This is an example of a “hypothetical question.” Hypothetical questions are questions that aren’t explicitly addressed, so the answers have to be sought through the proper application of principle and the explicit statements that have been revealed.
That said, through the years, I’ve heard many people ask, “What if a person was being baptized, and unbeknownst to them, they didn’t get all the way under the water? Would they be saved?”
Let’s see if we can address this question through principles or truths that have been revealed.
God’s Explicit Statements
- God commands sinners to be baptized for the remission of their sins (Acts 2:38), and he affirms that baptism is a burial (Romans 6:3).
- Consequently, every effort should be made to assure that a person is fully immersed. (What we do at the Karns congregation is we have a couple of men watch, and if we fail to get the person all the way under, they inform us so that we can do it again).
Considering Implicit Truths
- The Bible teaches we can know we are saved (1 John 5:13).
- The Bible also teaches that baptism is essential to salvation (Acts 2:38).
- However, the very nature of baptism is such that the one who is being baptized, cannot know for certain, that every part of his body made it under water. (Unless we radically change the way we have been baptizing).
- Or to say it another way…If we can know we’re saved, and if baptism is essential to salvation, and if while being baptized we cannot know for sure that every part of our body made it under the water, then knowing for sure whether or not every part of our body made it under the water is not essential to salvation.
At this point, I’d like for you to consider a couple of illustrations.
- In order to properly observe the Sabbath, the children of Israel were commanded to remove all leaven from their homes (Exodus 13:7). In order to obey this command, it was the custom of Jews to literally sweep their floors to remove all leaven that might have been in their houses. But tell me, knowing what you know about brooms and how they work, do you think that you could remove every trace of leaven from your home? After a Jewish family’s best efforts to rid their home of leaven, do you think a person might be able to examine their home and find a crumb in the corner of a cabinet, or in the crack of a chair, or in the crevasses of the grain on the wooden floor?
- Next, consider the statement made in Leviticus 14:15-16. The priest was to “pour” (Gr. cheo) oil in the palm of his left hand, then the priest shall “dip” (Gr. baptizo) his right finger in the oil in his left hand, then “sprinkle” (rantidzo) the oil before the Lord. Interesting that all three terms that are commonly used for baptism are used in this single passage and distinction is made between them. But to the point…I challenge you to “dip” (completely immerse) your finger in liquid held in the palm of your left hand. Go ahead, try it. Go to the sink and pour some water in your left palm and try to get your right index finger completely submerged. Good luck.
Could it be that we have required more than the word demands? In our effort to teach that baptism is not a sprinkling or pouring, but an immersion, have we forced it into a legalistic hypothetical that God never really considered or attempted to address?
Friends, I will finish my thoughts on this hypothetical question by simply saying this, “God is not going to great lengths to uncover ways to condemn us, rather he has gone to great lengths to execute an eternal scheme of redemption to save us. Give God your heart. Seek and obey him to the very best of your ability in all things, and the Judge of the Earth will do right (Genesis 18:25).