I was recently asked a question that caused me to consider what God’s word says about it. And well, I should. That question was, “What about deathbed conversions?” My first reaction was to consider every instance of these found in the Bible. This was a problem because I could not find a single event that qualified. You might ask, “What about the thief on the cross next to Jesus? He was saved.” Yes, this was a saving situation at the point of death, but it also preceded the advent of the church Christ died for and established on the day of Pentecost some seven weeks later.
The gospel of Mark tells us “he who believes and has been baptized shall be saved (16:16).” Peter uses the wording “baptism now saves you’ in 1 Peter 3:21. Let me ask you this. Are you a ‘baptized believer’? The question implies two possible conditions, the first is that one can be a believer and the second is a believer who has been baptized. The amount of time between believer and baptized believer, as recorded in scripture, appears to be minimal. Let’s look at a few. Acts 2:41 records the actions of those who heard Peter’s first Gospel sermon; “those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls.” In Acts 8, we find the Ethiopian encountering Philip while on his way home. Philip began at the same text the Ethiopian was reading and began to preach Jesus to him. In verse 36 the Ethiopian exclaims, “Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?” It was followed up on by the Ethiopian being baptized. Read about Cornelius in Acts 10. Read about Lydia in Acts 16:14, 15. In that same chapter we read about Paul and Silas role in answering their jailor’s question “what must I do to be saved?”, eventually teaching him and his household, seeing them respond by being baptized (Acts 16:33). These are but a few examples of individual conversions in the early church.
Friend, a believer will always seek to be baptized, if they use the scripture as their guide! This is because their belief, their faith is based on the total teaching of scripture rather than singular verses. If we allow single verses to support a teaching when additional related passages are available as well, multiple positions for any belief will result. Scriptures that are ignored are done so to the spiritual peril of the student. Why? Because this will result in man-made doctrines often contradicting and setting aside commands of God. (cf. Mark 7:7-8) My appeal to you is to seek the whole counsel of God in His word and encourage others to do so as well.
Copyright © 2011, Nolan P. Rutter