I have studied out baptism very thoroughly, and I know that to become a
Christian one must repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of sins. In
recent conversations with disciples from different locations around the
U.S., however, I’ve encountered a lot of dispute about who has done this.
For example, say there was a genuine believer in God who changed his/her
life and was baptized in obedience to God with an incorrect understanding
about conversion (i.e., they had a “believer’s baptism”). I’m now inclined
to say that while I’m not God, I am doubtful about whether that person can
be saved. Colossians 2:11-12 is my best reference. On the other hand, I
have a friend who believes in baptism for the forgiveness of sins but
feels that there is no strong Biblical evidence that a “believer’s
baptism” convert is lost and would thus give such a person’s salvation the
benefit of the doubt. He would hope that they will come to a correct view
about salvation and make their own decision about whether they should be
rebaptized. I don’t think assuming the “benefit of the doubt” position is
a good idea in this situation, although I do agree that a person needs to
come to their own decision should it come to “rebaptism.” Who’s right, or
is it even worth arguing and being disunified over? This seems to be a hot
issue right now–how much can we as disciples say about who’s lost and
who’s saved? (Sorry this is so long, thank you!)


I do not have “the answer” to your question. I believe that charity
toward one another is definitely called for, as this is a matter of
opinion. Bottom line, you will not be able to absolutely prove either
position. Yes, you are right, you are not God and this is a disputable
question. For myself, personally, I try to go with the “conservative”
policy about such things. In other words, if someone asked me my opinion,
I would say that I want to be 100% confident. As with Apollos, when he
was taught more thoroughly, he changed what he taught (Acts 18:24-26).
When some disciples of John the Baptist had not been baptized “correctly”
they were baptized into Christ. I think that someone who was baptized
with the baptism of John vs baptized into Christ is a more clear cut
question, whereas whether a person needs to know every detail of exactly
what is involved with salvation to be saved is questionable. I still
prefer to be conservative. If I know someone who was baptized out of
obedience, who was a disciple at the time, but did not understand that
baptism is WHEN we are saved, I personally would advise that person to
study the issue out carefully and to be baptized in faith of what God is
doing. I would use the Colossians passage you mention to justify this
advice. Nevertheless, I feel we need to teach what we believe and not
base fellowship on this issue. It is very easy to divide over issues. I
believe to divide with one another over a debatable point is not what
Jesus would have us do. John 17:23 comes to mind.

In summary, I think I agree with both of you. I agree that you are right
to take the most conservative point of view. We lose nothing by being as
sure as possible that someone is saved. I also agree with the friends you
refer to. I do not believe we should make this a fellowship issue.
Charity, careful teaching and love are preferrable to disunity in this

Note, I am not saying that I accept believer’s baptism in general. The
typical evangelical teaching that one just needs to “accept Christ” and
just get baptized some time later is not biblical. True biblical
repentance is required for salvation. Biblical faith, which includes a
decision to give our life to Jesus–to be a disciple on his terms are
required to be saved. In my answer above, I am assuming you are talking
about someone who has truly repented and made Jesus Lord, who is later
baptized, but is nevertheless confused about the role of baptism in the
process. My experience is that this sort of person is rare indeed.
However, if I find someone like that (and I have!), I would advise the
person, based on Colossians 2:11,12 to consider being baptized in faith,
but would not base fellowship on this issue.

John Oakes

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