Updated: Sep 7, 2021
A few weeks ago, I was asked by a man who was baptized as an infant if he should be baptized now as an adult. “It depends,” I said. Have you ever publicly pledged your allegiance to Jesus and meant it?” “No I’ve not. I mean as a high school kid I stood up with a whole group of kids from my church and confirmed I was a Christian, but I'm not sure if I even knew what that meant." “Then I think you ought to be baptized.”
“Peter replied, ‘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.’” Acts 2:38
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20
Frankly, I don’t understand the importance of baptism. However, God does not require us to understand every command or instruction of his before we obey.
Naaman, the commander of the Army of Aram was told by Elisha to wash in the Jordan River seven times and he would be cured of leprosy. At first, he refused to do it. They had far better rivers in Aram. It made no sense to him. But eventually, reluctantly, he did it and was healed. (2 Kings 5:1-15) The point is when God tells us to do something, even if it makes no sense to us, we'd be foolish and perhaps sinful not to do it!
I was raised a Calvinist and therefore baptized as an infant. 45 years later, once I truly understood what Christ had done for me and had truly given my life to Christ I was baptized as an adult in my non-denominational church.
My mother-in-law (now with the Lord) and a dyed-in-the-wool Calvinist was deeply troubled. She thought for sure it was a sin if you were once sprinkled, then re-baptized as an adult, or any age for that matter. It says to “honor your father and mother,” so off we went for a meeting with her pastor to educate me.
He was far more gracious than my mother-in-law. He carefully reviewed with us what their denomination believed, but made it clear I hadn’t lost my soul, but in being re-baptized I had in effect denied my first baptism.
“Well, I’m not sure about that, “ I replied. “I’ll be forever grateful both the church and my parents made a vow to raise me to ‘love and honor the Lord’ as the baptism form read. They were both faithful to their vows. I don't deny what they did. But I didn’t make any promise to be denied. I was three months old!”
“Yes,” the pastor explained, “but baptism is the New Testament equivalent of circumcision and you can only be circumcised once, therefore Christians should only be baptized once as well.”
Switching gears, I asked him if Jesus had been circumcised as a baby. “Of course.” “And he was also baptized as an adult. Right? So was that Jesus’ first and only sin?" (If you haven't figured it out yet, I've always been a bit of a smart ass.) I just figured if Jesus was both circumcised and baptized and we’re supposed to be like Jesus, I can’t see the problem. The pastor gave what he felt was a theologically correct answer, but it just didn't appear all that complicated to me. I couldn't imagine there was some kind double jeopardy trap for being baptized twice or a half dozen times for that matter.
Over the years, I’ve had lots of questions from adults, both those who’ve been baptized as children and those who have never been baptized, about whether they should be baptized. Baptism is a public declaration of your love for God and your commitment to follow Jesus all your life. Can you be saved without being baptized? Of course. Can you be saved without ever taking communion? Of course. But I believe you’d be disobedient to a clear teaching of scripture. So why not do it?
The man, earlier in by blog who asked me about baptism, asked me if I would baptize him privately, even though this church baptizes adult believers. “No, I don’t think I should baptize you privately. The point of baptism is you making a public declaration of your allegiance to Jesus and your church community declaring their commitment to you. That public declaration may keep you from backsliding some day. There have been times I’ve been tempted to do things no Christian man should. However, I thought about that day I stood in the baptismal pool at my church and made a vow to God in front of the whole church. The thought of embarrassing both God and myself has kept me faithful more than once. I don’t think you can find that logic in the Bible, but it makes sense to me. Just get baptized publicly. Don’t overthink this. Have the simple faith of a child. Be a Naaman.”