Baptized Four Times

Ever wonder why we’re seeing such a concerted effort to define and defend the gospel of Jesus Christ? Listen to J. D. Greear describe why he was baptized four times while growing up. Pastor of The Summit Church in Durham, North Carolina, Greear explains how he eventually came to understand that salvation depends not on his feelings and experience but on the objective work of Christ on the cross 2,000 years ago.

Greear’s forthcoming book, Gospel: Recovering the Power that Made Christianity Revolutionary, is the latest title aimed at clearing away misconceptions about the gospel and focusing our attention on Jesus’ words and work. Other important recent works including Greg Gilbert’s What Is the Gospel? and Trevin Wax’s Counterfeit Gospels: Recovering the Good News in a World of False Hope. In this video, these three authors discuss how it’s possible for churches to believe in the gospel of what God has done for us and still turn Christianity into a list of things we must do for God.

They talk about how the breakdown of cultural Christianity forces young believers to get beyond moralism and dive into the riches of the gospel. And they also explain how love for the God of the gospel overflows into radical generosity, Bible study, missions, and a host of other good works.

  • Don Sartain

    I’ve definitely seen the effects of relying on a particular personal experience to define salvation and attempt to gain security in that. Such an attempt is a dismal failure. I’m grateful for J.D.’s authenticity in recounting his own battle with that, and for pointing out the necessity of rooting our salvation firmly in the works of God.

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  • Kenny Taylor

    Well said Greg – the cross is the fountainhead which gives way to a flood of transformation. Praise the Lord, and thanks guys

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  • Aimee Byrd

    I’m so glad to see more people taking a stand to clarify the gospel message. I am reading through What is the Mission of the Church? right now and just posted a “Reading Reflection” of it on my blog. Also, I’m looking forward to hearing your talk in MD, Greg, at the What is the Church? conference with Michael Horton.

    Side note: us Presbyterians call the multiple baptisms “double dipping.” :) Poor J.D. quadrupled his efforts.

  • Anar

    Just as a side:
    This (4 baptisms) might be symptomatic of tying baptism too closely to conversion. For many conversion is often a process over a long period of time. How can they say here is one moment where now I clearly have converted? The Lord’s Supper is a regularly occurring sacrament that fits this role much better. From my doctrinal/denominational position, baptism is about entering a covenant family not about conversion. This frees the conversion to be based on what Christ has done more than basing it on one moment in life.

    • Rhyno

      The biblical text very closely ties baptism with conversion. Yes conversion is based on what Christ has done, but it does become effective at one moment in our life.

      • Anar

        The text in more than a few cases ties it to conversions of households. What I was responding to (and what J.D. was discussing) is an individualistic conversion. It’s the Lord’s Supper where we “ought to examine ourselves” before taking. This is what is tied closely to individualistic conversion. I believe credobaptists are mistaken in having baptism fill that role instead.

  • Pawel

    I’m so glad for this video. I’m 25 now and my background is pentecostal. I’ve got baptized when I was 19 thou due to listening to some puritans (calvinists) preachers like Paul Washer I got convinced (or maybe scared)that I’m not saved so I did second time 3 months ago. After that a real trauma begun. Since now I’m struggling with who the impact this teaching and baptism had on me. What I didn’t know about calvinists was they belive in predestination and their teaching is made in this spirit. It caused such a conflict in my mind that I prayed like – God I don’t want to know such a God like you. God who loves only chosen.
    Now I need some good rehab and if anyone wishes to help me by recomending some good books or preaching or won experrience I would be amazingly grateful.

    • James

      Hi Pawel,
      I’m going to try to clarify for you about what calvinists think…(more what I think).

      To my understanding, God loves everyone and wishes no one would perish. However, God has given us all a free will to choose our actions (yet contained under God’s ultimate sovereignty), and with that, if you even look at this world, you can see the effects of what we’ve done with it…essentially sin-rebellion and idolatry. In other words, God has given everyone an opportunity to receive Christ, but in our free will, all have fallen short and chose to reject Christ.

      What we calvinists believe is that in our free will, humankind has chose to rebel against God ever since Adam and Eve. Therefore, in order for us to be saved… God had to die for our sins. But because, we’re so sinful, we mock at the cross and feel we don’t need God. Our hearts are too hard, our eyes are too shut. So, when Calvinists I think believe is that God needs to open our eyes and soften our hearts in order to see the beauty of Christ. In other words, Jesus has to initiate a miracle in our lives… we can’t simply do it ourselves.

      So though we may think it was us who chose to put our faith in Christ as Savior and Lord, if we look back, there’ll be some hints to seeing how God was working to bring you into His family. In other words, even before you were born, God had an ordained plan for your life and I think decided when you were going to be born. For instance, I thank God that He knitted me in my mother’s womb in 1982 and born to my Korean parents in Canada and not in AD700 under the Shilla Kingdom of Korea. If I was, I’d most likely not even hear the good news of Christ.

      • Pawel

        Thank you very much for your answer.
        I would like to have some contact with you so please write to me:

        thanks again

  • Justin

    From listening to the video, it seems they espoused the view that the basis of our assurance is resting our faith on Christ. A question I would have for that view is, how do you know whether or not you’re resting your faith on Christ?

    Another thing I heard espoused in this video is that our assurance is based on what Christ has done in his death and resurrection. But what about his work in the regeneration of the human heart? If a heart hasn’t been regenerated, then that heart cannot look on the cross/resurrection of Christ for assurance that it has been saved, since it has never been saved/regenerated in the first place.

    So then this all goes back to the doctrine of regeneration. The question isn’t whether or not Christ died, but whether or not that death applies to me. It only applies to me if I’ve been regenerated. And if I’ve been regenerated, the Holy Spirit will be in the process of bearing fruit in my life.

    So then my assurance shouldn’t rest only on what Christ has done at Calvary, but what he did in regenerating my heart, and what he continues to do in fruit-bearing. If any of those parts are missing, we have no basis for biblical assurance.

    I am a bit concerned that none of this was mentioned when discussing assurance. Perhaps they would disagree with me?


    • Owen


      Your observation is exactly right. For example, Romans 6 is all about Christian assurance. We find in that chapter Paul’s explanation of our union with Christ, and how if we are joined to Jesus in his death and resurrection, we too die to sin and are raised to newness of life. Spiritual fruit is always the litmus test for authentic Christian faith.

      John also addresses this issue again and again in his first epistle. He says explicitly that we know we belong to God if we keep his commandments. The testimony of the New Testament as a whole declares that no one who habitually practices sin should have any assurance that the objective work of Jesus has been subjectively applied to their own person. Salvation is always evidenced by new creational fruit.

      Thanks for your insight,

    • Linda

      Salvation is most certainly based on the person and work of Christ, but assurance of salvation has three levels.

      The first level of assurance of salvation is based on the Word of God. The second level is your walk (1 John 2:3), and the third and highest level is the witness of the Holy Spirit with your spirit. (Romans 8:16)

      I recommend viewing this short video which biblically explains the three different levels of assurance:

  • Anar

    I think there is also the issue that we often say the gospel is the cross and resurrection… full stop. We don’t treat it like a foundation to built on with gold and silver instead of hay and straw. We don’t consider it a fountainhead that flows. We should be saying that “God is about the business of remaking the world and God calls you to be a part of remaking that world with him.”

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  • Allen Mickle

    My wife was baptized three times…

    1) Sprinkled in the Presbyterian church as a baby.
    2) Poured in the Mennonite church later.
    3) Immersed in a Baptist church as an adult.

    I always say that she’s got all her bases covered in case any of them were wrong. ;)

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  • Kirkland Mason

    An interesting discussion with some real heart-felt, soul-searching responses. What’s lacking in all, from my point of view, is any search of God’s Word for the answers. Lots of pontificating and human rationalizations, but not once have I seen even a single verse of scripture referenced. Baptism? Look at the case of the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts, chapter 8. Conversion? See how three thousand respond to the preaching of Peter in Acts 2. They were added to the Lord’s church immediately. Acts 2:42 says they continued steadfastly in the Apostle’s doctrine. The books of the New Testament clearly define that doctrine. Read Paul’s letter to the Romans, a message of salvation to the Gentiles, and the beautiful, powerful book of Hebrews, presenting God’s plan of salvation to the children of Israel, connecting their faith in One God to Christ, their Redeemer. What is baptism? The answer of a clear conscience to the eternal question posed to Peter on Pentecost in Acts 2:37-38, “Men and brethren, what must we do?” He answered, “Repent and be baptised every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Jesus said it clearly Himself in Mark 16:16, “He that believes and is baptised shall be saved.” Please don’t overcomplicate something so precious and important as your eternal souls. “God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9.

    • Pawel

      thank you very much for your post.
      you are right not to overcomplicate those issues but to stand firm on what’s written it’s God’s kindness Rom 11:22

  • Rob

    Just goes to show the importance of getting baptism right the first time. It’s an ordinance intended for sincere believer’s who are aware of their sins (and not for non-repentant little devils. Paedobaptism is meaningless). The didache describes a couple days of fasting prior, and I think this is a good practice as well. But one of the main things is that the candidate needs to be thoroughly examined by the elders prior to baptism, to make sure that there is a genuine understanding of sin and the penalty of death and Christ’s righteousness imputed. Without this, the ordinance is just as meaningless as sprinkling water on a baby’s head.

  • Gilbert Jones

    JD, thank you for your humility to share your experience. I have no doubt that this will encourage and help others!

  • Stevie

    Saul of Tarsus was told not to delay, but to get up, be baptized and wash away his sins. (Acts 22) His sins were there before baptism, but gone after. And so he taught: we are “baptized into Christ…” (Gal 3)In Christ is the place where salvation and every good blessing takes place. (Eph 1)

    When the Gospel first pierced the hearts of those who heard it, they asked what measures they should take. They were told, repentance and baptism. (Acts 2)