Questions From Readers
● Is baptism necessary for a person who wants to be immersed but whose very poor health or old age would make that risky?
The Bible shows that baptism by complete immersion is very important. So even when unusual steps are necessary because of a person’s condition, he should be baptized if at all possible.
The resurrected Jesus told his disciples: “Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them . . . , teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded you.” (Matt. 28:19, 20) Yes, those who learned the will of God and dedicated themselves to serve him were to be immersed completely in water, just as Jesus himself was baptized. (The Greek word baptízein means “to dip, submerge, immerse.”) Concerning the army officer Cornelius and his family, we read: “[Peter] commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.”—Acts 10:48.
In modern times Jehovah’s Witnesses have arranged for baptisms at conventions. The actual baptism might be in a nearby pool, lake or river where there is enough water for complete immersion. (Compare Acts 8:38.) But some persons, though wanting to be thus baptized, have been unable physically to attend an assembly. So, fully valid baptisms have even been performed locally in large home bathtubs. This has been helpful to those with a heart condition, of advanced age or with especially frail health. The tub water could be warmed and thus present no strain on the person. And the candidate could very calmly and gradually be placed in the water. Once acclimated to it, the actual baptism could occur.
But what about extraordinary cases? Even in many of these immersion has been possible. Persons with open wounds or permanent holes in the throat have been baptized. The wound was covered with a piece of plastic and briefly sealed at the edges with tape. Also, there have been baptisms of persons who need to use a mechanical respirator. Arrangements were made for a doctor or a trained nurse to help. The paralyzed person was moved into the water while he breathed through a tube and mouthpiece. Then, for the moment of baptism, the mouthpiece was taken out, the rest of the body submerged and, immediately upon coming above the surface, the mouthpiece was replaced. Such cases illustrate that, even though special care or precautions may be needed, in almost all cases baptisms can be performed.
Of course, it might be that in some extreme case baptism would seem absolutely impossible for the time being. Then we trust that our merciful heavenly Father will understand and approve of that willing person who has made a dedication in his heart. (Ps. 103:13, 14; Lam. 3:22) “Jehovah himself examines the righteous one. . . . The upright are the ones that will behold his face.” (Ps. 11:5, 7) Thus we can be confident that, where it is physically impossible to baptize a newly dedicated person, Jehovah will regard the situation mercifully.
● If Peter was never in Corinth, why did some there claim to ‘belong to Cephas (Peter),’ and why is that account in the Bible?
It is true that the Bible gives no indication that the apostle Peter was ever in Corinth. Yet the apostle Paul wrote to that congregation: “Each one of you says: ‘I belong to Paul,’ ‘But I to Apollos,’ ‘But I to Cephas,’ ‘But I to Christ.’”—1 Cor. 1:12.
Paul had heard that some there were giving way to dissension, lining up behind the names of prominent Christians. Both Paul and Apollos had been in Corinth. So some there may have championed one or the other of them because of having learned much from them, because of their personality or because of their teaching abilities.
But why would some say that they belonged to Peter, who apparently was never in Corinth? It is not impossible that some had learned about Peter and his use of the “keys of the kingdom of the heavens.” (Matt. 16:18,19) Hence, certain ones in Corinth may have taken up Peter’s name as if his view of Christianity was closer to Judaism and different from Paul’s, who emphasized that Christians are not under the Mosaic law. (Gal. 2:15-21; 4:8-11) Peter had been prominent in introducing Jews and Jewish proselytes to Christianity before the Way was opened to Samaritans and Gentiles. And at one time in Antioch Peter did manifest an unbalanced concern for the attitudes of Jewish Christians, for which Paul had to correct him. (Gal. 2:11-14) Thus in the climate of dissension that existed in Corinth, some may have espoused Cephas as if that was a brand of Christianity different from those who took up Paul’s name.
Under inspiration Paul rightly condemned such dissension. He helped the Corinthians to reason on the fact that Christ was not divided. Though Paul was especially ‘entrusted with the good news for those who were uncircumcised and Peter for those who were circumcised,’ the former concentrating on the Gentiles and the latter on the Jews, their basic message was the same. (Gal. 2:7, 8; Eph. 4:4-6) They were not divided as to their teaching nor their objectives. Both Peter and Paul had contributed to the conference in Jerusalem (49 C.E.), where it was seen that Gentile converts did not have to get circumcised and keep the Law. (Acts 15:7-14) And Peter even termed Paul “our beloved brother” whose writings were important along with “the rest of the Scriptures.” (2 Pet. 3:15, 16) Hence, there was no justification for the dissension in Corinth.
This account was included in the Bible as warning counsel. Today, too, little cliques or groups could develop in a congregation. For instance, some may be evaluated as liberal thinkers and may associate mainly with one another or with a Christian elder who they feel exemplifies their outlook. Others could be considered by the first group as more conservative in their approach to matters, or to seek the counsel and espouse the view of elders whose style they like. Such a situation can generate an unhealthy spirit of division and disunity. Imperfect humans are all too prone to lean toward those who will tickle their ears or egos. But God’s advice is that wisdom rests in the multitude of counselors, who should contribute their knowledge of God’s Word and their experience in applying it.—Prov. 15:22.