Many have pondered rebaptism in various forms throughout the years because they have children or extended family who were members of a denomination (not the churches of Christ) but wanted to become members of the Church of Christ later in life. Naturally, when the elders of the church considered the validity of their immersion, the question arose, “If someone was baptized in a different church and wanted to attend the Church of Christ, would you ask him to be baptized again with the Church of Christ, or would his baptism in a different church be acceptable?” Why does it matter? If the person was not saved in their immersion, then the individual should not be used in the worship assembly and must be taught properly and baptized into Christ. If the person was properly immersed into Christ, the individual should be put to work in the ministry of the church. The validity of one’s baptism must be clear if one is to find a place in the assembly.
The church, as a whole, has not agreed on this issue. In 1991, Jimmy Allen wrote a book, Re-Baptism, in which he quoted numerous Christians in defending the baptism of individuals in the Baptist Church, Methodist Church, Pentecostal Church, Mormon Church, etc… Allen quoted in his book, “I conclude, therefore, that the supposed Baptist brother is a pardoned man, though he is mistaken as to the time of his pardon, and should be instructed upon that point…He believed that his sins were pardoned before he was immersed, and said so: but this was a mistake, not an omission of any duty, unless it be the duty of understanding the Scripture” (Jimmy Allen, Re-Baptism, Howard Books: Brentwood, TN. pg. 95-96). Essentially Allen, along with every president of Harding University, argued that the manner of baptism outweighs the purpose of baptism. However, what does the Bible say?
Firstly, only God can judge another person’s baptism! Baptism involves several personal and mental considerations that another person cannot judge from appearances. A person can only teach what Christ taught on baptism, and then let the individual decide if he/she was baptized by God’s standard or not. A Christian can identify another Christian based on what they say and teach and thus know if they were baptized into Christ (Acts 19:1-5; 1 John 4:1-3), but no Christian can judge based solely on assumptions or second-hand information (John 7:24).
Secondly, the issue forces one to consider what a person needs to know in order to be saved, or if the person needs to know anything. Christ says, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:16). Just the baptism alone is not enough, one must obtain a belief along with the immersion, so the purpose (belief) and manner (immersion) should both be present if one is to be “saved.” God requires that a person’s baptism be the “answer of a good conscience toward God, not the washing away of the filth of the flesh” (1 Peter 3:21). Implying that one’s mindset must be properly positioned to answer the question of salvation. It should be obvious, but one cannot be saved unless the person knows how to be saved. Likewise, God commands that a person not only believe before being baptized (Acts 8:37), but also repent (Acts 2:38), and to confess that Jesus Christ is the Son of God (Rom. 10:9). The mind of God and knowledge of Christ must be present if one is to repent and confess biblically. Some people like Jimmy Allen and James A. Harding seem to think that one doesn’t need to know how to be saved in order to be saved. By this concept, people should be baptized by any and all forms because the law of averages state that by submitting to many teachings of baptism, surely one will be pleasing to God. Even though a person doesn’t know which baptism saved them, he/she is still saved because the person did it right at least one of the times.
Paul explained to the disciples at Ephesus that a person must be baptized under the mindset and teachings of Christ (Acts 19:1-5). The disciples that Paul found in Ephesus were baptized in the Christian era having no knowledge of the Holy Spirit or that baptism was for the remission of sins through Christ. They were baptized in John’s baptism (John the Baptist). Paul discovered that these individuals at Ephesus didn’t KNOW what they needed to know before they were baptized, so they needed to be immersed again for the right reason. If a person yields to the act of baptism for the wrong reasons, motivations, and teachings, then the baptism is not valid. A person must be baptized under the teachings of Christ’s baptism. Unfortunately, there exist many false teachings of baptism that does nothing for a person except get them wet. One cannot be taught wrong and baptized right!
From the example in Acts 19 with Paul and the Ephesian disciples, Bible readers know that there is a wrong way to be baptized. If a person is not baptized the WAY Christ command and FOR the reasons Christ commanded, then the person will have no benefit from the act.
All the prerequisites for the act of baptism is important; it is not just the act itself that matters. Peter told those on the day of Pentecost to first “repent” and then be baptized (Acts 2:38), which implies that one needs to understand his/her sins and stop committing them (2 Cor. 7:10). A Christian cannot live in sin while expecting to be cleansed of it (Rom. 6:1,2). It’s like brushing your teeth and an eating an Oreo at the same time; it’s pointless! A person who expects the baptism to be pleasing to God but refuses to stop committing sins is like telling God, “I want to be saved, but I don’t want to do what you say!” It would be the same with belief. It would be like telling God, “I want to be saved, but I want to believe I’m saved in my own way.” God said, baptism washes away sins (Acts 22:16). Does a person meet the requirements of belief before baptism, if they refuse to believe what God said about baptism? Again, if a person will not believe or doesn’t know how God saves people, then he/she cannot be saved. If it was just the act that saved a person and not the mindset, then one wouldn’t need to believe anything in order to be saved.
Baptism is a burial, a submersion into Christ that requires one to be put completely under the water (Rom. 6:3-6; Acts 8:36-38). One needs to know that baptism washes away sins and saves (Acts 16:22; 1 Peter 3:21). If a person does not believe what Christ has taught on baptism and refuses to execute the act of baptism the way God commands, then the person did not submit to the baptism of Christ, but rather to the baptism of man.