Is “Re-Baptism” Scriptural?

By Wayne Jackson

Is there ever a justification for being “re-baptized”? I have questioned my baptism. I was very young and really did not comprehend the seriousness of what I was doing. I have considered being baptized again, but some say that it would not be right to be baptized a second time.

Your question is a very legitimate one. There are some people, even among religious leaders, who oppose any form of re-baptism.

For instance, in 1996, the General Conference of the United Methodist Church, in a convention conducted in Denver, Colorado, debated the matter of re-baptism. A position paper, issued by the conference, declared that Methodists who were baptized as infants should never be baptized again. The document explicitly stated: “Whether a baptized infant grows up to be a professing Christian or not, that baptism stands valid.”

This position is flawed in many particulars, having no scriptural support whatsoever.

New Testament Precedent

While on his third missionary campaign, the apostle Paul came to the city of Ephesus. There, he encountered twelve men who formerly had been baptized (with the type of baptism administered by John the Baptizer). One might be inclined to conclude, therefore, that the apostle would have accepted these men as they were, and merely organized them into a church.

Such was not the case, however. After questioning them as to the nature of their earlier baptism, and determining that their pre-baptism instruction on the previous occasion had been lacking in essential particulars, Paul immersed these men into Christ (see Acts 19:1-5).

This case clearly demonstrates that in order for one’s baptism to be valid, accurate teaching must precede the rite. Otherwise it is but a meaningless exercise, and not based on faith (Romans 10:17).

True Baptism — A One-time Act

Genuine baptism is needed only one time in a person’s life. Once a person has been baptized, according to the full complement of scriptural instructions, he or she never has the need to repeat this “new birth” process (cf. John 3:3-5).

After a person has entered the family of Christ through baptism (1 Corinthians 12:13; cf. Galatians 3:26-27), he or she is a part of the church, the household of God (1 Timothy 3:15; cf. Ephesians 2:19-22). The new Christian thus has access to all of the spiritual benefits of the “in Christ” relationship (Ephesians 1:3). As a son or daughter of God, within that sacred environment, the Christian petitions the heavenly Father for his or her personal needs by means of prayer (see Acts 8:22,24; cf. James 5:16), including forgiveness for sins as a child who will err (cf. 1 John 1:8; 2:1).

Baptismal Qualifications

Unfortunately, there are many sects in today’s world of “Christendom” that practice a “form of baptism,” but one that is contaminated by the accompaniment of a variety of doctrinal errors that invalidate the process. It is the case, therefore, that many who have been administered what was called “baptism,” need to submit to the ordinance again — this time with a more accurate understanding that precedes the event.

Here are some situations in which “re-baptism” would be warranted.

Infants

If one was “baptized” as an infant, thus was lacking personal faith (Mark 16:16; Acts 11:21), he should repudiate the meaningless earlier rite, in which he had no decision-making power (even though his parents were sincere in subjecting him to the procedure). He, in genuine faith, should submit to the command in the proper way. Infants have neither the need nor the ability to respond to the gospel of Christ.

Baptism without immersion

If one was “baptized” in some fashion other than by immersion (which actually expresses a contradictory concept, since “baptize” means “immerse”), then he should yield to the proper form. True baptism pictures the burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The sinner is buried in, and raised from, water (cf. Romans 6:3-4; Colossians 2:12), just as the Lord was buried, and then raised from the dead.

True baptism validates one’s faith in the death and resurrection events. Being sprinkled with water, or having water poured upon the head, is no baptism at all, and such substitutes are without sanction in the New Testament. They are post-apostolic innovations.

Baptism without repentance

If one was “baptized” without this act having been accompanied by genuine repentance, such a procedure similarly was ineffectual. I once heard about a man who emerged from the baptismal pool, turned to his wife, and said: “I hope you’re satisfied!” No “baptism” which lacks the proper motive (and other prerequisites) can have validity in the divine scheme of things.

Baptism without faith

If one is “baptized” without a sound faith basis, his ritual would be of no avail. One might feel, for instance, that Jesus was a good man (perhaps even a “perfect man” — as the “Jehovah’s Witnesses” allege), but deny that Christ is the Son of God (i.e., deity), and yet, for various other reasons, desire baptism. No baptism, grounded upon such a spurious “faith” could be accounted as genuine.

Baptism without purpose

If one has yielded to baptism for some purpose other than that which is supplied by inspired teaching, he, in reality, has not obeyed the Lord. Baptism is never defined as “an outward sign of an inward grace”; it is not a mere representation of redemption for those already received.

The purpose of the act is “for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38), to have sins “washed away” (Acts 22:16), to put the candidate “into Christ” (Romans 6:3-4; Galatians 3:26-27), or into his “body” (1 Corinthians 12:13), at which point he is “saved” (Mark 16:16; 1 Peter 3:21). The common resistance to the biblical proposition, namely that baptism is preliminary to salvation, constitutes a bold rejection of the plain testimony of Scripture. One cannot be immersed “for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38), if he believes his sins have been remitted already.

A person’s soul is too valuable, the plan is too simple, and the remedy too easy to access, for a person to “gamble,” hoping that a former “baptism” will be alright — in spite of the deficiencies associated therewith. If there is any question in one’s mind regarding a previous “baptism,” he should be safe and do it right.

If we may assist you in this regard, feel free to contact us for counsel.

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About the Author

Wayne Jackson has written for and edited the Christian Courier since its inception in 1965. He has also written several books on a variety of biblical topics including The Bible and Science, Creation, Evolution, and the Age of the Earth, The Bible on Trial, and a number of commentaries. He lives in Stockton, California with his dear wife, and life-long partner, Betty.