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Question #124

Do I need to be baptized again?

Do I need to be baptized? about 40 years ago I was baptized into Christ, knowing very little about the bible. I had been married when I was 16 years old, and had one little boy . I had then gotten a divorce for reasons other than adultery. I had already remarried, but I knew nothing about the scriptural reasons for divorce, so thought nothing about staying married to the man I was married to. Later I divorced this man as he was alcoholic. I moved to another state and went to church spasmodically. I never married again, and now have moved back to the original church where I was baptized. Now through much study I have learned that I should have left my second husband when I became a member of the church, does this mean that I was not scripturally baptized, and therefore should be baptized again.

The Answer:

First, please read the answer to Question No. 60. Just as one cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb, so one cannot be “born again” a second time. Thus, the question is not whether you need to be “baptized again.” Rather, it is as you posed it at the end of your question – were you scripturally baptized in the first instance?

The issue raised is, “What does a person need to know in order to be scripturally baptized?” While the scripture does not directly answer that question, it does provide some instructive examples. On the day of Pentecost when the gospel was first preached, Peter proclaimed that the Jesus whom they had crucified, God had made both Lord and Christ. Believing that, they asked what they needed to do. Recognizing the faith that prompted the question, Peter’s answer instructed them to repent and be baptized for the remission of their sins (Acts 2:38). Since these hearers were Jews who had gathered in Jerusalem, it may be assumed that they did have some knowledge of Old Testament Scripture. Undoubtedly, some had more knowledge and some had less. At the end of the sermon, some of the hearers (undoubtedly including some with more and some with less knowledge) recognized Christ as the promised and prophesied Messiah, and those that gladly received the word were baptized the same day (Acts 2:41). They knew little to nothing more than that about New Testament doctrine.

In Acts 16 the Philippian Jailer cried out for instruction on what he needed to do; Paul told him to believe on the Lord (Acts 16:30-31). The jailer took Paul and Silas to his home where he washed their stripes, listened to Paul and Silas proclaim the word of the Lord, and then, with his household, was baptized straightway (Acts 16:32-33). This was the first time the Gospel was preached on the continent of Europe. Paul had gone there in response to the “Macedonian call” (Acts 16:9-10). It cannot be assumed that this jailer had the same Old Testament knowledge that the Jews gathered in Jerusalem had on the day of Pentecost. A more reasonable assumption is that he had very little prior knowledge. But we know that he heard the word proclaimed, believed that Jesus Christ was the son of God, and was baptized.

The bottom line is that one does not need to have an extensive knowledge of scripture to be a candidate for scriptural baptism. Nowhere in scripture is the pathway to salvation premised on an extensive knowledge of scripture. God has clearly set forth that which he requires of one who seeks His salvation; great knowledge is not one of them. What He requires is hearing the gospel, believing that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, repenting of sins, confessing that faith before men (sometimes referred to as “calling on the name of the Lord), and being immersed for the remission of sin.

Based on the information provided in your question it appears that you were not exceedingly young when you obeyed the gospel. It appears that you understood what you were doing and why you were doing it. The fact that you did not understand all that the scripture taught on the issue of marriage and divorce does not negate what you did know. Your question indicates that you are no longer in an unscriptural marriage; thus, that difficulty is behind you.

After you have considered all of those things, there is one more matter that you should consider. The question that you ask is one that only you can answer – no human being other than you can know what was in your heart and mind when you were baptized. Your question indicates that you are bothered by your present status. Please read 2 Peter 1:10. While the passage deals with the Christian life and not with initial obedience for forgiveness of sins (sometimes called “primary obedience”), the principle may be applied. If you have questions in your mind and your soul is not at ease in Jesus, then you may wish to be baptized. Should the first instance not have been scriptural, your present baptism surly will be. Should the first instance have been scriptural, your present baptism would be at most an inconvenience. The end result will be that your soul will be at ease and your calling and election sure.

May God bless you in your decision.

God's Plan of Salvation

You must hear the gospel and then understand and recognize that you are lost without Jesus Christ no matter who you are and no matter what your background is. The Bible tells us that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Before you can be saved, you must understand that you are lost and that the only way to be saved is by obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 1:8) Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6) “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." (Romans 10:17)

You must believe and have faith in God because “without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6) But neither belief alone nor faith alone is sufficient to save. (James 2:19; James 2:24; Matthew 7:21)

You must repent of your sins. (Acts 3:19) But repentance alone is not enough. The so-called “Sinner’s Prayer” that you hear so much about today from denominational preachers does not appear anywhere in the Bible. Indeed, nowhere in the Bible was anyone ever told to pray the “Sinner’s Prayer” to be saved. By contrast, there are numerous examples showing that prayer alone does not save. Saul, for example, prayed following his meeting with Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:11), but Saul was still in his sins when Ananias met him three days later (Acts 22:16). Cornelius prayed to God always, and yet there was something else he needed to do to be saved (Acts 10:2, 6, 33, 48). If prayer alone did not save Saul or Cornelius, prayer alone will not save you. You must obey the gospel. (2 Thess. 1:8)

You must confess that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. (Romans 10:9-10) Note that you do NOT need to make Jesus “Lord of your life.” Why? Because Jesus is already Lord of your life whether or not you have obeyed his gospel. Indeed, we obey him, not to make him Lord, but because he already is Lord. (Acts 2:36) Also, no one in the Bible was ever told to just “accept Jesus as your personal savior.” We must confess that Jesus is the Son of God, but, as with faith and repentance, confession alone does not save. (Matthew 7:21)

Having believed, repented, and confessed that Jesus is the Son of God, you must be baptized for the remission of your sins. (Acts 2:38) It is at this point (and not before) that your sins are forgiven. (Acts 22:16) It is impossible to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ without teaching the absolute necessity of baptism for salvation. (Acts 8:35-36; Romans 6:3-4; 1 Peter 3:21) Anyone who responds to the question in Acts 2:37 with an answer that contradicts Acts 2:38 is NOT proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ!

Once you are saved, God adds you to his church and writes your name in the Book of Life. (Acts 2:47; Philippians 4:3) To continue in God’s grace, you must continue to serve God faithfully until death. Unless they remain faithful, those who are in God’s grace will fall from grace, and those whose names are in the Book of Life will have their names blotted out of that book. (Revelation 2:10; Revelation 3:5; Galatians 5:4)