Re-baptism: Is it Sectarian?


H. A. Ironside

Re-baptism: Is it Sectarian?

Having stated what I understand Scripture to teach on the above, I now take note of a subject that has often been put to me in the form of a question: "If one has been improperly baptized, that is sprinkled, or, in fact, baptized in any mode, before professing faith in Christ, should he be re-baptized when he does confess Him as Saviour?

"Is not the fact that it was done unto the name of the Trinity sufficient? Are we to make more of the mode than of the name? Would not this be sectarianism!"

To these queries, earnest ones often, one might simply reply: "What is God's revealed order?" and there leave it. For the sake of honest souls really troubled about it, however, I will seek to answer it more at length.

As to the first part of the question, I know of absolutely nothing to justify a Christian's neglecting to be baptized after he believes. The fact that such a question can be asked only shows, in my judgment, how far from scriptural order the Church has drifted. Is man's failure, then, to hinder my obedience to the literal teaching of Scripture?

Whatever forms or ceremonies one might have gone through in his unconverted state, they were all lifeless and meaningless to him then. The argument of the 6th of Romans could never apply to one who had not been baptized unto Christ's death, and this, an infant could not properly be, for as yet it knows nothing of that death; while an unbeliever, as such, certainly could not, for he is still living in his sins as though that death had never even taken place. Had he realized his need of the death of Christ and rested upon it, he would be a child of God (Rom.5:8-10). Baptism while he is in such a condition of soul, is just a solemn mockery. It would simply be part of the " dead works" from which he repents, because solely of the flesh and not in any sense of faith. "Without faith it is impossible to please God" (Heb.11:6).

In the case of what is called "christening," the sprinkling of an unconscious infant, where is there any act of obedience on its part, or on the Port of those Performing the ceremony? It is surely absolutely unscriptural and often demoralizing: and in its worst phase, when coupled with the soul-destroying dogma of baptismal regeneration, totally denies the Scripture doctrine of new birth by receiving the word of God (1 Pet.1:23); whereas, apart from that doctrine, it is a meaningless rite, and, as all know, borrowed from Rome. Shall I, then, because men choose to link the name of the Trinity with an ordinance of their own devising, fear to dishonor that name by re-baptism as it is called? And would I become sectarian in so doing? How so? Sectarian, because I insist on literal obedience to the words of the Lord Jesus and His apostles, and because 1 ignore mere human inventions to which they have unauthoritatively linked that worthy Name? I do not understand such reasoning.

There is, in the second part of the question before us, an implication that often proves a snare to souls. It practically says, "You make too much of God's order, too little of His Name. In honoring implicitly His prescribed mode, and literally keeping His words, you are in danger of dishonoring His Name."

Is this tenable for a moment? Does it deserve any better name than sophistry? How can I better honor the name than by yielding obedience to the Blessed One whose name it is? Will He connect His name with that which is contrary to His revealed word just because man does?

How many other things are done professedly in and unto that Name to-day which we know to be only dishonoring to it, and in no sense owned of God, because without any warrant from His word?

As to the subject before us: He has clearly made known how He would have all ordered. He has given us, as already noted, His own pattern. It should be ours to ignore all men's blunders and go on in simple obedience to it, just as though the mistakes had never been made.

Yea, let me rather err in a too literal subjection to His word, if that be possible, than go hand in hand with the traditionalists who "teach for doctrines the commandments of men" (Matt.15:9). Thus shall I be assured of His approbation in that day.

A Parting Word

And now, reader, a word in closing. Are you sure you are saved! If so, have you "kept" the word of the Lord Jesus, and obeyed the instruction of the Holy Ghost by being baptized since you professed faith in Christ?

In Hebrews 8:5 the spirit calls our attention to the Lord's care as to His house in the wilderness, "For see, saith He, that thou make all things according to the pattern showed to thee in the mount." This left no room for man's thoughts in that day. God's pattern settled everything.

The house of curtains has long passed away, but God has a habitation (Eph.2:22) on earth now, even "the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth" (1 Tim.3:15). Is it to be thought for a moment that He is less particular as to its order than He was in regard to the "shadow" of old?

What, then, is the "pattern" now! Do we not find it in Acts 2:41, 42? "Then they that ("Gladly" is generally omitted by the Editors) received His word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers." Have you, then, received the word? If so, have you been baptized? If not, I pray you ponder the words of the Lord Jesus: "If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them" (John 13:17).