Bible Answer

Who may receive water baptism?

I am divorced and remarried. My church demands that I leave my second wife and remain single before the church will baptize me in water. Is this biblical?

The Bible places one and only one condition for receiving water baptism: a personal belief in and public confession of Jesus Christ:

Acts 8:34 The eunuch answered Philip and said, “Please tell me, of whom does the prophet say this? Of himself or of someone else?” 
Acts 8:35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning from this Scripture he preached Jesus to him. 
Acts 8:36 As they went along the road they came to some water; and the eunuch  said, “Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?” 
Acts 8:37 [And Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”] 
Acts 8:38 And he ordered the chariot to stop; and they both went down into the water, Philip as well as the eunuch, and he baptized him. 

Notice when the eunuch makes a public confession of Christ in v.37 and then asks Philip “what prevents me from being baptized?' Philip answers that if he believed in Jesus, he may be baptized. Once the eunuch made his confession of faith, Philip said he may enter into the water. This is the Bible’s teaching on water baptism. 

Water baptism is the first command Christ issued for all new believers (see Matt 28:19), and the only prerequisite is faith in Jesus Christ made evident through a public confession. It's worth noting that an infant cannot make a public profession much less take the step of entering the water. Therefore, infant "baptism" is not truly baptism. It is merely a bath. Only a person who is old enough to confess Christ publicly and enter the water by his or her own choice is capable of receiving a true baptism. 

Furthermore, divorce and remarriage have no bearing on faith and baptism. In fact, no previous sin makes someone ineligible to receive water baptism in response to faith in Christ. On the contrary, believers are called to receive water baptism as a sign that they believe they have been cleansed by the Holy Spirit from all sin as a result of faith in Jesus Christ!

Remember Christ’s words:

Matt. 9:12 But when Jesus heard this, He said, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick.
Matt. 9:13 “But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire compassion, and not sacrifice,’ for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Given what your church is teaching, you should seek fellowship elsewhere in a church that understands and practices baptism properly. All men and women are called to receive Christ in faith and accept water baptism as a sign of their faith. There is no other condition required. 

For more information on what the Bible says concerning baptism and marriage and divorce, please see our related questions.