Is it right to accept as members, those from a denomination who want to place their membership with the church? This question comes up when a person who has been baptized in a denominational church. Then chooses to attend the Church of Christ and wants to ‘place membership’ or be identified as a member of the local congregation.
The scriptures are clear that one must be baptized in order to have their sins forgiven. ( Acts 2:38, Acts 22:16, 1Pet 3:21, Mark 16:16) And it is also clear in the scriptures that it does not make a difference whom does the baptizing as long as it is done in the proper way (immersion) and for the proper reason (in order to have one’s sins forgiven). If a person was baptized in the right way for the right reason in a denomination, and sees the error of that denomination’s teachings and seeks fellowship with the Lord’s church, there is no reason not to accept them just as the Lord does – Acts 2:41, 47.
The real question is, did the denomination teach the truth about baptism – most of them do not. And if a person is taught incorrectly, can their baptism be right? For example, if the denomination teaches that a person is saved before they are baptized (by saying a ‘sinner’s prayer, or by simply accepting Jesus into their heart- both of which are never found as the way to ‘be saved’ in scripture) – and that baptism is optional or that it simply puts one into the church then can their baptism be valid?
If a person was baptized as a baby or as a young child, (they may not even remember their baptism) – the baptism is NOT valid because the scriptures teach that only one who can believe in Jesus and repent of their sins can be baptized per the scriptures. A baby obviously cannot do that, and a young child is unlikely to be able to do those things that are necessary for themselves as the Bible points out in Acts 2:38 and Acts 3:19, and many other examples throughout the book of Acts. If a person had water sprinkled or poured on them for baptism, their baptism is NOT valid since the Biblical method of baptism is immersion (burial) – Rom 6:3-5, Col 2:12, Acts 8:35-39. And if a person was baptized not knowing why they were baptized, that baptism is NOT valid for there can be not belief and repentance without understanding. (Acts 19:1-5)
But if a person was baptized by immersion understanding that is was done in order to have their sins forgiven, having believed in Jesus as God’s Son and repented of their sins – then they HAVE been properly baptized and are accepted by the Lord. No one except God can look into the heart of a person to know what understanding they had when they were baptized. But if a person comes from a background where the truth on baptism is not normally taught, they need to examine their own baptism in the light of the scriptures. If after doing this, the person insists that their baptism was proper, then we must accept their word for it – after all, they will answer to God for their decision, not to us. But if there is the slightest doubt, they should be baptized properly to gain the confidence that they have indeed obeyed the Lord’s command!