My godson was baptized 20 years ago in an Evangelical Lutheran Church in America church. He has been very involved in his college campus ministry and has decided to be baptized again. What reason would this campus ministry be giving him to be baptized again, and is there spiritual damage they are causing by doing this? He felt that his infant baptism was his parents choosing a faith for him as a child, and this baptism is his choosing the faith he would have.
James F. Pope
Your godson’s situation illustrates the need to clarify several important points about Baptism.
The Bible provides three compelling reasons for baptizing infants:
(1) Children are part of “all nations” (Matthew 28:19), the object of the church’s “baptizing” and “teaching.” “Nations” consist of people of all ages, including infants. Consider that it was the practice of the apostles to baptize households.
(2) Because children are sinful from birth (Psalm 51:5; John 3:5,6), they need the forgiveness of sins. Peter encouraged, “Be baptized . . . for the forgiveness of your sins” (Acts 2:38). The water and Word of God bestows forgiveness and remains valid for children as well as adults.
(3) We baptize children and infants because Scripture tells us they can believe (Matthew 18:6; Luke 18:15-17; 2 Timothy 3:15). They can believe because God is the one who creates faith in people through the gospel (Hebrews 12:2; Romans 10:17).
In carrying out infant baptism, your godson’s parents did the right thing.
Baptism into the holy Christian church
A second important point about Baptism is the meaning and significance of your godson’s infant baptism. While his baptism took place in a Lutheran church, the result of that action went far beyond denominational lines. Baptism works forgiveness of sins and gives eternal salvation just as God promises. Therefore, it brings people into the holy Christian church.
This is why there is no need for a rebaptism if a person changes church membership and affiliates with another Christian church: A valid Baptism establishes membership in the church that supersedes membership in any earthly church. The blessing of forgiveness in Baptism stands on God’s promise.
Baptism as act of God
Finally, your godson’s desire to be re-baptized to “choose his own faith” reflects another misunderstanding of Baptism. Some churches turn Baptism into a human work. It becomes an act associated with a person’s decision to follow Christ. It then amounts to a person’s confession of faith.
That is not what the Bible teaches about Baptism. Scripture explains that Baptism is an act of God. In Baptism, people do not do anything for God; God does something for them. The Holy Spirit works through Baptism to change hearts by connecting them to Jesus Christ in saving faith. Scripture teaches that, in Baptism, people are on the receiving end of God’s powerful work and promise.
So, is there harm in being baptized again? The spiritual harm of another baptism—as in the circumstances you described—is that the person’s actions can amount to a rejection of what the Bible teaches about the power of God in baptism and a denial of God as the creator of saving faith. You will know whether or not those are the thoughts of your godson only by asking him.
As one of his sponsors, do what you can to remind your godson of what God has already done for him in his infant baptism and continue to remember him in your prayers.
Contributing editor James Pope, professor at Martin Luther College, New Ulm, Minnesota, is a member at St. John, New Ulm.
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Author: James F. Pope
Volume 105, Number 08
Issue: August 2018
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