Up to this point in my questions, I leaned toward not being re-baptized. Then a few nights ago I came across something interesting that added some depth to my questions and stirred them again.
In Acts 16, Paul had Timothy circumcised. Not for salvation, not because he believed in circumcision, but so that he and Timothy could be more effective witnesses, so that the gospel could be furthered. They were going on a journey and would first teach in the synagogues to unbelieving Jews. Had Timothy gone along and not been circumcised, the Jews would have quite likely rejected Paul’s message. However, with Timothy circumcised, this wouldn’t be a problem, and Timothy could help not only teach the Jews but also reach the Greeks on the journey. (Later when Christian Jews wanted Titus circumcised for their own beliefs, Paul withstood them [Gal 2]).
There is something to this for me. Yes, the ones who’ve recommended re-baptism are already Christians. But there’s something else I haven’t put my finger on yet in regard to this, that keeps nibbling at the back of my mind. It would be a strong witness, a testimony, a symbolism of unity and of my beliefs, an act of commitment beyond words on my part, and to me that’s worth considering.
Several months ago, I asked the pastor of the church I was attending, and was told that I’d already been baptized and that was enough. Then I started going to another church, and am told re-baptism would probably be a good idea.
(It seems to me that most of the churches in this area that I feel comfortable in, regardless of doctrine, want me to be re-baptized if they know I went to my former church and know anything about what the church teaches. The one that said I wouldn’t need to be re-baptized knew neither. The church I now attend would prefer that I be re-baptized if I want to be a member. And I think I do.)
Anyway, here is his response in part:
If you were baptized as a believer, following the commandment from Jesus to be baptized (scriptural baptism- baptism is an example of our faith not a requirement for it) then that was all that was needed.
I personally believe baptism is following the commandment of Jesus Christ, a public profession, not becoming a member. However, to be a voting member I believe that one should be baptized. If we are a Christian we will want to follow thru with what Jesus did.
…I don’t know if people know you from when you were at [my former church]. Some might. Therefore, I like what you said about considering being baptized as a testimony. Saying “I believe what the Bible teaches me, and because I do, I want to show the church that I am a believer.” This is what baptism is to me; It is the public profession that you are a Christian. I believe this is an outstanding idea.
I don’t think he’d necessarily require re-baptism, based on this. And yes, I’ve thought about running him through the mill on it, asking about membership without re-baptism, just to see what he would say. But that wouldn’t be a very nice thing to do, would it?
So I submitted the question to an online group called the Bereans. I was curious what their response might be. (They don’t often answer questions, supposedly, but I got an answer within 12 hours.) Here’s their response:
We don’t believe there is any Scripture forbidding a re-baptism in order to satisfy the requirements of the group you mention. On the other hand, we would also believe that your initial baptism was sufficient and that the re-baptism adds nothing that has not already been demonstrated.
Matthew 28:19 has the Lord Jesus giving the Great Commission to His disciples and specifically commanding them to baptize those who become converts. He was giving this task to believers. Further, those who believed were baptized (Acts 2:41; 8:12; 8:36-38; 9:17-18; 10:44-48; 16:32-33; 19:1-5; 1 Corinthians 1:14-17, etc.). Matthew 28:19-20 specifically commands that the disciples are to be taught “all things whatsoever I have commanded you…” (Matthew 28:19). Jesus had just commanded them to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, etc. Therefore we conclude that He desired them to be baptized.
Baptism does not save, yet we see converts throughout the book of Acts submitting to water baptism. Jesus Himself was baptized, stating “thus it becometh us to fufill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15). According to 1 Peter 3:21, “baptism also doth also now save us…” This “saving” is not salvation, because the scripture continues by explaining that it is “not the putting away of the filth of the flesh…” What does it then do?
Jesus was baptized by John just prior to beginning His public ministry. It was a point of separation between His former life and that which culminated in the Cross. 1 Peter 3:20-21 gives us the example of Noah. It explains that Noah’s very real experience has an application for us. Just as the judgement that fell on the world in the form of the deluge separated Noah from the wicked world that surrounded him, our baptism is a point of separation for us as well. It is “…the answer of a good conscience toward God…” (1 Peter 3:21).
Consequently, if it furnishes a “good conscience” we see no problem with you being re-baptized.
So I still have questions:
Would being re-baptized help further the gospel in any way?
Would it be meaningful to me personally? (if so, how?)
What are my reasons and motives? Would this be a reaction against the church I left, or a response to God?
Would it be a positive experience for me, or would I have doubts/would being re-baptized go against conscience?
To be continued…