Vol. 11 No. 4 April 2009
In studying the validity of one’s baptism, this question will often present itself: “Does one have to be baptized more than once?” Usually after a study of the New Testament church, one will conclude that he has been in error religiously speaking, professing membership in a denomination and realizing that in so doing, his worship has been vain (Matthew 15:9), and his conversion faulty. Perhaps, he had water sprinkled or poured upon him in the name of baptism or perhaps he was merely baptized to evince membership in a particular denomination, as an outward sign of an inward grace. The word baptism has always and will always mean immersion. Present day religious manuals, creeds and confessions have altered the meaning to authorize what they already believe and teach. Secular dictionaries define words by their present-day acceptance and often will give faulty meanings. For example, Webster’s New World Dictionary of the American Language defines the word “baptize” as: “to dip (a person) into or sprinkle with water as a symbol of admission into Christianity or a specific Christian church and of washing away sin.” This religious fallacy (which is widely taught and accepted) will undoubtedly give false hope to many good people. Baptism is a burial in water for the remission of one’s sins (Romans 6:3-4; Colossians 2:12; Acts 8:38-39, et. al.). Obviously then, one who has had water sprinkled or poured upon him in the name of baptism has never been baptized in a biblical sense and is therefore still in his sins!
Lest we leave the wrong impression upon the reader, let us hasten to say, one can be immersed, even in the name of baptism, and yet never be scripturally baptized. For example, children, playing church, will often “baptize” one another in a swimming pool. Were they, therefore, baptized into Christ? Certainly not! What of adults who are baptized not for personal conviction of their sins, but rather in an attempt to please others? Are they not also “playing church?” The apostle Paul, by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, revealed that a person must “obey from the heart that form of doctrine” (Romans 6:17, notice Romans 6:3-4 as to what the form of doctrine represents—death, burial and resurrection exhibited in baptism). One who has been immersed for the wrong reasons, not from the heart, has never been baptized, and is, therefore, still in his sins!
In Acts, Chapter Nineteen, the apostle Paul encountered twelve men who had been baptized “into John’s baptism” (Acts 19:3). John’s baptism was immersion in water (John 3:23; Matthew 3:16) for the remission of sins (Mark 1:4). Though John’s baptism was very similar to the baptism of the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16), it is no longer valid for men now living. “When they heard this [i.e., what Paul had taught them regarding the Holy Spirit and Christ], they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 19:5). Perhaps one had been baptized “because” he felt as if he already had the remission of sins. This one has been immersed for the wrong reason and is therefore still in his sins! One is baptized into Christ (Galatians 3:27; Romans 6:3-4) for the remission of his past sins (Acts 2:38) and in so doing is added to the Lord’s church (Acts 2:41, 47; 1 Corinthians 12:13).
The apostle Paul revealed that there is one valid baptism bound upon man today (Ephesians 4:5). This baptism is immersion in water for the remission of past sins that puts one into Christ and into the church of Christ. If one has been baptized for any other reason or in any other way, he must be baptized properly in order to obtain the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38). The one who has been baptized properly, but has fallen away must “repent and pray God” (Acts 8:22) to be restored to Christ, not “re-baptized,” for re-baptizing him is not taught in the Scriptures. If privately away, one should privately repent and pray God; if publicly away, one should publicly repent and request the prayers of the church (1 John 1:9): “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”