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Baptism Question

by Bob Russell

(Copied from www.bobrussell.org)

 

ASK BOB: “Should I be re-baptized since I’ve never felt close to God?”

Occasionally people ask my opinion on various personal or church issues. I recently received the following question which I have reprinted below, followed by my response.

QUESTION:

Bob,

     I have a question concerning when the Holy Spirit enters our lives and how it relates to my own confidence that I am indeed filled with the Spirit. I grew up in a committed Christian home, was baptized at age 8, and about a year later fully understood sin in my own life.

     In college, I began wrestling with the legitimacy of my first baptism since I may not have fully grasped the concept of sin and salvation at age 8, so I was re-baptized.  Even though I was a minister for 30 years, I never experienced what I considered an intimate relationship with God. I had a lot of head knowledge but didn’t feel I personally knew Him. I began wondering if I had ever received the Holy Spirit and questioned whether my salvation was assured.

     I finally realized it wasn’t about whether my deeds were good enough for God to accept me but through the totally sufficient sacrifice of Jesus.  Because I hadn’t come to this understanding through all my years of study of scripture, I then began to question whether the Holy Spirit had ever been given to me at my baptism.  It appears scripture connects the gift of the Holy Spirit at the point of baptism except in a couple of instances, which leads me to a new question, should I be re-baptized on the basis of my current faith?

MY ANSWER

I believe your concerns are common ones and not unique to you alone. Those of us who grew up in Christian homes are more likely to struggle with these kinds of doubts than those who come to Christ later in life because:

The birth of our 2nd son four years later was not nearly as emotional.  He was born without much fanfare within an hour of our arrival at the hospital.  But it would be silly for our 2nd son, Phil, to doubt his birth because it wasn’t as dramatic.  If he compared his birth with his brother and mused, “I wonder if I’m alive?  I wonder if I’ve ever been born. I wonder if I’m really a part of the Russell family,” we’d scoff at him.  We all know the legitimacy of birth is not determined by the circumstances or emotions that surround it but by the life that is produced. The same is true spiritually.

It’s great to have romance in marriage, but the reality of marriage isn’t determined by romance but a mutual commitment and faithfulness. Marriage is not all one big honeymoon. After you make a marriage commitment, you’re married regardless of how you feel about it!  Your relationship with the Lord is going to have emotional ups and downs.  We soon discover, our daily walk with Christ is not all like Friday night of Christian Service Camp. The Christian faith is a matter of obedience and faithfulness regardless of emotions.  Jesus said, ‘If you love me, keep my commandments.”

As we mature in the Christian life, we discover the Holy Spirit empowers us to overcome temptation, cope with suffering, understand Scripture and have courage in witnessing. He guides us in our daily walk with Christ.  But, most importantly, when we accept Christ, we are not only forgiven of our sins and given the gift of the Holy Spirit, we are adopted into God’s family.  We become a child of God.  “See what great love the Father has lavished on us that we should be called Children of God! And that’s what we are!” (1 John 3:1).

If you have children, they are your children regardless of how they feel about their relationship with you.  Sometimes children feel close to their parents and sometimes not.  You as a father don’t disinherit your children because of fluctuating emotions or even willful disobedience.  They’re your kids!  God is a more loving and merciful Father than we are.  We’ve been adopted into His family and since we are a child of the King we stand in line to inherit His riches.  We need to live in confidence as a Child of the King!

Since you had almost no understanding of the significance of baptism when you were eight, you were probably right in being baptized again while in college. However, in my opinion, you don’t need to be baptized again because you have deepened in your understanding of grace since then.  A child who has been adopted only needs to go through the legal process once.  Peter’s advice to Simon the Sorcerer in Acts 8 was not to be baptized again when he flagrantly sinned but to repent and pray for God’s forgiveness.

I find it interesting that most of what is written in the New Testament about baptism is written to inform Christian people what happened to them when they got baptized. (See Romans 6:1-7.) They were never instructed to go through baptism again after they understood it better.  If that were the case, we might wind up being baptized every year or so.

If I were you, I’d read and memorize all the Scriptural promises about salvation through Christ. Then when the adversary tempts you to doubt, quote some of those passages and rejoice again that “as far as the east is removed from the west, so far has God removed our transgressions from us.”  Give thanks that even though you are imperfect and your faith is imperfect you are a child of God and He promises, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you shall be saved” (Romans 10:9).

Sorry if my answer is long, but I hope this helps a little.

 

Bob Russell is retired Senior Minister of Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, KY.




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That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:10