Do you have to have a certain understanding about Baptism, or the Trinity, or other church beliefs at the moment of salvation? The reason I ask, is that I’ve been asked to be RE-baptized because I was in a different church who teaches some doctrinal points of baptism differently… should a person be re-baptized if a church requires it for membership?
First, let me tell you when I would answer that question “YES”:
- When a person was baptized as an infant. Infant baptism is not only unscriptural, it doesn’t even make sense. Salvation is between a human (mature enough to understand the Gospel message) and God. Babies can’t even say “Gospel” much less understand it.
- When a person was baptized in a church that does not teach a Biblical, saving Gospel message such as occurs in the quasi-Christian cult-type groups.
- When a person was baptized in a church that clearly and specifically teaches a salvation-by-works-of-man (including baptism) as the way to be saved.
- When a person was coerced to be baptized and was not sincere in participating.
- When a person feels led by the Holy Spirit to do so because THEY PERSONALLY believe their original baptism was not a true act of repentance and obedience.
Now let me tell you when I would answer the re-baptism question with “NO”:
- For “church membership” which is a man-made requirement. Baptism is about KINGDOM membership, not membership to a certain identifiable church group.
- If you were baptized by immersion into water as an obedient response to God’s command, repenting of your sin, believing in Christ Jesus, and placing your faith in God… you have NO obligation Scripturally to be re-baptized regardless of what any church, preacher, Pastor, leader or denomination says. (I was once told is was a matter of submission… hogwash)
- It doesn’t matter who the person was who baptized you.
- It doesn’t matter what that church group teaches about baptism***… what matters is what YOU believed at the time. (***Be reasonable folks; we’re talking about things like “a minister has to baptize you” or “you have to be in a church”; not something outrageous baptism has to be done in a secret temple wearing special underwear)
As for baptism, the only Biblical imperative is that a person hears God’s command to repent, believe and be baptized, and sincerely obeys God in faith (regardless of their lack of understanding when regeneration occurs). As for the ACT of baptism, the only Biblically explicit condition is IMMERSION in water. I don’t have space here to communicate that whole lesson, but it’s not a genuinely disputable point. There is no Biblical command that a person reach a certain depth of theological understanding before they can be saved. Every example in Scripture is “hearing the Gospel, believing, repenting and immediately being baptized”. We have violated that by requiring “baptism training classes”, “church doctrine training classes” and lackadaisically allowing weeks or months to go by before having a “baptismal service” (thus undermining the importance and prominence of baptism that Scripture clearly communicates).
Churches have split into two groups:
- Under emphasize (less emphasis than Scripture) baptism so you won’t be accused of teaching that baptism is “essential to salvation”
- Over emphasize (more emphasis than Scripture) so that there will be no doubt you believe baptism to be essential to salvation
Both positions do damage to simply letting the Bible declare the proper emphasis on baptism, and that is (no matter what theology you place behind it): immediately following genuine belief and repentance, a person is baptized.
A Baptist church we attended for a time (even though we were not “Baptists”; we are just CHRISTIANS), said we must be rebaptized because our “Church of Christ” baptism was believed under a “works” mentality even though I explained to them that I was baptized simply because the Bible told me to. Plain and simple. I was ten years old, knew I was a sinner and the Bible said, “repent and be baptized”… so I did.
I didn’t ask about the moment of regeneration; I didn’t know anything about “coming into contact with the blood”… I didn’t wonder about a specific pinpoint of time where I was lost one second, and saved the next. I didn’t know about being in a “baptism class” to learn all the right doctrines first. I didn’t know anything about Calvinism, Arminianism or the Trinity. I didn’t know any theology terms. I just knew the Bible said “repent and be baptized”, and I knew I was a sinner, and I knew I believed in Jesus. And I knew I wanted to go to heaven not hell.
How much more “correct” can one be than that concerning salvation?
Then a Church of Christ we attended wanted a rebaptism because we weren’t always part of the “Lord’s Church” because we chose a Baptist church to fellowship with over the local Church of Christ which was so legalistic as to want to drive you from Christianity completely. You may consider that absurd, but how many of Church of Christ folks out there require the re-baptism of any Baptist or Methodist even if they have already obeyed the Lord in baptism? “Yeah, but they didn’t believe the right thing about baptism…” Sound familiar?
I know, the other guys are wrong, and we are not. Of course. What madness…
Any person who has responded in obedient faith to the Gospel owes no man a “re-baptism”. The only person who needs to be SURE is YOU! Someone else being satisfied you were “baptized right” means NOTHING! NOTHING! Are man’s requirements more important than God’s?
There is no Biblical requirement to understand theology, the Trinity, soteriology, eschatology, hermeneutics, creationism, church organization or anything else before they can respond in obedience to the Gospel. There is no Biblical requirement to be re-baptized for “membership” purposes, or because another man doesn’t think you had the right understanding (his understanding).
The only person that needs to be convinced of that… is you.
(Note: where are the Scripture references in this answer? There are no Scriptures about re-baptism, church membership or baptism classes. It’s not meant to be a Gospel presentation so I haven’t listed those types of verses here.)