A Tough Question for Biblical Baptists

As I read the discussion on Bart’s post yesterday my mind went back to a story I heard a Baptist leader tell not too long ago. I wanted to pose this tough question for our discussion. We ought to form our theology based on biblical teachings, not on difficult quandaries such as this, but it is still interesting to ponder what we might do in particular circumstance.

For the sake of this article, we need not argue the basics of biblical baptism. Apologies to our Presby friend Les who hangs out here, but the readers of Voices are pretty much exclusively people who are convinced that biblical Baptism is 1) by immersion, 2) of believers, 3) a command of God that is incumbent on new converts as a public profession of faith in Christ, and 4) a requirement to membership in an SBC church.

I know there are a few Baptist churches who are experimenting with the idea that one could accept into membership pedobaptists, but most of us reject that out of hand. It is clear, we believe, to anyone who simply reads and follows the scriptures and does not interpose some kind of theological system on it, that baptism is what I described above.

What Would You Do? A Difficult Scenario

Mrs. McGillicuddy has recently been saved at her advanced age. However, she is frail, needs oxygen to breath, and is within days of receiving the inheritance in Christ she so recently came into. She wants to be baptized, but immersion is simply not a possibility. Out of the question. Ol’ Beatrice has only two options.

1) She can die without being baptized.

Like the thief on the Cross she can be with Christ in paradise without ever entering the waters of baptism. She is saved by the finished work of Christ. Salvation is not mediated by baptism, but testified to in baptism. So, as a pastor I could just explain to her that God accepts her in Christ and that baptism is not necessary.

2) We can make an exception. 

The Baptist leader I mentioned above made a one-time exception in a situation like this. He “baptized’ the person who could not enter into the waters for the correct form of baptism – immersion – by sprinkling or pouring (don’t remember which).

Church membership is not really an issue here, since the lady is bed-ridden. She just wants to follow the Lord in baptism.

I am not trying to use this exception to set the rule. I agree with the rule. Baptism is AFTER profession of faith by immersion. That is the policy of Southern Baptists because, I believe, it is the biblical policy. But in a narrow moment, in an exceptional situation, would you baptize this new convert, Beatrice McGillicuddy, by extra-biblical means like sprinkling or pouring? Or would you simply remind her that baptism, while an important act of obedience, is not essential to salvation and stand by your Baptist guns?

What would you do?


  1. Mark Mitchell says

    Baptizing any other way but immersion serves no purpose. Just as they did not sprinkle dirt on Christ’s body neither does it paint the picture to sprinkle water on those being Baptized. Those who sprinkle do so because they believe that act of sprinkling administers the grace of God. Why in heaven would we copy that? Baptism does not administer grace it is our confession of identity with Christ.

    It is best that we not take part in that which violates scripture, communicates a false message, and is contrary to our own faith and practice.

      • Mark Mitchell says


        The PCA’s I have talked with have indicated they do. Regardless even if you are correct it does not detract from my point. The reasons for sprinkling, however many there are, do not paint the Biblical picture of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. Doing so as Baptist and more importantly as Biblical Christians makes no sense as well as gives people the false and unbiblical sense of Baptism. It is better to counsel them in a way that helps them to find peace with not being Baptized then it is to follow and unscriptural practice. We need to remain true to Christ and true to doctrine.

      • says


        Thanks for the reply. If there are PCA ministers saying that baptism conveys saving grace then they are inn error, serious error, and I would love to know who they are. All one has to do is read the WCF and catechisms to see that they would be in error. Please let me know by email if you would be willing to put me in touch with those PCA ministers. Les@haitiorphanproject.org

        Thanks brother.

    • volfan007 says

      I agree with Mark.

      Les, the point Mark was trying to make was that baptism has nothing to do with saving her soul, so to not be baptized would not keep her out of Heaven….so, just don’t baptize her. That’s all Mark was saying, or at least, that’s what I understood from what he said.


  2. Les Prouty says


    I’m honored, I think, to be mentioned. Good question too. Driving all day but looking forward to the discussion.

  3. Allen Calkins says

    I would rather leave such situations to be dealt with WHEN they occur BY the people affected by them. I really see no benefit in speculating about what should be done. Situations like this are very unique. As a deacon I once assisted my pastor in baptizing a frail man in his wheelchair in the church baptistery. Four deacons assisted the pastor and got the job done. But we did not immerse his full face. So was he scripturally baptized? I believe so. But others may disagree.

    For many who can be baptized but would rather not do it, I believe the issue becomes one of pride, not willing to admit their prior encounter with baptism as an infant or under a church with differing beliefs was not biblical, or just not wanting to stand in front of the world soaking wet. So I find NO JUSTIFICATION to give anyone a pass who physically can endure baptism by immersed.

  4. John Wylie says

    I would opt for the first option, because quite frankly in my mind pouring or sprinkling would not actually be baptism so she would still die unbaptized.

  5. Adam Blosser says

    I am with those who say that the only way to baptize her is by immersion. Sprinkling and pouring are not baptism. It accomplishes nothing to “baptize” her by sprinkling or pouring because it is not baptism. I would explain to her that her desire to be baptized is commendable and pleasing to the Lord, but actually baptizing her is not possible at this time. The Lord will receive her into His kingdom without baptism.

    My convictions on this particular question were strengthened only very recently, as we dealt with an issue in our church that propelled me to search the Scriptures, and do a lot of thinking about baptism. If sprinkling and pouring are not baptism, as Baptists contend, then they are not baptism.

    • Tarheel says

      So don’t baptize her?

      Rebellious defiance is different than physical ailments that make immersion unreasonable.

      It’s apples and oranges, IMO.

      • Adam Blosser says

        You cannot baptize someone unless you immerse them. We do not get to create different modes of baptism. No one is accusing the unbaptized of sinning when baptism is impossible. We are saying that baptism is only by immersion. “Baptism” by any other mode is not baptism. We disobey God when we pretend that it is.

        Maybe the reason Jesus asked for some water on the cross was so He could “baptize” the new believer next to Him. 😉

        • Tarheel says

          So you’re willing to grant exception as it relates to being baptized (by saying they’re not in disobedience for not doing it), but not willing to grant exception with regard to the mode?

          • Adam Blosser says

            As I have said in this thread several times, it is not my place to call something baptism that Jesus and the apostles did not call baptism.

            We have biblical precedent for not requiring baptism of someone who is unable to be baptized (i.e. the thief on the cross).

  6. John Fariss says

    WWJD? Argue with a dying woman or give her the comfort her soul longs for? The greatest intellectual arguments the world has ever known do not necessarily connect emotionally, and it sounds to me like Beatrice wants emotional connection and comfort. If I have a choice to err theologically or to err pastorally, and neither denies Christ, I would gladly sprinkle or pour water on her. If somebody wants to kick me out of the Association or challenge my seating at the next SBC for it, go right ahead. Bringing comfort to a dying saint is more important. I remind everyone of the woman with the issue of blood; her theology was wacked, but Jesus gave her healing and comfort, not a theology lesson.


    • Bob Browning says

      But what is it exactly that’s comforting her? Is it the knowledge that she’s saved by grace and by grace alone? Or is it that she is trying to make up for all of her past sins with a little bit of water? We’re never told to alleviate suffering with false hope. When Jesus healed the woman with the issue of blood He didn’t just tell her she’d feel better tomorrow without actually curing her – He really healed her! Therefore, this is not grounds to alter what baptism is, it is confirmation that we are to follow what God has prescribed.

      • John Fariss says

        You are still relying on intellectual arguments. I suspect the issue is emotional for Bernice, and thus intellectual arguments will not be effective. Plus, her deteriorating health and imminent death may have taken a toll on her mind to where an intellectual argument as you propose cannot hope to give her comfort. And I am presupposing that she understands baptism is not washing away her sins or such nonsense.

        I too have taken extraordinary steps to baptize a person by immersion. We once built a sort-of trolley system in our baptistry to immerse a woman who was wheel-chair bound with MS. But even extraordinary steps like that cannot apply to every situation.

        When I need a lecture on the fine points of Baptist distinctives, I will call on Bart and Bob and John W. and David and so on. When I need pastoral comfort, I will remember Louis and Mike and Jeff and Bill Mac.



        • Bob Browning says

          Just wanted to chime back in and say that I would definitely not look with disdain on a pastor who sought the Lord sincerely and then decided to “baptize” a person in a situation like this. I think I would ere on the side of caution to guard the meaning of baptism, however, I admit that it’s easy to say that now while I’m not looking at a sister desiring baptism.

          Thanks for the discussion.

  7. Louis says

    I would let her choose.

    Pouring would be fine by me in these circumstances.

    Going under the water is merely symbolic. It is the biblical example, so that is the way to do it. But if it only symbolic, and circumstances are such that you cannot do it in by the biblical example, amend the symbol to fit the circumstances.

    For me, the same would be true of someone dying in the dessert or some other place where there was no water.

    • William Thornton says

      Was that death dessert something like a very dry pound cake or perhaps an artery clogging triple bypass cake with thick, heavy sugar and shortening icing?

      I’m thinking that affusion has some merit here. Doesn’t that have some baptist history?

    • John Wylie says

      Two points here Louis, where do we find the authorization to amend the symbol? And in what way would pouring adequately symbolize the death, burial and resurrection of Christ? When you so alter a symbol that it no longer adequately symbolizes what it’s supposed to it becomes worthless. The Lord’s Supper is a “mere symbol” but in 1 Corinthians 11 you will find that God doesn’t want it messed with.

      • John Fariss says

        Are you suggesting that the way we give the Lord’s Supper is exactly as Jesus did it in the Upper Room? That Jesus offered grape juice instead of naturally fermented wine, bread made with yeast and salt instead of flatbread or matzo crackers, individual little cups made of plastic instead of a single cup passed around, and in a worship service rather than at the conclusion of a meal? Or are you saying that a symbol can be altered in some ways, but not in others?


        • volfan007 says


          We’re not told to drink from one cup, nor to not use plastic cups. We are told to take the bread and the wine(unfermented, of course), in remembrance of Him. We’re not told to take it during a worship service, or at the conclusion of a meal.

          We are told to immerse, or dip under those people, who put their faith in Jesus…..that it does represent His death and resurrection… and, all the examples we have in the NT are of people going under the water.


        • Bob Browning says

          I think John W. has a very valid point. Baptism by immersion demonstrates our death, because if we were left under the water long enough we would actually die. To alter the symbol so much that it looks like it only has to do with cleansing – and not with dying – seems to be a pastoral mistake because it demonstrates flexibility on something that is prescribed by God.

          • Louis says

            Guys do any of you know how Israel did baptisms? They wandered in the desert (not the dessert!) for 40 years.

            Jewish people today have the Mikva (sp?)

            There is not a lot of instruction about “how” to baptize.

            I am wondering historically if there were variant methods before Christ depending on surroundings and circumstances.

            Anyone know?

      • Louis says


        All good points. The question is whether the symbol is so altered that it becomes worthless. To me that is a question of fact with a lot of judgment thrown in.

        I suppose everyone has a story like this, but I heard about a student who was saved at FCA camp and those in attendance who were Church of Christ wanted to get the guy baptized immediately and they tried to do it in a hotel bath tub, but he was large and they could not get him all the way under. They would have to try another day. The CoC people worried for days that he was not saved.

        I would say even though he did not go under all the way, that the baptism was valid.

        I am ignoring, of course, the propriety of being baptized at an FCA camp in a bathtub.

        But you get my point. He was not all the way under.

  8. Bart Barber says

    Not a hypothetical. I’ve been in precisely this situation. I went with option #1. Mark Mitchell has stated my point of view so well that I need not offer it again myself.

  9. says

    I’m not sure my position on this. I do believe the Didache addresses this:

    7:1 But concerning baptism, thus shall ye baptize.
    7:2 Having first recited all these things, baptize {in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit} in living (running) water.
    7:3 But if thou hast not living water, then baptize in other water;
    7:4 and if thou art not able in cold, then in warm.
    7:5 But if thou hast neither, then pour water on the head thrice in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
    7:6 But before the baptism let him that baptizeth and him that is baptized fast, and any others also who are able;
    7:7 and thou shalt order him that is baptized to fast a day or two before.

    I know that this isn’t Scripture and so its not authoritative–but I do find it interesting that while the early church believed that one should be immersed in running water–it did allow for special cases where one could pour or sprinkle.

    • Louis says


      That is exactly what I was looking for.

      The NT practice of baptism was a continuation of Jewish custom.

      The NT does not address particulars regarding the mode, but I will readily agree that “baptize” means dip.

      However, given the variety of circumstances that must have, and still does, confront people the world over, it seems that some common sense alterations were allowable.

      The Didache is not authoritative, but it is as close as we are going to get, I believe, in time to the ongoing practice of NT churches in difficult situations like this.

  10. aaronthebaptist says

    Jesus was baptized in moving water. If you guys are not dunking in rivers then you are not doing it right.

    • volfan007 says


      This is so ridiculous that I started to not even answer…but, we’re not commanded by the LORD Jesus to baptize in moving water. BUT, we are commanded to immerse, or dip under, baptize those people, who get saved by grace thru faith. That’s the way the Lord told us to do it.

      Let’s see…what other things did God tell us to do that we can change? Let’s think about all the other commands of the Lord that we can twerk and change, so that it will fit what someone does, or does not want to do.

      Of course, we shouldn’t…..and, we should baptize people like the Lord tells us to do it.


      • John Wylie says

        I think you mean tweek not twerk, Baptists are not supposed to twerk, at least not when anyone is looking. 😉

      • aaronthebaptist says

        If not in a river the next step is a dunking booth. The pastor gets three pitches and if he does not hit the target then the person who was getting baptized was just not ready.

  11. Christiane says


    2 Corinthians 1:3-4

    “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
    the Father of mercies and God of all comfort,
    who comforts us in all our affliction,
    so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction,
    with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”

  12. volfan007 says

    One time, we baptized a man, who was in a wheelchair, who could not walk, in a swimming pool at the local University’s pool. They had a handicap contraption that would let him down into the water, and lift him up, again. Our Church drove over there one Sunday night after Church. We went into the indoor swimming pool….sang a few hymns….then, baptized him.

    People still talk about that experience….saying that it was one of the most special, spiritual times that we ever had.


    • says

      We have always found a way to get them baptized by immersion. And I have already purposed in my heart that if no way exists, then I will not compromise the act of baptism for human emotionalism.

      Funny how you can think thru and get it done when there is a commitment to do it the right way!

  13. says

    Personally, I make the exception. Jesus was always about the well being of the individual. He healed on the Sabbath and allowed His disciples to eat from the fields. We see exceptions in scripture, as with David and the shewbread, which Jesus Himself cites. To me it’s a question of the spirit of the law over the letter of the law. In this hypothetical situation the woman is simply unable to be immersed. If she’s been baptized by the Holy Spirit, I personally would allow for her outward expression of that to be done in a way she could accomodate. It would be a very, very rare exception, but I think of those on their death beds in hospitals, or in nursing homes. The “Great Commission” to baptize is indeed a great commandment, but not the greatest. In love for the other, I would accomodate them. JMO

  14. says

    I also would opt for number one. Our church has had a lady with a similar situation. This lady had a trachiodimy and could not be submerged to it. What our church did was borrow a back board from the ems station and had her lay on it as they immersed her head leaving the neck out of it so not to drown her. This was done before i came here to serve as pastor. It was a good thing they did for her. So there are some instances that make it very difficult. I had a you g teen girl come for baptism thst was waiting for a liver transplant and so had a low immune system. She could not be bPtized after someone else and before filling the baptistry I spent three hours scrubbing it with bleach. Some times we have to take extra care but as long as the Scripture is followed it is good. Thank you for your post!

  15. Nate says

    I would opt for a 3rd option, perhaps. It would make a great testimony and a witness to the congregation if someone else, who is a believer, one of her close relatives perhaps, would be baptized as an illustration, while I, as the pastor, would speak to the nature of baptism, its purpose, its illustration (death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord), and now our new life as believers. I think that would be a powerful testimony and a means to demonstrate how much this woman would like to be baptized, but simply cannot due to her health issues.

    Baptism, after all, is a testimony to the community of believers and witnesses, along with obediently following the command of our Lord.

      • Nate says

        No, I wouldn’t want to say she is being baptized, even by proxy. What I was proposing was more of a powerful testimony of her desire to follow the Lord in baptism, but due to her health she obviously cannot. Having another believer (close relative) being baptized would merely be an illustration to the congregation, her family (perhaps unsaved family members) of the gospel of the Lord Jesus.

    • volfan007 says


      Would you get people to wear green underwear, in order to be baptized for dead people, too?

      Just kidding.


      • Nate says

        hahaha David! I knew when I hit submit on this, that this comment was probably on its way..

        And no, I don’t see dead people!

    • says

      Definatley not! Proxy baptism is not in scripture. If she cant be baptized by immersion then she should be explained to the hazzard and givien the example of the theif on the cross. Proxy baptims will lead down a dark road of proxies and that is not scripture. Someone cannot pray a proxy prayer that gives them salvation therefore they cannot baptize in proxy.

    • Bob Browning says

      So Nate appears to have come up with a solution that can make Baptists and Presbyterians uncomfortable. Congratulations… or condolences… take your pick. 😉

      • Nate says

        So, the lesson here is don’t attempt to think outside the box and actually hit the submit button. I have not done this, nor am I saying that I would, but was merely trying to have an illustration for the congregation.

  16. Nate says

    All, I am not offering as a 3rd option, proxy baptism… Not in any way, shape or form…

      • volfan007 says


        I like your thought about sharing with the woman about the thief on the cross…..that would, or should help someone to see that baptism is not necessary to get into Heaven.

        Still not twerking,


    • Chris Johnson says

      Brother Nate,

      I didn’t think you were blazing a new trail, btw. :)

      Your comment though is not too dissimilar to one of our Seminary Presidents, who instructed a young group of students, a few years back, to wait and accumulate candidates for baptism, and make a big “marketing” (my word) splash about baptism at the local lake. He went on and on about the impact and upside for such. Wow.

      I confronted him afterwards about the “lake proxy” marketing ploy, and he agreed that baptism should be performed as soon as possible, and not wait. Unfortunately, he did not inform the other disciples in the room of his error….. so, if you see some boats circling a group of people on a lake somewhere in Texas, that Pastor may have been in attendance at the conference.


  17. John Wylie says

    Forgive the brief hijacking of this thread, but could all of you brothers please pray for me today. I have to go preach a funeral service for a lady who was very dear to our church but who was also a very troubled lady who suffered her whole life with bi polar disorder. I normally lean a lot on levity in funeral services but cannot come up with anything like that for her. Please pray that Christ is glorified and her family is comforted. While you’re at it pray that I don’t bomb. Sorry for hijacking the thread.

    • volfan007 says

      May God give you the boldness and the love to preach the Gospel, and to comfort this family. May the Lord give you a peace in your heart about this difficult situation. And, may God use you in great ways, today, Brother.


      • John Wylie says

        Guys thank you so much. And John even though I expressed disagreement with you today, I do find your arguments compelling and heart felt as well as the points made by others today. Bill Mac, David Rogers, and Nate the same goes for y’all.

    • Louis says


      Am sorry to hear this, and to have read it so late.

      Knowing your heart from the comments I read from you on this blog, I have no doubt but that the Lord used you in a mighty way.

      • John Wylie says


        It went pretty good. I had a tough time because her life was so complicated because of the bipolar disorder and needless to say some relationships were strained. I am thankful for God’s help in the matter and for you kind folks for praying. Thanks for asking.


        Thank you for the kind comment. One thing I love about SBC voices is that one moment we can be disagreeing and the next we can be praying for and encouraging one another. I always find your comments well thought out and kind.

  18. Bill Mac says

    To me this is a David and showbread issue. I’d baptize her in whatever way was possible, explaining to those assembled the norm and the exception.

  19. David Rogers says

    I know they didn’t mean it this way, so I’m not going to name them again to point them out, but one or several above said something to the effect that sprinkling or pouring water on this woman “accomplishes nothing.” I think the answer to this question may lie in what we believe baptism is supposed to “accomplish.” We as Baptists are clear that water, whether a handful or a tankful, does not accomplish or bring about our salvation. But there is also the other point that divided, if I remember correctly, Zwingli from other Reformers: do the “sacraments” (or ordinances, if you prefer, but sacraments is the word they used) actually convey grace (though not ultimately salvific grace) in some fashion, or are they just symbolic?

    From my understanding, what baptism is supposed to “accomplish” is to give a testimony to the world, to the Lord, to the angels, to the demons, etc. that one has given his/her life to Christ, that he/she has passed from light to darkness, from death to life. It is also a way of preaching the gospel through symbolism. Immersion symbolizes death, burial, and resurrection, but water in itself also symbolizes cleansing.

    From this perspective, as long as what is said clarifies the circumstances and the reasons for not baptizing the normal way, I see no reason for not allowing this woman to be “baptized” by an imperfect means such as pouring or sprinkling. What matters is the intent of her heart. The baptism in and of itself is a symbol, not a channel of grace, ex opere operato (or conveying grace by the act itself), as the Catholics believe and teach.

    To not give this woman the opportunity to publicly profess her faith in Christ, obeying to the best of her ability His command, because the circumstances do not allow for a perfect act of symbolism, for me is adding something to the meaning of baptism beyond what Jesus intended.

    I see a definite parallel here with a theoretical obligatory common-loaf celebration of the Lord’s Supper. If you are going to claim that this woman’s “baptism” by pouring or sprinkling is no baptism at all, and would best be left undone, then out of consistency you should also say that a celebration of the Lord’s Supper with more than one loaf (or with communion wafers, crackers, etc.) is no Lord’s Supper at all and would best be left undone.

    I have seen the Lord’s Supper celebrated with multiple loaves due to the size of the congregation, while the person presiding takes one loaf in front of the congregation and breaks it, explaining the symbolism of the common loaf. By the same token, the person officiating this “baptism” could explain what baptism symbolizes (i.e. death, burial, and resurrection) while at the same time acknowledging the circumstances that on that occasion lead to carrying it out in a less than perfect manner.

    • Adam Blosser says

      I cannot speak for the others, but when I used the term “accomplish,” I intended to communicate that sprinkling or pouring is not obedience to the command to be baptized. Therefore, it does not “accomplish” the obedience desired. I recognize that you disagree. I also recognize that “accomplish” may have been a poor word choice. Nevertheless, that is what I meant.

      • Greg Buchanan says

        Adam, that is a narrow definition of “obedience” that is filled with presumptions.

        • Adam Blosser says

          Obedience is usually pretty narrow. When God says to do something, you must do it in order to obey. If I am narrow-minded when speaking of obedience to God and filled with presumptions that are based on God’s Word, so be it.

          • Adam Blosser says

            Btw, I agree with Bart below (currently comment #67 and posted at 12:57pm on 6/27/14). The person who is prevented from being baptized is not being disobedient to Christ’s command. It would be disobedient to do something other than baptize that person and call it baptism.

    • Greg Buchanan says

      David: Agreed.

      Can we dogmatically justify not allowing this one to declare her allegiance as best she can?

      Is anyone here arrogant enough to think that worship of God can only be accomplished with an organ and piano? Lets be “biblical” and say it can only be done with lyres and cymbols and drums and choirs and we have to dance 1/2 naked as David did (insert Vol’s Twerk here).

      It is interesting to me that some here seem to be unknowningly or deliberatly relying on the Regulative Prinicpal who would in other discussions reject the RP due to it’s supposed source.

      I love irony. But not when it injures any of the saints in their desire to serve the Lord.

      • Adam Blosser says

        “Can we dogmatically justify not allowing this one to declare her allegiance as best she can?”

        If she cannot be baptized (i.e. immersed in water), she is declaring her allegiance as best as she can by saying, “In my heart I long to be obedient to Christ’s command to be baptized, but I am not able to do so.” I find it ironic that those of us who say baptism is immersion in water and would not expect a handicapped believer to be baptized are accused of obeying the letter of the Law rather than the spirit of the Law, while those of you who want to alter the symbol because she must be baptized are not guilty of forgetting the spirit of the Law.

        “Is anyone here arrogant enough to think that worship of God can only be accomplished with an organ and piano? Lets be “biblical” and say it can only be done with lyres and cymbols and drums and choirs and we have to dance 1/2 naked as David did (insert Vol’s Twerk here).”

        This isn’t the first time I have been called arrogant for being faithful to the clear teachings of Scripture. I expect it won’t be the last.

  20. David Rogers says

    The logical follow-up question to this, of course, is, if you as presiding church officer choose option #1, does that leave Mrs. McGillicuddy in a state of disobedience?

    Or is obedience just a matter of heart intent, not actual action?

    Do we as Baptists have a doctrine similar to the Catholic “baptism of desire”?

    • Bart Barber says

      We don’t have anything like the “baptism of desire” because we don’t have anything like the Roman Catholic theology of baptism whereby we have to concoct something to act as some sort of a vehicle of grace for desperate souls.

      I do believe, however, that obedience is in some great measure a matter of the absence of resolve to do (refrain from doing) something that is disobedient. If an imprisoned soul in an Iranian jail cell truly wished to be baptized but was prevented from being baptized by his captors, neither of us would count him disobedient, would we?

      I’ve never met anyone in that situation, and I’ve met precious few in the situation presented by this post, but I know thousands who are prevented from being baptized not by any external factor but by their own internal determination not to be baptized.

  21. Ethan Moore says

    True story: missionary in the South American Andes leads an elderly woman to Christ. She’s never been immersed in water as an adult for any reason simply because she’s afraid of water. The men of the village helped her down into the stream and attempted to baptize her. Even as her mouth said, “Just do it” her body resisted the men. Finally she said, “Force me. Just grab me and shove me down as hard as you can.”

    They did it, and didn’t even really harm her. It’s not comparable to someone who cannot be baptized, of course, but she was determined to obey even though every fiber in her body did not want to.

  22. Jess says


    You said in your point 1. to just explain to her that Baptism is not necessary. I would add, not necessary in her case. Since the Scriptures teach that Baptism is only for those who are able. This should solve the dilemma.

    There has been a few times that I’ve had to dunk the candidate because there was no way I could Baptize the usual way. A dunking occurred in Kentucky Lake, another dunking occurred in a swimming pool. One of the candidates was over 300 lbs. Another candidate had so many tubes in her body because of advanced stage cancer, I had to dunk her in a swimming pool.

    I know of one case where the Pastor used a spray bottle to Baptize with.
    The candidate was in such bad shape that she in no way could be immersed in water. The spray bottle got her wet, and I had no complaints. Who’s to say she wasn’t immersed.

    When someone is in horrible shape and only a few days from meeting their maker, I say do what you must but please don’t sprinkle.

  23. Mark Mitchell says

    I am currently faced with a similar situation. We have a young woman who is short, over weight, and wheelchair bound. Her legs are weak and frail and she is top heavy. We cannot resonably get her in the baptistry. We have considered a tank on the floor but will still need some sort of supportive chair to manager her frame and weight. I am not sure we should move forward with the Baptism.

    What I may do instead is have her come forward and make a verbal delaration that would communicate what Baptism does as well as express her desire to be Baptized should she have been able too. I believe that action meets the spirit of Baptism and may help her to find peace about not being actually Baptized.

    I also believe there are inherent liability risks in Baptizing people with the special health issues.

    • says

      I think that is perfect! It accoplishes the meaning of baptism and she will be before other believers declairing God as her Lord and Savior. I think that will be powerful to the congregation and would be amazing to see.

      • says

        I must confess I’m a little confused by the thinking here.

        You are saying that a person without any water on them standing before the church and professing Christ “accomplishes the meaning of baptism”. And yet doing something with imperfect means such as David Rogers has articulated would not be accomplishing the meaning of baptism. I’m confused. It seems to me that if one would explain the situation–note that baptism normally ought to be by immersion, etc.–that this would be the same thing as Mark but would be keeping in part the symbol by using water.

        Help me see the difference.

        • David Rogers says

          It seems like what is going on here is that as Baptists we are so averse to pouring or sprinkling (because that’s what those in other denominations so), we are willing to go to the other extreme just to avoid it. We are also afraid of the slippery slope leading to a general practice of pouring or sprinkling, so the better option is no baptism at all.

          While I will admit I halfway see the logic behind this argument, I think we are ultimately letting our fears and prejudices skew our thinking here.

          • John Fariss says

            I agree with you 100% David. That is essentially what I was trying to express, both here and on the previous posting about baptism. There I argued that we have made the mode of baptism more important than that it represents the person’s conscious decision to follow Christ, rather then a parent’s decision for the child (infant baptism).


        • Jess says

          Mike Leake,

          Those that are able to stand before the church are able to be Baptized. Those that are not able are the ones in question.

  24. Jess says

    For those of you that would say what did the Pastor with the spray bottle do about the candidates back, did it get wet also? Well if you are going to be that particular, roll the candidate over and spray a few shots on his back. Sometimes a little common sense goes a long way. Are we under the law or under Grace. Sorry, Les but please don’t sprinkle.

  25. james mahan says

    I am reminded of the man at the pool of Bethesda who did not have anyone to help him into the water. This was not baptism of course, but Jesus asked the man his intent. Legalistic adherence to a symbolic (albeit commanded) ordinance is missing the intent or spirit of the command and holding to the letter as someone already mentioned. As pastors or leaders it is our job to teach and instruct as Matthew 28 mentions. As such we should take these unique opportunities to teach the appropriate method, the symbolism entailed, why we don’t normally baptize by sprinkling or pouring, etc. Just my two cents…

  26. Volfan007 says

    What’s concerning to me is how easily some people can just shrug off clear commands from The Lord.


    • David Rogers says

      Some on the other side would make the same comment with regard to your position: How can you just tell this woman the best option in her case is not to be baptized at all? Is that not also “shrugging off the clear command of the Lord”?

      • says

        Agree David, we’re speaking hypothetically of a woman who for terminal health reasons is unable to be immersed. In this sort of instance, it would seem the most loving thing to do would be to allow her to express her obedience to Jesus’ command in the best way possible. It’s not a slippery slope or a slide from the doctrine of immersion, it’s understanding as Jesus did that the spirit of an action is more important in special circumstances than the letter of a command. It should not be a common practice, but we should allow for an exception in extrordinary circumstances

  27. says

    “…would you baptize this new convert, Beatrice McGillicuddy, by extra-biblical means like sprinkling or pouring?”

    It’s not a coherent question. It’s like asking, “Would you still go out on the town with your friends if you couldn’t leave the house?” Going out on the town necessitates leaving the house. Getting baptized, according to baptist ecclesiology, necessitates immersion. You can’t baptize if you can’t immerse.

    I would commend such a one for desiring to be obedient to baptism. I would reassure them that baptism doesn’t cause their salvation, but rather is an outward sign that they are already saved. I would instruct them that our peace is the knowledge that we belong to Christ, not that we are baptized. If it ever is a matter of church membership, I would rather waive the requirement of baptism so they could be a member rather than sprinkle some water on them and call it a baptism. The reason is because a desire to be obedient unto baptism is more important for sanctification than actually being baptized, and being saved is more important than being baptized for church membership. The church is commanded to baptize within the context of making disciples and we teach falsely if we get our priorities wrong. Also, the church is commanded to baptize disciples, not to give false baptisms in any sense of the term.

  28. Jeff H says

    I’m Baptist, (but not southern baptist); at the end of the day, some things are not in our power, or permission, to accommodate. Baptism, that is not Biblical is not baptism, regardless of what we may call it, or how we make accommodations. It is not within our parameters to make “divine exceptions.” We never have permission to think, “outside the Book.”

  29. Andy Williams says

    I would most likely pour the hypothetical woman, with the following criteria:

    1. She understood that her baptism in no way saved her.

    2. I would invite a few other people, hopefully a few church members, and also hopefully 1 or 2 of her family, especially if they were unsaved, and probably a nurse…to witness the event so that it did “accomplish” a public declaration of faith in Christ. I think having witnesses would be very important when it comes to what the purpose of baptism is.

    I also wonder in which passage of scripture is Baptism linked with displaying the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, and of us to new life? I’m not saying it’s not there, but I can’t think of one right now. Any help?

  30. David Rogers says

    Romans 6:3-4, Colossians 2:12, and Galatians 3:27.

    It is also represented as symbolizing cleansing in Acts 22:16 and, perhaps, 1 Peter 3:21.

  31. Brandon says

    I have been in this very situation with someone who was home-bound and desperate to follow-through with baptism. In the end we agreed upon pouring. Biblical salvation is the only area where compromise is impossible. Salvation is not dependent upon baptism; the understanding and desire of immersion was present, but the means was not available because of illness.

    • Adam Blosser says

      The Book of Reports addresses that truncating of the gospel by the Anabaptists. It spells out their position as baptism of believers by immersion.

        • Adam Blosser says

          Okay. I see why my comment may be confusing. Let me try again.

          The SWBTS report in the Book of Reports makes clear the school’s position on baptism of believers by immersion. Therefore, they clearly reject the pouring portion of Anabaptist theology. The “truncating of the gospel” piece was apparently a poor attempt at a joke.

  32. says

    We actually had this scenario presented to us a few years ago. A mother of one of our families came to Christ and wanted to be baptized but she was physically unable to get upstairs and into our baptistery; we looked at a portable one but she was not physically able to be lowered into water.

    I did not care for the sprinkling option so here is what I did. We sat her in a chair in the front of the auditorium and her daughter spoke and she gave a brief testimony and I “lowered her back while she was seated in a chair and basically did as I would have done had she been in a baptistery… then I raised her up still seated in the chair and said… you are raised up to walk in the newness of life… She passed away a short time after that.

    It was very meaningful act of worship for our church family and to her family. Her son-in-law rededicated his life to the Lord after not being in church for 30 years… and is still active although the family has moved to Houston.

  33. says

    Option No. 1.

    Option No. 2 (sprinkle or pour) is not baptism. God does not require that which cannot be accomplished and if she is truly unable to be baptized He accepts her desire as good as the act.

  34. David Rogers says

    Does it matter whether you: 1) place your hand under the neck of the person being baptized and gently lower them into the water; or 2) put your hand on top of their head, tell them to hold their nose, and push them under?

    Why or why not?

    • volfan007 says

      I’m not sure that matters, David. As long as they’re immersed….dipped under….as a Believer….then they are Scripturally baptized.


        • volfan007 says

          dipped under…immersed…..of course, you know that’s what baptizo means. Whether you go down backwards, or straight down…I can’t see that that would make any difference. Of course, I lay them down, and bring them back up.


    • says

      David…. may be a great question… the best answer might be settled by the degree of determinism on God’s part in the salvific process?

      JUST KIDDING!!!!!!!!!!!

  35. Peaches says

    Was this woman created for baptism or baptism for this woman? This argument sounds a lot like something Jesus would have no part of.

    • volfan007 says

      Jesus did have a part in this conversation. It’s called the Great Commission. Matthew 28: 19…..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, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

    • says

      Neither. Baptism, as a command to the Church, was issued for the testimony of the Church. Churchmen therefore issue the call for belivers to be baptized as members of the Church in general, and of the local assembly in particular.

      Baptism does nothing for the individual being baptized since they are already regenerate believers, or should be. And baptism won’t make them regenerate if they aren’t since we acknowlege that that’s the work of the Holy Spirit, not of immersion in water.

  36. says

    I have a question. If one cannot be baptized for some reason and is poured or sprinkled can that be counted on the ACP? A follow up…if the pouring church is in a numerical tie with another church as leader of the Assoc. in baptisms, which church gets the award? :-)

    • William Thornton says

      You can count anything you want in the ACP. There’s no SBC stat police. We already count toddler immersions, the only segment of SBC baptisms that are growing. If I baptized by affusion I’d doggone sure count it.

      We already count all those second (and third) baptisms, although the advice you get if you baptize a church member is to back him or her out of the membership and then add them back.

      Never underestimate the ability of an SBC pastor to count stuff.

  37. cb scott says

    The only biblical baptism is by full immersion. That is irrefutable.

    However, and due to the fact that I live daily in a different personal environment, I shall make the following statement:

    Did not David feed his men from the table of the Show Bread?

    There are actual cases in real life such as presented in Dave Miler’s post. Could we not share with such a person that the only biblical baptism is by immersion and only by immersion and then tell them that because we love them in Christ we will minister to them in an available manner by water? It would not be baptism to pour water on them, but it would be very similar to the washing of their feet as did Jesus His disciples to illustrate the love we should express to one another, would it not?

    Of course, for any and all who would come and ask or demand we baptize by sprinkling or pouring water upon them who are physically fit to be immersed, we should refuse and challenge them from a biblical perspective to follow the mandate of Christ and be immersed in obedience as believers making testimony to the world that they are new creatures in Christ. If they then refuse, we should love them enough to refuse their request in order to obey Christ and rebuke their self-centered rebellion to the Word of God.

    Immersion is the only biblical baptism and there is no other mode for which follows the mandate of Christ in accord to the Great Commision.

    • Tarheel says

      CB, I agree with you sir.

      Differentiating between rebellion and “extreme” cases is important I think. Obviously, extreme cases are rare….which is important to point out too.

      I’m with you on not calling it biblical baptism but something else if not immersion.

      I just thought that others were saying “it’s always disobedience to not be baptized, so even if extreme circumstances like this apply we won’t do anything.” Basically saying it “sucks to be you”…lol

      • Adam Blosser says

        “I just thought that others were saying “it’s always disobedience to not be baptized, so even if extreme circumstances like this apply we won’t do anything.” Basically saying it “sucks to be you”…lol”

        No one has said this. I and others have said that calling something baptism that is not baptism is disobedience. I have not seen where anyone on here has said that it would be disobedience for someone to not be baptized who is truly unable to be baptized.

        • Tarheel says

          This is why we have denominations.

          I believe strongly and with biblical backing that baptism is for believers by immersion.

          I have Presbyterian friends who believe strongly and with biblical backing in the offering of other modes of baptism.

          So this is why, among other reasons, that I am Baptist and they are Presbyterian.

          I think if you’re Baptist, you ought to act like it on this defining denominational practice.

          I also think we ought not come accross as dogmatic jerks as it relates to those orthodox , gaithful servants of Christ in other denominations who disagree. This is a second teir issue….let’s not act like its a first.

    • says

      I agree with that approach as well CB. Frame it in terms like “because of your condition, this is as close to baptizing you as we can get.” This allows them to have the testimony to their faith to the extent that they are able

  38. Jeff H says

    I believe that we never change what we know, because of what we feel. I am under the conviction that salvation is not the only thing we never compromise. Faithfulness to the Lord of the Word, requires faithfulness to the Word of the Lord, and in any circumstance that we are forced to choose between the Lord and the saint, or the Lord and the lost, we always choose the Lord. When He gave us baptism, this scenario was far more likely then, than it is now, and He gave us no extra explanations, or no extra permissions, for exceptions. The option to consider is to realize that the opportunity for Biblical Baptism often does in fact occur beyond the time and ability for aged and/or incapacitated converts. A false baptism to make someone feel good, doesn’t make them any more obedient, any more baptized or any more Biblical, it does not bring them up to Biblical truth, it brings us down from it. Their Biblical truth/example would fall somewhere within the same parameters as the thief on the cross. Their genuine desire for an obedience that is physically impossible, is a far better place to be in than our compromise of God’s Word for the sake of making them feel better. In my estimation, there is no better way to love someone than to gently explain the truth.

  39. says

    Many are saying that this would not constitute a valid baptism, but I want to ask, what about church membership? Are those of you saying this is not a valid baptism then saying that this person cannot, because of her health condition, ever be a member of your church (or should not be at any baptist church SBC or not)? I fear I know what some will say. And the very fact that people would be outspoken, to any degree, against a person like this being baptized, but won’t lift any practical finger to combat Christmas/Easter member attenders, or those who only show up for important business meetings. No we can’t do anything against them (or it is up to individual churches), but lord for bid someone does a “special” baptism for a special needs/handicapped person! If that ever happens we have to question if they are really a baptist church right!

    I hate to say it, but posts like this make me question why I want to be a “baptist” to begin with.

    • says

      In the what it’s worth department, my practice has been to accept them under “watchcare”. I am not real sure what all of that means but in the two cases where this happened in my ministry this was the case. Watchcare carries all the privileges of the church except voting. I do not understand the restriction against voting to be a big deal.

      You said “it makes me question why I want to be a Baptist”. This is a healthy exercise. If one does not agree with Baptist teaching then one should be something else. I do not say that in a “smart alack” (sp) way. One will be more useful to the Kingdom if one was in agreement with doctrine.

      • says

        For me, where I struggle, is the question of whether baptism is/should be symbolic of our death burial and resurrection in Christ Jesus (as baptists believe), or is it symbolic of the blood being poured/sprinkled out on us as a sacrifice making us clean before God (as most Presbyterians, Methodists, Lutherans, ect believe). I believe that there are very good proof texts for both sides. And in my opinion, neither side has ever done a good job in satisfactorily dealing with the other sides arguments.

        Currently, I side closest with the Baptist view of Baptism. Hense why I am a member of a baptist church and was baptized in my early 20’s in a Baptist church (even though I was “sprinkled” at 12 in a Presbyterian church). But for me, I don’t know if my doubts and questions will ever be answered this side of heaven.

        Which is why discussions and hypotheticals like this bother me so much. It is up there, for me, with some of the high horse folk, who when questioned with they hypothetical (would you lie to the Nazis if you were hiding Jews in your home), say they would not lie, because lying is always a sin. Baptism is always done this way, period, and thus some people cannot ever get baptized. That type of absolutism bothers me. It bothers me because I honestly have not seen definitive arguments making it such. I realize others have, and that is fine. But if/when the Lord allows me to lead a Church, and were I to face this situation, I would likely find a way to take the person to a body of water, stand in it knee or waist high, and take a pitcher and poor the water gently over their head.

        If baptism is a symbol of a spiritual truth, then it stands to reason that the method can change, so long as the truth behind the symbolism does not.

        But at this point I also think of places in desert communities who do not have bodies of water, even tub size, to do baptism in. What do we say to these communities? Sorry, but you just can’t have any baptisms? Sorry, you have to travel 500 miles to be baptized? Or is it more about the motive and intentions of the heart, not the actual action, which matter? Again, as someone already mentioned, this is where I like what the Didache says on this matter so much. It is more about the motive, not the means. If it more about the means, then we stray dangerously close to Church of Christ folk and the position that Baptism actually plays a role in salvation.

        • John Wylie says

          Read Romans 6:4, 5 and Colossians 2:12, it’s pretty clear that it symbolizes death and burial.

    • Adam Blosser says

      In the case of a person who was physically unable to be baptized, I would lead the church I pastor to receive that person as a member without baptism. I would not “baptize” them by another mode.

      • Tarheel says

        Adam, I respect that conviction.

        However, I’d encourage you to offer understanding and grace to those Baptists, like some in this thread, who would consider amending the symbol in case of the need for a rare exception.

        • Adam Blosser says

          Tarheel, no one has been ugly here. This is SBC Voices. I don’t have a problem with someone expressing the view that you have supported in this thread. I likely would have done the same thing until very recently when I did a lot of reading and thinking on this issue. My convictions regarding believer’s baptism by immersion were strengthened as a result.

          It is not lacking grace to say on a discussion thread on a Baptist site that it is disobedient to pour water on someone and call it baptism. If I believe it is disobedient, should I not say it? I have not advocated kicking such people out of the SBC or any such thing. That would be lacking grace. Nor have I been ugly to anyone here. Maybe you sir are the one on a high horse seeking to condemn all who have very strong convictions regarding believer’s baptism by immersion.

          • Tarheel says


            Nope. I’m on no high horse. I’ve condemned no one. My language has been very inclusive and understanding. I’ve not attacked anyone…only called for a little grace in our language. I did reference high horses because that’s what I’m reading as objectively as possible.

            If you think you’re extending grace by essentially saying the mode of baptism we practice is the only way of baptism ever, under any circumstances and anyone who believes or acts differently is being disobedient to God -and by inference not as on par with God as I (we) are because we do it right – then so be it. I understand this is a Baptist blog. I also understand that we Baptists don’t hold the monopoly relating to the final say on all matters.

            As you know, I know where you’re coming from and why….but willful defiance of a denominational/church practice is a completely different animal than what Dave M. posed in his OP and what I am suggesting in this thread.

            To all,

            Also, as I’ve said many times and you all should by now know I agree with the idea that believers baptism by immersion is the right and biblical way to baptize according to the way we as Baptists read scripture – but I also understand that people like Les, who are also biblically faithful, gospel loving brothers believe that they are doing it right as well. I think they’re wrong, lets be clear about that.

            This is just one of the reasons why most of us here are in a different denomination than Les.

            This is a second tier issue and some here are talking as if it’s a first tier. That’s my only concern.

            Since I think this is how I feel, shouldn’t I say it?

  40. says

    Sometimes the most difficult thing to communicate is the fact that the Biblical standard does not always accommodate emotional reasoning, even when well-intended. We never develop doctrine from intentions, we conform our intentions to revealed doctrine, and that often cuts against the grain of our senses.

  41. volfan007 says

    What blows my mind is that Baptists are having a discussion about baptism, and actually disagreeing over the mode of baptism, and about whether it’s important, or not…. I mean, 30 years ago, you wouldn’t have had Baptists saying that sprinkling and pouring is okay….and, that infant baptism should be honored as a valid baptism….it just blows my mind.


    • says

      I agree 100%. I suspect i am being narrow minded but I simply do not understand the discussion. Scripture is abundantly clear re Baptism.

      I do have question/statement. In the case where immersion is not physically possible, would calling the lack of Baptism an act of disobedience, be legalism.

      • volfan007 says


        I think it would be wrong to tell someone that they were disobedient for not getting baptized, whenever they were physically unable. It would be as bad as telling a truly homebound member that they were being disobedient to God for not coming to Church.

        God certainly understands when people CAN’T do something due to physical handicaps.


        • says

          Well said

          During the last few months that I have been commenting here, I have come to believe that you and I have cut our theological teeth on the same teachings.

      • Tarheel says

        “I do have question/statement. In the case where immersion is not physically possible, would calling the lack of Baptism an act of disobedience, be legalism.”

        Absolutely it would.

        • says

          I would tend to agree. Would not this fall under the WWJD idea. I would have a hard time imagining Jesus meeting that person in heaven and telling them they were disobedient.

  42. says


    I drove about 11 hours yesterday and so missed the discussion. Question: someone mentioned above Jewish proselute baptism and made me wonder…was it by immersion? Does anyone have a source stating that at the time of Jesus Jewish proselyte baptism was by immersion? Inn fact, since Hebrews mentions OT baptisms, is there any scripture in the OT that shows that OT baptisms were immersion?


    • cbscott says

      In every extant document, regardless of genre, the word transliterated as baptize means to immerse.

      The only biblical baptism is by immersion. You brothers and sisters who practice or adhere to any other mode are wrong. It really is that simple.

      • says


        But what about that Hebrews 9:10 passage talking about various washings (baptisms or baptismois) and explained in verses later with OT reference?

        Hebrews 9:13 – Numbers 19:17-18

        Hebrews 9:19 – Exodus 24:6, 8

        Hebrews 9:21 – Leviticus 8:19; 16:14

        It looks like these OT baptisms were sprinklings. Agree?

        BTW, I’m outdoors for a while and can’t reply till my chores are done.

    • says


      John MacArthur said:

      “So it seems to me that the references, and, by the way, there is no reference to sprinkling anywhere in the entire New Testament. The only word we ever have in reference to baptism is baptidzo. By the way, Old Testament proselyte baptism was always immersion. Read Leviticus 14 verses 8 and 9. So you have the Old Testament standard of immersion. You have the idea of into — the preposition used frequently in reference to it. You have the concept that much water was there. They went down into the river. They came out of the river. You have the picture of death and resurrection. You have the idea that this is a transformation that is symbolized. All of this seems to point to immersion. If you wanna do something with those two prepositions, look up Mark 1:9 as a starting point. “It came to pass in those days, Jesus came and was baptized by John into the Jordan.” As, into the Jordan.”


      • says

        Thomas, the passage reads,

        “Then, if the case of leprous disease is healed in the leprous person, 4 the priest shall command them to take for him who is to be cleansed two live[a] clean birds and cedarwood and scarlet yarn and hyssop. 5 And the priest shall command them to kill one of the birds in an earthenware vessel over fresh[b] water. 6 He shall take the live bird with the cedarwood and the scarlet yarn and the hyssop, and dip them and the live bird in the blood of the bird that was killed over the fresh water. 7 And he shall sprinkle it seven times on him who is to be cleansed of the leprous disease. Then he shall pronounce him clean and shall let the living bird go into the open field. 8 And he who is to be cleansed shall wash his clothes and shave off all his hair and bathe himself in water, and he shall be clean. And after that he may come into the camp, but live outside his tent seven days. 9 And on the seventh day he shall shave off all his hair from his head, his beard, and his eyebrows. He shall shave off all his hair, and then he shall wash his clothes and bathe his body in water, and he shall be clean.”

        First, JM stating that all OT proselyte baptism was by immersion is not quite proof enough. And especially this case of a ceremonial cleansing of one with leprosy does not make his case.

        And, in this case, the cleansing was a result of the sprinkling. “And he shall sprinkle it seven times on him who is to be cleansed of the leprous disease. Then he shall pronounce him clean…”

        I don’t think this makes the case at all brother. In fact, the sprinkling mitigates against it seems to me.

        • says


          I’m sorry that I cannot comment about JM’s exegesis of the passage. I wish that I thought like him and knew him well enough that I could speak on his behalf, but that’s not the case.

          You asked for a reference, I provided a reference to JM. Most people would consider him a scholar (definitely a NT scholar).

          Thomas A. Magers, II

          • Tarheel says

            JM often says the OT is not Christian Scripture … So I would think that his explanation of these OT passages regarding sprinkling might be something like “well, that’s OT and we base our theology off the NT.”

            (I’ll note like Thomas, this is a guess based on my distant knowledge of JM – I certainly can’t speak for him either…lol)

          • Stephen says

            JM is a good preacher and provides a lot of helpful exegesis, but I’m not sure he would be considered an NT scholar – at least, his writings would not be considered scholarly in nature, certainly on a lower level than commentaries like WBC or NICNT.

        • says

          Thomas, I love JM’s preaching and teaching. I agree with him on many things. His dispy views, no. This reference on the OT proselytes, not so much. I was thinking of more scholarly research.

          Blessings brother.

  43. Tarheel says

    I agree with some of the others posting here that it’s OK amend the symbol of the ordinance of baptism to fit the RARE circumstances.

    Accompany this explanation and teaching a to why you’re making the EXCEPTION to the rule.

    I’m also willing to bet that every pastor here arguing its wrong to amend an ordinance under RARE. Circumstance does so every single time (in fact, its become the rule, not the exception) by using grape juice instead of wine (or leavened bread instead of unleavened) at communion. So the high horses y’all are riding might have weak legs.

    Just sayin’

      • Tarheel says

        I’m not really making an argument either way.

        I’m just pointing out the inconsistency of dogmatic argument that asserts “this ordinance shall not be altered, ever, under any circumstance….but it’s OK to amend the other one.”

  44. says

    I think discussions like this DO serve a need, and that is to think biblically about a situation before the situation arises, or one like it does.
    I would pour water on her head or feet or somewhere, if she desire to obey the Lord in baptism but cannot due to health reasons. I really am at a loss for those of you who would deny her the obedience she longs to perform.
    YES I am an immersionist. I believe that is the Biblical pattern. But it is a “Pattern.” It is not salvific, though a case can be made that it is a means of sanctifying grace, it is a ‘picture’ of burial, not an actual burial. I could ‘picture’ a burial by throwing dirt on your head. Not actually bury you that way.
    I have baptised a lady in her 80s who was frail but able to be baptised, what a blessing when someone comes to Christ late in life and wants to obey Christ. Why would I deny her that because of some insistence on a model being followed precisely? If she was about to die and wanted to observe the Lord’s Supper I would use water and lifesavers, too (wintergreen only), if there were no time to procure bread and grape juice.
    I do not want to discount the importance of baptism as it is portrayed in scripture, but this is like Jesus picking corn on the sabbath to me. Who was the model made for? The model was made for God and his redeemed followers. We were not made for the model.

  45. says

    To me it is very interesting to see how folks approach this differently. Some see those of us who relentlessly require immersion as making too much of baptism. To me, those who require it when it cannot be performed make too much of baptism.

  46. says

    Hospitals have pulley systems for situations like this, where a fragile or extremely heavy patient needs to be moved, and there is no other way to do so than with a mechanical pulley system. If the woman is willing to pay to rent the system, and is not embarrassed by it, I say that would be a good option.

    The thing that I take exception with in the question is the suggestion that she would not become a member of a local church. I would argue that depriving her of church membership would do more to nullify the true nature of her baptism than any question of proper mode. In being baptized, the new believer is no less publicly identifying with a local church than she is publicly identifying with her Savior. Christ did not command us to go and make deathbed converts. He commanded us to go and make disciples. For the few days she has left, I am firmly convicted that it is the job of a local church to come alongside her and disciple her, no matter how basic and elementary that discipleship may wind up being.

    • Tarheel says

      William Leonheart III

      “Hospitals have pulley systems for situations like this, where a fragile or extremely heavy patient needs to be moved, and there is no other way to do so than with a mechanical pulley system. If the woman is willing to pay to rent the system, and is not embarrassed by it, I say that would be a good option.”

      If i may respectfully push back on couple of things here.

      1. Her pay for it? If we’re going to be so rigid on this issue – it ought to be important enough to dole out the dough.

      2. In our litigious society I would think that rental of hospital equipment would be out of the question.

      3. Likely one coud be obtained from a medical supply store – but absent someone in my church who is trained and qualified to use such a machine and the medical training to be available should something go wrong. Also, the family would need to be supportive of the action taken.

      4. Absent the conditions of number 3 being satisfactorily met, I’m not sure the risk to the lady (which is paramount) and the legal negligence risk that the church would be taking (think of possibly litigious children/spouse of the convert) is justifying of a defiant stance on a mode of baptism in This rare circumstance.

      To all,

      I would think that an appropriate explanation and teaching regarding why we believe that what we are about to do in this case is worthy of a special adaption of the mode of baptism and a pouring would be acceptable.

      As I said earlier, being a Baptist – I’d even consider not calling this (special, rare adaptation of the mode) a baptism but something else – not sure what though.

      Remember no where in the bible is baptism by immersion commanded and pouring forbidden. While I believe that immersion is clearly taught, and the biblical imagery works best with it…. I’m not sure we see an all out exclusion of other modes.

      • says


        Your reply comes across as simply seeking an argument. I never said that the church shouldn’t spring for the cost. If it finds it in its budget to do so, fine. I’m not going to get legalistic about who pays what, though. Also, I never said that there would not be logistical considerations. The church would have to consider those as well. However, there are logistical considerations anytime you baptize. They don’t always warrant comment when attempting a comment with brevity.

        Regarding your suggestion that we pour, but call it something else.. Why would we just make up a ritual like that?

        Regarding this statement: “Remember no where in the bible is baptism by immersion commanded and pouring forbidden.” First, the term transliterated ‘baptize’ by most translators, if it were properly translated, would read something to the effect of ‘immerse,’ ‘dip,’ or ‘dunk.’ Most Baptists would take this as a positive command.

        Second, this is the same argument made by the LGBT community. They argue: “Remember no where in the Gospels are alternative forms of loving, committed marriage explicitly forbidden by Christ.” Historically, the church has taken positive commands and affirmations as prohibitions of anything done to the contrary. If God has ordained that He be worshiped one way, we do not have the liberty to worship Him however we so choose, simply because it is not explicitly forbidden. This does not mean that we must risk the life and safety of a bed-ridden woman, but it certainly does not mean that we have the liberty to come up with our own ritual as a substitute for baptism.

        • Tarheel says

          It was not my intent to come across as looking for an argument.

          Yes, logistics are always involved in baptisms but your suggestion would carry many, many more and even, IMO be unwise to baptize by immersion a lady whose so frail…unless we have people to operate the pulley who are so trained as well as medical personel on hand. Otherwise, we must consider other options. Doing so (on rare, special circumstances) doesn’t, in my view, make one less Baptist, or less faithful to scripture.

          I’ve baptized (by immersion) people who were in wheelchairs….but in each occasion we had medical personel on hand and several rescue squad trained people assisting in the baptism. I wouldn’t have taken part without that….I think it’d be unwise to do so.

          I agree that it’s a positive command to baptize by immersion, that’s what I practice and that’s what I believe to be biblical – but I was only making the point it’s not biblically forbidden to pour, in fact our brothers and sisters in other denominations have been going on for years in fact our anabaptist “forefathers” mode of baptizing was typically pouring was it not? ….(so im not sure we’d not be making up any ritual at all)

          I think in this thread we’ve seen that there are valid arguments (I disagree with them) that the words could mean to submerge – but sometimes might not.

          To your comparison of LGBT arguments and mine in this discussion – this is an unfair comparision….I must say that unlike the mode of baptism discussions, homosexuality is explicitly forbidden and identified as sin in the bible so the LGTB community argument has no whatsoever standing in claiming the bible does not forbid thier activity.

          • Tarheel says

            Oh, and when addressed your post (that the lady should pay for the pulley) I admit I was taken a little back by that. You didn’t mention that the church should pay for it – you only mentioned that the lady should. I personally would not consider asking a new convert to pay for the supplies we require to baptize them.

          • Tarheel says

            *(so im not sure we’d be making up any ritual at all).

            I inserted an extra “not” in the post above.

        • says


          “First, the term transliterated ‘baptize’ by most translators, if it were properly translated, would read something to the effect of ‘immerse,’ ‘dip,’ or ‘dunk.”

          That’s the issue I have been discussing with parsonsmike. i.e. I contend that every time the word we transliterate as baptism or the verb form it cannot always mean to submerge. Just look at Luke 12 and try to substitute immerse or dunk.

          “I have a baptism (dunking) to be baptized (dunked) with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished!”

          I think many times it CAN mean immerse but it seems to me that context can lead to another view.


          • cbscott says

            In all biblical and classical Greek the word transliterated baptize means to immerse. No existing document from the time of the writing of the NT or in any extant classical Greek writings from the time period mean anything else other than immersion. Always.

            There are presently no documents to support your position, Les. None.

          • Les Prouty says

            Thanks CB. I’ll do you like you “done” me a while back on a youth alcohol stat you quoted. You told several if is to look it up ourselves. So, the proof of what I say is out there. I’ve seen it. Search and ye shall find.

          • Dean Stewart says

            Les, pardon my drive by into your conversation. I have read your convo with Parson and feel you are transposing your belief on top of some passages. Every range of meanings that I can find on the word baptisei, baptizo is: to baptize, to dip, to immerse, to wash, to submerge, to place into. I find it hard to believe this is not the universal accepted range of meanings for “baptize.”

            You make reference to Hebrews 9:10 where the word is translated “washings.” To wash is in the range of meanings for baptize. You then describe how Hebrews 9 describes these washings as sprinkling. Hebrews 9 is describing how the New Covenant is greater than the Old Covenant because the blood of the Messiah is superior to the blood of bulls and goats. That blood of bulls and goats was sprinkled in the washing process (Hebrews 9:13). Again, washing is in the range of meaning for baptize. That means the only way you can use the word baptize correctly today when you sprinkle a convert is if you believe you are washing them. This is a foreign concept of New Testament baptism.

            As for as the passages like Mark 10 where Jesus uses the word baptize describing the tribulation that will come upon James and John, every one of the range of meanings can apply. Jesus could mean you will be dipped in trouble, you will be be submerged into trouble. He could even have the idea of washing through the trouble. I am persuaded Jesus meant they will be placed in the trouble He was going to be placed in. To argue that Jesus did not mean submerge when using baptism does not strengthen your position that baptism can mean sprinkling. Again, to sprinkle a new believer cannot be supported by the scope of meanings that I have read unless one teaches the sprinkling is a washing.

          • John Wylie says

            It’s highly possible that in this day and time where there was no running water people would immerse their hands in a water basin to wash them.

          • says


            No interruptions here brother. It’s an open forum. You said,

            “to dip, to immerse, to wash, to submerge, to place into. I find it hard to believe this is not the universal accepted range of meanings for “baptize.” I agree and that is really what I’ve been trying (poorly) to convey. Washing something clean is part of that meaning as Greg referenced referenced above about washing hands. Now one CAN wash their hands by immersing them. But more commonly one washes one’s hands by placing them under running water or holding them under water being poured by someone else. The latter method I use often when I’m in Haiti even in 2014.

            You talked about the Hebrews passage.”You make reference to Hebrews 9:10 where the word is translated “washings.” To wash is in the range of meanings for baptize.” Agree.

            “You then describe how Hebrews 9 describes these washings as sprinkling.” Yes, the verses below v. 10 talk about the various ceremonial washings and how they are done…by sprinkling various things on that which is to be ceremoniously cleansed.

            “Hebrews 9 is describing how the New Covenant is greater than the Old Covenant because the blood of the Messiah is superior to the blood of bulls and goats. That blood of bulls and goats was sprinkled in the washing process (Hebrews 9:13). Again, washing is in the range of meaning for baptize.” Agree.

            “That means the only way you can use the word baptize correctly today when you sprinkle a convert is if you believe you are washing them.” And though that was never my point, yes a Presby sprinkling or pouring does convey symbolically the cleansing or washing clean that Jesus does in our hearts. But that was never my point here.

            “This is a foreign concept of New Testament baptism.” Well not really depending on where you come at it from, but that’s not my point.

            “Jesus could mean you will be dipped in trouble, you will be be submerged into trouble. He could even have the idea of washing through the trouble.” That’s possible I suppose. Dipping into trouble. I just don’t see it and it appears to me that you are doing what you say I and doing…”you are transposing your belief on top of some passages.” And that one is a real stretch IMHO.

            “To argue that Jesus did not mean submerge when using baptism does not strengthen your position that baptism can mean sprinkling.”

            Really all I have tried to show here is that I do not believe that baptize as transliterated in it’s various forms of usage does not 100% of the time mean to submerge something or someone. That’s all. I think your arguments can be made other ways and again in my humble opinion, to doggedly insist that 100% of the usages means submersion (like washing hands) weakens your overall arguments.

            Blessings brother.

          • Dean Stewart says

            Les, thanks for the reply. I would remind you that concerning Jesus’ use of baptism when speaking with James and John that I said one could argue for each of meanings in the range of meanings but I was persuaded He meant baptize in this instance to mean they would be placed into the same trouble or tribulation that Jesus would soon be going through. I understand baptism in this instance to me to place into.

            We must keep the use of Biblical words within their accepted range of meanings. Washing is listed for baptizo in the word studies I use. Yours and my debate would not be over the etymology of baptizo but over the actual meaning of Christian baptism.

            As to the original difficult question given by Dave, I could not call something baptism that is not actual baptism.

          • says


            Thanks for this exchange. It appears that you are wiling to acknowledge that the word transliterated CAN in some cases mean something other than full submersion as in water. Others do not share your view apparently.

            “Yours and my debate would not be over the etymology of baptizo but over the actual meaning of Christian baptism.” Agree.

  47. says

    Brethren, with all due respect given and hopefully received, this issue is not really about baptism, as much as it is loyalty, submission, and conformity to the Word on baptism. Someone used the word earlier, “amending” the picture; brethren we have no permission nor authority to amend anything as it relates to the unchanging doctrine of immersion; for any human reason. Heaven knew what we would be dealing with when we were given this Word, and we’re left with it. I think we harm no one in any way by lovingly holding to it, and gracefully holding their hands through it.

  48. says

    If we divorce words from their meanings, how can we understand anything?

    If we divorce baptizo from its meaning immerse, we can then what? apply any meaning we want?

    Rather what we see in the New T. is that baptizo and baptisma, Strong’s numbers 907 and 908 mean to immerse, to baptize. [see note a]

    We also see that in the New T., the word, baptismos, Strong’s word #909, is always used to mean washings and never used to mean baptism.

    note a:
    Immerse doesn’t always mean do so ~in water~.
    For example, in 1st Cor. 12:13 the Spirit baptizes us into the body.
    We are immersed or put fully into the body of Christ.
    [word used, baptizo Strong’s #907]

    The word baptism, in its Greek forms of baptizo and baptisma, need not have anything to do with water although that is the common usage of the word: to immerse in water.

    Three definitions of baptizo are:
    1] to dip repeatedly, to immerse, to submerge (of vessels sunk)
    2] to cleanse by dipping or submerging, to wash, to make clean with water, to wash one’s self, bath
    3] to overwhelm

    • says


      “1] to dip repeatedly, to immerse, to submerge (of vessels sunk) 2] to cleanse by dipping or submerging, to wash, to make clean with water, to wash one’s self, bath.” Yes it can mean to immerse. Agree. And as you quote, it can mean to wash. And to overwhelm. In fact, if clouds can immerse (overwhelm, envelop us) then a shower of water could “immerse” us as well. Or we might immerse ourselves in a shower of water. Lots of ways we can see this word used.

      But back to wash. As in the Hebrews passage, the divers ceremonial washings were done by sprinkling the water, ashes, blood on the objects. I think we may finally be in agreement that, as some say, baptism doesn’t always mean to immerse as in submerge.


      • says


        “So are we agreeing that a variation of the word baptize can mean to wash?” Well that’s what I’m saying. Not sure yet if you agree.

          • says

            Well you could, but it would be wrong.
            We are talking about different words, that are used in different ways.
            And not the same word meaning different things.

          • says


            I could be wrong. That is true. As could you as well brother. The Greek word we transliterate as baptize can mean other than full submersion such as happens each Sunday in baptistries all over the US.

          • says

            If we divorce words from their meanings, how can we know what anything means?

            or we must trust that God in His desire to communicate truths to us is also able, willing and does bring about some cohesiveness in understanding words from one age to another, and from one language to another.

            Otherwise we can not understand the past, nor can we communicate with others of different tongues.

          • says

            Mike, one more tonight and then I’m done. I’m not divorcing words from their meaning.

            You: “To baptize is to immerse. A variation of that is to wash.”

            Me: I agree. OT ceremonial washings (baptisms per Heb. 9) were not immersions or submersions.

            Well within the meaning you agreed to: washing.

            Now, gotta run tonight.

          • says

            Have a good night.
            But you are somewhat confused.
            There was no word baptism in the Old T.
            There was washings, dippings, and sprinklings.

            i don’t think they had a word in Hebrew that simply meant to immerse, at least one not used in the Bible.

            But in the New T., when writing in Greek, they sometimes used a variation of the word baptism to describe Old T. washings.


            They used different Greek words to describe different actions.

          • says


            No, I’m not confused. I know that baptism was not used in the OT. They had a Hebrew word for dipping the hyssop into the water or blood or whatever was prescribed.

            The writer of Hebrews clearly describes these divers ceremonial washings using a word transliterated baptisms, such word coming from it’s root baptizo. I’m not making this up brother. These were what the NT calls OT baptims.

            And the fact that God used a different form deriving from bapizo here in Heb. 9 than anywhere else matters not. He used it nontheless. All I have been saying, and Heb. 9 is an example, is that baptizo and its various forms does not 100% of the time mean to iimmerse as in submerge such as happens in Baptist churches all over the US.

    • says

      Oh, and back to the original question by Dave, whether you all can tolerate a pouring or sprinkling…well I surely don’t know. I know what I would do. If someone really wanted to be submerged in water I would do all I could to accommodate that person.

      • says

        As to accommodating, i would go along with whatever the elders at my church decided, as long as they put if before the congregation for a discussion and vote.

  49. Joel Hunt says

    How many of you take baths to get clean, and how many take showers? I’m betting more of you do the latter… 😉

    • Dave Miller says

      Yeah, but when someone dies, we bury them in the ground. We don’t just sprinkle a little dirt on top of them.

      • Tarheel says

        True enough regarding an actual burial – but devils advocate — when your symoblizing burial it’d be acceptable to sprinkle or pour just a little dirt.


          • Tarheel says


            I was simply pointing out that baptism is a symbol of death, burial and resurrection – it’s not an actual death, burial or resurrection.

      • says

        Dave, that’s the important distinction here. We weren’t simply dirty, we were dead. We weren’t merely sick, we were dead. We weren’t just lost, we were dead. The ordinance of baptism symbolizes death, burial, and resurrection. It doesn’t symbolize a cleansing, healing, or finding.

        It is derived from the Mikveh of people who were already Jews, but from the Mikveh required by non-Jews converting to Judaism, which is different. Jews understood the difference. That’s why John’s baptism was so controversial. Jews did the Mikveh of ceremonial cleansing all the time, but John was calling Jews to undergo the Mikveh required to become Jews because they hadn’t been faithful Jews. They had been dead. Jesus was baptized by John not simply as an initiation into his ministry, but as an alignment with the message of John and as the Firstborn of Israel whose death and resurrection would usher the Kingdom into the lives of all people who died with him and join in his resurrection.

      • Dave Miller says

        I make a lot of smart aleck comments. That was not one.

        It all goes back to the symbolism of baptism. If it is simply about cleansing, then Joel’s statement is apt. Doesn’t matter how you use water to symbolize cleansing.

        But if the symbolism is “death and resurrection” then going into the water seems pretty important.

        “We were buried with Christ by baptism into death and raised to walk a new life in him.”

        • David Rogers says

          In Romans 6:3-4 and Colossians 2:12, there is clear reference to baptism symbolizing death, burial, and resurrection.

          in Acts 22:16 and, perhaps, 1 Peter 3:21, there is also reference to it symbolizing cleansing.

          It is both.

          • Dave Miller says

            Yes, and my point would be that immersion symbolizes both while sprinkling or pouring do not.

          • David Rogers says

            Another wrench in this whole discussion—and I hope I don’t open a hornet’s nest here; but truth is our friend—is the fact that burials in NT times were generally not done by lowering someone into a hole dug in the ground, but rather in niches in caves and the sides of rock cliffs, and often, after the body decayed and nothing but the bones were left, in ossuary boxes.

  50. Jess says

    I think it’s good to remember what a wash pot was used for when I read some of the comments above. In the O.T. God said that Moab was his wash pot. It would have been wrong to dip your hands into a basin or pot to wash oneself. The water was poured onto the hands or feet above the wash pot so the dirty water would run into the pot. This was the proper way to wash, it was practiced among the Jews.

    How this might translate into Baptism, I would like to hear Les comment on this.

    • says

      Hey Jess. Not quite sure what you’re asking, but…as I’ve been saying here I think it is undeniable that the word we transliterate baptism is sometimes referring to something other than full submersion of an object into water. Washing by pouring is one example.

  51. says

    I think one of the overriding philosophies that is in error here is the idea that the Lord left us with the power and permission to make “amendments,” “exceptions,” “doctrinal fudges,” (against the light of scripture) as we deem best in whatever circumstances given, to accommodate well meaning people and that just isn’t the Biblical case. We always win with His Word and lose with our logic. For what its worth.

  52. Douglas New says

    I have been pastoring for 38+ years and in that time I have had people in ALL kinds of conditions that wanted to be baptized and I did. Sometimes family members or Deacons had to carry them in or sometimes I have baptized in a “water trough” outside. Never had a problem.

    I do not believe it is mandatory, but I believe it is “in obedience” and also shouts…I’ve been saved!! Has our God gotten so weak in this “enlightened age” that we must make excuses. Sometimes, it has been “impossible” to do so…but let’s give God a chance. HE is able to show Himself strong.