REBAPTISM OF BELIEVERS
This Bible discussion is concerned with a very interesting passage in God's word recorded in Acts 19:1—7. Luke, the inspired writer of this passage, said: “And it came to pass, that, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper coasts came to Ephesus and finding certain disciples, he said unto them, Have you received the Holy Spirit since ye believed? And they said unto him, we have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Spirit. And he said unto them, Unto what then were you baptized? And they said, Unto John's baptism. Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto them people, that they should believe on Him which should 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 his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them; and they spoke with tongues, and prophesied. And there were about twelve men.”
Holy Spirit baptism was associated with miraculous gifts in the first century and ended at the end of the first century. The subject of this Bible passage is, “The Rebaptism of Believers”. We read of twelve followers of Christ who were required to be rebaptized. Although they were believers in Christ, their baptism was unacceptable. In spite of the fact they had submitted to baptism, they were treated as if they never had been baptized. This incident is very instructive because it teaches there are circumstances that necessitate a second baptism. Baptism is not a matter to be taken lightly. It is to be greatly feared there are thousands of religious people today who are in need of rebaptism. As these twelve men, they have sincerely submitted to some form of baptism, but a second baptism is necessary for the same reason indicated in the text.
The twelve disciples of Christ in Ephesus were required to be baptized a second time because of insufficient knowledge about the Christian religion. They simply did not know enough about the religion of Christ when they were baptized the first time. When Paul visited Ephesus, these twelve men were introduced to the apostle as disciples of Jesus (Acts 19:1). They were believers (Acts 19:2). Paul learned about their inadequate knowledge by asking two questions. His first question was, “Did ye receive the Holy Spirit when ye believed?” And they said unto him “We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Spirit.” One of the promises of God in the Christian religion was that God would give miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit to selected Christians as a convincing proof that the Christian religion was from heaven. Not every Christian received these miraculous gifts, but wherever there was a small group of Christians in the first century, these miraculous gifts of the Spirit were present. Hence, when these
twelve men answered they had not even heard of the Holy Spirit, then Paul knew there was something wrong with their knowledge. Jesus promised that when believers in Him were baptized, then charizmatic gifts would be given to some of the Christians.
Jesus revealed this fact in Mark 16:15—18, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes end is baptized shall be saved~ but he that believes not shall be condemned. And these signs shall follow them that believe~ In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; they shell take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shell not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.” Of course, these miraculous gifts of the Spirit were limited to the first century when Christians had no written revelation to study. When the New Testament was completed near the end of the first century, all charazmatic gifs eased. Jesus also commanded that all believers in Him should be baptized in the name of the Holy Spirit. In Matthew 28:19 Jesus said, “Go therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” One could not be baptized in the name of the Holy Spirit without knowing something about the Holy Spirit. When these men told Paul, “We did not so much as hear that the Holy Spirit was given,” he saw at once that there was something wrong about their baptism.
This prompted him to ask the second question, “Into what then were you baptized?” The question did not mean, “Into what baptism?” but “into what name?” This is evident from the fact that Paul directs them to be baptized “into the name of the Lord Jesus”, which is but an abbreviation for the expression, “into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” Matthew 28:19). This form of expression was used by Jesus Himself, and every candidate for baptism must be informed that he is being baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. If these twelve men had been baptized as Jesus commanded, they would not have been ignorant about the Holy Spirit into whose name they would have been baptized. Having no knowledge of this baptism into a name, they said we were baptized “into John's baptism.” Now John's baptism was not the same as the baptism which Christ commanded. There were similarities between the two baptisms. There was little or no difference in the outward appearance of the baptisms. Both required faith in the Messiah and repentance before baptism. Both baptisms were by immersion and were for the forgiveness of sins. However, John did not baptize into a name(Matthew 28:19), and John did not promise the Holy Spirit. In submitting to John's baptism a pledge was required that the candidate would receive the Messiah when he came. John's baptism was for the purpose of introducing Jesus the Messiah to Israel. John's baptism was not offered to Gentiles. John's baptism was valid only during the earthly ministry of Christ, and was not valid after the beginning of the Christian religion in 33 A.D. John's baptism was valid before the establishment of the church in 33 A.D., but was not valid after its establishment.
How did it happen that these 12 men were baptized with the wrong baptism some fifteen or twenty years after John's baptism had ceased to be valid? The cause of this mistake was an uninformed preacher. The preacher's name was Apollos, and the Bible says about this man, “This man was instructed in the way of the Lord and being fervent in the spirit, he spoke and taught diligently the things of the Lord, knowing only the baptism of John”(Acts 18:25). This man was a great preacher, but he was deficient in his knowledge Two Christians took him aside and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly (Acts 18:26). After Priscilla and Aquila taught him about the new baptism of Christ, he didn't make that mistake any more. He did not know that the Messiah had died on the cross end had returned to heaven. He did not know that the church had been established and the Christian religion had been established on the earth. If a mighty preacher like Apollos could be deficient in Bible knowledge, then any preacher could make the same mistake. Apollos was sincere in what he preached, and so were the twelve men who became followers under his preaching. In spite of the sincerity of preacher and disciples, these believers had to be baptized a second time. Christ will accept no baptism but the baptism which He himself commanded in His religion. There can be no substitute.
There are many religious people in the world today who are in need of rebaptism. They are now in the same situation as these twelve disciples whom Paul rebaptized. Multitudes have become followers of Christ under the preaching of reputed and eloquent preachers. But many of these preachers, like Apollos, have a limited knowledge and understanding of the religion of Christ. Because of deficient knowledge, many people have been led to submit to a baptism which is not the baptism of Christ. Paul selected baptism as the critical subject which would indicate the correctness or incorrectness of one&'s religion. To place a correct estimate on one's religious condition, I would first ask, “What about your baptism?” When a person submits to the baptism of any religious group, one submits to the system of religion taught by that group. As in the days of Paul, so now, one's answer to the question, “What about your baptism?” is all significant. A study of God's s word reveals several classes of people who should be baptized again.
But before we mention these people, let's briefly review what the New Testament says about baptism. This will help us in deciding on the necessity of rebaptism. First, every accountable person should be baptized to be right in the sight of God. Jesus said He was baptized to fulfill all righteousness (Matthew 3:15). This means it is right to be baptized, and it is wrong not to be baptized. No person can be right in God's sight who has not been baptized. Secondly, there is but one mode of baptism. There are no such things as different modes of baptism in the word of God. Baptism is a burial in water (Romans 6:3,4). Thirdly, baptism must be preceded by repentance (Acts 2:38), which is a change of mind brought on by godly sorrow for sin and which leads to a change of life.
In baptism we “put off the body of the sins of the flesh” (Colossians 2:11,12). Fourthly, baptism saves us (I Peter 3:21). Baptism is a saving act. Fifthly, there is only one baptism in the religion of Christ since the end of the first century, and that is the water baptism commanded by Christ (Ephesians 4:5) for the forgiveness of past sins. We shall now consider several classes of people who should be baptized the second time.
All people who were baptized when infants should be baptized again. If the twelve men of Ephesus were required to be rebaptized for insufficient knowledge, what about infants who were baptized with no knowledge whatsoever? The Bible says “Without faith it is impossible to please God.” Hebrews 11:6). Infants are baptized in total ignorance and cannot intelligently obey God's command of baptism. Infant baptism, whatever it is, is not the baptism of Christ. Infant baptism is no more acceptable than John's baptism in the religion of Christ. Conversion is an intelligent process involving intellect, emotion, and the will. People who were baptized when infants are like people who have never been baptized at all. I have rebaptized many people who were first baptized when they were very young. Now they are disturbed that they were baptized so young and did not understand what they were doing. However, it should be emphasized that rebaptism is not necessary if a person was old enough to understand whet he was doing and was baptized scripturally. Another class of people in need of rebaptism are those who were baptized without repentance. Baptism is not for pardon of sins unless it is preceded by repentance. The Bible says a believer must repent or turn from sin and then be baptized (Acts 2:38). There must be conviction and a turning from sin in the mind before baptism. Repentance kills the love of sin in the heart, and one must figuratively die to sin before baptism (Romans 6:1,2). Pre-teenage children are in danger of submitting to baptism without repentance because of their age. Children should be old enough to understand what it means to turn away from sin in their hearts. Otherwise, there is no true conversion.
One person told me he joined a certain church for social reasons. He enjoyed the social activities of that church. This may help the social life, but it will not help the soul. It was baptism without repentance. It is wrong to submit to baptism simply because you think it will help your business. The desire for forgiveness should lead us to baptism, not the hope of financial gain. Baptism is also unacceptable when it is submitted to simply to please husband, wife, mother, and father. We should be baptized because we have a guilty conscience (I Peter 3:21). Another example of baptism without repentance is when children submit to baptism simply because others their age are doing so. Adults are also in danger of doing this when they see large numbers of people responding during a religious service. We are not to submit to baptism because we see others doing it, but because we are convicted in our hearts of sin.
Another group of people who should be rebaptzed are those who were baptized in the wrong mode. The Bible says, “We are buried with him by baptism...”(Romans 6:4). But what about sprinkling and pouring? These are man—made substitutes, but the Bible does not authorize any man—made substitutes. There is no Bible example for them; there is no Bible command for them; end there is no passage in the Bible which implies that we may use them. God has commaended that you be buried in water for the act of baptism. Now the question is, “Have you done what God told you to do?” The action which God commanded in baptism is immersion. Hence, those who have been sprinkled or poured are the same as people who have not been baptized at all. What reason is there to believe that God will accept me for doing something which He did not ask me to do?
Still another class of people who need to be rebaptized are those who were baptized for the wrong purpose. The proper design of baptism is the forgiveness of past sins. When a believer in Christ repents of sin and is baptized, a11 sins arc pardoned, end the person becomes a saved person. There is no salvation until after baptism (Acts 22:16). People who believed they were saved before baptism were not baptized intelligently. This has led to the depreciation of the importance of baptism. People need to answer the question Jesus put to people who refused to be baptized in His day. He said, “Is baptism from heaven or from men? This implies itis a command from heaven. Many think they can
be saved before baptism end believe it is not essential to salvation. Such people have an insufficient knowledge of God's plan of salvation. If you believe that one becomes a Christian before baptism; that only saved people should be baptized, then you need to be baptized the second time. The truth that some need to be rebaptized reminds us all of the words of Jesus when He said, “Take heed WHAT you hear”(Mark 4:24} He also said, “Hear and understand.”
Finally, people should be rebaptized who are baptized scripturally but into a religious organization which is wrong in worship and teaches doctrines that disagree with the doctrines of Christ and the apostles. There is more to salvation than being right in your baptism. The Bible says, “Whosoever transgresses and abides not in the doctrine of Christ, has not God. He that abides in the doctrine of Christ, he hast both the Father and the Son (2 John 9). It is a dangerous matter to be baptized into an organization that worships God contrary to His will or holds doctrines not taught in the New Testament. One may be right in his baptism but wrong in doctrinal beliefs such as worshiping on Saturday, miraculous healing, speaking in tongues, saved by faith alone, once saved always saved, failure to observe the Lord&'s Supper weekly, and many other such like things.
Most of the parables of Jesus applied to people who had never been baptized into His Messianic kingdom or church on the earth. But He wrote one which specially applied to people who had correctly obeyed the gospel and were added to His kingdom which is the church. In Mark 4:26 Jesus said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground and should sleep at night and rise by day and the seed should sprout and grow he himself does not know how.For the earth yields crops by itself: first the blade, then the head, after that the full grain in the head. But when the grain ripens immediately he puts in the sickle because the harvest is come.”
Just before he gave this parable He uttered this statement which is the key to understanding this little parable. He said, “Take heed what you hear(the word of God}.With the same measure you use, it will be measured to you, and to you who hear more will be given.” I agree with those commentators who understand this parable to refer to Christians only, to the good soil in the parable of the Sower, who correctly obeyed the gospel and are on the narrow road that leads to heaven. All Christians are to take heed what they hear about their duties regarding worship, serving God, and developing Christian character. This parable is about serving God and Christian
growth. It is remarkable that Mark is the only one who preserved a record of this parable. Jesus spoke it immediately after giving the parable of the sower. However, it differs greatly from the parable of the sower. Both parables are based on the figure or imagery of the seed cast into the ground. In both parables the seed represents the saving word of God or the gospel of our salvation. The field represents the hearers, those who have had the word of God proclaimed to them. The man who sows the seed represents Christians, men and women, who plant the gospel into the hearts of men, women and children. Christians are all sowers, for we laborers upon the farm of God. We are the servants of God into whose hands the gospel is given. The seed belongs to God, but we do the sowing, or we might say Christ does the sowing through us. Every person, especially every teacher, is a sower. His apostles, ministers evangelists, Sunday school teachers and personal workers have been sowing the gospel down through the long centuries, since the Day of Pentecost in Jerusalem when it all started. This parable teaches that sowers must be patient; it takes a long time to develop Christian character. The harvest is the end of the world, or perhaps and more likely, the death of the individual Christian who has developed a Christian character.
It seems to me this little parable is related to the parable of the sower, for it immediately follows it. I think some indication is given of the meaning by the words Jesus spoke between these two parables. He said this just before he spoke this parable, “Take heed what you hear. With the same measure you use, it will be measured to you, and to you who hear more will be given. For whoever has, to him more will be given, but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.” He is saying, “These words I have spoken to you understand; commit them to memory, and pay great attention to them. How we respond to the word of God will determine our progress in the Ch ristian life. Pay the greatest attention to my words and so digest them that you may be able to teach them to others. The more diligent you are, the more your reward in knowledge, wisdom, strength and happiness. Carelessness will cause you to become unfaithful, fail to keep the faith and not finish the course. He said these things because in the parable of the sower we are told three classes of people who hear the gospel will not be successful. One group will not respond at all to the word; the other two groups will respond, but fall way from the church. because of life's troubles, persecutions and pleasures(Matthew 13:1-9).
I agree with those who think this parable of the seed is talking about the spiritual growth people make who respond to the gospel, and carry it out in their lives. Some will fail, but some will not fail. In this parable it is presumed that the seed is sown in good soil or good ground and brings forth fruit, some thirtyfold, some sixtyfold and some a hundred. Jesus has revealed several important truths in this parable.
For one thing He has revealed a well known truth of agriculture. Jesus said a man sows seed and then goes about his daily activities along with sleeping and rising. After a few days the seed comes to life and springs up into a new plant. It springs up and in time produces wheat. But man does not know how this takes place. Can you make a seed germinate? Germination is a mystery beyond human knowledge. How it is done we know not. After much scientific research, not one has been able to tell the way in which grain germinates, grows and becomes wheat. We can see the changes. We can see the necessity of rain , sunlight, fertilizing, cultivation and weeding, but beyond this we cannot go and cannot know. It is one of God's creative mysteries.
Secondly, Jesus used this mysterious process of seed planting and wheat growing to teach us an important truth about planting the word of God in human hearts. We cannot explain the mystery of spiritual growth, creating people anew in Christ and the amazing spiritual growth that can develop into a beautiful Christian character. The seed in the parable represents the word of God as revealed in the New Testament. The seed is the gospel of Christ in all of its fulness. It changes people. It brings them to Christ. It brings them to baptism. It causes them to grow spiritually in knowledge, wisdom and understanding and spirituality. But how the word does this we know not. Paul said, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation” to both Jews and Gentiles. It is equally powerful on all races. It has within it a mysterious power we cannot explain. We can see the changes in people. We can see the need of searching the scriptures, self-examination, teachableness and counseling. Yet we cannot tell how the religious life is created, developed and strengthened. Why does it acts at once on some, while on others it takes a long time. How it works we know not.
God's people are prone to explain this mysterious power as due to the ability of preachers and teachers. Some are great speakers and have charismatic personalities with great minds. They have a powerful influence on people. The secret has something to do with great preaching, we are told. But the Bible says not so. Please turn to I Cor.
3: 5-9). Please turn to Hebrew 4:12. The power and mystery is in the word, not in preachers and teachers. Thirdly the sower in the parable represents human responsibility in the work. God will not sow the seed; this is work of man. We are workers in God's field, but we must learn to d be patient. Often, it takes time for the word to do its work. Blessed are people who are teachable, who expose themselves to the word by private study, or with the help of personal workers, or attending church services and Sunday school classes. The word often works wonders on people who never expected it to happen. This parable teaches it takes time to develop a Christian character, but if we will respond carefully to the teachings of God' word, we will come to the end of life with a fully developed Christian character, and when Christi comes we will be among those He calls wheat and Jesus will take us to heaven James writes, “Receive with meekness the implanted word which is able to save your souls. It is just as important to, “Take heed to what you hear” in the living of the Christian life as it is learning how to become a Christian.