The answer may very well be YES! In fact, no matter how many times you may have been ceremonially baptized, the crucial question is whether or not you followed all that the Bible requires in order to have a valid baptism.
It is true that many church organizations that nominally claim to be based on Biblical Christianity also include baptism in one form or another.
Several groups baptize newborn babies by pouring or sprinkling water on their foreheads—this is associated with rites of christening, which also includes naming a child. This practice emerged following the first century A.D. and was institutionalized by the Roman Catholic Church—a practice continuing to this time. According to the Illustrated Dictionary of the Bible (Lockyer, 1986 Edition), “Those who believe in baptismal regeneration (Catholics especially) argue that baptism of infants is necessary. In traditional Roman Catholic teaching, unbaptized infants who die cannot enter heaven in this state, but are instead consigned to a state of limbo. If this fate is to be avoided, they must be baptized in order to remove the guilt of their sins and receive new life.”
Even though the pope recently stated that the concept of “limbo” was a human invention and not a Biblical doctrine, the practice of the Roman Catholic Church continues to include the baptism of infants.
Many Protestant churches also baptize little babies, or they encourage children to become baptized. In fact, there is social pressure within many groups for baptism in order to reflect a better score in Sunday school classes, youth leadership or other church related statistical factors.
Those who have undergone these types of baptismal practices have NOT been properly baptized according to the Word of God, as they did not fulfill the Biblical requirements, as explained below. However, one must also consider the validity of an adult baptism in a church that does not teach the truth of God. In this context, carefully study what Jesus stated:
“‘Not everyone who says to Me, “Lord, Lord,” shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?” And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!”’” (Matthew 7:21-23).
The crucial point here is that many claim to represent and to believe in Jesus Christ, but they do not obey Him—they “practice lawlessness.” Simply stated, God does not accept individuals or church organizations, who compromise the truth and who shape their religious practices around human customs and traditions. Unfortunately, this describes the vast majority of those claiming to be Christian!
In Acts 5:29-32, we find this very clear declaration about who can receive God’s Holy Spirit:
“But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: ‘We ought to obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised up Jesus whom you murdered by hanging on a tree. Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are His witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit [which] God has given to THOSE WHO OBEY HIM.’”
An absolutely crucial ingredient for anyone seeking baptism is to first repent of breaking God’s laws. This is the initial step in obedience to God. This is not something that a baby or an immature child is capable of doing! And unless one is convicted of sinning against God by disobedience to His laws, then even as an adult, true repentance has not occurred!
Note this definition of sin as found in 1 John 3:4: “Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and SIN IS LAWLESSNESS,” or, as the Authorized Version renders it, “sin is the TRANSGRESSION OF THE LAW.”
Here is very clear instruction that Peter proclaimed under the inspiration of God on the day of Pentecost—this is what someone should experience when becoming truly converted to real Christianity:
“Then Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission [forgiveness] of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit’” (Acts 2:38).
Consider as well that the Holy Spirit is given through the true ministers of God by the laying on of hands (Compare Acts 8:14-17 and Acts 19:6). As the account in Acts 8:18-24 shows, not just anyone is granted this authority, but only those whom God has called to serve Him in this position (Compare Hebrews 5:4).
One must be careful to avoid being deceived in this all-important matter. Remember that Jesus very directly warned in Matthew 24 that many will claim to be Christian and that the many will be deceived! Also, we have this caution found in 2 Corinthians 11:13-15: “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works.”
These deceptive practices include false conversions! Some experience emotional attachments to the idea of Christianity, but the fruits of their lives do not reflect that God’s Spirit dwells in them. Galatians 5:22-23 reveals the fruit of the Spirit of God, while the preceding verses describe “the works of the flesh.” Truly converted individuals will seek to walk in obedience to God. They will begin to live in accordance with God’s laws by growing “in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ…” (2 Peter 3:18).
Remember, Jesus Christ committed no sin! (Compare 2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15). He never transgressed the law of God. Jesus taught that He did not come to destroy the law but to fulfill (Compare Matthew 5:17-18). He did just that—He kept the law of God by obeying God. That is why there was no sin found in Him. Note what He says of those who reject God’s law and about those who obey: “‘Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven’” (Matthew 5:19).
The baptism that Jesus Christ instituted and that His ministry has carried on is revealed in the Word of God. Regarding the question of whether a particular baptism is sufficient or valid, let’s also take note of what Paul did when he met with people who had only previously followed John the Baptist, as recorded in Acts 19:1-6:
“And it happened, while Apollos was at Corinth, that Paul, having passed through the upper regions, came to Ephesus. And finding some disciples he said to them, ‘Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?’ So they said to him, ‘We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.’ And he said to them, ‘Into what then were you baptized?’ So they said, ‘Into John’s baptism.’ Then Paul said, ‘John indeed baptized with a baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe on Him who would come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.’ When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied.”
Understand, then, that for baptism to be accepted by God, an individual must be called of God and come to believe in all that Jesus Christ did and will do—accepting Him as Savior. One must also repent of his or her sins—which are breaking the laws of God. All of this can lead to true conversion.
The Church of the Eternal God and its corporate affiliates in Canada and the United Kingdom have prepared a very comprehensive booklet titled “Baptism—A requirement For Salvation” (Available at: www.eternalgod.org, www.churchofgodacf.ca and www.globalchurchofgod.co.uk). This material thoroughly examines the questions and answers about both the need for baptism and the Biblically revealed steps that will assist those who desire to turn to God and who seek to receive eternal life in the coming Kingdom of God!
Set forth below are excerpts from our booklet on baptism, which address the question of “re-baptism”:
“People who have been baptized as a baby or as a young child would need to be ‘re’-baptized, that is, properly baptized for the first time, when they are called by God to genuinely repent of their sins. The same would be true for adult persons who were baptized without realizing what they were really guilty of and what they needed to repent of. For instance, people who do not know the importance of keeping ALL of God’s Ten Commandments, including the commandment to keep God’s Sabbath holy, the commandment not to fight or kill in war, not to worship idols, and not to pray to ‘Mother Mary’ or other ‘heavenly saints,’ have not really repented of their sins. They lack understanding of what sin is and, therefore, do not cease from their sins. They continue to engage in the same wrong conduct, showing that they did not begin to live in “newness of life.”
“When someone is in doubt whether his or her prior ‘baptism’ was valid in God’s eyes and resulted in receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit, he or she needs to look at the fruits after that ‘baptism.’ Since God’s commandments regarding idolatry and Sabbath-keeping are of such fundamental importance, the Holy Spirit would lead a person who is called by God to immediately recognize and accept this truth before or at the time of baptism, or very shortly thereafter. The person would immediately feel a compelling desire to keep the Sabbath and to cease from committing idolatry. If such an action did not take place at the time of ‘baptism,’ or at least within a reasonably short time thereafter, we can safely say that such a ‘baptism’ was not valid in God’s eyes and did not lead to the pouring out of God’s Spirit on the person. If the person begins to understand now the importance of keeping all of God’s commandments, is repentant of his or her prior conduct, believes in Christ’s sacrifice for the forgiveness of his or her sins, and is willing to obey whatever God’s Spirit might reveal to him or her in the future, then that person should now consider being properly baptized.
“In order to determine whether a previous ‘baptism’ of an adult person was valid in God’s eyes, we should ask ourselves the following questions:
“(1) When I was baptized by immersion, did I understand what sin is? Did I repent of my sins? Did I ask, in faith, for forgiveness of my sins? Did I understand that forgiveness was bestowed on me because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ who died for me, so that I could live for Him?
“(2) Did I understand, at the time of my baptism, what I was—not only what I did—and did I repent of my very evil and carnal nature that is hostile against the law of God? Did I actually bury my old self in the watery grave?
“(3) Did I make a commitment with God to let the Holy Spirit create in me a new heart, to make a new person out of me, to live in me, to guide me, to help me avoid sin, and to give me strength to strive against sin so that I would be able to acquire a new nature—the divine nature of God Himself? Did I actually come up from the watery grave ‘clean,’ a new person, knowing that from then on I would have to strive as never before to avoid sinning and to live righteously, and that I would have to continually work at keeping all of God’s commandments, including those that would be revealed to me in the future?
“If we cannot substantially answer all of the above questions with ‘yes,’ then our previous baptism would not be valid in the eyes of God and we would not have received God’s Holy Spirit at that time.”
Lead Writers: Dave Harris and Norbert Link