The Bible’s Viewpoint
Should You Be Baptized Again?
LUCILA was troubled. Although raised a Catholic, she had recently begun a serious study of the Bible with the help of a non-Catholic friend. She could see that the Bible described baptism as something different from the rite she had received in infancy. “Does this mean I will have to get baptized again?” she asked sincerely. “I’m afraid that doing so would offend God.”
Hundreds of millions of persons, both Catholics and Protestants, have had water sprinkled or poured on them as infants in a baptism ceremony. Millions of other persons were baptized by some form of complete immersion in water when they were older. This raises the question, Just what is Christian baptism? Are there any circumstances that would warrant a second baptism?
The Pocket Catholic Dictionary defines baptism as “the sacrament in which, by water and the word of God, a person is cleansed of all sin and reborn and sanctified in Christ to everlasting life.” Regarding rebaptism, this same source says that “baptism imprints an indelible mark on the soul, which means that it cannot, because it need not, be repeated.” Is this what the Bible says?
Make Disciples, Baptizing Them
At Matthew 28:19, 20, we read the command regarding baptism that the risen Christ gave to his disciples before he ascended to heaven. “Go, therefore, make disciples of all the nations; baptise them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to observe all the commands I gave you.” (The Jerusalem Bible) Clearly, baptism is required of Christian disciples—those who have been taught to observe Christ’s commands—not infants.* This harmonizes with the fact that all the baptisms described in the Scriptures involved disciples who evidently were completely immersed in water. This was obviously the case when Christ Jesus himself was baptized by John the Baptizer. The Bible account says that upon being baptized, Jesus “came up from the water” of the Jordan River. (Matthew 3:16, JB) Indeed, the Scriptures indicate that John chose his baptismal sites carefully in order to have plenty of water available.—John 3:23.
Later, in describing the baptism of the Ethiopian eunuch, the Bible tells us that “Philip went down into the water with the eunuch and baptized him,” after which “they came out of the water.” (Acts 8:38, 39, The New American Bible) These baptisms by immersion are in keeping with the general meaning of the Greek word ba·ptiʹzo, “to baptize,” from baʹpto, meaning “to dip in or under,” which is the root of the English word “baptism.”
A Scriptural Account of Rebaptism
But what of the many millions of persons who were baptized as infants or who were not completely immersed? Would it ever be appropriate to baptize them again? An incident related in Acts 19:1-7 helps us to answer these questions. It was likely during the winter of 52/53 C.E. that the apostle Paul visited the wealthy city of Ephesus in Asia Minor. There he found some disciples who needed to be rebaptized. After learning that these men had been baptized with John’s baptism, Paul rebaptized them “in the name of the Lord Jesus.” He did not feel that doing so would offend God. Clearly, God agreed with Paul’s reasoning, and far from taking offense at this rebaptism, God validated it with the gift of holy spirit.
Had the 12 men rejected Paul’s teaching regarding the nature of baptism and the importance of the Messiah, Christ Jesus, no doubt Paul would have withheld baptism. First, the men had to qualify for baptism. Only then could they be rebaptized with God’s approval.
How to Qualify for Baptism
How do we qualify for baptism? Consider the multitude of people who were baptized on the day of Pentecost 33 C.E. How did they qualify? First, as Jews and Jewish proselytes, they began with a good background knowledge of Jehovah God, his dealings with his people, and Bible prophecies about his promised Messiah. Second, they took in further accurate knowledge during an inspired witness given by the apostle Peter that day. With what result?
“Hearing this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the apostles, ‘What must we do, brothers?’ ‘You must repent,’ Peter answered, ‘and every one of you must be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’” (Acts 2:37, 38, JB) Note that Peter’s witness was not superficial. “He spoke to them for a long time using many arguments.” They were convinced by his reasoning, and they accepted what he said and were baptized. “That very day about three thousand were added to their number.”—Acts 2:40, 41, JB.
The same elements are required for Scripturally valid baptisms today: (1) accurate knowledge, (2) sincere repentance, and (3) conversion, or turning to God and away from “this perverse generation.” Moreover, Scripturally valid baptisms must be “in the name of Jesus Christ,” that is, based on an acceptance of his ransom sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins and submitting to him as God’s enthroned king.—Acts 2:40, JB; Romans 5:12-19; 7:14-25.
Sincere people who are Scripturally qualified for baptism need not fear that by getting rebaptized they will displease God. To the contrary, the Scripturally proper baptism of qualified people brings joy to God.
For more information, see the article “Baptism—Is It for Infants?” in the October 8, 1986, issue of Awake!