|From the TeachingtheWord Bible Knowledgebase|
Part twenty of a series. Read part nineteen.
There is nothing wrong, and everything right, about an individual who received Roman Catholic baptism being "re-baptized" in the Biblical manner. In fact, it is incorrect to speak of the genuine Christian baptism of a former Roman Catholic as a "re-baptism". That individual's previous baptism was the false-gospel antithesis of baptism as Christ has ordained it.
Converts from Roman Catholicism to authentic Biblical Christianity have often asked me this question: "I was baptized in the Roman Catholic church as an infant [or child, or adult]. I have now been truly saved and freed from the bondage of Romanism. Should I be baptized again?"
The key to the Biblical answer to this question is to understand the un-Biblical - in fact, heretical - nature of Roman Catholic baptism. Yes, it is administered in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit as Jesus commanded. But true Christian baptism and the counterfeit of Roman Catholic baptism signify two very different things - one true according to Scripture, and the other false.
Roman Catholicism teaches that the baptism of anyone - infant, child, or adult - removes original sin and makes the individual a member of the visible Roman church. The Vatican has declared it "heresy" to say that "baptism is not necessary for salvation". The Vatican's doctrine is that baptism "is so necessary that, if lacking...salvation cannot be attained" and that "the principal effect" of water baptism is "the remission of all sin, original and actual". 
These assertions have no basis in Scripture, and if believed and followed they will lead a soul to Hell. On the contrary, the Bible teaches that authentic Christian baptism signifies something very different.
New Testament baptism is a testimony of saving faith in Christ. In Scripture it is always connected with repentance and faith - the activities of a conscious, reasoning mind enabled to do so by the regenerating power of the Spirit of God. Peter's exhortation in Acts 2:38 - "Repent and be baptized" - denotes conscious, reasoned acts that neither an infant, nor an unregenerated child, nor an unregenerated adult can do. They were made possible in the three thousand converts at Pentecost, and have been ever since - as Peter stated in his great sermon - by the fulfillment of God's prophetic promise of the coming of the Holy Spirit to indwell every believer in Christ.
The baptism of a believer testifies to the great facts of Ephesians chapter one, which declares that all three persons of the Godhead are involved in the salvation of a soul. God the Father chose us in Christ from before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:3-6). God the Son condescended to enter the world in human form to shed His blood for us (verses 7-12). God the Holy Spirit applies that salvation to the individual and indwells the believer as the seal - literally, the down-payment on the promise - of our ultimate redemption at the Last Day (verses 13-14). Thus, Biblical baptism "in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit" (Matthew 28:19) is a testimony to these great works of the Godhead.
A former Roman Catholic who has come to true salvation by God's grace alone, through faith alone, in the finished work of Christ alone, is a "new creation" (2 Corinthians 5:17). There is nothing wrong, and everything right, about an individual who received Roman Catholic baptism being "re-baptized" in the Biblical manner. In fact, it is incorrect even to speak of the genuine Christian baptism of a former Roman Catholic as a "re-baptism". That individual's previous baptism was the antithesis of baptism as Christ has ordained it - and as the true church, from Pentecost onward, has faithfully practiced it.
It is also worth nothing that we find the same problems regarding baptism in most Lutheran churches. Lutheran doctrine wrongly asserts that water baptism has a saving effect. The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LCMS) states that "new birth (regeneration) happens in Baptism." The Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS) states that "since the Bible teaches that baptism saves us and washes away our sins, we can rightfully say that baptism creates the faith that connects us to Jesus and brings into our lives all the blessings he won by his holy life, sacrificial death and glorious resurrection." The Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) tells parents that "[i]n Baptism, God promises to: Make your child a child of God... Wash your child clean of sin... Give your child the Holy Spirit... Make your child a member of the body of Christ, the Church... and grant your child eternal life..."
We find the same kinds of formulations in the Orthodox churches and in much of Anglicanism. The Anglican position is that baptism with water is the means by which God sends the Holy Spirit into the one baptized, and that it is the instrument by which regeneration occurs:
God brings people to the water of baptism. He sends his Holy Spirit into their lives through the waters of baptism.
Baptism is not only a sign of profession, and mark of difference, whereby Christian men are discerned from others that be not christened, but it is also a sign of Regeneration or New-Birth, whereby, as by an instrument, they that receive Baptism rightly are grafted into the Church; the promises of the forgiveness of sin, and of our adoption to be the sons of God by the Holy Ghost, are visibly signed and sealed...
Baptism is, in the Church, accepted as the initiation into the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. It is the actual instrument (or means) God uses to bring people into the Body of Christ.
The false doctrine of the Orthodox church is similar:
Through the act of immersion, the baptized person dies to this world and is born again in the resurrection of Christ into eternal life.
Any such attempts to supplant the saving blood of Christ with the waters of baptism constitute "another gospel, which is not another" (Galatians 1:6-7) and anyone who persists in preaching such a falsehood is under God's curse (verses 8-9). Therefore, the individual who was baptized as a Roman Catholic or Lutheran was baptized into "another gospel." As a matter of testimony to the one true Gospel, it is therefore imperative for the individual who has now come to faith in that Gospel to be baptized in accordance with it, as Christ commanded.
1. "Baptism" in New Advent Encyclopedia of the Catholic Church, as viewed at https://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02258b.htm#i
2. "Frequently Asked Questions - Doctrine" as viewed at https://www.lcms.org/about/beliefs/faqs/doctrine
3. "Baptism Creating Faith" as viewed at https://wels.net/faq/baptism-creating-faith/
4. "Baptisms" as viewed at http://brfelc.org/worship/occasional-services/baptisms/
5. "What do Anglicans Believe about Holy Baptism?" as viewed at https://anglicancompass.com/holy-baptism/
6. "The Sacraments: Baptism" on the website of the Orthodox Church in America as viewed at https://www.oca.org/orthodoxy/the-orthodox-faith/worship/the-sacraments/baptism
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