“At what age should I baptize my son?” A woman asked about her seven year old. To which the pastor responded, “When your son can make a credible confession of faith in Jesus Christ all on his own without coaching or help from you as a parent.”
This is a question many parents ask. When in doubt, it is best to delay baptism and continue the dialogue with your children until they fully understand salvation and are desiring, on their own, to be baptized.
Each of my children approached me around age seven, all on their own, and said they wanted to be baptized. I had the conversation with each of them and each time the conversation ended without a firm decision about baptism. I wanted them to really think about it. For each of them we had this conversation about 3 or 4 times (always prompted by my child) before I felt they were making a credible confession without my coaching.
Currently I am having this continued dialogue with my fourth child. And, again, this child is seven. There is something magical about the age of seven. I don’t know if Ben will be baptized this Sunday, but I am allowing him to feel this out for himself, and he will be baptized when he is ready.
If your child wants to be baptized and you are not sure your child is ready, we can meet together and talk about it with your child and discern, together, if your son or daughter is ready.
And perhaps it is you; perhaps you as a parent or an adult have not been baptized following up belief. Perhaps you were in a Catholic or a Lutheran Church, as I was as a baby, and did not make the decision on your own.
I faced this dilemma at age 20. A woman named Judy Pitt asked me if I had been baptized. I said, “Yes, as a baby.” She said, “Ryan, that’s not baptism. That was your parents’ decision. But biblically it always follows faith. And you can’t make a profession of faith as a baby.”
I was offended. But I respected Judy, so I was silent on the subject and researched it on my own for months and months. I was at a Lutheran college, so I was surrounded by people who had been baptized as infants. They had learned from Pastors and Religion Professors at St. Olaf College that, “The Philippian jailer was baptized, he and his whole household, which would have included infants. Therefore infant baptism is normal and valid.”
Common sense told me, “There is no mention of infants in Acts 16. So how do you know his whole household included ‘infants’?” No one had a good answer. So about 9 months after my conversation with Judy Pitt, I had an overwhelming conviction I needed to be baptized. So at age 21 I was baptized.
Did you know that everyone in Europe was baptized as an infant from the 7th century to the 16th century? Until people started reading the Bible in their own language and realized baptism always follows faith. And so people were baptized again as adults.
To be “baptized again” is the word “Anabaptism.” Those who were baptized as believers were called “Anabaptists.” They didn’t baptize their babies, and so their children were called “Baptists” for being baptized only once after belief in Jesus.
Did you known that infant baptism was related to State records in Christendom. This was connected to one’s birth certificate and citizenship. This is one reason Luther didn’t change the Catholic doctrine of infant baptism to believer baptism; that and the fact if he did so the Catholics would forever cut Luther off from the Catholic faith. Martin Luther compromised what he believed on this holding out hope that Catholics would come around. He reasoned that baptism doesn’t save you, therefore it is a minor issue and not worth dividing over.
I fully agree with Luther concerning the larger church (Catholics, Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians, Anglicans, etc.) Baptism doesn’t save us, Jesus does. But this doesn’t diminish the fact that the biblical pattern in Scripture is one believes and then after that was baptized.
Luther died before making an official sacramental change in the Lutheran Church, and thus the German State Church of Lutherans continued infant baptism in connection with citizenship as a German.
In the 17th century, there were free churches popping up all over the place; but it was an underground movement. They had Lutheran roots, but they worshiped in homes, in basements, usually in silent prayer and whispers so as not to alert the authorities. They were persecuted and eventually came to America. Today these groups are known as Congregationalists, Baptists, and Evangelical Free.
We, Christians, have a rich history. And seeking to be biblical should be our goal, we should not see this as a legalism (earning salvation), but as discipleship (obey what Jesus commanded). So when we seek to follow Christ as Christians, let us remember Jesus Christ’s words, “Go, therefore, make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I commanded you, and behold I am with you to the end.” (Matthew 28:19-20)
I am not a Baptist Pastor first, I am a biblical Christian who happens to be a Pastor who is part of a biblical church seeking to be biblical, that happens to also have Baptistic roots.
I love you all. I share this because of my love for you and desire that we be disciples of Jesus Christ following Him. Baptism is our public identification with Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection.