First and foremost I want to offer my appreciation for your website and the encouragement it brings to many.
I have been struggling with doubts about my personal salvation over the last few years and was hoping you could bring me some clarity/advice on what my next step should be.
I want to apologize beforehand for the longevity of this question, but I want to offer as much content and insight as I can to make sure we are on the same page.
As an infant, I was baptized in the United Church. However, I grew up in the Mennonite belief and causally attended church from a young age. As I advanced to my teenage years this attendance became quite infrequent. However, I have never doubted that Christ is Lord or the Son of God. In the Mennonite faith, the emphasis on the necessity of baptism is not the same as it is within the church of Christ. Therefore, I felt I was saved on the basis of my belief that Jesus is who He says He is, even though my lifestyle and actions would never have given anyone the indication I was a believer.
Upon finding the church of Christ and sitting down with the preacher after one Wednesday night Bible study, we spoke about some sin I was having a hard time forgiving myself for committing. This was several years ago. I do not remember much of this conversation, but it was explained to me that baptism was commanded. I was baptized that night in front of the elders and family.
As I grew in my knowledge and study I started to develop feelings of insecurity that I did not understand that baptism was for the forgiveness of sins, that it was more along the lines that “it was just something good to do, to obey God's command.”
I served the Lord's Supper and even preached God's Word a handful of times but the feeling kept nagging at me, causing me to be consumed by the dread of having not been in the mindset and not understanding that baptism was for the remission of sin (versus just having been done out of obedience).
This doubt went on for months. I repeatedly searched the Internet for assuring passages and commentary and questioned the preacher who performed the baptism if I had understood that it was for the remission of sin. I spoke to elders and other mature Christians as well. All the while not fully trusting and remaining in a somewhat depressed state of uncertainty.
A few years after my initial baptism, a new preacher came to work with our congregation and I wanted to learn and study with him. During our first study, I confessed with sorrow that I was having these doubts about my salvation and the validity of my baptism. Now I have a video of my original baptism but it never contained the confession of Christ, just us standing in the water and the preacher doing the talking. I also have a video of this second baptism, but it again does not record me audibly saying any kind of confession. We did speak beforehand but my memory fails me if I indeed voiced my confession.
After our discussion, the preacher agreed that it would be good to alleviate my concerns by being baptized, knowing full well that it was for the forgiveness of sins. This took place that day, with the preacher, his wife, and my wife present.
I have only told a few people that I was baptized a second time. I never thought or had doubts about my salvation for more than a year. The reason I did not publicly reveal this information is because I had preached and served. I did not want my doubts and lack of faith to impair others. But at the same time, I in no way would want to deceive or teach falsely.
Which brings finally brings me to my question and current state.
As I learned more and came to further knowledge of certain things, I have always tried to do them or make sure that I do them exactly right.
My problem is I have no video evidence or recollection of saying the “good confession.” We have multiple examples in Scripture, and I fear by not having the certainty that this indeed took place before my baptized that it may be invalid again.
The preacher who performed my second baptized says I made such confession beforehand but since I personally can’t recall it, I automatically default to the fact that it did not happen. He says the conversation we had was my confession and the fact that I served and spoke from the front previously is a confession as well.
In reading some other questions and answers on this site, I feel I have a level of scrupulous behaviour. I again have filled my waking moments with online research and questions to the preacher and my wife, seeking the reassurance that I did in some way acknowledge Jesus as Lord.
Having this doubt affects me greatly. My aim in life is to do the Lord's work. I very much want to be a preacher one day. These doubts take my normally upbeat personally and lay it low, which affects my ability as a husband and father. I feel uninspired to study or the same enthusiasm to spread God's Word on the basis of a lack of conviction that I myself am saved. I feel I could be potentially misleading or a hinderance to others in the church by secretly struggling so much during this times.
I have a tendency to want things to be by the book and if I cannot confirm my ‘feeling’ or ‘mindset’, I render it invalid. So my hang up now is on confession. Does it have to be before baptism? Does it have to be on the same day? These are some of the thoughts that I wrestle with, unsuccessfully.
I feel it is hard for me to have the same confidence and ability to teach and grow if I cannot even be certain of my own salvation. I want to add that I have no doubts of God's ability to save. He is an amazing God and I find that more and more as I read His Word. My struggle is with my own ability to correctly address the things which are required of man to make him eligible to receive the wonderful gift of eternal life.
I feel like being baptized a fourth time (once as an infant and currently twice, due to fear of having missed something) might be somehow a mockery to God and the church. The Lord knows all and even I myself am certain that I do not wish to cause any ridicule, hurt, or injustice to God or brethren.
Any thoughts or advice is appreciated. Prayer for clarity, trust, and direction would also be a big help.
Thank you much for your time.
What you are experiencing is called scrupulosity. It is an obsessive-compulsive disorder in regards to religious beliefs. There are many types of obsessions, but yours falls into the category of "Believing that one's religious practice must be 100% perfect, or else it is worthless or worse." See I have OCD-Religion and obsess over bad thoughts. Is there anything you can do to help me?
Solomon spoke about this sort of thing. "Do not be excessively righteous and do not be overly wise. Why should you ruin yourself?" (Ecclesiastes 7:16). What I noted is that you are so certain that your baptism is invalid that even when people assured you that it was done properly, you reject it because you are able to argue against it. I find it hard to believe that on two occasions two different preachers failed to make sure that you confessed that Jesus was the Son of God. And one assures you that you did make such a confession.
But there is something deeper here. You are seeing confession as a ritual. All that the Bible states is "That if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation" (Romans 10:9-10). It does not state that it must be done as part of being baptized. Nor is there any indication that it is a one-time event. Just as belief is something you demonstrate throughout your life, so is your confession a continual thing. See The Good Confession.
You have been confessing Christ as your Lord most of your adult life. Don't ruin your faith with unnecessary doubts.