Matt 28:19), – one puts on Christ: Gal 3:27: “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” – When one is raised from baptism one begins the new life: Rom 6:3-4: “Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” – When one is baptized into Christ (Gal 3:27), one is a new creature: 2 Cor 5:17: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” All spiritual blessings are found in Christ: Eph 1:3: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.”(Eph 1:7) For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body–whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free–and have all been made to drink into one Spirit (1 Cor 12:13) So, it would appear that those who have been baptized for the following non-biblical purposes would need to re-consider their need to be baptized for the right purpose as the believers in Ephesus:- Those who were baptized as infants: The Bible clearly teaches that the proper candidate for baptism is the one who believes (Mark 16:16; Acts 8:37). An infant cannot believe and is therefore not a proper candidate for baptism; Those who were baptized by sprinkling or pouring: The proper mode of baptism as revealed in the Scriptures is immersion in water for the following reasons:- a. The original Greek word that is translated as baptism is “baptizo” which means to dip under or immersed; it is not pouring or sprinkling b. Baptism is a symbol of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ whereby we die to sin, are buried with Christ and raised together with Him to walk in newness of life (Rom 6:3-5); there is no symbol of burial in sprinkling or pouring (Col 2:12) c. The baptism of the Ethiopian eunuch required them to stop the chariot and both Philip and the eunuch to go “down into the water” so that Philip could baptize him (Acts 8:38); neither sprinkling nor pouring requires going into the water. 3. Those who were baptized without believing in Jesus as the Son of God or repenting of their sins: Mark 16:16, Acts 2:38 and 8:37 clearly highlight the pre-requisite of faith and repentance before one should be baptized. So, if one had been baptized without believing that Jesus is the Son of God or being willing to repent of one’s sins, then one would have not been a proper candidate for baptism. However, this does not mean that one is incapable of committing sin after one’s baptism: In Acts 8:13, Simon the sorcerer believed in Jesus and was baptized and shortly thereafter, he sinned and the apostle Peter said to him in Acts 8:22: “Repent therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you.” It was necessary for him to be baptized again but he had to repent and pray for forgiveness of sins. There is only one baptism and one does not need to baptize again when one sins – so long as one has been baptized for the right purpose. 4. Those who were baptized for some other purpose other than for the biblical purpose of receiving the forgiveness of sins: As exemplified in the case of the believers in Ephesus, when they discovered that their baptism was for the wrong purpose, i.e. that it was for repentance under the teaching of John the Baptizer which had been superseded by the baptism commanded by Jesus Christ, they were baptized immediately for the right purpose in the name of Jesus Christ. Oftentimes, when the person who has been baptized in a denomination, is asked whether he was baptized for the right purpose, i.e. order to have his sins forgiven so that he could be saved, that person may answer in the affirmative because he had probably heard someone said that baptism is for the remission of sins – but in reality, the person who had baptized him (or the church that had him baptized) did not really baptize him for that purpose but probably for some other reason such an ‘outward public confession of an inward grace’. That raises a real question as to whether he was baptized for the right purpose. Since, it is an important matter affecting his personal salvation, it would be advisable for him to carefully verify and satisfy himself that he was indeed baptized for the right purpose at the relevant time when he was baptized and not one that is imputed later on through his personal studies or through listening to someone mentioned it. If in doubt, it may perhaps be advisable to be baptized for the right reason rather than run the risk of not having been baptized for the right purpose as was the case with the believers at Ephesus. Ultimately it is his personal decision – between him and his Lord. The Klang Church of Christ does not have the biblical authority to require one who has been baptized for the right purpose to be re-baptized as a person needs only to be baptized once for the correct purpose.