Wrote Elder Jeff Winfrey concerning the supposed rebaptism of people in Acts 19 (see here):
"There is no doubt but what Paul baptized the men in this passage who claimed that they had already been baptized. Paul’s question, “Unto what then were ye baptized?” acknowledges their claim. Their answer, “Unto John’s baptism”, affirms the same. So the men maintained that they had been baptized, but the fifth verse says that they were baptized again. Now I freely admit that the passage is somewhat vague in its details, and I further admit that the idea of “rebaptism” is to some extent a bit complicated, but surely we find in this text a scriptural passage that teaches “rebaptism”. Surely we find in this passage even a scriptural precedent for “rebaptism”."
If these words of Elder Winfrey are intended to justify the Hardshells in rejecting baptism because of an unqualified administrator, then he has failed.
I do believe that Elder Winfrey has begun to handle the matter we are discussing in a much more honorable and honest way than has our other two Hardshells, Elders Hatfield and Pyles. In these words he admits that the issue of "rebaptism" is not an easy one to deal with, which is more than what our other Hardshell elders were willing to admit. Further, as regards the case of re-baptism in Acts 19, Winfrey admits that the passage is "somewhat vague in its details." This is better than what other Hardshells are willing to acknowledge. Nearly all of them think that the passage justifies them in rejecting immersions of believers who have been baptized by an administrator who lacked authority to baptize. Having said this, however, one wonders how Winfrey can be so certain that there was in fact a case of re-baptism. There are many great bible scholars who do not agree with that conclusion, as we will see when we look at the passage in some detail. Though he admits the passage is "vague in its details," he does not think it vague as respects the fact of re-baptism.
Further, I do not know anyone who denies that baptism should be repeated for any and all persons who were baptized without genuine faith and repentance. Many persons, over the past two thousand years, having come to genuine faith and repentance, after their first baptism, and coming to see that they were not really regenerated or converted when they were first baptized, have desired to be baptized, and were baptized for that reason. And, if there was truly a re-baptism taking place in Acts 19, then it may well have been for this reason. But, one thing is clear. There is nothing in the text that would suggest that the baptism was repeated because Paul judged that the administrator of the first baptism was not qualified. So, to cite this passage as a proof text for the practice is useless.
"Though the details are missing, it seems apparent that Paul must have told these men that they needed to be baptized again. Or he may have told them that they needed to be really baptized, because their first baptisms had not been true baptisms. I readily admit that I am not sure what Paul told them, but evidently there was something wrong with this situation that required “rebaptism”."
Yes, there may have been "something wrong" with their first baptism. But, was it due to some fault in the administrator? There was nothing in the text to suggest it. Paul asked them "unto what were you baptized?" But, he does not ask "Who baptized you?"
Next, Elder Winfrey writes next under the sub heading "The Proper Authority to Baptize":
"We have thus far talked of the wrong mode of baptism and the wrong candidate for baptism, but there is at least one more thing that can cause a baptism not to be a scriptural baptism. If the one doing the baptizing does not have scriptural authority to baptize, then the baptism fails to be a scriptural baptism."
For this argument to have force, Winfrey would need to show that scripture deals as plainly with the qualifications of administrators as it does with the mode and qualifications of the one to be baptized. But, this is not the case, as we have previously stated. So far, in support of the proposition that avers that there must be a qualified or church authorized administrator, we only have Winfrey's assertion that the Bible makes the administrator to be integral to the validity of the baptism. Where is the clear scripture that supports his assertion of the proposition?
"According to the teachings of the scriptures, it matters who does the baptizing. According to the scriptures the one doing the baptizing must have scriptural authority before he can properly baptize. It may again sound harsh, but even if everything else is right, without this proper authority by the one doing the baptizing, the “so-called” baptism is only a dunking. For a baptism to be a scriptural baptism, the one doing the baptizing must have the scriptural authority to baptize."
"According to the teachings of the scriptures"? What scriptures? In the three articles written by the Hardshells to support their proposition, there have been no scriptures that support it! He says "it matters who does the baptizing," but why can't he cite the words of an apostle that says such? Where did Jesus, Paul, Peter, John, or any other NT writer, say "it matters who baptizes you"? Where is the scripture that says that any baptism not performed by the express authority of some local church is invalid? Why do these Hardshell apologists keep asserting what they cannot substantiate by express statements of scripture?
Further, as I have shown, "scriptural authority" for baptizing is given to all disciples by the Lord in the great commission. Any disciple who teaches others and makes disciples has the authority to baptize those disciples. That is what the commission says and that is the authority!
Yes, it does "sound harsh"!
"Thus we can be certain that Paul did baptize. Yet the words, Christ sent me not to baptize, cause us to wonder about Paul’s authority to baptize. God had sent John to baptize, but the scriptures make no mention of God sending Paul to baptize. Christ had sent His disciples to baptize, but the passage declares that Christ did not send Paul to baptize. So if not sent of God, and if not sent by Christ, then who did send Paul to baptize? In answer to that question we declare that Jesus’ church and the ministers in that church sent Paul out with the authority to baptize...So Paul’s statement about Jesus not sending him to baptize is not a problem, and the fact that Paul baptized without having been sent by Christ to baptize is not a problem. Paul baptized with the authority that had been given to him by Jesus’ church that was located at Antioch and by the ministry at that church."
Paul was not denying that he was commissioned to baptize in I Corinthians 1: 17 when he says "for Christ sent me not to baptize." His statement was not intended to explain how someone else, other than Christ who sent him to preach, sent him to baptize, and that other entity was the church, as Winfrey suggests. Paul is simply minimizing the importance of baptism and was minimizing the importance of the person who does the baptizing.
"The commission and the authority given in the commission were to last as long as the church, even to the end of the world. The chain of authority would continue to perpetuate the church from generation to generation, while in a sense the church would continue to perpetuate the chain of authority from generation to generation, so that the cause of Christ would be continued even to the end of the world...The authority that had been given to the Apostles was to be passed on by the Apostles to other men in the church."
Throughout this series, there has been mentioned the "chain" of baptismal administrators, and how the Landmark view would cast doubt on the validity of all baptisms if the administrator was integral to the validity of them. One unauthorized administrator in that chain would make null and void all baptisms following in that chain. Notice how Winfrey speaks of baptism's "chain of authority."
There is no "chain of authority." There is no succession of elders that converts must have faith in to feel good about the validity of their baptisms. The authority does not come from men but from the Lord himself, from his word. This is what our Old Baptist forefathers taught and it is the correct view and answers all the Hardshell and Landmarker objections about "authority."
In the next posting, our concluding posting in this series, we will look at Acts 19:1-7 and the supposed re-baptism of some disciples.