In today's world it seems that there are as many ways to be saved as there are churches. In many cases people grow up believing that they have been saved from their sins from the time that they are little children-before they even knew they needed to be saved. They follow any one of a host of men who have pioneered new ways and invented new religious traditions in the name of their faith (John Smyth, John Calvin, Martin Luther, John Wesley) thinking that their way is the right way.
Whether you are in this situation or not, it is not hard to imagine the shock someone experiences when they read in the Bible for the first time that one has to believe in Jesus Christ and repent of their sins BEFORE they obey the gospel in order to be saved. Nevertheless, many people do find themselves in this awkward situation: What if I was baptized as member of a denomination? What if I was baptized as a baby? Do I have to be baptized again? Has God given us any instruction in the New Testament on this matter? Yes He has. He left us with the information that we need so that we can know what to do.
In Hebrews 11 God shows us the essential role that faith plays in our salvation. "But without faith it is impossible to please Him…" (Heb. 11:6). Paul also wrote, "How shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed" (Rom. 10:14)? So it is, if we want to please God and if we want salvation in His Son then we must have faith, "…for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him" (Heb. 11:6).
But what must we believe? Sadly, there are many who say that it doesn't matter what we believe about Jesus, as long as we "believe in Him." However, we are only given "one faith" (Eph. 4:5); THE FAITH. That faith is not something that can change from person to person or from church to church. It is the determined system of truth which Jesus delivered to us once for all (Jude 3), according to His one true gospel. Only when we put our faith in that gospel can we be baptized for the forgiveness of our sins.
The apostle Paul preached the gospel in many cities where people already had faith. In Antioch the Jews knew what they wanted to believe, but it was not what Paul was preaching (Acts 13:13-52). The people in Ephesus had their own faith when they said "Great is Diana of the Ephesians!" (Acts 19:28). Yet, in spite of the different faiths these people had, Paul still preached the same gospel to all. What was his message? "They should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance" (Acts 26:20). Simple faith, whether it be in God or in something else, is not enough to save a person. We must have faith, but we must have the right faith, for Paul wrote that there is only "one faith" (Eph. 4:5). That is the faith that we read about in the New Testament.
Jesus also said concerning those who believe in this gospel, "He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned" (Mark 16:15-16). This gospel includes the things Jesus accomplished: He lived, suffered, and died, and was raised on the third day to be seated at the right hand of God. It includes what He offers: salvation in His name to all who believe and obey His commandments. It includes who He is: Jesus the Christ, the Son of God. It also includes what He taught. Concerning those who obey His gospel Jesus said, "…teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you" (Matt. 28:20).
When we have this faith we are told that we can have our sins washed away in the waters of baptism: "And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord" (Acts 22:16). We read of the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8 who had this faith and asked, "See, here is water, what hinders me from being baptized?" to which Philip answered, "If you believe with all your heart, you may." And what did the eunuch say he believed? "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God" (Acts 8:31-39).
When we are baptized we must understand that the power unto salvation is not in ourselves nor is it in the water, but it lies in God alone. How then are we saved by being immersed in water? Paul shows us in Col. 2:12 where he says we are "…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." When we hear and believe the one true gospel and are baptized on account of our faith in that gospel it says we are "raised with Him through faith in the working of God…" Did you understand these things when you were baptized? If you were a baby you certainly did not. No matter what our parents believe, we can only be saved when we have faith within ourselves.
A wonderful truth that plays out in the New Testament is that when we believe and obey the gospel, not only do we receive the salvation of our souls, but we are also added by God to the church. "Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them…And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved" (Acts 2:41, 47). One cannot be a child of God without also being a member of His household, can he? When we are baptized we become members of the Lord's household, the one true church. God does all of this for us when we believe in the gospel, repent of our sins, and are baptized in the name of the Lord.
The Different Gospel
Yet, some people are left with an uneasy feeling and the question, what if I was baptized having a different faith that the one in the Bible? What if I wasn't even old enough to believe in the gospel when I was baptized? According to the scriptures, if we believe or teach a different gospel than that revealed in the New Testament we are accursed "I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed" (Gal. 1:6-9). If any gospel other than the revealed in the New Testament causes one to be accursed, does it make sense to say we were saved by that other gospel? Finally, in 2 Thess. 2:11-12 Paul says in no uncertain terms that those who are deceived because they did not receive the love of the truth are condemned. "And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness."
Let us now apply these unchangeable truths to the point of our discussion. Must I be re-baptized if I find out that the gospel I once believed is not true? When the word of God is planted in a good heart it results in Christians. Not Baptists, Catholics, Lutherans, or Presbyterians. In the denominations many seeds are planted, but from those seeds not one Christian can be grown. Only Catholics, Baptists, Jehovah's Witnesses, Pentecostals, or Presbyterians can come from that man-made seed. There was only one faith that was delivered in the New Testament; the denominations have different faiths that were established centuries later. No person can be saved from those denominations. In the scriptures, when people had a faith other than the one true faith they were not told that they were accepted. Rather, they were "that they should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance" (Acts 26:20).
What conclusion must we come to? 1. Faith is absolutely necessary on the part of the person being saved before they are baptized. Since babies are not old enough to believe, they are not old enough to be saved in baptism. 2. If we want salvation in Jesus Christ we must have heard the one true gospel and have believed it. We must have faith in that gospel when we are baptized for the forgiveness of our sins and we must be baptized into the one true church. The baptism of John made a person a disciple of John. Even though they had been baptized into John's baptism according to Acts 19:2-5 ,the disciples of John were still commanded to be baptized in to Christ. Denominational baptism makes a person a disciple in that denomination. If the disciples of John needed to be re-baptized, then the only conclusion that we can make is that those who were baptized as babies or while having a different faith must also be re-baptized into Christ! Have you obeyed the one true gospel? If not, now is the time.