Question

Is rebaptism ever necessary?

Quick Answer 

Sometimes.

Bible Answer

Luke 13:3 (NKJV) "I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish."

Acts 2:38 (NKJV) "Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."

Acts 3:19 (NKJV) "Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord,"

Acts 19:1-7 (NKJV) "And it happened, while Apollos was at Corinth, that Paul, having passed through the upper regions, came to Ephesus. And finding some disciples 2 he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” So they said to him, “We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.” 3 And he said to them, “Into what then were you baptized?” So they said, “Into John's baptism.” 4 Then Paul said, “John indeed baptized with a baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe on Him who would come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.” 5 When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6 And when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied. 7 Now the men were about twelve in all."

Inspired Answer

Some Instructive Cautions

"In our past experience in connection with the work and cause of God, there have been several of our ministering brethren who manifested much zeal in making prominent and elevating of equal importance the subject of rebaptism as the Sabbath. A testimony was given me several times upon special occasions for these brethren. I was shown that they were making a mistake in presenting in the front and urging upon those newly come to the faith the subject of rebaptism." {Lt56-1886.1}

"This subject should be carefully presented in the spirit of tenderness and love. Then the duty of urging belongs to no one but God; give God a chance to work with His Holy Spirit upon the minds, so that the individual will be perfectly convinced and satisfied in regard to this advanced step. A spirit of controversy and contention should never be allowed to come in and prevail on this subject." {Lt56-1886.3}

"It is not the work of any of our teachers to urge rebaptism upon any one. It is their business to lay down the great principles of Bible truths; especially is this the case in regard to rebaptism. Then let God do the work of convicting the mind and heart." {Lt56-1886.4}

Situations Where Rebaptism Might Be Considered

Where there Is New Understanding Of Truth

"There are many at the present day who have unwittingly violated one of the precepts of God’s law. When the understanding is enlightened, and the claims of the fourth commandment are urged upon the conscience, they see themselves sinners in the sight of God. “Sin is the transgression of the law,” and “he that shall offend in one point is guilty of all.” Sketches From The Life Of Paul, p. 133.1    The honest seeker after truth will not plead ignorance of the law as an excuse for transgression. Light was within his reach. God’s word is plain, and Christ has bidden him search the Scriptures. He reveres God’s law as holy, just, and good, and he repents of his transgression. By faith he pleads the atoning blood of Christ, and grasps the promise of pardon. His former baptism does not satisfy him now. He has seen himself a sinner, condemned by the law of God. He has experienced anew a death to sin, and he desires again to be buried with Christ by baptism, that he may rise to walk in newness of life. Such a course is in harmony with the example of Paul in baptizing the Jewish converts. That incident was recorded by the Holy Spirit as an instructive lesson for the church." Sketches From The Life Of Paul, p. 133.2   

"The subject of rebaptism should be handled with the greatest care. After the truth is presented upon the Sabbath question and other important points of our faith, and souls manifest the moral courage to take their position upon the truth, they will see this question in the Bible light if they are fully converted. But by some these questions have been handled unwisely, and God has sent reproof many times on this point. Those who place the subject of rebaptism in the front, making it of as much importance as the Sabbath question, are not leaving the right impression upon the minds and correctly representing the subject. It requires great discrimination to bring in kindred truths with the Sabbath, rightly dividing the Word, giving to each his portion of meat in due season." Evangelism 372.3

Where There Has Been Backsliding

"The new birth is a rare experience in this age of the world. This is the reason why there are so many perplexities in the churches. Many, so many, who assume the name of Christ are unsanctified and unholy. They have been baptized, but they were buried alive. Self did not die, and therefore they did not rise to newness of life in Christ (Manuscript 148, 1897)." SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 6, p. 1075.7

"There are backslidden church-members and backslidden ministers who need re-converting, who need the softening, subduing influence of the baptism of the Spirit, that they may rise in newness of life and make thorough work for eternity. I have seen the irreligion and the self-sufficiency cherished, and I have heard the words spoken, “Except ye repent and be converted, ye shall never see the kingdom of heaven.” There are many who will need re-baptizing, but let them never go down into the water until they are dead to sin, cured of selfishness and self-exaltation until they can come up out of the water to live a new life unto God. Faith and repentance are conditions, essential to the forgiveness of sin." The Bible Training School, April 1, 1906, par. 7

"Baptism may be repeated over and over again, but of itself it has no power to change the human heart. The heart must be united with Christ's heart, the will must be submerged in his will, the mind must become one with his mind, the thoughts must be brought into captivity to him. A man may be baptized, and his name be placed on the church roll, and yet his heart be unchanged. Hereditary and cultivated tendencies may still work evil in his character."  Review and Herald, September 18, 1900 par. 4 "

"The Lord calls for a decided reformation. And when a soul is truly reconverted, let him be rebaptized. Let him renew his covenant with God, and God will renew His covenant with him. My brethren, show true repentance for departure from God. Let angels and men see that there is forgiveness of sin with God. Extraordinary power from God must take hold of Seventh-day Adventist churches. Reconversion must take place among the members, that as God's witnesses they may testify to the authoritative power of the truth that sanctifies the soul. Renewed, purified, sanctified, the church must be, else the wrath of God will fall upon them with much greater power than upon those who have never professed to be saints."  Manuscript Releases, Vol. 7, 262.2

Where There Has Been Infidelity

"There is no more hope of you than of any common sinner, nor as much, unless you greatly humble your soul before God, repent, and are converted. Take the first steps in the way to life—repentance, faith, and baptism. You have tampered with the divine safeguards of your peace. If you refuse to listen to the voice of reproof, if you choose your own course, if you will not allow the grace of Christ to transform you, your guilt will be as much greater than that of the common sinner as your advantages of light and influence have been greater." Testimonies on Sexual Behaviour, Adultery, and Divorce, p. 190.3

Where There Is Desire For A Closer Walk With Jesus

"We want all the powers that God has given us cleansed and sanctified. We want to clear the path for every working agency, in order that they may not be impeded as they try to advance. We want to come into working order, and into perfect unity with one another. Let us, in tenderness, “admonish one another,” and seek to help one another. Let us pray with one another, and put away everything that would keep us from entering into and following that narrow path that leads upward to heaven.... Manuscript Releases, Vol. 7, p. 268.2   “Whereof I may glory through Jesus Christ.” This is the manner in which we may glory. And as transformation of character takes place, through repentance and confession and reconversion and rebaptism, you will glory through Jesus Christ, “in those things which pertain to God,”—not in the things that pertain to your own personal selfish interests...." Manuscript Releases, Vol. 7, p. 268.3

Instructive Examples Regarding Rebaptism

The Rebaptism Of Mrs White's Son

"I have been riding out with Willie, and he read to me your [J. E. White, her son] letter of September 23. I was much surprised, I could hardly understand it. What you have written to me regarding your reconversion and rebaptism had entirely passed from my mind. Today Willie told me all about it and says that I read the letter when it came; but I do not remember it." Letter 302, 1908.5

Suggesting Rebaptism To A. T. Jones

"If you wish to renew your covenant with God by confession and repentance and rebaptism, we shall rejoice with you. When you are converted, your self-sufficiency will disappear, and you will become meek and lowly in heart. When you see and repent of your mistakes, you will be a great blessing in helping others. The destroyer now takes advantage of your self-righteousness to weave into your experience his own ideas and theories." Letter 104, 1911.10

Further Thoughts

Though rebaptisms are not that common in our day, they are certainly sanctioned in the Bible and in the writings of Mrs. White. Encouragement is given for rebaptism when significant new doctrinal understandings come, to correct backslidden conditions, to enter a deeper experience, to have a fresh start with God, etc.

Rebaptisms are a bit controversial, however, and there are varied opinions on the propriety and necessity of people being rebapitzed.

To give some historical background, in April of 1891 a Bible Study on rebaptism was published in the Review and Herald which strongly advocated rebaptism as necessary for salvation in many situations, and brought about an overzealousness that resulted in strife and division. In response, an editorial was published in the Review and Herald in July of the same year that urged the cessation of the undue pressure that was causing problems. The editorial was based upon a motion taken at the General Conference in 1886.

Regardless of the motion and later editorial, Ellen White still called for rebaptisms for more situations than just the two cited above, in 1897, 1906 and 1911, to list a few instances. So baptisms for more situations than just admission of new adherents to the Adventist faith, and providing a new beginning when complete apostasy had taken place, could be considered. She also gave strong cautions, however, about it not being inappropriately compelled, especially when it concerned a new believer who was taking significant steps in their spiritual growth.

Rebaptism is a serious undertaking and should be accompanied by the same careful preparation that would come prior to an initial baptism, with particular attention being given to why rebaptism is desired or deemed necessary. Remember baptism is not magical. Often the underlying conditions need to be addressed to overcome whatever is troubling the candidate—Dan

Further Resources

Is Rebaptism Ever Necessary?

This short article of Mrs. White, published the Bible Training School, calls for rebaptism in some situations.

Counsel On Rebaptism

Here are a few paragraphs regarding the need of rebaptism where pride was an issue.

Cautions On Rebaptism

Here are a few paragraphs from a letter to G. I Butler where she gives important cautions on insisting that others should be rebaptized.

Further Cautions From The General Conference

Because of undue pressure being applied for new believers to be rebaptized, a short article was published int he Review and Herald of 1891. 

Key Words

Here are some of the key words to search for relevant quotations: baptism, rebaptism, rebaptized (notice the s changes to z!), re-baptized (used 2x), re-baptizing, rebaptizing (notice that hyphenated and non-hyphenated spellings are used).