Buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. -Colossians 2:12
I read recently of a Baptist church wanting to baptize a lady who was very sick and in the hospital. According to the story, she could not be baptized by immersion. Their solution? They sprinkled her.
These Baptists called it Baptism. Frankly, it was not. The Greek word for baptize literally means to immerse, dip, or plunge. Even non-Baptist Bible Dictionaries will reveal this. So when you say, “I baptize you,” you are saying, “I immerse you.” How strange to say, “I immerse you,” while sprinkling water on a person.
Several years ago a pastorless Baptist church needed to baptize someone and in their ignorance of both the Bible and Baptist belief they just poured a bucket of water over their head. Brothers, this should not be so. Fortunately, I believe these stories are rare.
In addition to the word baptize literally meaning immerse, baptism is a picture of a death, burial, and resurrection. Sprinkling or pouring does not symbolize this. This symbolism of baptism is teaching three things:
1. I believe Jesus died for my sins, was buried, and rose again.
2. I have died to my old life of sin and have been born again, raised to a new life in Christ.
3. When a Christian dies their spirit goes to Heaven, but their body is laid in the grave. Baptism is saying when Jesus returns the graves will be opened and we will be reunited with our resurrected, glorified body.
Further, some Scripture is detailed enough that it reveals baptism involved going down into the water, and coming up out of the water, or the requirement of much water (Matthew 3:16; Mark 1:10; John 3:23; Acts 8:38-39). You don’t need much water, neither do you need to go down into the water and come up out of the water, if all you need is a teacup of water to sprinkle.
It is also telling that archeologists have found baptistries for immersion in some of the earliest church buildings, churches built in the first centuries of Christianity.
So, what do we do with someone who has trusted Jesus as their Lord and Savior, but for physical reasons cannot be baptized?
First, it is amazing the lengths some will go to follow the Lord in baptism. Jesus walked many miles to be baptized by John in the Jordan River (Matthew 3:13-17). I led a man in his 80s to the Lord, who insisted on being baptized. He needed assistance in getting in and out of the baptistry, but it was a very moving service. In The Wit and Wisdom of Pastor Joe Brumbelow and at SBC Encounters is the story of The Baptism of Linda Potts. If there is any reasonable way you can get baptized, then do so.
Second, baptism does not save us, and has no part in salvation. We are saved by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9; John 1:12; 3:16, 36; 5:24; Romans 10:9-19, 13). Baptism is only a picture of what happened to us when we were saved. We are, however, commanded to be baptized after we are saved.
Third, a person can go to Heaven without being baptized; he cannot go to Heaven without personal faith in Jesus Christ. If a person literally, physically cannot be baptized, don’t fake it with an unbiblical sprinkling or pouring. We don’t get to make the rules, God does. The thief on the cross could not be baptized, but Jesus told him, “Today you will be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23:42-43).
The Biblical thing to do is simply recognize the person cannot be Scripturally baptized, but to assure them they are saved and will go to Heaven based on the fact that Jesus died for our sins and rose again, and that they have placed their personal faith in Him.
Note: Some Scripture on Baptism - Matthew 3:13-17; 28:18-20; Romans 6:3-5; Colossians 2:12.
-David R. Brumbelow, Gulf Coast Pastor, June 12, AD 2012.
Other articles in lower right margin.