A gracEmail reader writes, “I was baptized at age 16 in a Church of Christ. I am now attending a Baptist Church. I am enjoying the fellowship of these good Christians, but have not joined their church because I would have to be rebaptized. I do not think it is necessary for me to do so. I have found no scriptures supporting being rebaptized. Could you please give me your thoughts on this?”
The only example of rebaptism in the Bible involves some “disciples” whom Paul encountered at Ephesus (Acts 19:1-7). These people (12 men, also perhaps some women) had received “John’s baptism,” an outward sign of repentance required by John the Baptist in preparation for Christ’s coming (Mk. 1:4-5, 8; Acts 13:23-25). However, they still had not heard of Christ’s atoning work and had not trusted in Jesus as Savior and Lord. After further teaching (implied), Paul baptized them in the name of “the Lord Jesus” and laid his hands on them. They received the Holy Spirit and began speaking with tongues and prophesying (Acts 19:4-6).
I conclude from this story that the knowledge and intent required for gospel baptism involves Jesus’ finished work of atonement and one’s commitment to him as Savior and Lord. Christian baptism has nothing to do with joining any denomination, or trusting in baptism for salvation, or fulfilling some local church’s membership requirement. Any person who has trusted Christ for salvation and accepted him as Lord is a proper candidate for baptism (Mk. 16:15-16; Acts 8:36-38; Rom. 10:9-10). Anyone who has been baptized on that basis ought to be received as a Christian in full standing by any Christian congregation, whether Baptist, Church of Christ, or otherwise.
It is a sign of the unhealthy brokenness of Christ’s church today that baptized believers are sometimes asked to be rebaptized for less serious reasons than the one found in this only biblical example, such as differences in opinion concerning the precise order of God’s workings. If the record in Acts makes anything clear, it is that the exact sequence varies from time to time in receiving water baptism, receiving the Holy Spirit and receiving forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38; 8:14-17; 10:43-48). Acts also reflects a variety of evidences of the Spirit’s reception, and we ought not either to preclude or to necessarily expect any particular experience in every conversion today.