“I was baptized when I was very young and I’m not sure I really understood what I was doing at the time. What should I do?” Most preachers have heard this question many times and have probably offered this typical response, “If you have any doubts, why not be baptized again and remove all the doubts? If you did it properly the first time, you’ll just be getting wet, but if you didn’t, you’ll be receiving the forgiveness of your sins.”
While that response is appropriate in some situations, it is wholly inappropriate in others. Very similar to the above scenario is the person who desires to be “rebaptized” because they want a new start; they had fallen away since their baptism, feel guilty for it, and just want to be baptized again as a way to start all over again. It’s at this point that the appropriate response is not to “proceed with the baptism to give them peace of mind,” but rather to teach this person the biblical response to their situation.
We have always preached, and rightly so, that God has two laws of pardon; one for the non-Christian (Acts 2:38) and one for the Christian (Acts 8:22). We would never accept or advise a person who need to be baptized to simply pray for forgiveness, but what would make us think that baptizing a person who needs to repent and pray would be any more acceptable? That’s the right desire, but the wrong response.
A non-Christian’s sins are not removed by praying to God. He needs to be baptized. Likewise, a Christians sins are not removed by being “rebaptized.” He needs to pray.
While there is a place for “rebaptism” for one who did not understand what they were doing at the time of their baptism, or for one who had the wrong motives for being baptized, “rebaptism” is wholly inappropriate for the person who understood their baptism, but just wants to be “rebaptized” because they feel guilty and want to start again. Many of our religious neighbors teach people who have the right desire to respond in the wrong way, namely praying when they should be getting baptized. Let’s not be guilty of the same mistake, only in reverse, by telling people who need to pray to be baptized.