Why Would Anyone Be Baptized in the Middle of the Night?
by Ken Gardner

It’s not all that unusual in churches of Christ for baptisms to occur in the middle of the night—although baptizing someone in the wee hours of the morning probably seems unusual if not downright strange to many of our religious neighbors.

Why do we baptize people at night? A far better questions to ask is, are we baptizing people as the Bible instructs? As we read the New Testament, we learn that the time of day that an individual is baptized is not important. Usually the time of day is not even mentioned; it’s only mentioned when it’s unusual. What is mentioned is the urgency of baptism. It just stands to reason that if baptism is essential to salvation, then believers should be baptized immediately. If a person becomes a Christian when he is baptized, and not before, then clearly a believer ought to be baptized just as soon as possible when he comes to believe that Jesus is the Son of God and recognizes the necessity of baptism.

That’s exactly what happened in New Testament times. When Peter preached that first gospel sermon in Acts 2, convincing his hearers that the man they had crucified was the Son of God, they were “cut to the heart” and asked what they ought to do. Peter told them to “repent and be baptized every one of you for the remission of sins,” and those who “gladly received his word were baptized”—some three thousand believers (Acts 2:36-41). Unquestionably, they were baptized immediately.

In Acts 8, when the Samaritans “believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women” (v. 12). There’s no mention of any delay—they believed and they were baptized. Notice also that they were men and women, not babies.

Philip also preached to the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:26-40). The two of them were traveling, riding in a chariot, and when they came upon a body of water, the nobleman asked to be baptized right then and there. He stopped the chariot and both he and the preacher went down into the water, and the preacher baptized him. Notice that they both went down into the water—entirely unnecessary if baptism were only sprinkling or pouring.

When Ananias preached to Paul, he urged him to be baptized immediately: “And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name” (Acts 22:16).

Cornelius and his family and friends (Acts 10:47-48), Lydia and her family (Acts 16:14-15), the Philippian jailer and his family (Acts 16:32-33)—they were all baptized at once, just as soon as they heard the gospel, believed on Jesus, and understood their need to be baptized. There is never a mention, in the entire New Testament, of anyone delaying their baptism. The Philippian jailor and his family were even baptized in the middle of the night:

32 And they [Paul and Silas] spoke the word of the Lord to him [jailor] and to all who were in his house. 33 And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family. (Acts 16:32-33)

Notice that they were baptized “at once” and at night.

Obviously, it’s not the case that we only baptize at night or that we prefer to baptize at night. We prefer to baptize individuals when they believe, repent, confess their faith in Jesus, and realize the necessity of immersion (that’s what baptism is) for the forgiveness of sins. Peter says that baptism “saves us” (1 Pe. 3:21), and Paul says the new life begins when we are baptized (Rom. 6:1-4).

None of us knows how his life will end, but it’s quite possible that I may see death coming. If it should be case that I’m lying in a hospital bed surrounded by my family, knowing I have only a day or two to live, I don’t want to be worrying if my baptism was scriptural or not. I want to enjoy that time with my family, telling them how much they have meant to me, and I want to be able to face death with confidence, looking forward to my “long” home (Eccl. 12:5 KJV), that is, my eternal home with my Father.