Ask Your Preacher
Sixteen years ago, when I was nine years old, I made a profession of faith and was baptized, but I don't think I fully understood what it means to truly follow Christ until years later when I was in college. As a child, I thought you just had to mentally believe and not follow Christ. Is there any biblical reason why I could not be baptized a second time now that I fully understand what it means to be a Christian?
Older And Wiser
Dear Older And Wiser,
The word ‘baptism’ simply means ‘immersion’ – it is the reason for your immersion that makes baptism a soul-saving act. When we understand that baptism saves us from our sins (1 Pet. 3:21) and are baptized by the authority of Christ (Acts 2:38) and believe in His Name (Mk. 16:16), then that baptism saves us. Many people are baptized without understanding these things… in which case, they just get wet. You will have to evaluate for yourself whether or not you understood what you were doing when you were baptized. If you did, there is no need for re-baptism. If you believe you didn’t know what you were doing, then you should be rebaptized.
I just started going to church about three months ago, and I feel so blessed to be a part of what God is and His message. I have a friend who inspired me to go to the church in the first place, and I told him recently that I want to get baptized. My church does group baptisms and won’t be having one probably for months. My friend really wants me to get baptized ASAP even though I’m okay with waiting. He thinks it’s bad for me to wait. Is it a bad thing to wait?
A church that only does group baptisms every three or four months doesn’t understand what baptism is all about. In the Bible, when people were ready to be baptized, they were baptized immediately (Acts 16:33). The word ‘baptism’ simply means ‘immersion’ – it is the reason for your immersion that makes baptism a soul-saving act. When we understand that baptism saves us from our sins (1 Pet. 3:21) and are baptized by the authority of Christ (Acts 2:38) and believe in His Name (Mk. 16:16), then that baptism saves us. Many people are baptized without understanding these things… in which case, they just get wet. Baptism isn’t merely an “outward showing of an inward faith” or “for membership”. Baptism is what saves us (1 Pet 3:21). Baptism is the point when someone goes from being lost to being saved because they are buried and resurrected with Christ (Rom 6:4-5). Baptism is the final requirement to become a Christian. There is not a single example of someone becoming a Christian without baptism.
It is definitely a bad thing to wait, and as attached as you may be to your church, you should seriously consider that they aren’t teaching the total truth of God’s Word. We would be happy to point you toward congregations in your area that teach everything the Bible says and don’t leave important details out. Your friend is right. E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org if we can be of help.
Would you say that baptism is necessary for going to heaven? If so, do you think that if you're unable to get baptized for whatever reason but you've had a change of heart that you will still go to hell?
Dear Double-Checking Destinations,
The most well-documented and clearest doctrine in the New Testament is baptism… yet, it is also the most commonly ignored topic in the religious world. Peter said it best when he said, “Baptism saves you” (1 Pet 3:21). Every person that became a christian in the New Testament was baptized – immediately. You won’t find a single person in the book of Acts that wasn’t baptized. When the first sermon was preached after Christ ascended into heaven, the apostles told the people that they needed to “repent and be baptized… for the remission of their sins” (Acts 2:38). Paul tells us that baptism is a burial with Christ, and only after that burial do we receive a new life (Rom 6:3-4). Baptism was so important to Paul that he was baptized even before eating or drinking (Acts 9:18-19), which shows how important it is because Paul hadn’t had food or water in three days (Acts 9:9)! Belief is not enough; even the demons believe in God (Jas 2:19). It is only when our belief is combined with obedience that we have living faith (Jas 2:17-18), and the very first command to obey that God gives us is to be baptized in the name of His Son (Matt 28:19, Mk 16:16). We die to sin when we are baptized.
Now, let’s quickly deal with the second part to your question. The only way you can know with confidence that you are saved is to do what the Bible says (Rom 1:16). If God chooses to make exceptions to that rule on the Judgment Day, that is His right… He is the final Judge (Heb 12:23). However, 99.99% of us have the ability to get baptized, so that is what we should do.
About the prodigal son in Lk. 15, you said that it is important to God that we all come back, so He can forgive us. But then why can’t all people just be, like, crazy, and in the end of their lives, go to God and ask for forgiveness and all will be fine? What is the argument that keeps someone from doing that?
Last Minute Convert
Dear Last Minute Convert,
The easiest way to answer this question is by referring to Gal 6:7 which says that God can’t be “mocked”. This means that we can’t trick God or fool Him into believing we have changed when we really haven’t. Rom 8:27 says that God searches our hearts, and 1 Jhn 3:20 says that God knows all things. When we come to God for forgiveness, God expects us to not only want forgiveness, but to change our mind about sin. The word ‘repent’ means ‘to change your mind’, and repentance is a requirement for salvation (Acts 2:38). If we attempt to live a sinful life and just “fool” God by asking for forgiveness at the end, it won’t work. God knows whether or not we have truly repented of our sins and are truly sorry for the sins we have committed. It isn’t enough to want forgiveness; you have to hate sin and really believe that you were in the wrong. Our faith in God must be a sincere faith (1 Tim 1:5). If it isn’t sincere, God will know, and He won’t be tricked.
Will I go to hell because I cussed God and called Him some dirty names?
Blasphemy is one of the things that is specifically said will send you to hell (2 Tim. 3:2), and you shouldn’t take lightly what you have done. We can be forgiven for using the Lord’s name in vain, but only if we repent and turn to the Lord. God has provided a means for all sins to be forgiven – His Son’s blood. When we become christians (read “What Must I Do To Be Saved?” for details on how to become a christian), all sins are forgiven, even our previous blasphemy against God… but without His grace, we cannot expect to speak evil of the Creator of heaven and earth and not to have consequences.