1. Bible baptism is by immersion. There isn’t a right way and a wrong way for immersing a person, but a smooth way as compared to some very crude ways of immersing.
2. We should want the experience to be pleasant and memorable rather than remembered for all of the awkward situations that arose.
3. Nearly all elements of the immersion are under the control of the person doing the immersing, so the proper preparations ahead of time should forestall most difficulties.
4. We are to be good workmen for the Lord and do our work as well as possible. This includes a baptism event that is both culturally and Biblically in harmony. We must take pride in baptizing as in any other task that we may do for the Lord.
- I. THE FIRST ARRANGEMENTS WITH THE CANDIDATE
- A. Assure them that the immersion can be easily arranged.
B. Learn if the candidate fears water. Address that issue.
C. Have the candidate view a baptism, if possible.
D. Tell them what to wear and bring. Remember the TOWELS. Using baptismal garments provided by the church will discourage the use of shorts and swim wear. These are not appropriate.
E. Set a time that is mutually agreeable.
F. Find out if they mind that others are present.
G. Discuss the Good Confession before the baptism session.
- II. THE PLACE OF BAPTISM
- A. Outside of US. Check with local authorities to see that it is safe for a US resident to enter the water, else use a swimming pool or a baptistry. Some lakes and rivers are infected with bilharzia or schistosomiasis, deadly to a westerner.
- B. River. Check the location ahead of time. Baptizing in the river is more dangerous than other places. Always immerse with the candidate’s head upstream or the current may pull them away from you. It is always a good idea to have a helper.
- C. Lakes. Be watchful for quicksand on the shore and rubbish such as bottles in the water.
- D. Swimming pools. These are excellent places to baptize.
- E. Institutions. Hospitals and nursing homes often have suitable tubs or therapy pools. Unless a person is a ward of the court, they have a right to be baptized, regardless of who is paying their bill.
- F. Church building baptistries.
1. The area should be warmed. Allow sufficient lead time. Arrange with the person in charge of the building and the baptistery.
2. The water should be clear.
3. The water should be warmed. Allow sufficient time.
4. The water level should be adequate for the candidate. Some candidates require more water than others.
5. The person doing the baptizing should either know how to use the baptistry or should work closely with someone who does.
6. Be aware of the seriousness of the legal liability for any injuries connected with baptizing.
- III. THE SPECIAL CASES
- A. The heart Patient. It is especially important to have the water at the correct temperature. Cold water dilates the blood vessels, causing the heart to pump harder. It is best to have a nurse on hand. Extreme patients are not to walk up stairs. Baptizing in a chair may be indicated.
- B. The Tracheotomy. It is best to have a nurse available and to go over the immersion procedures several times.
- C. The Colostomy. It is best to have a nurse available.
- D. Those who can’t walk. Baptizing in a chair is usually suitable for these cases.
- E. Those who have colds. Cold should not be worsened by immersion if the areas are properly heated.
- F. The pregnant. While women in the final three months of pregnancy are sometimes reluctant to be immersed, there is no recognized medical reason why they can't be baptized.
- G. Those who fear water. This problem is quite common and must be coped with by assurances. Fears do not respond well to intellectual treatment or ridicule.
- IV. STANDARD INSTRUCTIONS
- A. The audience. It is best to select someone to be in charge or the mood of the group may move to some other concern. Songs or Scripture reading or explanation to visitors are all in order at this point.
- B. Physical instructions to the candidate.
1. Dresses. They must be pinned or they will float.C. Spiritual instructions to the candidate.
2. Show how to hold the wrist and nose. Have them do it once.
3. "Please don’t help me."
4. "I’ll help you get your sense of direction back and help you out of the water. Then you can dress and we will meet for prayer. You can pray or not, just as you choose."
1. Discuss the Confession of Christ again so they will understand when you ask the question in public.
2. Call attention to the burial of Jesus.
3. Call attention to the freedom from guilt.
- V. THE IMMERSION
- Help the candidate down the stairs and warn them of any irregular steps.
A. If the water is cold. Tell the candidate about this ahead of time. Tell them to put water on the back of their neck. Remind them that the tomb was cold. Take their confession before entering the water.
B. Position the person correctly in the baptistry with reference to your stronger arm and their height.
C. They must be held by the neck, never the back. Never through hair.
D. The immersion moment. You must step to the right (or left) if the water is shallow or the person is heavy. Failing to do this, you may drop the candidate.
E. Floaters. Due to their cell structure, some candidates float and this cannot be determined ahead of time. Be prepared for this possibility and plan to exert greater effort to baptize these floaters.
F. What to say. Biblically, nothing is actually required. For the sake of the candidate and the audience, I like the following statement: “I now baptize you in the Name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit for the remission of your sins. Buried with Christ . . . raised to walk in the newness of life."
G. Responses to expect. None, or crying or "speaking in tongues," or joy or irrelevant comments.
H. Leaving the baptistry. Help them up the stairs.
I. The observer. It may be more satisfactory to have an observer on hand to agree that the person was, in fact, totally immersed. In that rare instance where I have not completely immersed the person, I do so again immediately and without asking them to agree. I just tell them what the problem is and how we’re going to solve it.
J. Assure the new Christian that water from their clothes will not harm the carpets or floor.
- VI. AFTER THE BAPTISM
- A. Meet for prayer. “Calling on the Name of the Lord.”
B. Assure the person that this is the best decision they have ever made.
C. If you give out a baptismal certificate, do not fill in the birth date. That is a legal matter.
D. Be sure to integrate the new Christian into the fellowship, helping them to get acquainted and to be taught in the Word. Baptism is only the beginning of the Christian life, not the object of it.
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