A visitor to this website writes: “I had a friend who was dying with cancer, who was paralyzed and hooked up to tubes. She had never been baptized but she wanted to be. Given her immobility, a Church of Christ minister baptized her by pouring water over her head. She died shortly afterward. I feel responsible for the baptism and agonize in fear that it wasn’t acceptable to God because it was not immersion.”
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I am persuaded that immersion is the biblical form of baptism, that it best represents the meaning of the Greek word baptizo and that it most vividly portrays the gospel proclamation of death, burial and resurrection (Rom. 6:3-5; Col. 2:12). It is also true, however, that God does not demand the impossible, that his mercy covers breaches in technicalities and that he regards the true intent of the heart as an accomplished deed (2 Cor. 8:12; 2 Chron. 30:17-20; Heb. 11:17).
The penitent bandit who was crucified alongside the Lord exemplifies the extent of Christ’s ability to save (Luke 23:39-43). Nailed hand and foot to a wooden stake, that man could not have complied if Jesus had commanded only that he fold his hands in worship or bend his knees in prayer. Yet, seeing the man’s heart of repentance and faith, Jesus assured him of his own divine companionship in the world to come. The Gospel reports that story for a reason — and it is not intended as a trick question concerning dispensationalism!
If your friend truly repented of sin and trusted Jesus as Savior, an emergency baptism which was formally defective could not prevent her salvation. (Millions of Christians would not regard pouring as defective at all; I am in the minority here.) If she believed in her heart and confessed that faith with her mouth, she is truly and eternally saved (Rom. 10:9-10). We are saved by grace — not by baptism — and through faith — not through baptism (Eph. 2:8-9). Baptism is important, but Jesus is greater than baptism.