Question: I was baptized years ago, so at first when your magazine and your telecast talked about baptism, I assumed it did not apply to me. Now, after reading your literature, I am beginning to wonder whether I was properly baptized. How can I know?
Answer: Christ commanded His disciples to baptize those whom God called to repentance and baptism. "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matthew 28:19-20).
What does God require for a baptism to be valid in His eyes? Surely Jesus Christ knows the requirements, as it was He who established the requirement of baptism for salvation. "And He said to them, 'Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned'" (Mark 16:15-16).
What must one believe? One must believe the gospel Jesus preached. What was that gospel? "Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, 'The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom [government] of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel'" (Mark 1:14-15).
Jesus Christ, the Son of God, brought the good news that God's Kingdom will ultimately take control of all the world's governments, and will administer a time of peace between formerly warring nations.
Of what must one repent? Of sin. What is sin? "Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law" (1 John 3:4, KJV). At your previous baptism, did you obey Jesus' instruction to repent of transgressing the Ten Commandments (Matthew 19:17-19)?
Keeping these points in mind, you can ask yourself: When you were baptized, did you repent of your sins? If you knew what sin is, but you did not resolve to turn away from it with the help of your Savior, you did not repent. And if you did not even know what sin is—perhaps you believed that as a Christian you could do whatever you wanted and not have it counted as sin—you certainly did not repent of your sins.
One sign of an invalid baptism is that it did not follow the scriptural form. Notice that Scripture clearly instructs that baptism be performed in water, by full immersion (Matthew 3:1-16; John 3:23; Acts 8:38-39). A mere sprinkling does not conform to the biblical symbolism of washing away past sins (Acts 22:16).
Additionally, if you were baptized at a very young age—perhaps even as an infant—you could not have understood what it means to repent. If you were not even the one who requested your own baptism as an infant or child, this is a sure sign that your baptism did not signal your true repentance.
Perhaps you feel that you did repent when you were previously baptized. If so, ask yourself another question: Did you believe the gospel? Today, most people who call themselves "Christians" have only a hazy and incorrect idea of the gospel. Some think of it as a message about Jesus; others think of it as a message about prosperity or self—affirmation. Few understand the truth—that the gospel Jesus preached was the gospel of the Kingdom of God, the message of a soon-coming Kingdom, ruled by Jesus Christ Himself, under which all of humanity would experience the joys and blessings of living God's way.
Some people rush into baptism because they think it is the socially acceptable thing to do. Their friends have all been baptized, and they feel left out if they have not. As a result, they may seek baptism long before they have truly "counted the cost" of this eternal commitment (Luke 14:28). Because baptism is such a weighty decision, you should be wary of those who want to hurry you into baptism without allowing you time to pray, study and fast as you seek God's will for your life. To learn more about baptism, and to help you consider your need for it, please write or call the Regional Office nearest you for a free copy of our informative booklet, Christian Baptism: Its Real Meaning.