Questions From Readers
● Did those who submitted to John’s baptism have to be rebaptized later with Jesus’ baptism?—A. R., U.S.A.
What is referred to as “the baptism of John” was the baptism of those natural Jews and proselytes who repented of their sins against the Law covenant. It was a baptism authorized by Jehovah, but which he instructed John to perform. (Luke 3:2, 3; John 1:33) Inasmuch as the baptism of such repentant Jews was an evidence of their repentance of sins against the Law covenant, its performance would be valid as long as the Law covenant was. That means that this baptism could be validly performed until Pentecost A.D. 33. There is no record that any who were validly baptized with John’s baptism were rebaptized in the name of Jesus Christ.
John was sent by Jehovah to prepare the people for the appearance of the Messiah. The Law had been given to them as a tutor to lead them to Christ, but as a nation they had not followed its teaching and were not in position to recognize and accept the one to whom it directed them. (Gal. 3:24) Luke 3:3-6 explains: “So he came into all the country around the Jordan, preaching baptism of those repenting for forgiveness of sins, just as it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, ‘A voice of a man crying out in the wilderness, “Prepare the way of Jehovah, make his roads straight. Every gully must be filled up, and every mountain and hill leveled down, and the curves must become straight ways and the rough places smooth ways; and all humanity will see the saving means of God.”’” After having identified Jesus as “the Lamb of God” John the Baptist himself explained the reason for his preaching and baptizing, saying: “The reason why I came baptizing in water was that he might be made manifest to Israel.”—John 1:31.
When Jesus began his ministry he did not tell his disciples who had been instructed by John to be rebaptized in the name of Jesus. Not at all. Their baptism had been performed by a servant of God in accordance with Jehovah’s own instructions and was therefore valid. Nor did he instruct them to perform a different baptism on those who would become his followers during his earthly ministry. Therefore, when we read at John 3:22 that “Jesus and his disciples went into Judean country, and there he spent some time with them and did baptizing,” we understand that the baptism performed had the same significance as did that performed by John.
However, if anyone was baptized with John’s baptism after Pentecost A.D. 33, it was improper. It would indicate that such a one did not appreciate the significance of that baptism. We read of such a case in Acts 19:3-5: “And he said: ‘In what, then, were you baptized?’ They said: ‘In John’s baptism.’ Paul said: ‘John baptized with the baptism of those repenting, telling the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.’ On hearing this, they got baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.” Inasmuch as this occurred when Paul was out on his third missionary tour, which began about A.D. 52, it is evident that these persons had been baptized after John’s baptism had ceased to have value in the eyes of Jehovah God. Properly, they were baptized again.
However, it is not necessary to be rebaptized every time another prophecy in God’s Word is fulfilled or some truth is more clearly understood. A baptized servant of God who has truly repented of his past course is going to follow Jehovah’s leading in these matters. Thus, when Christ was enthroned as King A.D. 1914 it was not necessary for all true Christians to be rebaptized in recognition of his ruling position. So too, when John the Baptist pointed out Christ as “the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world,” it was not necessary for his disciples to get baptized all over again. Their acceptance of Jesus as the Christ was only consistent with the baptism to which they had already submitted. And just as their baptism continued valid at that time, so when Christ ascended to heaven and “God exalted him to a superior position and kindly gave him the name that is above every other name,” there was no need for his disciples to show their recognition of this by being baptized again.—Phil. 2:9.
However, a change in baptism was due to come when the Law covenant ceased to be valid. Therefore, not at the beginning of his ministry. but after his resurrection and before his ascension to heaven, Jesus said to his disciples: “Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit, teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded you.” (Matt. 28:19, 20) He further told them: “Do not withdraw from Jerusalem, but keep waiting for what the Father has promised, about which you heard from me.” “You will receive power when the holy spirit arrives upon you, and you will be witnesses of me both in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the most distant part of the earth.” (Acts 1:4, 8) So from Pentecost on a different baptism was performed, not for repentance of sins against the Law covenant, but “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit,” symbolizing the believer’s dedication.