In the name of Jesus Christ, our Savior, Lord, and Friend.
Dear sister in Christ,
Your baptism is firm and certain not because of anything you have done or the pastor who administered your baptism in Christ’s stead and command. Your baptism is firm and certain because of God and his word.
All of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death. We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life (Rom 6:3–5).
In baptism God speaks a word that brings true life and forgiveness. As with all God’s words, this word is spoken without respect to our person or works. It’s not because of who we are or what we’ve done. We don’t earn it! It’s a gift. By his word and Spirit, God “gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist” (Rom 4:17).
Nothing we do can change this word. “The word of our God will stand forever” (Isa 40:8).
But to rebaptize is to contradict this word of our God. And that’s the problem with rebaptism. Rebaptism assumes that God’s word depends on our understanding (and for some on the person who administers baptism). Rebaptism implies that our previous baptism didn’t work or was somehow inadequate, because we didn’t properly understand it, or maybe because the church we were baptized in had a different understanding of baptism than we do now.
This shifts the focus from God and his word to us and our understanding. The more you learn, the more it calls into question if you ever understood in the first place, and so the assurance of baptism is undermined: should you be re-baptized? And now you’re looking at your own unworthiness in thought, word, and deed, instead of beholding Christ and the marvelous gift he is for you.
Ask your pastor to please not demand that you be rebaptized, which would risk turning your gaze from Christ and his words and deeds to your own.
God does not ask us to have faith in our own faith or understanding, but faith in Christ—faith in the Word. God’s word is given for our endurance and encouragement. And we read that Christ’s peace and love surpass all understanding (Phil 4:7; Eph 3:19). God’s word says that we’ll never finish learning God’s word!
Like all of God’s words, his word of baptism cannot be plumbed, sounded out, and mapped. We’ll never get to the bottom or end of baptism. And that’s good news.
As the rain and snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it (Isa 55:10–11).
And that’s true of the word of baptism spoken over you. By saying “I am baptized,” you mark yourself with the cross of Christ that scatters all devils, evil, and death, and you live a life of repentance and faith in the Lord our God. By saying “I am baptized,” you proclaim what baptism is. It’s God’s faithfulness to us first and foremost—always before our faithfulness. God is committed to killing and making alive by uniting us to his dear Son.
That’s a word worth returning to daily.
The peace of the Lord be with you,
Todd R. Hains
Todd Hains is Academic Editor at Lexham Press.
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