Rebaptism, as Adventists practice it, is something people do because they want to mark a moment of growth in their spiritual journey or as a public confession for sin that puts them in jeopardy of being excluded from fellowship/membership. Let’s consider whether these two practices align with Bible teachings.

Rebaptism is documented once in Acts 19:1-7 when folks who’d been baptized by John the Baptist found out about Jesus. They’d experienced baptism as an expression of faith in the One to come, but now they experienced it as the One Who had come. Paul doesn’t command rebaptism or discourage it. They just do it and afterward he lays hands on them and they receive the Holy Spirit.

This seems akin to people who long to re-experience the act of immersion because of spiritual growth. People who were baptized to check off the next thing on the Christian To Do list may want to experience it with more of their hearts online. Those who’ve experienced a faith crisis may want to mark returning to trust in Jesus. Based on Acts 19, this is perfectly appropriate.

However, we have no reason to believe Jesus’ disciples were baptized by anyone but John and they received the Holy Spirit after Jesus returned to heaven. This gives us reason to think the people of Ephesus did not require rebaptism to receive the Holy Spirit. This leaves us with no Biblical support for requiring rebaptism, so why is is this done?

Adventist News website explains it this way: If a person apostatizes from their Christian experience by making choices openly contrary to Christ’s teachings, such as treating the Sabbath of the Lord like any other day, adopting body-destroying habits, or living an immoral lifestyle. In such cases, re-baptism is a public confession that the person has repented of their sins and returned to their allegiance to Christ. (source)

In my lifetime, this has looked like a congregation requiring a pregnant teenager to be rebaptized or be disfellowshipped. When I heard about this situation, it brought up images of stark meeting houses, hard benches, hours-long meetings and public confessions. Traditions preaching it’s a Christian’s duty to punish themselves. Isn’t this a thing of the past? I wished. Her baptism sounded like a walk of shame or a scarlet letter.

Beyond not having Biblical precedent, this practice goes against Biblical principles two ways:

Ranking Guilt
Humans rightly weigh a sin by how much pain it causes. For this reason, making amends is easier if you used the nickname your sister hates than if you murdered her. Jesus recognized the varied impact of sins when He pointed out the terrible existence of someone who’s hurt a child.*  The difference between sins is significant, but has no impact on God’s power to redeem. James 2:10 throws our guilt scale out the window with the declaration: For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it. By this criteria, any sin puts you in total need of a savior and completely guilty. So no one is more guilty and in need of a Savior than me.

Sins Undo Salvation
The idea that some sins demonstrate a person’s rebellion against God is dangerous territory. By this standard, we’d mark David’s sin as bad fruit and conclude he’d willfully turned his back on God. But it wasn’t that simple and it isn’t simple now. No bad decision can reverse our decision to allow Jesus to save us. The Bible clearly states God’s ability to keep us after we choose Him.

I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.    John 10:28,29 NIV

If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also, along with Him, freely give us all things? Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is there to condemn us?…For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor principalities, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Romans 8:31-39

So, who can condemn you, baptized child of God?

No one. Not your pastors. Not the church board. No human has authority to say a deed you did is capable of reversing the redemption God began at your request. Redemption is a process and a trajectory, but the result is set and safe. Only you can undo it with a determined rejection of God’s foray to be with you. Paul’s question reminds me of Jesus’ question to the woman set up to commit adultery and then used as a test for Jesus. Where are your accusers? Has no one condemned you?**

He doesn’t tell her to prove her change of heart with rebaptism. Paul doesn’t tell the Ephesians to be rebaptized. When Jesus washed Peter’s feet and Peter asked Him to wash all of him, Jesus said only the foot washing is needed. According to God’s word, an original baptism (with any amount of understanding) is adequate. Even though our path forward is circuitous and fraught, God never requires a second baptism and Her people should not demand it either.

*Matt. 18:6
** John 8:10