I have been counseling with a man who recently expressed interest in getting baptized again. He said he was saved at a young age but couldn’t remember exactly when. His concern is that he was baptized before he believed. He says that he knows salvation is by faith alone; however, I get from the conversations I’ve had with him that he doesn’t truly have assurance of his salvation because he “didn’t do things in the right order.” I truly believe he is saved, but is just struggling with assurance. My concern is that if he is encouraged to get baptized again, he would be placing his trust in his baptism as well as faith in Christ. As you put it often, “Split trust is mistrust.” Should he be counseled to get baptized again? The Bible has very little to say about rebaptism, what Biblical counsel might help?
Thank you for this question. Several issues are involved.
When an individual is not sure whether they were baptized before or after they believed, it may mean the person prayed several times as a child and doesn’t know when it was real, but a child simply believes. Usually, it is wrong thinking that later makes them doubt, but regardless of why the doubt exists, caution should be taken.
My father once advised someone in this situation, and he maintained that unless you really know you were not saved when you were baptized, don’t get baptized again. Recall that Moses was commanded to strike the rock at Rephidim and thereby provide water for Israel (Exodus 17:1-6). However, when no water was found during a later stay in the desert of Zin (Numbers 20:1-13), Moses failed to follow God’s instruction to speak to the rock. Instead, he opted to do as before and struck the rock again. The coming Messiah was to be smitten once, and Moses was to provide a type. Sadly, he broke the type when he smote the rock on the second occasion and would suffer negative consequences. Today’s Christians are also to provide a type as God commands water baptism for believers, typifying Spirit baptism. Thus, with baptism again, the individual needs to know they were not yet saved the first time.
Also, it is a wrong focus that causes doubt. “Didn’t do things in the right order” reveals a focus on the subject instead of the object of faith. The key to faith is the object, and the object of faith is Jesus based on His sure Word. Assurance must come from that which is sure, and a focus on Jesus/His Word brings assurance. When one focuses on individual performance (or as in this case, their prayer), it shows a wrong focus which is the cause for doubt.
In this case, the individual needs to look at what God says. When you believe in Jesus, you have eternal life because He says so (John 3:16; 6:47). This helps him to know what he already has (1 John 5:11-13).
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