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Do I need to be baptized again? How should I decide whether to be re-baptized?

Welcome to part 14 of my biblical baptism series where we'll tackle these questions. These posts build on each other. If you need to catch up, here are links to the previous posts:

  1. Introduction
  2. Is Scripture Descriptive or Prescriptive?
  3. Defining 'baptism'
  4. The Baptism of John
  5. Why Was Jesus Baptized?
  6. The Baptism of the Holy Spirit
  7. The Baptism that Jesus Commanded
  8. The Biblical Purpose of Water Baptism
  9. Is Baptism a Public Demonstration?
  10. Harmonizing Grace, Faith and Works
  11. Is Baptism Required?
  12. Is Sprinkling the Same as Baptism?
  13. Does it Matter Why You Are Baptized?

...

A common question that arises when discussing baptism is:

"Should I be re-baptized?"

This question often comes up when a believer gains a deeper understanding of the meaning and purpose of baptism as revealed in Scripture.

As they reflect upon their own experience, they begin questioning themselves.

"Did I really understand what I was doing?"

"Was I baptized for the forgiveness of my sins or for some other reason?"

"What were the circumstances around my baptism?"

"Was I really committing to Jesus then or succumbing to pressure from friends or adults?"

I have previously discussed the biblical purpose of baptism in detail in "Baptism Series Part 8 - The Biblical Purpose of Water Baptism."

Here, I'm going to assume the reader already understands the role and purpose of baptism.

Unfortunately, many who consider themselves "believers" preach a different gospel which assigns baptism a less important role than Scripture—and sometimes make it out to be completely meaningless.

Additionally, many people who grew up attending church meetings and hearing the gospel are baptized at a young age and have varying levels of maturity and understanding when they are baptized.

Therefore, answering this question about re-baptism is very important to us.

In the New Testament, we only have one example that indirectly speaks to this question of, "Should I be re-baptized?"

This lack of information from GOD adds to the difficulty of providing any clear yes or no answer.

In Acts 19, Paul encountered some disciples at Ephesus who hadn't been baptized into Jesus (and therefore hadn't yet received the Holy Spirit, per Acts 2:38).

Luke wrote: 

1 While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples 2 and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?”

They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”

3 So Paul asked, “Then what baptism did you receive?”

“John’s baptism,” they replied.

4 Paul said, “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” 5 On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6 When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. 7 There were about twelve men in all.
(Acts 19:1-7 NIV) 

From this example, we can draw at least the following two conclusions:

  1. Although John the Baptist's baptism was from heaven, GOD's will for disciples of Jesus is to be baptized into Jesus. Even those baptized with John's baptism needed also to be baptized into Jesus—with the apparent exception of the apostles.

  2. A general application can be made today that those who haven't been baptized into Jesus for the purpose of having their sins forgiven should also follow this example and be re-baptized in Jesus' name.

Here are some key questions that I would encourage anyone to consider when pondering whether they should be baptized again:

  1. What do you recall about your "salvation experience?"
  2. What did you do to be saved?
  3. At what point did you believe you were saved?

Biblical baptism provides the believer with a tangible, concrete moment that they can recall and point to in order to answer these questions.

If, upon reflection, you are unclear about what you believed at the time when you thought you were saved, or if you can't recall the circumstances around your previous baptism(s), I would lovingly and gently suggest that it was most likely not biblical baptism that you underwent.

In my opinion, if you have any doubt in your mind about the authenticity or GOD's acceptance of your baptism in light of the conversions we read about in the book of Acts and the instructions in the New Testament, I would strongly encourage you to be re-baptized for the right reasons—to have your sins washed away.

It takes a lot of courage to admit your uncertainty about a previous baptism, but like Peter said, GOD is looking for your answer of a good conscience towards Him (1 Pet. 3:21).

If you have doubts, being baptized again for the correct reason would erase those doubts.

The old adage comes to mind: Better safe than sorry.

Lastly, I should note that Scripture shows us that one who has been baptized to receive salvation and forgiveness of sins need not be re-baptized when they have sinned.

Simon the sorcerer attempted to buy the ability to pass along the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit after he was baptized and had become a Christian (see Acts 8).

Peter rebuked him and warned him to pray that GOD would forgive that sin.

Likewise, 1 John 1:9—which is written to Christians—instructs us to confess our sins to GOD in order to be forgiven.

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Read Part 15 here:

Continue to part 15, "Should Baptisms be Scheduled?"

Tim Harris
Author: Tim Harris

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