Is My Baptism Valid?

by Jeffrey W. Hamilton

I.         Periodically, someone will approach me concerning his baptism.

            A.        Doubts have crept into his mind as to whether his baptism was valid – whether he really was a Christian or only pretending to be one.

            B.        Generally those with doubts were baptized young in life. Events have happened that show them they are not as impervious to sin as they believe they ought to be. They begin to wonder if their susceptibleness to sin is because they weren’t really saved.

            C.        I would like for us to consider what constitutes a valid baptism.

II.        Baptism must come after certain requirements are met.

            A.        Baptism means immersion, yet every immersion is not a baptism. Every person who has ever dived into a pool has not become a Christian.

            B.        First, one must know what he is doing.

                        1.         When Jesus commissioned his disciples, he instructed them to first preach the gospel - Mark 16:15-16

                        2.         It is the gospel which contains the instructions on how to be saved - Romans 1:16

                        3.         The people on the day of Pentecost first listened to the gospel message and then asked what they needed to do to be saved - Acts 2:37

                        4.         Even after being told what they needed to do, it still took more teaching to convince them to obey - Acts 2:38-41

            C.        Which brings us to our second point, one must accept what he has learned.

                        1.         Mark 16:16 - Belief is required

                        2.         The eunuch heard the message and asked what was required of him to be baptized. The answer was he needed to believe with all his heart.

            D.        The acceptance of the gospel message causes a person to realize that he cannot continue living his life as he pleases. He realizes that changes are needed in his life.

                        1.         This is why Peter told his audience to repent – to change the direction of their life - Acts 2:38

                        2.         It was our past actions that got us into trouble and continuing that path will lead us into further, more permanent trouble - Luke 13:3

                        3.         It is not arbitrarily picking a new direction, but turning to God and obeying his commands - Acts 26:20

            E.        The change in our life is also shown in a change in our attitude. We must show a boldness to confess that Jesus is our Lord and our God.

                        1.         Confession results in salvation - Romans 10:9-11

                        2.         It is a confession that is witnessed by others - I Timothy 6:12

                        3.         This the eunuch understood and did prior to his baptism - Acts 8:37-38

III.       The baptism itself must be properly done

            A.        As we mentioned before, the word baptism means an immersion.

            B.        It requires much water - John 3:23

            C.        It is seen in its description of a burial and a raising up - Colossians 2:12

            D.        The eunuch and Philip went down into the water. Why do this if all that was needed was the sprinkling of a few drops or the pouring of a cup full of water?

IV.      What about denominational baptisms?

            A.        Some were baptized in a denomination. Isn’t that sufficient? Well, that depends.

            B.        A large number of denominations baptize their members by sprinkling or pouring.

                        1.         Is it a baptism if it is not done in the manner prescribed by God?

            C.        Many are baptized as infants. But consider the prerequisites for baptism.

                        1.         Can a person become a Christian without his knowledge?

                        2.         Can a person become a Christian without his consent?

                        3.         During the days of the New Testament, a characteristic that distinguishes it from the Old Testament was the fact that all Christians are knowledgeable about who they follow - Hebrews 8:11

            D.        Even as adults, a baptism by immersion can be invalid - Acts 19:1-5

                        1.         These men were baptized by immersion after hearing the teachings of John who urged the people to repent.

                        2.         Yet, their knowledge was incomplete.

                                    a.         They were baptized, but for the wrong reason.

                                    b.         They were baptized to get ready for the Savior, but they were not baptized into Christ.

                                    c.         Now that they knew the Christ had come, did that make their past actions now right?

                                    d.         No, they need to be baptized for the right reasons

            E.        Herein is where most need to give serious consideration

                        1.         While many denominations practice some form of baptism, most believe it is not necessary for salvation.

                                    a.         Most claim it is just to show that salvation has already been received. “An outward sign of an inward grace,” some say.

                                    b.         That is why there is no urgency in seeing someone baptized. They will collect several candidates, vote on their acceptance into the denomination, and then hold a collective baptism at their convenience.

                                    c.         Notice that Paul compares baptism to circumcision in the Old Law - Colossians 2:8-12

                                                (1)       Circumcision was a sign of the covenant - Genesis 17:11-14

                                                (2)       Without that sign, a person would be cut off. Circumcision was essential for receiving the blessings under the covenant.

                                                (3)       It was an outward sign, but was essential for a relationship with God.

                                                (4)       Even if one claims baptism is just a sign, does being a sign (or witness) make it less essential? - Acts 22:16; I Peter 3:21

                                    d.         Some note we are not saved by works - Ephesians 2:8-9

                                                (1)       But return to Colossians 2:12 and notice that baptism is an act of faith in the working of God.

                                                (2)       Baptism is not the earning of salvation, but the showing of trust in God’s work - John 6:27-29

                                                (3)       Faith is a work, something that man does. Faith is a work of God, something that is approved of by God.

                        2.         Some protest and say, “That is not why I was baptized.”

                                    a.         My question then is, “Where did you learn that baptism is essential for salvation?”

                                    b.         You couldn’t have learned it in the denomination, for it violates their teaching.

                                    c.         If you knew it went against the denomination’s teaching, then why were you baptized into that denomination?

                        3.         I suspect that for many, it is a reluctance to admit they were wrong for so many years.

                                    a.         Yet, I do not see a reluctance in th 12 Paul baptized in Ephesus.

                                    b.         Baptism requires that the one being baptized knows why it is being done.

                                    c.         Recall Paul’s rhetorical question in Romans 6:3. The implication is that everyone who is baptized knows they were baptized into the death of Jesus.

                                    d.         Obviously, one does not know everything regarding Christianity at his baptism. Yet, there are some basic truths that must be known if one is baptized into Christ.

V.        Was my baptism valid?

            A.        Did you know what you were doing?

            B.        Did you believe in Jesus and his teachings?

            C.        Did you change your life to follow after that teaching?

            D.        Did you confess before others your belief in Jesus?

            E.        Were you immersed in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit for the remission of your sins?

            F.        If you did not met the prerequisites, but you have now, then I urge you to make a proper baptism.

            G.        Some, in youth, were baptized because their friends all were, so they followed the crowd. They did not have any real conviction, no real belief, just a desire not to be left out.

                        1.         For these I urge you to be truly baptized.

            H.        Yet, baptism is not going to protect you from sin. Our faith and our desire are to not sin. Yet, we realize that Satan’s ways are devious and we all succumb to temptation - I John 1:6-2:1

                        1.         For these, I urge you to turn from your sin. Return to serving God as you once did when you put on Christ in baptism. Confession your sins to God and allow your brethren to prayer with you and for your forgiveness.

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