Strictly speaking there are not two baptisms, the first and the second, for the Scriptures says, "One Lord, one faith, one baptism." Sprinkling, pouring, immersion is either baptism or it is not. You have either been baptized, if you have gone through the rite, or you have not, if it was not according to the Bible. Therefore it is not well to speak of the second baptism, or of re-baptism because there is no such thing.
But because many use the term baptism loosely, and others use it to designate the rite when it not according to the Bible we deal with this subject, "Who Should Be Baptized the Second Time."
1. Those Who Had An Incomplete Faith
We find in Acts 19:1-7, that Paul an Apostle comes to Ephesus and finds there "certain disciples," twelve in number. Something was lacking about their manifestation of the Christian faith for Paul begins to question them and found them lacking in the very essential of Christian faith.
They knew about John, the forerunner of Jesus, but not about Jesus Himself. They were ignorant of the complete Gospel. It is a pity to have so limited a knowledge of Jesus, and Paul sets immediately about the task of bringing these men into a saving knowledge of the Savior.
Why be baptized the second time after they had already been baptized? Because baptism follows faith and does not precede faith. Since their faith in Jesus came after baptism they must again be baptized according to the order that Jesus gave. Mark 16:15-16. The order - believeth - baptized. This order is followed in two executions of the Gospel by the Apostles: Phillip and the Ethiopian Eunuch, Paul and Lydia, and Paul and the Philippian jailer.
Therefore unless your baptism had the preceding touch of the Holy Spirit in a new birth, your baptism was not baptism at all. It was null and void because there had not been repentance toward sin and faith in Jesus as the Lamb that taketh away your sins, which are prerequisites to baptism.
There have been numbers who have realized this. I know a Baptist preacher, who was baptized again after he was pastor of a church. Last year I baptized one who felt that he was not a converted boy when he was baptized first.
2. Those Whose First Baptism Was Incomplete In Form
Jesus did not leave this great ordinance of the New Testament to be administered in any old haphazard sort of way. He gave definite commandments concerning it. "Baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." That is the baptismal formula by divine authority. The twelve disciples whom Paul had to baptize again, "were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus."
Not having knowledge to believe, the disciples at Ephesus must leave behind them their first baptism and go unto the second. They did not count it as sacrilegious to be baptized the second time. Rather they counted it as sacrilegious not to do so. I have heard so many object to their second baptism by saying, "I do not believe it would be right," meaning they felt it would be sacrilegious to tread this holy ground the second time. My friends, if you did not do it the first time like Jesus gave instructions, you would be violating sacred things not to do it as He said.
Caution: do not misunderstand me as I develop this point to mean that members of other denominations are not saved. Our first point already makes it clear that a person is saved previous to baptism, no matter what form it may take. We have paid our respects to our own denomination in the first point, let us now pay our respects kindly to other denominations.
Scriptural baptism, then requires water, much water, coming to the water, coming up out of the water. It represents a birth, a burial, and a resurrection. Immersion meets every one of these requirements. Sprinkling and pouring, because water is used, meet one of these requirements, but only one; they require water, but not "much water." The water is taken to the person instead of the person to the water. The people upon whom water is sprinkled or poured for baptism, do not go "down in the water." and not "buried in baptism," are not "raised" as from the grave, and do not "come up out of the water." They do not fulfill the requirement of baptism, and hence are not scripturally baptized. An incomplete gospel is hurtful to the complete. Hence every follower of Christ who wants to obey Him completely, yet has been sprinkled or poured upon, ought to be immersed.
3. Those Who Had Not a Proper Administrator
Who baptized the twelve disciples? Not John, for he had been dead for twenty years. Those men evidently had not been baptized by John. If they had ever heard John they would have known that John taught that the Messiah would send this gift of the Holy Spirit, and would baptize His people in the Holy Spirit. Yet when Paul asked the question they made answer, "We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost."
Since John was the forerunner of Christ, for that task alone given him of God, he had a valid right to baptize. "Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee." (Luke 7:27) John's baptism was all the baptism Jesus had, or his first six disciples. The disciples of John who became Christians were not baptized again.
But since he was only a forerunner, John had no valid successor; no man had a right to perpetuate the baptism administered by John. So when people elsewhere took it upon themselves to baptize with reference to John's baptism, it was without any authority. Hence there was a capital deficiency in the baptism of the twelve, in that it was not by authorized administrator. So, Paul, baptized by a disciple of the Lord Jesus, explained the matter to them and baptized them the second them. John must decease and Jesus must increase.
Any baptism that the Lord gave is the baptism to practice. Did the Ethiopian, or Lydia, or the Jailor receive instructions that there were three modes of baptism? No, there was "one baptism," and we have already proved it to be the form of immersion. Therefore any other baptism such as sprinkling or pouring, is that of man and is not valid.
Hence any preacher that has only been sprinkled or poured upon is not a proper administer, for he has not been baptized. And if you have received baptism at the hands of such one, you have not been baptized, no matter how good your intentions were at the time. I know a man, who had the Baptist faith in his heart and made his confession of faith in a tent meeting conducted by a Baptist preacher in a community where there was no church. The Baptist preacher was hurriedly called away from the meeting and the Methodist preacher persuaded this man to be baptized by him. Though his intentions were good, yet he was not baptized by the proper administer.
Baptist churches alone advocate and practice the baptism of believers only. It is not forgotten that the Christian (Disciples of Christ / Church of Christ) denomination also baptizes only believers, according to their meaning of the words. But between them and the Baptists there exists a vital and fundamental difference as to the meaning of saving faith. They hold that baptism is essential to salvation while Baptists hold that salvation is essential to baptism. I think they got off tract when they broke from the Presbyterians in the old Cane Ridge Meeting house. Read that early Kentucky history. They wanted to get so far away from the sprinkling of the Presbyterians that they leaned over backwards and said you had to be immersed to be saved. Baptists could have joined in the shouting praising for their practice of immersion had they not made this fatal mistake in their interpretation of the Scriptures.
There is agreement between us as to the form but not as to the purpose.
Presbyterian preachers, Methodist preachers, Christian preaches have no right to baptize because they have perverted Christ's baptism. If you were baptized at their hands you ought to confess your disobedience and be baptized the second time.
Published in the Western Recorder, August 23, 1928. Reprinted by the J.H. Spencer Historical Society.
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