Undergoing baptism serves as a public proclamation of an internal metamorphosis. The act of full immersion in water, akin to the metaphorical grave, enables believers to denote their recognition with Jesus’ sacrifice, and the demise of sin and self-absorption.
By being raised out of the water, the believer proclaims their hope and faith in the resurrection of Jesus, an understanding that they too shall rise into eternal life after physical death because of Christ’s work on the cross.
Let’s find out more about this public confession of faith and an interesting situation in the Bible where some men were baptized twice.
Baptism in the Bible
Baptism is only mentioned in the New Testament and introduced to us through the work of John the Baptist, Jesus’ cousin. Following the death and the resurrection of Jesus, baptism became a step of obedience and an opportunity to openly declare and confess the power of the gospel.
Baptism Before Jesus’ Death and Resurrection
As it is written in Isaiah the prophet, “Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way, the voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,’” John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.Mark 1:2-5 ESV
In this passage we recognize something very special is happening; the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophesy (Isaiah 40:3-5) of a man who would prepare the way of the LORD. Helping the people to see their sin and need for repentance sets the stage for the introduction of Jesus, the only One who could take away those sins, bring freedom, and restore hope.
The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.” And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.”John 1:29-34 ESV
Here it is made clear to us that there is a difference between the baptism that John was offering and the baptism of Jesus. John’s baptism was only half of the story; sin and the need for repentance.
The baptism that Jesus would initiate would indicate the full hope of man being reconciled to God. This is by the seal of God Himself – the Holy Spirit – through the work of God Himself – Jesus the Son.
Written By: Sinclair Ferguson, Anthony Lane, and Bruce Ware
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Baptism After Jesus’ Death and Resurrection
And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.Acts 2:38, 41 ESV
Following Jesus’ death and resurrection, the building of the church (the group of believers, not a physical building) began as churches were planted all over. People who heard the gospel message and accepted the gift of salvation were immediately baptized and received the seal of the Holy Spirit.
Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
It is vital to understand that while baptism is a step of faith and obedience, it is not necessary for salvation. A person is saved through faith alone, in Christ alone (Romans 10:9). Baptism is a public confession of that precious change in someone’s life.
The Men Who Were Baptized Twice in the Bible
And it happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the inland country and came to Ephesus. There he found some disciples. And he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” They said, “Into John’s baptism.” And Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.” On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying.Acts 19:1-6 ESV
In Acts 19, a group of men who had been baptized by John the Baptist – a baptism of repentance – were then baptized a second time in the name of the Lord Jesus after Paul helped them understand salvation through Christ’s work on the cross.
This account of men being baptized twice highlights and confirms the truth for us. Baptism without the person accepting salvation (repenting and accepting God’s free gift of salvation through Christ’s death and resurrection) is meaningless. Baptism alone does not indicate salvation. We’re called to baptism following conversion.
These men’s hearts were made ready to receive the good news through John’s baptism where they recognized their sin and need for repentance. But until they received and accepted the good news, they couldn’t be reconciled to God and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
At the end of the day, baptism is symbolic. Just like cremation and scattering ones ashes is symbolic. It doesn’t ultimately have any impact on where you’ll spend eternity after death. But most Christians do believe it’s a clear command.
How Many Times Should a Christian be Baptized?
Baptism is a step of obedience a believer takes after accepting the free gift of salvation through faith. A believer should then only be baptized once. Unless a believer’s first baptism was performed at a time they hadn’t truly believed the Gospel, there’s no need for a second baptism.
Should I Get Baptized a Second Time?
There are times when a believer might consider being baptized twice. If they recognize that their first baptism took place with a wrong or incomplete understanding of salvation (like the men in Acts 19), a second baptism would be perfectly fine and acceptable.
Many denominations baptize babies as part of baby dedication. We believe it’s unlikely any baby exhibits any kind of saving faith. If you were baptized as a baby and have come to faith as an adult – it would be perfectly okay to be baptized again.
It’s also possible someone was baptized in the Presbyterian or Methodist church where they don’t fully submerge people in baptism. If you hold to the Baptists’ way of thinking that someone should be fully submerged, as they were in the Bible, you may want to get baptized a second time. This decision is entirely up to you – the Bible isn’t explicit on this.
Editor’s Note: I (Brooks) was sprinkled as a baby in the Methodist church. I came to faith as a 12 year old, but never considered being baptized again. I went through a bit of a faith crisis in college and struggled with my assurance. I had a breakthrough moment where I felt entirely secured in Jesus for maybe the first time. Since I hadn’t actually been baptized as a believer, I though it would be a cool way to kind of put a stamp and end mark on my time doubting. It was a really special moment, and one I think back on often when I have doubts.
For helpful resources on where baptism fits into the life of a believer, check out these helpful books on discipleship.