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Frequently Asked Questions

Dealing With

Baptism

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What happens when a person accepts Jesus on their deathbed (or on a battlefield) and cannot be baptized by immersion?

Before considering baptism for such a person, we must first consider whether it is possible for a person to get right with God at the “last minute.” This depends on the person’s “heart” (their true attitude toward God). Since God knows the state of everyone’s heart, He will make the right decision. It probably hinges on whether the person neglected getting right with God from ignorance or because they did not want to give up their favorite sins. The Bible tells us about these people, who fall into one of two categories:

The first category—seeking God.
Jesus told a “parable” (an earthly story intended to teach a heavenly meaning) in Matthew chapter 20, verses 1-16. It is about a landowner seeking to hire laborers. In the parable, those laborers hired near the end of the workday (the “eleventh hour”) are given the same wages as those hired at the beginning of the workday. This story teaches us that those people who get right with God at the end of their lives can make it into heaven on an equal basis with those who got right with God earlier in their lives. We also know that God has a desire for all people to be saved (see 1 Timothy chapter 2, verse 4). Therefore, we know that God will accept someone who comes to Him late in life, if their heart is right and they are sincerely seeking to get right with Him. However, notice that the story implies that the “eleventh hour” laborers were seeking employment all along but were not able to find any until the eleventh hour (see verses 6-7). This would be like someone who sought God through their whole life but was only exposed to bad religion or cults, and only finally found the truth at the end of their lives.

The second category—ignoring God.
Again using the same parable as an example, notice that the landowner did not hire laborers who avoided work and who did not make themselves available in the marketplace to the landowner. The landowner only hired those people who were looking for work. Also notice that the landowner did not hire anyone at the last minute—just the last hour. Therefore, it makes sense that people who avoid God throughout their lives and only go through the motions to be saved as a way of getting “fire insurance” will be rejected by God (not “hired”). Perhaps a more accurate portrayal of the fate of such people would be that of the foolish virgins in the parable recorded in Matthew chapter 25 verses 1-13. There, the foolish virgins did not prepare themselves for entrance into the wedding feast (heaven) when they had the time. Although they had some “advance warning” and thought they would be allowed in, they still found themselves locked out. (In many cases, the real reason people put off getting right with God is that they do not want to change their lifestyle. Therefore, they put off the decision until they no longer have much life to give up. Unfortunately, they may put it off until it is too late.)

For these reasons, we know that some “eleventh hour” conversions of people may be successful. This then brings us to our question regarding baptism by immersion. Although the Bible is silent regarding “eleventh hour” baptisms, it would be consistent with God’s character as revealed in the Bible to give grace to those people who had been seeking Him, but discovered the truth too late to be baptized correctly. However, we do not know this. Therefore, we strongly urge everyone to get right with God while they have the chance to do so in a way that leaves no doubt, since none of us knows when our personal timeline will end.

For more information, you will find the message “Why You Need To Know That The Clock Is Ticking” very helpful. You can go to that RealAudio teaching by clicking on this sentence.

Isn’t it true that you must be baptized in Jesus’ Name?

This is such an interesting topic, we constructed a separate page to address it.

Click here to learn if there are correct words to use during a baptism Click here to learn more about the “correct words” to use during a baptism.

If you later learn that the person who baptized you was a cult member, is that baptism valid?

Although there may be rare exceptions, anyone baptized into a cult or by someone who is a member of a cult (and many cults mimic Christian baptism), is not saved and still needs to get right with God. The reason is that a cult baptism is not really accepting the Jesus Christ of the Bible as their Lord and Savior—the whole purpose of the baptism. See our “Getting Right With God” page for the details.

If a pastor who baptized someone later fell into sin, is the baptism still valid in God’s eyes?

If a person was baptized by a pastor of a Christian church that followed the Bible, the baptism is valid. Just because the pastor sinned later has no bearing on your salvation. The salvation comes from God through acceptance of Jesus Christ as Savior and does not rely at all on the character or goodness of the person who did the baptizing . . . or any other person here on Earth.

On your baptism page you say that baptism does not save. Then you say it is required to be saved. Can you clarify your point?

We chose the wording we did because many people are taught one of two incorrect views of baptism. These two views are:

  1. Being baptized is the only thing people need to do to be saved.
  2. Accepting Jesus as Savior is the only thing people need to do to be saved. (Meaning that baptism has nothing to do with being saved.)

The first belief is not correct, because the Bible never teaches it. That is the reason that we wrote “Baptism alone does not save.” (Notice the word “alone.”)

Since the Bible always couples baptism with salvation, the second belief is not right either. (It is not wrong, it is just not complete.) We discuss “the thief on the cross,” the primary defense of the second belief, later on this page.

Since neither of these two views is correct according to the Bible, we are left with the Bible’s model. We have that on our “Getting Right With God” page.

Do you have to have godparents to be baptized?

Godparents, godfathers, and godmothers are not mentioned in the Bible, so you do not need them to be baptized.

Is baptism a requirement to get to heaven? Wasn’t the thief on the cross in Luke 23:39-43 saved without baptism?

Some Background
It is true that people are saved by faith through Jesus Christ—however being saved by “faith only” is not a biblical concept, since salvation and baptism are always together. There is no case of someone getting right with God without baptism in the New Testament after the start of the church (described in Acts chapter 2). Verses 38 and 39 in Acts chapter 2 not only demonstrate the tie between salvation and baptism, but reveal that this link will never change. Actually, the only mention of “faith only” or “faith alone” in the New Testament is in James chapter 2 verse 24, which says, “You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.” This text obviously does not support the concept of being saved by “faith only.”

The concept of being saved by “faith only” actually came as a reactionary response from the leaders of the Reformation (Martin Luther, John Huss, etc.) against Catholic church teachings such as penance, confession to a priest, and indulgences (as “stepping stones” toward getting right with God). This concept has found a home in modern times through the “electronic church” (Christian television broadcasts) which can not baptize people through their TVs! That is one reason we recommend attending a real church. See our “Why would I want to go to church?” page for more information.

The Answer
The thief on the cross is an interesting situation. If you think about it, Jesus had not yet died, been buried, resurrected, and ascended to heaven when He was still on the cross alongside the thief. Also, Romans chapter 6 shows that baptism depicts the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. Obviously, this could not have gone into effect until after He had done all of these things, fulfilling his role as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).

The thief was still under the Old Testament law. In the Old Testament, people were saved through faith, primarily faith toward the coming Messiah, with circumcision being the sign of the covenant. That is, people before Jesus looked forward to Him and people after Jesus look back to Him. To learn more about getting right with God today, click here.

Why was John the Baptist baptizing people before Jesus died on the cross if they were still under Old Testament law?

John the Baptist’s primary mission was to be the link or bridge between the Old Testament (covenant) and the New. That is, John was part of the series of events that brought the long awaited Messiah on the scene. The prediction of his appearance is given in Isaiah 40:3, and confirmed by Jesus in Matthew 17:11-13. As such, John did not baptize people for salvation. It was a baptism of repentance (Mark 1:4). You might consider John’s baptism a replacement for “wearing sackcloth” as a sign of repentance for being sinful. See 2 Kings 19:1-4 for a good analogy. In that passage, the people knew that they were about to be destroyed, and knew it would take divine intervention to save them. They also knew that they were too sinful to be worthy of being given such a miracle by God. The sackcloth (like John’s baptism) was an outward sign to God that the people knew how bad they were, hoping that God would honor their correct view of themselves and answer their prayer to be saved (which He did).

Although baptism ended up being part of the way used to get right with God, John’s baptism was not enough by itself. Notice that Acts chapter 19, verses 1-7 records people that had been baptized by John, who later had to be re-baptized to get right with God.

Jesus said to baptize “all nations,” wouldn’t this also include small children?

The verse referred to (Matthew 28:19) says: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” (NKJV).

This verse reveals two things relevant to this question. First, the eleven disciples Jesus is talking with are told to make other disciples, which are always adults. After all, how capable of teaching someone everything about Christ (or answering questions like these) is the average 8 year old?

The second thing this passage reveals has to do with how the Jews felt about the rest of the world. The Jews always believed that they were the only chosen people (which was true enough until the time Jesus arrived). They never believed that the Gentiles (non-Jews) could be saved—even after John the Baptist told them that God could make “children of Abraham” (chosen people) out of stones (Matthew 3:7-10). That is, if God could make a stone into a “saved person” He could make a Gentile into a “saved person.” Later, Jesus told His 100% Jewish audience to make disciples of all nations. It is clear that they still did not understand that Gentiles were included in the phrase “all nations.” Here is how we know:

In Acts 10:44-48 the Holy Spirit descended on some Gentiles, who were then baptized by Peter and some other believers who came with him. In the next verses (Acts 11:1-18), we learn that the (Christian) Jews were angry that Peter and the others baptized Gentiles. It wasn’t until they learned that God gave the Gentiles the Holy Spirit (in a way that it could actually be observed) that they believed that God was allowing Gentiles to go to heaven.

Therefore, the focus of this verse is on making disciples and reaching out to Gentiles as well as Jews. Coupled with the remarks about a person’s age on our baptism page, it is safe to say that this passage does not refer to baptizing small children.

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