Now this is a common question among Christians usually. Years go by and people wonder if they were baptized correctly. Most commonly this question comes from people who were baptized at a very young age, in their teenage years or even earlier. I have had people come up to me ask me if it was okay that they were baptized when they were thirteen years old or twelve years old or what have you. Now we have already noted in the lesson “What Must I Know to Be Baptized” that we are not required to have perfect knowledge when we are baptized. If we needed to have perfect knowledge, then every time we changed our mind on an issue we have studied or grew in greater knowledge than what we had before, we would need to be rebaptized. But we have proven that no one has perfect knowledge when they are baptized. Instead we are to grow in knowledge. So, is there a reason for rebaptism?
Acts 19:1-5 Disciples in Ephesus
This is only example we see of rebaptism taking place. Here are some disciples and Paul learns that they were baptized with John’s baptism, telling them to believe on One who was to come. They therefore had not received the Holy Spirit. The disciples, after learning that Jesus the Christ had come, were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. What were these people lacking that required rebaptism? When they were baptized, they were baptized with the understanding that One was coming to forgive their sins. What knowledge did we note earlier was needed for baptism? What did the people have to know? That they were in sin, that they needed a change of heart and mind against committing sin (repentance), that Christ had died for them and raised from the grave and now reigns. This is what the Jews were convicted with in Acts 2. These disciples had been baptized looking forward to the Messiah coming, but had not heard the good news yet. And when they did they were baptized by the authority of the Lord Jesus.
When someone asks if they need to be rebaptized, they must answer within themselves what their understanding was when they were baptized. What we learn is that our belief about what is happening when we are baptized is important. So if you are someone who was baptized at a young age and you question your baptism, you simply needed to ask yourself what was your understanding of what was happening when you were baptized. Did you believe that you were in sin, that you needed forgiveness and by submitting yourself to God through baptism that he would remove your sins through his death and resurrection?
Sometimes people are baptized because everyone else is doing it or without this understanding. Again, you did not have to have perfect knowledge of the scriptures. But you did need to understand our sinful condition and that repentance and baptism were obedient acts to God by which God cuts off our sins. Many denominations do not teach that baptism saves. Many teach that salvation can occur outside of baptism or that baptism is a way to become a member of their church. But that is not the function of baptism and is an improper understanding of what baptism is for. Baptism is for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38). Baptism is required for salvation (1 Peter 3:21). Baptism is the point at which are sins are forgiven, not beforehand (Col. 2:11-13). As we see in Acts 19, when that understanding is not present about what the purpose of baptism is and what Jesus the Christ has done for you and me, then rebaptism is necessary.