“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son,
that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” – John 3:16

3.4 Be Baptized

“He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved;
but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.” – Mark 16:16

Be Baptized for the Forgiveness of Your Sins. The truth of Scripture is clear – the Bible calls for all believers to be baptized by immersion in water “for the forgiveness of your sins.” Prior to baptism, one should have come to an understanding of the “message of truth,” come to belief in Christ, repented of their sins, and confessed Christ as their Lord and Savior as discussed in the previous chapters.You cannot omit the step of baptism and be “born of the Spirit” (i.e., “born again”) in accordance with New Testament Scripture. One cannot have “clothed yourself with Christ” without being baptized. You simply cannot negate the force of Scripture (my bold):

For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. – Galatians 3:27

“He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.” – Mark 16:16

Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you—not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience—through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. – 1 Peter 3:21

Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” – Acts 2:38

Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism [i.e., immersion] into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin. – Romans 6:3-6

 “‘Now why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name.’” – Acts 22:16 (my bold)


Before continuing on, I’d like to provide more information about what happens at your baptism, as many wrongly teach that baptism is:

  • Not a required element/component of salvation,
  • That it is a “good work” of man, or
  • That it is merely an “outward sign of inner faith done out of obedience.”

Nothing could be further from the truth. Let’s look into what happens at your baptism in more detail:

  1. It is at baptism that you are born again. You die to your old self (see 2 Cor. 5:17; Psa. 23:3), having been “crucified with Christ” (Gal. 2:20; 5:24) and “buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead” (Rom. 6:4; cf. Col. 2:12; Acts 2:24; 3:26; 4:10; Rom. 1:4; 10:9), you also are “raised up with Him through faith” (Col. 2:12) to “walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:4), “a new creature [person]” (2 Cor. 5:17; cf. Gal. 6:15; John 3:3, 5) “dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 6:11)—in effect, we “put on” (Gal. 3:27 ESV; Rom. 13:14; Eph. 4:24; Col. 3:10) Jesus’ righteousness like “white garments” so we will be clothed in it (see Gal. 3:27; Rev. 3:4–5, 18; 4:4; 7:13–14; cf. 2 Cor. 11:2; Rev. 6:11; 7:9, 13; 19:14; 16:15) on Judgment Day (if you persevere in faith as explained prior).
  2. It is at baptism that you “wash away your sins” (Acts 22:16), as Scripture clearly states: “be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins” (Acts 2:38). This is initial salvation, but it doesn’t mean you will never sin again (see 1 John 1:8–10; 1 John 2:1). The idea that “Christians don’t sin” after being born again is not Biblical, for you must still struggle with the flesh until you receive your glorified body on Judgment Day, for the flesh continues “waging war” (Rom. 7:21–24) against your new born again Spirit (see 1 Pet. 2:11; 4:1–3; Gal. 5:16–17; Rom. 7:7–25; 8:1–13; 12:1; Eph. 4:1; Matt. 26:41; 2 Cor. 4:16).
  3. It is at baptism that you are “reconciled to God” (Rom. 5:10–11; 2 Cor. 5:18–20; cf. Eph. 2:16; Col. 1:20–22).
  4. It is at baptism that you become a “friend” (see John 15:13–15; Luke 12:4; Jas. 2:23) of God and Jesus and no longer “an enemy of God” (Jas. 4:4; cf. Acts 13:10; Col. 1:21; Rom. 5:10; 8:7; John 15:23; Gen. 3:15).
  5. It is at baptism that you become a “child of God” (see John 1:12–13; 11:52; Acts 17:29; Rom. 8:14–16, 21; 9:8; Php. 2:15; 1 John 3:1–2, 10; 5:2; Matt. 5:9; Luke 20:36; Gal. 3:26; 4:6) with God as your “Father” (Matt. 6:9; 23:9; Rom. 8:14–17; Gal. 1:3; 4:1–7; Php 1:2; Col. 1:2; 2 Thess. 2:16; Phm. 1:3).
  6. Even further, it is at baptism that we become “fellow heirs” (Rom. 8:17; cf. Gal. 3:29; 4:7; Eph. 3:6; Titus 3:7; Jas. 2:5) with Christ. You are actually adopted into the family of God (see Rom. 8:15–17, 23; Eph. 1:5) and leave the family of Satan (see John 8:38, 44; Matt. 13:38; Acts 13:10; 1 John 3:8–10)! Please take a moment to stop and reflect deeply on what that means: The eternal, omniscient, omnipresent, all-powerful God and Creator of the entire universe, the One who simply spoke all things into existence (see Gen. 1:3), the Source of all life itself (see Acts 3:15; John 1:4; 4:10, 14; 10:28; 11:25–26; 14:6; 17:2; Rev. 1:17–18; 22:1, 17), wants to adopt you as His son or daughter so that you can live with Him forever in eternal life! And He wants that so much that He died for you! Amazing, and Amen!
  7. It is at baptism that you willingly become a “bond-servant” of Christ (Rom. 1:1; Gal. 1:10; Cool. 1:7; 4:7; 2 Tim. 2:24; Titus 1:1; Jas. 1:1; 2 Pet. 1:1; Jude 1; Rev. 15:3; cf. Acts 4:29; 16:17; 2 Cor. 4:5; Php. 1:1; Rev. 1:1; 2:20; 7:3; 11:18; 19:2, 5; 22:3, 6), for He fully bought and paid for you (“purchased,” Acts 20:28; Rev. 5:9; 14:4).
  8. It is at baptism that you are “sanctified” (1 Cor. 1:2; 6:11; Heb. 2:11; 10:10–14; John 17:19; Acts 20:32; 26:18; 2 Tim. 2:21; Rom. 6:19, 22; 1 Thess. 4:3–7; 2 Thess. 2:13; Heb. 29; 12:14) for Christ, for He “called” you (Rom. 8:29–30; 1 Cor. 1:9; Gal. 5:13; Eph. 4:4; 1 Tim. 6:12; 1 Pet. 2:9) you “out of the world” (John 16:19; cf Rom. 12:2; John 17:14–16).
  9. It is at baptism that you “become sons [and daughters] of Light” (John 12:36; Luke 16:8; 1 Thess. 5:5; 1 John 2:8–11), no longer walking in “the domain of darkness” (Col. 1:13; cf. John 8:12) of this world and sin.
  10. It is at baptism that you become “blessed and holy” as part of the “first resurrection” (Rev. 20:6; cf. Psa. 23:3), which is spiritual as you are born again, resurrected from death in sin to new life in Christ and have your name recorded in “the book of life” (Php. 4:3; Rev. 3:5; 13:8; 17:8; 20:12, 15; cf. Rev. 21:27).
  11. It is at baptism you are given “the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38; 10:45). You now “abide in Him [Jesus]” (see 1 John 2:6, 10, 24, 27–28, 3:6, 9; 17, 24; 4:12–13, 15–16; 2 John 9; John 6:56; 14: 15:4–7; John 14:20) and “the Spirit of God [i.e., Jesus] dwells [now abides] in you” (Rom. 8:9; 1 Cor. 3:16; cf. John 5:38; 6:56; 14:17, 20; 15:4–7; 2 Tim. 1:14; 1 John 2:14, 24, 27–28, 3:24; 4:12–13, 15–16; 2 John 2; John 6:56; 14:20; 15:4–7; Rom. 8:11), as He reigns in the hearts of believers (see 2 Cor. 3:3; Heb. 8:10). You are now living “by the Spirit” (Acts 20:22; Rom. 2:29; 8:13–14; 1 Cor. 2:13; 12:3; Gal. 3:3, 5:18, 25; 2 Thess. 2:13; 1 John 3:24) of God, not by your own power (see Zec. 4:6; cf. John 15:5; Php. 4:13).
  12. It is at baptism you are “sealed” (2 Cor. 1:22; Eph. 1:13; 4:30; Rev. 7:3–4; 9:4; Psa. 23:5) by the Holy Spirit, which marks (signifies) that you now belong to God (as opposed to being marked as being owned by the devil, see Rev. 13:16; 14:9; 20:4). This also serves as a down payment (see Eph. 1:14; 4:30; 2 Cor. 1:22) of your eternal, glorified inheritance to come (see Rom. 8:29–30; 1 Cor. 15:40–57), a guarantee for “the day of redemption” (Eph. 4:30)—if you remain faithful.
  13. It is at baptism that you become part of the worldwide “body” (Eph. 5:23; Col. 1:18; Col. 1:24) of “believers” in Christ (Acts 5:14; 10:45; 1 Thess. 1:7; 2:10; 1 Tim. 4:10; 6:2; 1 Pet. 1:21), which is the “Church [Churches] of Christ” (Rom. 16:16; also “Church [Churches] of God,” Acts 20:28; 1 Cor. 1:2; 10:32; 11:16, 22; 15:9; 2 Cor. 1:1; Gal. 1:13; 1 Tim. 3:5; 1 Thess. 2:14; 2 Thess. 1:4). The church is also referred to as the “bride” of Christ (John 3:29; Rev. 19:7; 21:2, 9; 22:17).
  14. It is at baptism you become a “fellow partaker” of (Rev. 1:9), and a “fellow worker[s]” in (Rom. 16:3, 9, 21; 1 Cor. 3:9; 2 Cor. 8:23; Php. 2:25; 4:3; Col. 4:11; 1 Thess. 3:2; Phm. 1:1, 24; 3 John 1:8), “the Kingdom of God” (Matt. 12:28; 19:24; 21:31, 43; Mark 1:15; 10:14; Luke 4:43; 6:20; 7:28; 9:2; Rom. 14:17; 1 Cor. 4:20; 2 Thess. 1:5; cf. Col. 1:13; 1 Thess. 2:12; Rev. 1:6, 9; 5:10). Note that there is also a future heavenly Kingdom of God/Kingdom of Heaven, which occurs on the “last day” (John 6:39–40, 44, 54; 11:24; 12:48; cf. Matt. 16:27; 24:36–51; 25:31–46; 1 Cor. 1:7–8; 15:22–25; 50–55; Php. 1:10; 1 Thess. 3:13; 4:15; 5:2, 23; 2 Thess. 1:6–10; 2:1; 2 Pet. 3:7–13; Jude 1:14; Dan. 7:9–11; Rev. 1:7; 21:5; 22:20­), and that is when we get our glorified heavenly bodies (see 1 Cor. 15:50–57; 1 Thess. 4:16; 2 Thess. 1:10).
  15. It is at baptism that you become one of a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of god; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy (1 Pet. 2:9–10), becoming “priests” (Rev. 1:6; 5:10) in His Kingdom, and even further, “ambassadors for Christ” (2 Cor. 5:20; cf. Eph. 6:20).
  16. It is at baptism that you become a “living stone” (1 Pet. 2:4), having been made “a pillar in the temple of My God” (Rev. 3:12), as you “sit down with Me [Jesus] on My throne” (Rev. 3:21), “ruling all the nations with a rod of iron” (Rev. 12:5). Note that we do not rule anyone by force, threat, intimidation, coercion, or violence (of any kind), but by and through love, service, self-sacrifice, “good deeds” (Titus 2:7, 14; 3:8, 14; Heb. 10:24; 1 Pet. 2:12) and the “preaching the gospel of God” (Mark 1:14; cf. Mark 16:15; 13:10; Matt. 28:19; Luke 14:21–23; 24:47–48; Eph. 6:19–20; Luke 9:6; 20:1; Acts 1:8; 8:25, 40; Rom. 1:9; 16:25; Col. 1:23; Php. 4:15; Rev. 14:6)— “the gospel of peace” (Eph. 6:15), “the word of truth” (2 Cor. 6:7; Col. 1:5; 2 Tim. 2:15; Jas. 1:18), “the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation” (Eph. 1:13), and “the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 3:15),
  17. And lastly, please note that every example in Scripture shows the new believer being baptized immediately (see Acts 8:36; 10:47; 16:33; 18:8) after they have heard the Gospel message and professed faith in Christ—not days, weeks, months, or even years later as is common today in many “lukewarm” (Rev. 3:16), apostate so-called “Christian” churches.

Wayne Jackson writes: [1]

The baptismal candidate must be immersed in water. That is what the Greek term baptizo signifies. One is “buried” with Christ in baptism, and is raised from the water to walk in newness of life (Romans 6:3-4; Colossians 2:12). The practices of pouring water upon the candidate’s head, or sprinkling him with water, are innovations that arose in post-apostolic times. There is not the slightest hint of these digressions in the New Testament.

It was centuries before “sprinkling,” as a substitute for immersion, became accepted in the community of “Christendom.” We dealt with this issue in a recent article on our web site (“Does Archaeology Prove that Baptism May Be Administered by Sprinkling?”), and we recommend this discussion to those who are confused about the “mode” of baptism.

If you profess faith in Christ and have the opportunity and ability to be baptized but choose not to or find reasons (excuses) to keep putting it off and delaying it indefinitely, then you must realize that your faith is not in accord with the instructions given in Scripture. The Scripture passage about the Ethiopian is instructive (my bold):

The [Ethiopian] eunuch answered Philip and said, “Please tell me, of whom does the prophet say this? Of himself or of someone else?” Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning from this Scripture he preached Jesus to him. As they went along the road they came to some water; and the eunuch said, “Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?” [And Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”] And he ordered the chariot to stop; and they both went down into the water [i.e., immersion], Philip as well as the eunuch, and he baptized him. – Acts 8:34-38

They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” And they spoke the word of the Lord to him together with all who were in his house. And he took them that very hour of the night and washed their wounds, and immediately he was baptized, he and all his household. – Acts 16:31-33

Please take note of the immediate response and action of the Ethiopian new believer – getting baptized immediately at the very first site of water. As another example, the scene described above in the Acts 16 passage occurred at midnight – and at “that very hour,” they were baptized. Contrast these verses to the widely followed modern-day practice of casually wandering in sometime later (days, weeks, months, or even years!) to get baptized after (supposedly) receiving (and accepting) Jesus as one’s Savior.

I cannot think of a single reason why a healthy adult who professes faith in Jesus should decide not to be baptized; the Bible does not indicate that baptism is optional, and you should be baptized as soon as possible, as soon as you have found a worthy church that performs baptisms done in accord with Scripture. A true “Church of Christ” will perform the baptism on the very same day you believe, repent and confess Christ – not days, weeks, months, or even years later as many churches practice today.

Wayne Jackson writes on this important subject: [2]

“Baptism Is Just a Symbol of Salvation”

A common denominational declaration regarding the purpose of baptism is this: “Baptism is a mere symbol of salvation. It is an outward sign of an inward grace.” Frequently 1 Peter 3:21 will be employed in an attempt to prove this assertion. Baptist writer B. H. Carroll, in his discussion of 1 Peter 3:21, declared that baptism “saves us in a figure, not reality” (218). [3]

But there is absolutely no New Testament support for this allegation. Consider the following:

First, the Bible plainly teaches that baptism is “for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38), it is to “wash away your sins” (Acts 22:16), it puts one “into Christ” (Rom. 6:4, Gal. 3:27), etc.

Second, in every New Testament passage where baptism and salvation are mentioned together, baptism always comes before salvation (cf. Mk. 16:16; Acts 2:38; 1 Pet. 3:21).

Third, 1 Peter 3:21 does not say that baptism merely saves figuratively.

What it does teach is this. Noah and his family were saved through water. What does that mean? They were transported by means of water from a world of sin to a cleansed environment. Our salvation is the anti-type (“like-figure” — Greek: antitupos) of that. The anti-type refers to the reality that the figure represents. By baptism we are conveyed from the state of guilt to the state of redemption. Robert Stein, Baptist scholar, has recently acknowledged:

“At times salvation is said to come about through baptism. Here once again we can mention 1 Peter 3:21, where baptism is clearly said to save. The only way that we can separate baptism from salvation in this statement is by attributing to the word baptism a meaning different from which it usually bears” (335).

Elsewhere Dr. Stein declares that any attempt to spiritualize the water of 1 Peter 3:21 “drowns in the flood waters mentioned in verse 20!” (330). [4]

“Baptism Is a Work of Human Merit”

Another twist to the foregoing error is the charge that baptism is excluded from the plan of redemption because it is a “work.” And since no one is saved by “works” (Eph. 2:9), baptism cannot be a part of our salvation.

Our response is as follows:

First, baptism is a divine command (Acts 10:48) given by the Lord. To classify it as a work of human merit disdained in Ephesians 2:9 is a gross form of wickedness.

Second, if baptism is a work of human merit, then those who receive it, believing that it is “for the remission of sins,” have trusted in the wrong Savior and thus remain lost. No one can therefore patronizingly say: “We believe you are wrong on baptism, but we still accept you as brother in Christ.” That is nonsense.

Third, the New Testament clearly denies that baptism is a work of human merit. Paul declared that we are not saved by works of human righteousness, but that we are saved by the washing of regeneration — or water baptism (Tit. 3:5). Even Baptist scholar A. T. Robertson admits that the expression “washing of regeneration” is probably a “reference to baptism,” though he denies the plain language of the passage that connects the washing with salvation (607). [5]

Simply put, human works of merit and water baptism are not in the same category. When one is raised in baptism, it is a “working of God” (Col. 2:12), not a meritorious act of human effort. …

The Scriptures teach that both faith in Christ (Mk. 16:16) and repentance of sin (Acts 2:38) are conscious acts of obedience which must precede the reception of immersion. Baptism is not a magical ritual that automatically bestows redemption. It is simply the appointed means by which God cleanses the alien sinner through the blood of his Son. …

“It’s Not Necessary to Understand the Purpose of Baptism”

It is becoming increasingly common for some to argue that one’s baptism is valid as long as it was done “to obey God,” regardless of whether the candidate understood its specific design or not. In other words, it really doesn’t matter if someone wasn’t baptized “for the remission of sins” (or some equivalent expression) as long as they had a good motive.

We believe this to be a mistaken viewpoint. The following questions put this issue in sharper focus.

    If understanding the design of baptism is unnecessary, why is the purpose so frequently attached to the command in the New Testament?

    If it is essential to understand that Jesus died “for the remission of sins” (Mt. 26:28), why isn’t it necessary to understand that immersion is “for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38)?

    If “obeying God” is the sole intellectual criterion for validating one’s baptism, would not virtually everyone who has been immersed be a Christian, since all who submit to baptism do so to obey (certainly not to disobey) the Lord?

    Does not obeying “from the heart” (Rom. 6:17) imply that true obedience involves a correct understanding in the heart (cf. Mt. 13:15)?


Baptism is a very serious matter. Every person who truly wants to be well-pleasing to God should carefully consider whether they’ve been mistaken on this vital issue. The time to make correction is now.

Some, however, still object to baptism being a required component of salvation because it isn’t mentioned in all verses related to salvation. Wayne Jackson also writes on this subject: [6]

Baptism Isn’t Always Mentioned.

A gracious gentleman acknowledges that we have cited a number of passages which appear to connect baptism with salvation (e.g., Mt. 28:19-20; Mk. 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3-4; 1 Cor. 12:13; Gal. 3:27; Eph. 5:26; Tit. 3:5; 1 Pet. 3:21). But he says:

    “I’m also familiar with Ephesians 2:8, ‘by grace are ye saved…,’ and Romans 3:22-27. Nowhere in these passages is baptism mentioned as a requisite to salvation.”

(1) While it is true that the passages referenced (Eph. 2:8; Rom. 3:22-27) do not explicitly mention baptism, neither do they contain any allusion to repentance. Are we to assume that repentance is not required for redemption? Surely not.

(2) It is rarely the case that a single context will totally exhaust the biblical material on a particular theme. It is the “sum” of the truth that counts (Psa. 119:160), not an isolated text, that may focus upon a limited point of emphasis.

Acts 2:38 contends for repentance and baptism as “requisites” for “forgiveness,” with no specific mention of faith. However, by means of that interpretive rule known as “analogy of faith,” belief in the Lord must be implied as well. [7]

And Jason Jackson writes further:

The third principle about New Testament baptism is this: baptism has a biblical purpose. It is to obtain the remission of sins. Peter said, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of your sins” (Acts 2:38).

Likewise, he wrote that baptism now saves you (1 Peter 3:21). He immediately qualified this truth by saying that baptism is not the putting away of the filth of the flesh. There is no scrubbing off of sins — no physical cleansing. There is no inherent power in the water. It is the “appeal to God for a clean conscience by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”

According to the teaching of the New Testament, a penitent believer is saved by the grace of God when he or she has the remission of sins. People have the remission of sins when they are buried with Christ, saved by his blood, having been united with him in his death by baptism (Romans 6:3-4).

Here then are three necessary elements of New Testament baptism:

  1. the immersion
  2. of a penitent believer
  3. for the purpose of obtaining the forgiveness of sins by the grace of God.

Before I conclude, let me bring your attention to an interesting case. Paul met some men in Ephesus who had been baptized. They had been immersed. They had been immersed for the forgiveness of sins; they had been baptized with the baptism of John, which was for the remission of sins (Acts 19:3; cf. Luke 3:3). But they had not realized that the church of Christ had been established, the Holy Spirit having been sent and given. Although they formerly had been immersed for the forgiveness of sins, they were baptized again with the proper knowledge of the truth.

There are so many confusing things being taught on baptism today. I encourage you to read and study the Bible, letting it be your sole guide for what you believe and what you practice (see John 8:32).


For the Christian reader who may be hearing the truth about baptism for the first time and have been baptized prior by man-invented baptismal rites that are not in agreement with Scripture, such as being baptized by sprinkling, or as an infant, or in a church that teaches that baptism is a “good work” of man or that baptism is merely “an outward sign of an inward grace or faith done out of obedience” (i.e., not for the forgiveness of sins as indicated in Scripture), I strongly encourage you to be rebaptized into truth and the correct Gospel understanding (see Hos. 4:6). I was rebaptized in a Church of Christ myself after I learned the truth, and I strongly suggest that you do likewise—remember, it is your eternal destiny which is at stake here. I don’t know about you, but I wanted to be rebaptized into the correct gospel and into truth, and I do not want to take any chances whatsoever on my eternal salvation!

I hope you can see from the information given in this chapter that those who proclaim that being baptized is not necessary for salvation are doing so against the overwhelming evidence given in Scripture. I address false teachings about baptism in more detail in the Beware the Wolves chapter, where I stress that the practice of taking one particular Bible verse and interpreting it in a way that contradicts other verses is all too common and the genesis of many false teachings. I want to remind you that we must approach God on His terms, not according to our own terms or beliefs about what we think “should” be the way. Scripture tells us that we are to worship the Lord “in spirit and in truth”; this book and chapter have explained to you the truth regarding baptism. One should therefore be baptized in accordance with the truth of Scripture, not the opinions of man.

Wayne Jackson writes on this as well: [1]

Is there ever a justification for being “re-baptized”? I have questioned my baptism. I was very young and really did not comprehend the seriousness of what I was doing. I have considered being baptized again, but some say that it would not be right to be baptized a second time.

Your question is a very legitimate one. There are some people, even among religious leaders, who oppose any form of re-baptism.

For instance, in 1996, the General Conference of the United Methodist Church at a convention conducted in Denver, Colorado debated the matter of re-baptism. A position paper issued by the conference declared that Methodists who were baptized as infants should never be baptized again. The document explicitly stated:

“Whether a baptized infant grows up to be a professing Christian or not, that baptism stands valid.”

This position is flawed in many particulars, having no scriptural support whatsoever.

New Testament Precedent for Being Immersed a Second Time

While on his third missionary campaign, the apostle Paul came to the city of Ephesus. There, he encountered twelve men who formerly had been baptized with the type of baptism administered by John the Baptizer.

One might be inclined to conclude, therefore, that the apostle would have accepted these men as they were and merely organized them into a church.

But such was not the case. After questioning them as to the nature of their earlier baptism and determining that their pre-baptism instruction on the previous occasion had been lacking in essential details, Paul immersed these men into Christ (see Acts 19:1-5). A simple understanding of the text reveals that their first baptism was deficient in some way.

And here is an extremely important implication of this case of re-baptism. The case clearly demonstrates that in order for one’s baptism to be valid, accurate teaching and understanding must precede the rite. Otherwise, the act of baptism is a meaningless exercise and not based on faith (Rom. 10:17).

True Baptism — A One-time Act

Genuine baptism is needed only one time in a person’s life. Once a person has been baptized according to the full complement of scriptural instructions, he or she never has the need to repeat this new-birth process (cf. Jn. 3:3-5).

After a person has entered the family of Christ through baptism (1 Cor. 12:13; cf. Gal. 3:26-27), he is a part of the church, the household (family) of God (1 Tim. 3:15; cf. Eph. 2:19-22). The new Christian has access to all of the spiritual benefits of the in-Christ relationship (Eph. 1:3).

As a son or daughter of God within that sacred environment, the Christian prays to the heavenly Father for his or her personal needs by means of prayer (see Acts 8:22, 24; cf. Jas. 5:16) — including forgiveness for sins as we fail to live perfectly before God (cf. 1 Jn. 1:8; 2:1).

Qualifications for Baptism

Unfortunately, there are many in today’s world of Christendom that practice a form of what they call “baptism.”

When we compare what is practiced and taught by many with what the Bible teaches, we can see that a variety of doctrinal errors have developed that are not found in God’s word. Those corruptions invalidate a baptism and make it of none effect.

Therefore, many who have been administered what was called “baptism” but, in fact is not true biblical baptism, need to be baptized again — this time with a more accurate understanding that precedes the event, just like the case in Acts 19:1-5.

Here are some situations in which re-baptism would be warranted.

Baptism without faith or understanding

If one was “baptized” as an infant, thus was lacking personal faith (Mk. 16:16; Acts 11:21), he should repudiate the meaningless earlier rite in which he had no decision-making power, even though his parents were sincere in subjecting him to the procedure.

In genuine faith, he should submit to the command in the proper way. Infants have neither the need nor the ability to respond to the gospel of Christ.

The same would be true for young children too young or immature to understand their accountability to the plan of salvation.

It is a tender thing to observe young children who want to please God. But many times, their desire precedes their understanding and accountability for personal sin.

If an adult concludes that they need to be re-baptized because they were baptized as an infant or as a sincere but immature child, we would encourage them to be immersed in faith and obedience. Thus, they can be assured of the forgiveness of their sins. Their decision will bring peace of mind and confidence by knowing they are obeying God from the heart with full understanding.

Baptism without immersion

If one was “baptized” in some fashion other than by immersion, then he needs to be baptized with the proper form. The word “baptism” literally translated means immersion, not sprinkling or pouring.

True baptism pictures the burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The sinner is buried in water and raised from this symbolic grave (cf. Rom. 6:3-4; Col. 2:12) just as the Lord was buried and then raised from the dead.

True baptism validates and proclaims one’s faith in the death and resurrection events. Being sprinkled with water or having water poured upon the head is no baptism at all. Such substitutes are without sanction in the New Testament. They are post-apostolic innovations.

Baptism without repentance

Baptism without true repentance is also ineffectual. I once heard about a man who emerged from the baptismal pool, turned to his wife, and said: “I hope you’re satisfied!”

No who is baptized without proper motive (and other prerequisites) can have validity in the divine scheme of things. Even John warned those who came to be baptized for a show without repentance. Only God’s wrath awaited those who were baptized with such false pretenses (Mt. 3:7).

Baptism without faith

If one is “baptized” without a sound faith, the ritual would be of no avail.

One might feel, for instance, that Jesus was a good man, perhaps even a “perfect man” — as the “Jehovah’s Witnesses” allege. As sincere as these may be, they deny that Christ is the Son of God (i.e., deity).

And yet, for various other reasons, they might desire to be baptized. But baptism grounded on false faith cannot be accounted as genuine.

Baptism without purpose

If one has yielded to baptism for some purpose other than that which is supplied by God’s word, he has not obeyed the Lord.

Baptism is never defined as “an outward sign of an inward grace.” It is not a mere representation of redemption for those who have already received forgiveness.

The purpose of baptism is “for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38), to have sins “washed away” (Acts 22:16), to put the candidate “into Christ” (Rom. 6:3-4; Gal. 3:26-27), or into his “body” (1 Cor. 12:13). At this point, he is “saved” (Mk. 16:16; 1 Pet. 3:21).

The common resistance to the biblical proposition that baptism comes before salvation constitutes a bold rejection of the plain testimony of Scripture. One cannot be immersed “for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38), if he believes his sins have been remitted already.

Your soul is too valuable, the plan is too simple and the remedy too easy to access to gamble — hoping that a former “baptism” will be alright in spite of the deficiencies associated therewith.

If you have any question about a previous baptism, I would encourage you to be safe and arrange for your baptism according to your informed knowledge.



But when they believed Philip preaching the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were being baptized, men and women alike. – Acts 8:12

Crispus, the leader of the synagogue, believed in the Lord with all his household, and many of the Corinthians when they heard were believing and being baptized. – Acts 18:8

And he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to stay on for a few days. – Acts 10:48

…having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. – Colossians 2:12

Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water [baptism] and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” – John 3:3-5

For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. – Galatians 3:26-27

For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. – 1 Corinthians 12:13

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age [world].” – Matthew 28:19-20

[1] Jackson, Wayne. “Baptism: Essentials and Nonessentials.” ChristianCourier.com. Access date: April 29, 2019. https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/baptism-essentials-and-nonessentials
[2] Jackson, Wayne. “8 Mistaken Ideas About Baptism.” ChristianCourier.com. Access date: March 17, 2019. https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/8-mistaken-ideas-about-baptism
[3] Carroll, B. H. 1973. An Interpretation of the English Bible. Vol. 6. Grand Rapids: Baker.
[4] Stein, Robert H. 1990. Difficult Passages in the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Baker.
[5] Robertson, A. T. 1931. Word Pictures in the New Testament. Vol. IV. (Nashville: Broadman, 1931).
[6] Jackson, Wayne. “A Dispute About the Purpose of Baptism.” ChristianCourier.com. Access date: March 17, 2019. https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/a-dispute-about-the-purpose-of-baptism
[7] Jackson, Jason. “The Truth on Baptism Should Not Be ‘Watered Down’”, ChristianCourier.com. Access date: March 17, 2019. https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/the-truth-on-baptism-should-not-be-watered-down
[8] Jackson, Wayne. “Do I Need to Be Re-baptized?” ChristianCourier.com. Access date: May 6, 2022. https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/do-i-need-to-be-re-baptized

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Cite this article

Anderson, R. John. "3.4 Be Baptized." EachDay.org. Access date: May 20, 2024. https://eachday.org/part-iii-accepting-jesus-christ/3-4-be-baptized/