22 Feb 2009

Rebaptism Reviewed … David Lipscomb

Author: Bobby Valentine | Filed under: Acts, Baptism, Church History, David Lipscomb, Forgiveness, Grace, Restoration History, Salvation, Sectarianism

What follows below is a reproduction of David Lipscomb’s article “Rebaptism Reviewed.” The article is a response to “Brother Chism” who defended the sectarian rebaptist dogma. This is one of Lipscomb’s fullest discussions of the subject. He takes us on a tour of the examples of baptism in the Book of Acts following a thorough examination of Acts 2.38 and the Great Commission. I think this article is significant enough to simply reproduce it in toto and Lipscomb explain the rational (exegetical and theological) for rejecting rebaptism.

Rebaptism Reviewed
David Lipscomb
Gospel Advocate, 12 December 1907, pp. 992- 793

I am glad to have this article from Brother Chism. He presents the points in a clear and tangible form so they can be understood. I believe the question ought to and can be settled with all who desire to follow the will of the Lord and are willing to study and abide by his teachings.

Some object to the name “rebaptism.” It is a reimmersion. The twelve at Ephesus were rebaptized, I believe persons ought to be rebaptized sometimes, and I call it “rebaptism.” I am glad of Brother Chism’s article because it places the practice on a ground that does not savor of infidelity. I feel shocked when professed Christians ask where the Bible says we must be baptized to obey God. It shows how little they know the Bible or how ready they are to sacrifice the fundamental principles of the Bible to sustain a pet theory or a party.

Brother Chism justifies the rebaptism practice on the ground that “for the remission of sins” is in the sentence, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins,” is part of the command, and this seems to be the chief ground on which he bases the practice. I believe “into” is preferable to “for,” but he seems to prefer “for.” But if “eis” or “for” here is a part of the command, what becomes of the argument that it means “in order to obtain,” that Brother Chism and others make on the design of baptism with the sects? If it is a reward for obedience to the command, it cannot be a part of the command. That argument or his position is all wrong. It cannot be at once a part of the command and a reward for obedience to the command. Webster defines “for:” “the antecedent cause or occasion of an action; the motive or inducement leading to an action.” It cannot be the antecedent cause of an action and the action itself. It cannot be the promise as a result of the obedience and the obedience itself. It is a promise to lead to obedience, and not the obedience itself. I believe it should be “into” indicating a result flowing from the act, so only indirectly a motive leading to it. There is certainly nothing in the sentence that demands it should be part of the command.

If there is uncertainty about it, let us test in another safe way. Let us interpret it by other similar scriptures. Take Acts 3:19: “Repent ye therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted from the presence of the Lord.” No one would say “that your sins may be blotted out” is a part of the command. It is a result to which obedience to the command leads. It is the same as “for remission of sins” in Acts 2:38. “That your sins may be blotted out,” or remitted, or forgiven, mean the same. The forgiveness is the act of God, and man cannot obey or do God’s part in any work. He can only “repent and be baptized . . . in the name of Jesus Christ;” and leave God to forgive his sins when has complied with God’s requirements.

These suggestions are a full reply to Brother Chism’s points. But I examine further. He says the command, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins,” is the exact equivalent of the commission given by the Lord. This is wrong. It is the application of that general law to one special case, and it is a mistake to interpret and restrict the general law by one special application of it. Numbers of our rebaptist friends ignore the commission altogether and find the law only in this application of it. (Acts 2:28). God first gave the law and then the application of it. Brother Chism reverses God’s order, passes by the general law, begins with one special application of it, and then restricts the law to this one application. This is as if a lawyer were to find a man tried for stealing a horse. The general law against stealing is applied by the court to this one of horse stealing, and the lawyer ever afterwards restricts the law against stealing to this one case and insists that the law is not violated unless a horse is stolen. Brother Chism finds the first application of the law was to sinners guilty of the blood of the Son of God, and in their guilt they ask if pardon is possible, and they are told: “Repent, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ and your sins shall be remitted.” To be baptized in the name of Christ is to be baptized as Christ directs – “into the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” for in them remission of sins, which they so earnestly sought, would be found. But is that the only blessing that is to be found in these names that can or should move men to seek God?

But Acts 2:38 is the commission applied to that particular case. Mark (16:15,16) says: “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to the whole creation. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that disbelieveth shall be condemned.” Is “shall be saved” a part of the command in this case? Is it an obligation imposed upon man? Does not the obligation on man end with being baptized, and is not his being saved the work of God? Is it not a promise to man to encourage him, in his weakness and infirmity, to believe and be baptized? Brother Chism will not contradict this. Does not “be saved” correspond exactly to “for [or into”] the remission of sins?” (Acts 2:38) There is no command in remission of sins to men, but a promise of what God will do.

The commission by Matthew is: “Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you.” This is applied in Acts 2:38 to the condition of those present. The people were taught, believed, were commanded to be baptized in the name of Christ, into the remission of sins. To be baptized in the name of Christ is to be baptized “into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” because that is the only baptism Christ authorized. When they are baptized into these names, they are baptized into the remission of sins. Into these names, embracing remission of sins in common with all spiritual blessings, are results flowing from the obedience and constitute no part of obedience. These different promises mean the same and cannot be a part of the obedience.

I think Brother Chism must agree to these points so far, and own “for remission” is a promise to lead to obedience. It is not the only promise. Other promises in Christ may lead as well as this one.

We both agree that remission of sins is a motive to lead to obedience. He seems to think it is the only motive, or at least the leading and essential motive to lead to baptism, and without this as the leading and controlling motive the baptism is not acceptable to God. I do not believe this. I believe there is one motive that in all service to God, without which no service is acceptable to him. That is, we must do the service in the name of Jesus, the Lord. “Whatsoever ye do, in word or in deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Gal. 3:17) All Jesus did in heaven and on earth was done to please his Father. Nothing can be done in his name that is not controlled by the same desire. The law was: Be baptized “into the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” This is frequently expressed by “in” or “into” “the name of the Lord Jesus.” To be in one of these names or persons is to be in all. In Christ are many blessings: no human being can know all. God has revealed a few that appeal to our conditions here. Some blessings appeal to one person, another to another, owing to the conditions of the persons. Acts 2:38 is not the only application of this commission to the conditions of man.

Take the case of the Samaritans. They had been wicked: the Jews despised them and refused to let them worship with them; but despite their surroundings, they were willing to obey God. The heart of the Almighty is very tender toward those unfortunately situated but willing to obey him. Those who fail to see this are ill fitted to understand and obey God. God sent his servant to the Samaritans. “When they believed Philip preaching good tidings concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.” In the name of Jesus remission of sins was enjoyed but in his name and kingdom are many other precious blessings.

Then there is the Ethiopian eunuch. He was a God-fearing man. He had come several hundred miles to worship God according to his appointments. He was studying God’s word. God was so well pleased with him that he sent his servant to teach him the way of the Lord more perfectly. He preached Jesus to him. He asked and was baptized into Christ. I do not think “for remission of sins” was made prominent in this conversion, because he was serving God according to the best light he had and was guilty of no great sin.

Then Cornelius was a Gentile, a good man according to the light he had. He worshiped God. Peter said he feared God and worked righteousness; that commended him to the favor of God, who sent his angel to him. His alms and his prayers were treasured as a memorial before God. Peter told him he was out of Christ, out of God, and he was “baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus.” Was much stress laid on “the remission of sins” in this case? He was baptized in the name of Christ, to obey God. Brother Chism, if you had been there, could you have objected to receiving Cornelius unless “remission of sins” was the present and controlling motive in his baptism? The very same Peter that told the bloody handed murderers to be baptized “for remission of sins” tells Cornelius to be baptized “in the name of Jesus Christ,” and said nothing of remission of sins. Why the difference?

Then those at Ephesus. (Acts 19:1-7) They were serving God according to the best light they had, had been baptized into John’s baptism, “for the remission of sins.” They had not learned that John’s baptism had been superseded by baptism into the name of Christ. When they heard these things, “they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus.”

No emphasis was laid on “for remission” in these cases, but great emphasis on “into the name of the Lord Jesus,” as prescribed by the commission. The law was applied to suit the condition of the person. The apostles did not believe that stealing a horse was the only stealing that could be done nor that remission of sins is the only motive to lead men to obey God. Why are not all these applications of the case as much for our instruction as Acts 2:38? Why is not the command to be baptized into Christ, into the name of the Father and Son and the Holy Spirit, as much the command of God as “for remission of sins?” Why is it not as important that men understand baptism is into Christ as to understand it is for the remission of sins? If we follow the Bible up, we find that in the writings to the churches and to Christians the emphasis is laid on having been baptized into Christ, having put on Christ, and living, dying and being raised in Christ.

There are now cases corresponding in state to these cases of conversion in Acts. I could mention many. The girl mentioned by Brother Holt that had likely, like Timothy, known the Scriptures from a child, wished to obey Christ, but not oppressed with the guilt of sin, she had not studied that point. Would the Father reject her because she wanted to follow Christ in her innocency [sic] and her youth?

While man is to love and trust God because God is good and blesses those that do his will, the idea that we must know what we are to get for and in each service, and that our service is acceptable only as we understand and render the obedience for the blessings we are to get, is repulsive to God. Abraham was the great model of faith for all future generations of the world. He followed God from his father’s home not knowing whither he went or what he would receive. In the service that was most pleasing to God, the offering of his son as a sacrifice, which secured the promise, “In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.” Abraham obeyed without a promise whether any blessing would be received. The obedience seemed to defeat the promise that God would of his son make a mighty nation. The anti-type of Abraham’s offering of his son was God offered his only Son to die for the world. This is continually held up as the great example given to man to follow. It places the truth beyond all controversy that God is pleased with the service that is rendered him at great sacrifice, from love of him, without any promise of blessing. Job said: “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.” That is the service God loves. We have other thoughts along this line we wish to offer.

D. L.

16 Responses to “Rebaptism Reviewed … David Lipscomb”

  1. Steve Puckett Says:

    Thanks for sharing this insightful article. Peace to you out there in the desert.

  2. todddeaver Says:

    This is very helpful. Thanks, Bobby.

  3. blogprophet Says:

    i will get around to reading it as soon as I can get the song “Rosanna”, by Toto out of my head.
    I had the 45 record of that when I was in kindergarten

    all thanks to your latin phrase

  4. westcoastwitness.com Says:


    I read the whole thing – thanks for posting 🙂

  5. Randall Says:

    Great post! Good to see how much Lipscomb diageeed with the notion baptism had to be “for” the remission of sins in the mind of penitent. Amazing that so much emphasis was put on one verse (Acts 2:38) and not just on the one verse but on one preposition in the verse – “for.” In English we use prepositions with some latitude. A man could be hung FOR murder – or a man could buy a loaf of bread FOR a dollar – or a man could give a gift to another man but tell him the gift was FOR his son. All different uses of the same preposition.

    If we were to discuss baptism in the HS and use various prepositions such as IN the HS or BY the HS or OF the HS would we be talking about different things – I doubt it.

    It seems to me that they have been some that have taken a foolish and very legalistic approach in the way they handled scripture to the detriment of the gospel. Thanks to Lipscomb and some others for softening that approach a good deal.

  6. Anonymous Says:

    Any insight regarding when Lipscomb would practice rebaptism?
    Thank you.

  7. Stoned-Campbell Disciple Says:

    Lipscomb would practice “rebaptism” under some circumstances for sure. A believer that had never been immersed (sprinkled or poured on) or had undergone infant baptism he would certainly do it. If a person was not a believer at the time of their baptism but now does believe. But for a person who did have faith and was obedient to that faith yet misunderstood mere teaching about the rite then reaching is in order not rebaptism.

  8. JoeBama Says:


    He made the statement, “It cannot be at once a part of the command and a reward for obedience to the command.”

    Why not?

    I invite you to read an article about this subject that was presented by Wayne Jackson.



  9. Stoned-Campbell Disciple Says:

    Isn’t it interesting that we are told who cares what Lipscomb, Harding or Campbell talks … all we want is the Bible … then we are told to go read an article by Wayne Jackson who will explain the Bible properly!!! Ironic indeed.

    Bobby V

  10. JoeBama Says:

    There’s no need to get nasty.

    The article made a statement that something could not be the case and I simply asked, “Why not?”

    I can think of several examples where a result would also part of a command.

    I never said “who cares” about what any preacher says. We should receive things preached eagerly and then search the scriptures to see if they are so. (Acts 17:11)

    This applies to the things taught by Lipscomb, Harding, Campbell, Jackson, and even you or me.

    No gospel preacher should object to being compared to scriptures. It should be encouraged!

    There have been multiple articles referenced on this subject. I only offered one.

    Compare it to the Bible. If it teaches what the Bible says, accept it. If it does not, reject it!


  11. Anonymous Says:

    I always hear that these early RM preachers were still developing as they moved out of denominationalism and so therefore many of their views cannot be trusted.

    We today, of course, have the full truth and so our views are correct while those of Campbell, Lipscomb, Harding, Scott, Tant, McGarvey, et al are not.

    What pride is displayed!

  12. Anonymous Says:

    Anon, concerning the pride of all of us today being right and the RM leaders only being partly right, you are incorrect. As for people today, everybody else is partly right and I and those who agree with me are the only ones that are totally right. It is not pride; just fact. 🙂

  13. HP laptop batteries Says:

    Well I think that might be a bit true. Everyone has a bit of deep truth in them that isn’t really visible at most times. But hey what can I say.. Do we Really want to know the absolute truth about Everyone?? Sometimes, the inner secrets of a person should remain unknown, of course if they harm no body. I do think that stories though, are entertaining whether they are positive or negative, because they depict a ‘kodak moment’ in time that tells a story. You’re right, everybody loves a story or two, so why not imagine your life a big story and be a great story teller!

  14. Anonymous Says:

    In the 5th paragraph, is there a typo” “only in this application of it. (Acts 2:28.” Should this be Acts 2:38?

  15. Warren Says:

    Thanks for posting.

  16. Joel Williams Says:

    Regarding the article by Wayne Jackson which is noted in the comment section above, his article does not directly address the argument of Lipscomb: “It cannot be at once a part of the command and a reward for obedience to the command.” Jackson takes the position which Lipscomb denies, but he does not justify himself against the distinctions which Lipscomb so eloquently makes in his argument. Jackson write, “The purpose of the act is . . .” and then he gives a list of things which are included in the purpose. But Jackson does not address the grammatical, exegetical, and logical arguments of Lipscomb which deny that this is the case in regard to the texts cited above like Acts 2:38. Possibly he does it elsewhere. We cannot fault Jackson here. We can only fault the one who appealed to Jackson in vain for an argument that was not there. What Lipscomb is saying is that if Acts 2:38 were requiring that the person being baptized MUST understand the consequence of baptism was the “remission of sins” for that baptism to be acceptable to God, then Acts 2:38 would need to read like this: “Repent and be baptized for the purpose of having your sins forgiven and if you do, then and only then will your sins be forgiven.” In that statement “remission of sins” is a part of the command in the first half of the statement and a reward for obedience in the second half of the statement. It takes a much longer statement or it takes two sentences in order to do both things. That is Lipscomb’s point. Of course, then what about the “gift of the Holy Spirit”? If the re-baptism school of thought is correct, are we going to have to understand that receiving this gift is a consequence of baptism also? If we do not understand this, will our baptism not be valid? Oh dear? There are a half dozen views in our fellowship alone over what the “gift of the Holy Spirit” means. If we take the wrong position, does that mean our baptism is invalid? What this re-baptism position means, in the final analysis, in my opinion, is that salvation is dependent on one’s correct intellectual, doctrinal, and exegetical understanding. It is salvation by human works, not salvation by faith/repentance, thus, salvation by grace. I had a discussion on this matter with a group of elders back in the mid-1990s. After about 30 minutes, one of the elders, a very distinguished professor at a major research university, said, “So Steve, what you are saying is that faith and repentance are prerequisites for baptism and remission of sins and reception of the Holy Spirit are the consequences of baptism”? I responded, “Yes sir.” Everyone in the room looked at one another and nodded. Everyone understood. That basically ended our discussion and from that day forward we were on the same page in accepting penitent, immersed believers into our fellowship.

Leave a Reply