Baptized Twice

By Royce Frederick


“I want to know whether is it possible for a person to be baptized twice?” — M. S. P., Republic of South Africa

In the New Testament, there is only one example of people who were baptized twice, Acts 19:1-7.

Before Jesus died, His forerunner, John, prepared people to follow Jesus: “...John indeed baptized with a baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe on Him who would come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus” (Acts 19:4; see Jn. 1:19-34; Matt. 3:1-6). John could not preach all of the good news that Jesus died for our sins and arose victorious over death, because John died before those events. So, the people who were baptized by John were not baptized into the death of Christ.

After Jesus died, arose, and ascended into heaven, the gospel was fully preached for the first time in Acts 2. Since that time, a sinner obeys the gospel when he or she is baptized into Christ Jesus...baptized into His death(Rom. 6:3) — buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead” (Col. 2:12; see Gal. 3:26-27).

Now notice in Acts 18:24-19:7 that the baptism of John is mentioned two times at Ephesus:

Apollos “knew only the baptism of John” (Acts 18:25), and he had been teaching in Ephesus.

“About twelve” men at Ephesus had been baptized “into John’s baptism” (Acts 19:3, 7).

This leads us to believe that Apollos probably had taught and baptized these twelve men many years after Acts 2. This would mean that the twelve men were “baptized” (immersed in water) for the wrong purpose — a purpose which was no longer correct. Later, in Acts 19:5, Paul taught them, and they were “baptized” (immersed) for the right purpose.

So in one sense, the twelve men were “baptized” twice — first, immersed in water for an incorrect purpose, then immersed in water for the right purpose.

But in another sense, they were “baptized” only once. The second time they went under water was the one true baptism required since Acts 2.

To the same city where the twelve men were immersed twice — Ephesus — Paul wrote, “There is one body and one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God…” (Eph. 4:4-6). The “one baptism” occurs when a sinner hears the gospel, believes it, repents of his sins, confesses his faith in Christ, and is baptized into Christ for the forgiveness of sins (Mk. 16:16; Acts 2:38; 8:36-38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3-4; 10:9-10). At baptism, he enters into the “one body” of Christ, which is His church (see Matt. 16:18; Eph. 1:22-23; 1 Cor. 12:13; Col. 1:18; Rom. 16:16). Jesus promised to build one church (Matt. 16:18), not many churches teaching different doctrines. The “one baptism” does not put a person into any denomination.

To obey the “one baptism,” a sinner must obey the true teaching from his heart. Paul reminded Christians, “ obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered” (Rom. 6:17).

If a person believes he is already saved before baptism, and is later immersed, that immersion is not with the right understanding and not for the right purpose. To be truly baptized, a person needs to understand that he is lost in his sins, and that he will be saved by grace through faith — by the blood of Christ — when he is immersed in water for the remission of his sins.