Vol.XIV No.III Pg.7
May 1977

?You Know What?

Robert F. Turner

Bro. Turner:

What of death bed conversion where baptism isn't possible? Is such valid? Does 1 Cor. 15:29 apply? A.T.


So-called "death bed" conversions, even assuming they are truly changes, are simply changes of heart late in life. The "death bed" part terms to add an emotional factor that may confuse the whole issue. Some seem to think the "dying breath" will make the change more genuine; but it seems one could argue with equal or greater strength that the opposite is true. If "it is hardly the time to lie" it is also "hardly the time to pass up a straw" that may affect our destiny.

And regardless of the genuineness of the change of mind or desire, one must ask if the scriptures teach that a change of mind alone is the point at which God promises forgiveness of past sins and a change of state. We are not contending that baptism is the means of forgiveness — any more than faith is the means of forgiveness. Neither earns the desired results. But if we are to trust God's word in the matter — and what else is there to trust for such information — we must conclude that remission of sins is at the point of baptism, and not before. Read carefully Acts 2:38; Mk. 16:16, Acts 22:16, Rom. 6:3-4, etc.

Jesus said, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved." "AND" is a coordinating conjunction — there are TWO things named here, and other elements in complete "conversion" are named elsewhere. There are no scriptures that name "faith only" as the single requirement of conversion. We are "justified by faith" (Rom. 5:1), but in such passages "faith" (trust) is used in an inclusive sense — the attitude or frame of mind toward Jesus Christ by which all of His commands must be obeyed. We do His bidding, trusting not in ourselves, but in His sacrifice on our behalf. James says "faith without works is dead" (Jas. 2:20-26).

Can we not "throw God's mantle of grace" over such cases? What God does with such cases is His business. It is certainly not my prerogative to cast His "mantle" — whatever that is. According to His word, He exercised His grace in giving us His Son. He teaches us by His grace (Titus 2:11-) and His teaching says that remission of sins and the new state are at the point of baptism rather than before. That is all I have the right to tell any man, healthy — sick — or dying.

ALL MEN ARE DYING, and our concern should be expressed in keeping with the word of God while they are yet able to accept and obey Him. There is no valid reason to believe that a "death bed" wish that one had gotten married, gone to Cincinnati or had obeyed the gospel, can make a husband, Buckeye visitor, or Christian.

1 Cor. 15:30 is a continuing part of v. 29; i.e., those "baptized for the dead" stand in jeopardy because of their deed. They have been baptized (on behalf of their own coming death, in preparation for judgment), and their acceptance of Christ, brings persecution upon them. This teaches us to be baptized before death.