How should we treat someone who claimed to be saved, went on for some time, and then backslid, but now claims to have been saved again and desires for a second time baptism and reception into the assembly?
We should point out that one cannot be "saved again". Salvation is a once for all never to be repeated experience. In these days of "easy believeism", as it is called, and false profession, it is not impossible for someone to be received into fellowship never having experienced new birth. Indeed the writer himself has known what it is when preaching the gospel for someone in assembly fellowship to find out they are not saved at all. It is not always easy for such a person to own up and confess to this, but far better to acknowledge it and get the matter settled. There are no examples in the New Testament of such individuals who are in assembly fellowship and how to deal with them. The nearest is that of Simon in Acts 8. He both believed and was baptised (v.13), but later Peter exposed him, and his words in vv.20-22 make clear that Simon was not saved. There is no evidence he was in assembly fellowship, but if he did truly repent then I am sure he would have been baptised again.
A person in this situation must be treated on their own testimony and merit. Not all cases will be the same. Overseeing brethren would have to take great care in questioning the individual not to hinder them spiritually and must not overlook the possibility that what such persons may lack is assurance of salvation. It must also be acknowledged that some dear souls may be the victim of a lack of real clear preaching of the gospel. It is sadly true that the doctrine of mans ruin and Gods remedy is not being faithfully preached in some assemblies today, and as a result there has not been an awakening to guilt and conviction of sin and need. It has to be said that being in assembly fellowship is no guarantee that one is saved. If it becomes clear that a person has not been saved, though baptised and in fellowship, this has to be accepted and there is nothing in Scripture that would forbid a person whose previous baptism was not valid from being again baptised and received.
John J Stubbs
Were those baptised by John the Baptist required to be baptised again after Pentecost?
The ordinance of baptism in water, as practised by John, could never put away sins: it merely gave a pledge of forgiveness at some future time: "John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of (or unto) repentance for (i.e. with a view to) the remission of sins" (Mk 1.4). Johns preaching is therefore summed up in two great subjects, i) repentance, and ii) remission (i.e. forgiveness) of sins.
Repentance was, of course, on the part of the sinner. John required of all who came to him that they should change their minds and forsake their sins. He preached "the baptism of repentance"; it was not the baptism that secured forgiveness, baptism was but the outward sign of the change of mind which made forgiveness possible. It was an acknowledgement by those who submitted to it that they were deserving of nothing less than death and judgment.
The remission of sins was on Gods part; the scribes were correct when they said, "Who can forgive sins but God only?" (Mk 2.7). This remission was to be received of the coming Messiah. Johns baptism was thus preparatory to the manifestation of Christ.
On the other hand, Christian baptism is a public confession by those who are already forgiven. In Christian baptism we confess that we died with Christ. We took Christs death to be our death; we were thus baptised unto Christs death and were identified with Him in His burial and resurrection.
It is quite clear from the record in Acts 19 that those baptised by John the Baptist were required to be baptised again after Pentecost. The company of disciples whom Paul met at Ephesus - "Paul finding certain disciples" (v.1) - had only limited understanding; they knew only Johns baptism, they had been baptised "Unto Johns baptism" (v.3). They had not even heard of Pentecost and of the giving of the Spirit. "And they said We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost" (v.2); JND renders this "We did not even hear if the Holy Spirit was come". Indeed they had not heard the gospel of the glory of Christ. Paul told these men that "they should believe on him which should come after him (i.e. John the Baptist), that is, on Christ Jesus" (v.4). Then we read, "When they heard this, they were baptized in (or to) the name of the Lord Jesus" (v.5); thus they submitted to Christian baptism.
David E West