One of the best parts about being a pastor is having the privilege of baptizing a person. It is such a beautiful illustration of what God in Christ has done for the believer. I had the blessing of growing up in a Christian home and going to church no less than 3 times a week for most of my life. During this time I noticed a trend. Many people have some type of encounter with God (thinking they were saved) as a child, and have a public baptism. However, later in life they come to a fuller understanding about salvation and realize that they were never truly saved as a child; then they repent and become a believer as a youth or adult. This story is not just a common one, but it is a personal one as well. It was true for me. I thought I was saved at the age of 7 only to come to find out that I was actually 21 before the Lord truly saved me. So the question that I, and so many others, struggle(d) with is, “Do I need to be re-baptized since true salvation came after my first baptism?”
Baptism is a tricky subject among different Christian groups. I will not get into the differences in this post, but would like to suggest a few thoughts on the subject from a “believer’s baptisms” perspective. Ultimately, I believe a person should be baptized after their conversion, even if a person had made some type of confession when they were younger. If a person was “baptized” before conversion, I believe that to be no more than a public bath . . . since that is not biblical baptism.
A Rightful Order:
God has declared that all of his children are to be baptized. Since this is so, I believe that it is important that we do it in the order that scripture prescribes. Every example in Scripture puts the act of baptism after conversion (sorry, extreme paedobaptists friends). Even the Philippian jailer and his family were baptized after conversion. God is a God of order. God is also a precise God. While in no way does the act of baptism save you, it is still something that is important to do and something that God even commands us to do. The order, as seen in scripture, is first conversion and then water baptism. The right order is important.
A Rightful Obedience:
Matthew 28:19-20 is a very well known passage. It says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” The Lord has commanded that everyone who has professed faith in Him is to be baptized. Baptism should be one of the first steps in obedience for a new believer. The Ethiopian eunuch certainly understood this in Acts 8:36 when he asked, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?” There are circumstances that sometimes make baptism after conversion more difficult, but the point is that in obedience to the Lord’s command, a person should be baptized. For the baptism to be the most biblical, this means post conversion.
A Rightful Celebration:
One of the most beautiful parts of baptism is that it identifies you with the bride of Christ. It marks you as a member of the church. In all honestly, this happens at the moment of conversion. However, baptism (from a believer’s baptism stand point) is a public display of your salvation (Romans 6:5). It marks you as a child of God and a member of the church universal. It is a way to show your public commitment to the Lord and His church. When done right, it is a celebration where the church welcomes a new brother or sister in Christ to the family. There is no specific proof text for this but I believe that if a person does not get baptized after their conversion, they miss out on a wonderful celebration . . . a once-in-a-lifetime type of celebration.
There are varying opinions on the subject of the mode of baptism, the time of baptism, and even the purpose of baptism. Those are all things to consider when studying scripture. Nevertheless, the issue of “re-baptism” is not often discussed. It seems to me that if we want to do things in an orderly manner and to do it the way scripture seems to describe, baptism should come after a person’s genuine conversion. It took me 10 years to finally come to the conclusion that I needed to get the order right. Was I saved 10 years prior upon the confessions of my sins and placing my faith in the Lord? Absolutely! But, it was not until I went under that water and came up again that I felt the issue of my baptism was finally settled.
If you have a story similar to mine, and millions of others, you may be asking yourself “Do I need to be re-baptized?” That is something that you will have to decide through prayer, but maybe this post will help you make the rightful decision.
Soli Deo Gloria,
Adam B Burrell