Jesus Christ personally commissioned his apostles to make disciples of all the nations, to baptize believers and teach them to do everything Jesus commanded (Matt 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:46-47). The baptism in this commission is gospel baptism in water. John the Baptist contrasted his own baptism in water with the far greater baptism in Holy Spirit that Jesus would administer to believers–whether before their baptism in water (Acts 10), after it (Acts 19), or simultaneous with it (Acts 2). But Jesus also ordained baptism in water as the rite of initiation in Christian conversion. It symbolizes incorporation into Christ’s spiritual body and introduces new believers into the tangible fellowship of that body now on earth.
Actual rebaptism is found only once in the New Testament, in a story of some disciples whom Paul encounters at Ephesus (Acts 19:1-7). These disciples have received “John’s baptism,” an outward sign of repentance in preparation for Christ’s coming, but they are behind on the news of God’s saving activity after that (Mk. 1:4-5, 8; Acts 13:23-25). Paul brings them up to date in that regard, baptizes them in the name of “the Lord Jesus,” and lays his hands on them. They immediately receive the Holy Spirit and began to speak in tongues and prophesy (Acts 19:4-6). Gospel baptism is a major response to the news of Jesus’ atonement and a sign of the new believer’s commitment to follow him.
Christian baptism has nothing to do with joining any denomination, or trusting in baptism for salvation, or fulfilling some local church’s membership requirement. As a bare minimum, any person who trusts Christ for salvation and accepts him as Lord is a proper candidate for gospel baptism (Mark 16:15-16; Acts 8:36-38; Rom 10:9-10). Anyone regarded as having been baptized on this basis should be welcome in any Christian congregation as a disciple in full standing. Any time that does not happen, baptism–which God intended to be a sign of our unity in Christ–becomes a symbol of our division instead, for which we must sincerely grieve.
( I encourage you to visit Edward’s website, http://edwardfudge.com for a wealth of wisdom and biblical teaching.)
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