Is Every Baptism Acceptable to God?

Chuck Bartlett

A couple of weeks ago I wrote an article about the church. The title was similar to this one. I presented this question:  how can I make it any more clear that Christ’s church isn’t a denomination. This got me to thinking about something else that needs to be made perfectly clear. That is, that being baptized in water when you believe in Jesus does not necessarily mean you have been baptized scripturally. 

I have had people who belong to various denominations quote Mark 16:16 and Acts 2:38, telling me they believe in Jesus and they were baptized in water. From the surface, it sure seems like that if anyone would say such, that they have done exactly what the Lord demands. How could there ever be a scenario where their baptism didn’t work and they simply just got wet?

Before I answer this question, let’s make something clear. It doesn’t matter what Chuck says. No one is lost or saved because I say so. This also means that it doesn’t matter what your preacher, family members, friends, or even yourself has to say. The truth is that those who are right are only those who do exactly what the Lord demands (II Jn. 9). Therefore, it matters not how strong someone believes and feels. After all, there are people that strap on bombs and walk into crowds killing themselves and others, being thoroughly convinced they are doing what God wants.

Have said all of that, now let’s take a close look at situations where people who do believe in Jesus and were baptized in water, only got wet and they are not Christians:

Believed one was saved prior to being baptized

This is the most common misunderstanding I hear. People tell me that they were saved and then they went ahead and got baptized. Folks, the Bible does not teach that. No one can get saved prior to having their sins washed away by the blood of Christ (Rev. 1:5). This is accomplished when baptized into Christ (Rom. 6:3-7). Peter comes right out and stated that baptism saves us (I Pet. 3:21). Not that there is any power in the water, the power is in the gospel message that we are to obey (Rom. 1:16; II Thes. 1:8).

Believing any baptism is okay, even if done wrong, it doesn’t have to be redone as long as they now have the proper understanding

The Bible does indeed teach there is only one baptism (Eph. 4:5). Yet, it is wrong to conclude that you can have a proper baptism without proper knowledge. This would authorize baptizing people before they hear the message, which is contrary to Christ’s words (Mk. 16:15-16). Of course, what would dispel this idea is if there is a passage in the Bible where people were baptized in water already and were told to do it the right way. There is, and it is found in Acts 19:1-5. Remember, the understanding must come first, which leads us to our next point.

Being baptized without meeting the prerequisites

There was a man who was taught about Jesus and wanted to get baptized. With his desire, he asked if there was anything that could hinder him from being baptized (Acts 8:36). He was told that he needed to first confess his faith in Jesus being the Son of God (vr. 37). This supports what Paul stated in Romans 10:9-10, where the apostles said that with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. We also read in Acts 2:38, a person must also repent prior to being baptized. This means a person changes their mind and decides to turn their back on sin and follow Jesus. Now this leads us into our next point.

Making an appointment to get baptized, not done immediately

In every example of people getting baptized properly,  they did not wait. The reason is they wanted to be saved. This makes sense since we are told that godly sorrow leads to repentance (II Cor. 7:9). Who has this kind of sorrow for their transgression and then opts to wait to be baptized? The answer would be someone who doesn’t understand Bible baptism. This is why a whole household was baptized a little after midnight (Acts 16:25-33). The Ethiopian did it right away with just he and the preacher present (Acts 8:38). Note that these points often overlap. Many times, the reason people don’t do it immediately is because they think they are already saved.

Stating you have been baptized properly without proper reasoning

I have personally had people quote Acts 2:38, where we are told to repent and be baptized for the remission of their sins. But when I ask them when they were saved, they tell me it was prior to their baptism. How can someone be saved prior to being baptized when Saul/Paul was told, after he believed, confessed, repented and prayed, to arise and be baptized and wash away his sins calling on the name of the Lord (Acts 22:16)? To reason that you have done exactly what the Lord commands, yet at the same time demonstrate your inconsistencies is just not proper thinking.

Believing when you are baptized, you are baptized into the local church

The Bible teaches us that we are to be baptized into Christ (Gal. 3:27; Rom. 6:3). All those who do this are added by Christ into His church (Acts 2:47). Many religious groups perform baptism ceremonies. They turn it into some sort of event for onlookers. However, as noted earlier, in Acts 8 there were just two people there: the preacher and the one wanting to become a Christian. There wasn’t a ceremony of any sort. Man likes to go beyond what is written, especially when it comes to conversions.

Being convinced your baptism was valid by folks convincing you with non-Biblical phrases.

Ever hear, “Baptism is an outward sign of an inward grace”? Or, “Accept Jesus as your personal Savior and you will be saved.” These sound Biblical, but they aren’t. Please make sure you did not just get wet. Look at this from a Biblical point of view. It’s the only way!

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