Tuesday, March 01, 2005

On re-baptism

In a series of Bible classes I once led on the topic of baptism, a question I encounter often was posed to me yet once more. It went/goes something like this: “If a person was immersed with Christian faith, but did not understand that it was specifically ‘for the remission of sins,’ should they be ‘re-baptized?’”

Though the only proper answer to such a question lies with God (cf. Romans 9:15-16), or to think of it in another way - Scripture and that person's conscience - let me note here the understanding of three prominent leaders in Churches of Christ in years past on this very matter – Alexander Campbell, David Lipscomb and Jimmy Allen.

First, Alexander Campbell:
“Some persons have thought that because they did not understand the import of Christian immersion at the time of their immersion, they ought to be immersed again in order to enjoy the blessings resulting from this institution; but as reasonably might a woman seek to be married a second, a third, or a fourth time, to her husband, because at the expiration of the second, third, and fourth years after her marriage, she discovered new advantages and blessings resulting from her alliance with her husband, of which she was ignorant at the time of her marriage. It is true she may regret she lived so long in that state without enjoying the privileges belonging to her; but her having the rites of matrimony celebrated ten times, or once for every new discovery she makes, would give her no better right to these enjoyments than she possessed through her first marriage. Nor will her reception of the nuptial rights cause her to enjoy more fully the comforts of which she was deprived during the past years of her ignorance, than the mere consciousness that she now enjoys them.” – Alexander Campbell (Christian Baptist, vol.v [1828], p.257)
In specific response to the following question - “There has been much discussion concerning the person undertaking baptism is for remission of sins. Suppose a Baptist seeks union with a church of Christ, what steps ought to be pursued toward him?” – Lipscomb, replied:
“The person’s own conscience and consciousness under the teachings of the Bible must decide the question. For churches or other persons to decide the question of acceptable obedience to God is presumptuous. . . . To single one motive or blessing and make the understanding of this the one necessary condition of remission, to the neglect of others, is on a par with selecting faith as the one condition of salvation, ignoring all others. Indeed, it is worse, because faith is the great leading principle of all obedience, and more fully embraces all the duties man owes to God, and obligates to all acts of obedience, than any other requirement of man. . . . I repeat that a baptism submitted to because some preacher or church thinks you ought to be baptized is not a whit better than infant baptism performed because the parents think it right. To get every one to have a faith of his own, and to act upon it, is the end to be sought.” – David Lipscomb (Questions Answered; pp.46-47, no date, but sometime prior to 1917)
And finally, Jimmy Allen wrote:
“. . . anyone who has obeyed the commands of Mark 16:16 and Acts 2:38 is my brother or sister.” – Jimmy Allen (Rebaptism?: What One Must Know To Be Born Again?; Howard Publishing, 1991, p.26)