Some people feel very hesitant to be baptised after
having already had what they thought was a ‘baptism’ of some sort, either by
sprinkling as a baby, or by full immersion into “another gospel”. Baptism is
a once-for-all commitment. Notice the different tenses in the Greek text of
Rom. 6:13: ‘Don’t go on yielding’ (present), but rather ‘dedicate yourselves
once and for all’ (aorist). The death of Jesus for us was a once-for-all
commitment to us, and our response in baptism is likewise a once-for-all
commitment to Him (Rom. 6:10). This is why true baptism is by its very
nature unrepeatable (Heb. 6:4).
However, before true baptism there must be repentance and proper belief of the true Gospel (Acts 2:38; Mk. 16:15,16). Baptism is only a true baptism, acceptable to God, when it is undertaken in this way. Mt. 28:19,20 associates baptism with first hearing the teachings of Christ explained. A young child is incapable of repenting or understanding the Gospel; in any case, sprinkling is not baptism. In all Biblical examples, the desire for baptism is purely at the initiative of the person who wants to be baptised (e.g. Lk. 3:10; Acts 2:37; 8:36; 16:30). Parents cannot decide that a young baby can be properly baptised, because they cannot take the initiative for another individual. A swimmer diving into a swimming pool may be immersed in water, but this is not baptism, because the person is not consciously responding to the true Gospel. The same is true of those who are immersed whilst believing “another gospel”; they have been immersed but not baptised.
There is only “one faith”, i.e. one set of doctrines which comprises the true Gospel, and therefore only “one baptism” - the baptism which occurs after believing the “one faith”. “There is one body (i.e. one true church)... just as you were called in one hope of your calling. One Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God” (Eph. 4:4-6). There are not many hopes, as is believed by those who say that it does not matter how we understand the Christian hope; whether we believe our reward will be in heaven or on earth. There is only “one God” - Jesus is therefore not God. It follows that if, when we were baptised, we failed to understand basic doctrines like the Kingdom of God, the nature of God and Jesus, etc., then our first ‘baptism’ may not have been valid. At our baptisms, we rose with Christ “through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead” (Col. 2:12). Baptism isn’t just immersion in water- it depends upon our faith to make it real and meaningful. And faith comes from believing the one faith, as in the set of teachings that comprise the true Gospel. If we didn’t know these at the time of our first immersion, how could we have truly believed?
John the Baptist immersed people, calling upon them to repent, and teaching them certain things about Jesus (Mk. 1:4; Lk. 3:3). However, this was insufficient. Acts 19:1-5 records that some whom John had baptised had to be baptised again because of their incomplete grasp of the true Gospel. Like those whom John baptised, we may feel that at our first dipping we did make a genuine repentance and a new start. This may be true, but it does not take away the need to receive the “one (true) baptism” which can only occur after grasping all the elements of the “one faith”.