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Q: Greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus. My question is about baptism. I was born in a Christian family by the grace of God, and was baptized. Is it an obligation to be baptized again in order to receive the Holy Spirit? If yes, then what about the baptism I was given at the time of my birth?
Answer: Thank you for your very good (and important) question. Being born into a Christian family is a wonderful blessing! I thank God for this blessing in your life. But receiving the Holy Spirit only comes through faith in Jesus Christ. Having said that, many people do believe that receiving the Holy Spirit is related to being born into a Christian family or to being baptized. Please allow me to explain.
There is a very important passage in John’s Gospel that helps us understand this (speaking about Jesus):
“He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:11-13).
John is explaining that Jesus came into the world, but many did not receive him (they rejected him). But for those who believed in Jesus something happened: They became children of God (This is another way of saying that they received the Holy Spirit). Then John gives three possible explanations for this: Either they became children of God 1. Because of blood (that is, by race) or; 2. Because of the will of the flesh (that is, by natural desire) or; 3. Because of the will of man (that is, by human decision). John says, “None of these are actually the case. They became children of God because of the will of God.”
In other words, no one becomes a child of God because he or she is born, for example, into a Jewish or American family (that’s race). No one becomes a child of God because he or she is born into a particular family (even if it is a Christian family), for example, the Smith family or your family or mine (that’s the will of the flesh). And no one becomes a child of God because he or she is baptized or attends a particular church (that’s the will of man). Because in these cases, the will of man is the will of your mother and father. It was their decision to take you to church and to baptize you as an infant.
Just to illustrate this from the Bible, the apostle John tells us that “not even [Jesus’] brothers believed in him” (John 7:5). Of course, we know that later on, Jesus’ brother, James, wrote the book of James. Clearly, at the point that James wrote Scripture he had already received the Holy Spirit. So, what made the difference? How did he receive the Holy Spirit? The answer is “by faith.” He believed.
Here’s what I want you to see: If you have genuine faith in Jesus Christ, then you already have the Holy Spirit! That’s why the apostle Paul says, “Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him” (Romans 8:9). In other words, every Christian, by definition, has the Holy Spirit. If you want to be re-baptized out of obedience to Christ, that is one thing. But, if you are already a Christian, then there is no need for you to be baptized again in order to receive the Holy Spirit – you already have the Spirit! And if this is true of you today, I rejoice in the mercy and grace that God has lavished on you in Jesus Christ.
Warmly in Christ,