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Exceptions to principle? Baptism may be one

Should one ever go against principle?

When it comes to baptizing people, I believe there are times when it is right to go against principle. 

Two of the principles I have mentioned in the last few blog posts are

  • The person who leads someone to the Lord baptizes them
  • Baptism is immediate

Whenever baptism is demonstrated in the Book of Acts, it is always immediate (think Lydia and her household, Cornelius and his household, the crowd on the day of Pentecost). The only exceptions I can think of are Paul, who had to wait three days for Ananias to come to him, and the new believers in Ephesus, which was a situation of ignorance and immediately rectified by Paul.

However, if you talk with those who work in environments that are hostile to the Gospel, they say there are times when this principle of immediate baptism should be violated. In those situations, it may be wise to wait and see if the head of the household is going to become a believer. If this happens, then the outsider baptizes him and he then baptizes the members of his household. This prevents unnecessary persecution. (In some cultures, getting baptized may be a death sentence. It certainly means expulsion from the home, loss of job, loss of housing, loss of social community etc.)

In these situations, it is also customary that a woman should never be touched by a man who is not a family member. In this case, either a woman has to baptize another woman, or a family member should do so.

Below is a photo I was sent of a baptism occurring in secret, by night in one of the countries hostile Christianity. Faces and photo are deliberately blurred.



3 replies on “Exceptions to principle? Baptism may be one”

Interesting that a culture hostile to Christianity puts so much significance on baptism; to the point where they would kill someone for publically being baptized. Meanwhile in the world of christendom its significance is less obvious.

Thanks, Felicity, for this important discussion,
and your customary creativity and care.
I’d follow you on this, especially in the case you
mentioned where one or two family members come
to Christ.
If a reasonable time is given for them (before baptism)
to talk through their decision with the family head
(or village chief), and for them to show what their new
life in Christ looks like, many times the whole family
(or village) will follow. Often this is a very good exception
to make.

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