Please note-The answers provided are according to the Bible as I believe it to have been interpreted by the early Church. Others may have differing opinions, and I encourage those who are studying this issue to read as many sources as possible. Baptism is, sadly, one of the most divisive issues in the Church when it should unite us. Although baptism is what joins all of us to the Church as a whole, many see it as simply a requirement for joining a denomination or local congregation.
What makes a valid baptism? Water (from a purely scriptural standpoint, the amount of water used is not an issue), and the invocation of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, as directed by Christ. “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. (Matthew 28:19 NIV). Baptism with water in the Name of the Trinity is universally recognized by all orthodox Christian groups.
Does age make any difference? No, since what occurs in baptism is God’s work, not man’s. In baptism, we are born again (or born from above)
“No one can enter the kingdom of heaven unless he is born of water and the Spirit. (John 3:5, NIV) In baptism, we also receive the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit.
“Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38 NIV)
While Peter’s speech in Acts teaches repentance prior to baptism, it must be kept in mind that his listeners were probably mostly adult Jewish men in Jerusalem for the feast of Pentecost (Weeks). One of the most fundamental aspects of Bible interpretation is keeping in mind who the message was directed towards. This should not be used as a reason to invalidate the baptism of infants and young children. In Acts 2:39, the promise of salvation associated with baptism is said to be for the listeners and their children. The inclusion of children into the New Covenant is in keeping with Christ’s teachings.
“Then little children were brought to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked those who brought them. Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.’ When he had placed his hands on them, he went from there.” (Matthew 19:13-15 NIV).
It goes against the example of Christ to exclude young children from the membership of the Church and baptism’s saving grace. As Jewish children were included in the Old Covenant through circumcision, Christian children are included in the New Covenant by baptism.
What about baptism in Jesus Name? While some groups follow this practice, there is no evidence that this was the practice of the early Church, and Jesus Name baptism only dates back to the last century. While Acts 2:38 commands baptism in the Name of Jesus, this was not given as a specific formula to use as Matthew 28:19 was. Baptizing in the Name of Jesus, in this context, means that the baptism is done under His authority. The contemporary idea of baptism in Jesus Name originated at a Pentecostal camp meeting early in the last century. I believe that if Jesus had intended baptism to be performed solely in His Name, He would not have directed us to do otherwise.
If you’re already validly baptized, subsequent “baptisms” will not be effective if your Christian walk is lacking. Instead of seeking a second baptism, why not live in knowledge of your baptism? Living each day with an awareness of your baptism will help you stay in closer fellowship with God. The reformer Martin Luther had a practice of signing the cross upon waking and proclaiming, “I am a baptized Christian”. Even a small reminder like this can help you to remember your baptism.
Grant, O Lord, that all who have been baptized into the death of Your Son may live in the power of His resurrection and look for Him to come again in glory, through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Note: If you’d like to start a discussion more in-depth than what’s usually posted in the comments, here’s a board you’re welcome to start one on: http://p076.ezboard.com/fonebodyandonespiritotherissuesofinterest
All reasonable comments are most welcome here, too.