When Should My Child Be Baptized?

As parents who are followers of Jesus Christ, we love our children and want them to follow Christ for all of their days. For our children to follow Christ means everything to believing parents as it is the difference between heaven and hell itself (yes, there’s still many people who believe in this “old-fashioned” idea). And baptism is a big step for anyone’s journey with Christ, including children.

The Significance of Baptism

Baptism is the time when grandparents, extended family, and friends come together to celebrate God’s goodness and mercy. Baptism is a celebration of your personal spiritual journey because it pictures the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ (Romans 6:1-4). Baptism is special because it advertises your faith in Christ to everyone around you (Matthew 28:19-20). And baptism is serious because is the entrance into the Lord’s Supper and many of the meaningful practices of the church, including church membership for many churches.

Many children raised in a believing home profess faith in Christ at an early age. Yet, just because your son or daughter professes faith in Christ doesn’t mean that you should automatically baptize him or her immediately. Baptism is a big deal and it is important for children to know why they are being baptized.

Baptized Too Early?

To baptize someone when they do not profess faith in Christ seriously undermines the entire sweep of the New Testament. For many young adults today, their memories of being baptized are fuzzy because they happened when they were so young. While some children are truly converted to Christ and baptized as early as five or six years of age, for most children this has more to do with the parent’s faith than the child’s faith. We must remember that the brain and psyche develop with age where some of our youngest memories fade over time. While many of the stats of young adults leaving the Christian faith are overhyped, many young adults do drop out of church. No doubt they drop out for a variety of reasons and no parent can do anything to absolutely guarantee that their children will continue with Christ into adult years. Nevertheless, parents should shepherd their children carefully, intentionally, and thoughtfully. And one of the primary places a believing parent should pay attention to is their child’s baptism. I’m afraid some people have experienced baptism when they didn’t fully express faith in Christ.

green lightWhile the Bible doesn’t present a one size fits all position on baptizing children who are raised in believing households, the Bible does present red lights and green lights when it comes to baptizing your children. Let’s start with the red lights first as I’ll be advocating a middle-ground approach to two extremes of practice in working with children.

Why a Parent Should Wait Before Baptizing their Child

1. Wait if You or Your Child Thinks Baptism Saves. Only faith in Christ and turning from your sins saves a person (John 3:14-15; Acts 2:37-38). Saving faith is this: trust in Jesus Christ to save you from the penalty your sins deserve (Romans 10:17).

If your child thinks baptism saves, you should definitely wait and teach your son or daughter about the importance of faith. If you think baptism saves, I encourage you to read Scripture passages such as John 3:1-21, Acts 2, and the book of Galatians.

2. Wait if Your Child is Simply Wanting to Please You. Younger Children often want to please their parents (if only this was constant during the teenage years!). During these younger years (often when a child’s age is nine years old or younger), they are more susceptible to fear and pressure from authority figures. Genuine conversion can happen when a child is young but so can manipulation. God forbid something as important and precious as faith in Christ be manipulated.

3. Wait if You Are Going to Stop Discipling Your Child After Baptism. There is a natural joy when your children express faith in Christ. Yet, for many parents, they do very little to encourage their child’s practice of Christianity and the spiritual disciplines (e.g. Bible reading, praying, stewardship, etc.) after their baptism. It’s as if “the finish line” is baptism and there’s nothing important to do with your faith after you “cross the tape.” Keep pursuing Christ alongside your child after she is baptized. Too many parents take their foot off the pedal when it comes to their children’s discipleship after baptism. 

4. Wait if Your Child Thinks Santa Brings Christmas Presents. If your child thinks Santa is responsible for bringing the gifts under the Christmas tree, then your child is probably too young too be baptized. There is an age when children are too young to make an authentic and credible profession of faith. And one of the best markers I’ve discovered is to wait until after your son and daughter no longer think Santa is real.

I don’t pretend to know for sure when children reach maturity, but I know they’re too young to comprehend the cost of following Christ at this stage. Give yourself and other believers at your church sometime to see independent thinking in your child’s life. 

Why a Parent Should Baptize their Child

1.Baptism is Commanded by Jesus Himself. One of the last things Jesus said before leaving the earth was to command His followers to evangelize, baptize, and then continue discipling people of all colors, ages, and tribes (Matthew 28:18-20). Baptism pictures a person’s union with Christ (Colossians 2:11-12). So parents are commanded to follow through with baptism as they would any other command in the Bible.

2. When You’ve Consulted Your Pastors. Many churches have a special class to help your child in expressing his faith in Christ. Take time to consult your church’s children’s pastor, your child’s Bible study leader, and other mature believers who interact with child regularly.

Be careful though that you do not overly depend on the class to tell you when a child is ready. Conversion happens at the Holy Spirit’s timing and not at a certain age (John 3:8). Do not trust in a class but trust in the Holy Spirit to save your son or daughter.

3. The Bible Doesn’t Present Unbaptized Christians. When you read the New Testament, you see that believers are immediately baptized upon professing faith in Christ. To say that another way, when people receive Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord they were baptized right away (see Acts 2 as an example). And this should be our model today.

Take care at this point for the New Testament doesn’t show us specific examples of an elementary school aged children who come to receive Christ. While, we need to be careful not to set up “probationary times” for believers where they feel they must prove their faith to others, we must also take specific care not to green light every child’s whimsical notion to be baptized simply because their cousin was recently baptized. Parents and pastors must take steps to not squelch a child’s genuine expression of faith by not demanding from children more than can be reasonably expected at their age.

4. When There’s Evidence of Conversion. Parents should look for evidence of their child’s conversion. And when it’s possible, wait to see if other believing and trusted adults confirm the presence of God’s Spirit as well. All parents have blind spots when it comes to their kids. Parents should recognize baptism is for believers only and only the passage of time shows that anyone (young or old) is a true believer (Luke 8:4-15).

Here are some helpful signs to look before baptizing your child:
1. Do they read their Bible without being told?

2. Do they have a burden and conviction because of their sins.

3. Do they trust God even when life is bad?

4. Do they pray for people on their own?

5. Do you see humility in their lives?

6. Do they display a love for Christ.

The Power of God’s Word: A 9 Week Study of Romans

Edgar sat under the only tree he could find. Serving in the Peace Corp had been a dream of his for years. He could still remember the naive idealism of his late teens when he signed up. When his assignment arrived, he was elated to go to Africa. He had visited Europe through the years on family vacations. His father was a native to Great Britain while his mother’s roots were from Oregon. The two had split up years ago, so traveling to see his father in Europe during the summers had allowed him to travel more than many other young men his age. But experiencing Africa was something different altogether. He was looking forward to putting his altruistic intentions into practice among the native, rugged land of the bush.

Edger was eager to learn new ideas and a new language, but while he was on foreign soil, he discovered something more than a new language; he hadn’t counted on discovering faith. Edgar had encountered real Christians for the first time in his young life. He had visited a few small, fundamentalist churches back in the United States with friends, but he was able to laugh off the caricature of faith these churches represented without any real thought. His experience was different now as he interacted with Christians who were native to the South Sudan. Among them was his new friend, Kuol, a bright, energetic Christian who patiently explained the basic elements of the Christian faith with remarkable clarity. Instead of finding the subject of religion boring, Edgar was moved to earnestly explore faith for the first time. He found Kuol’s hope to profoundly ironic. In a place of so much suffering, the South Sudanese Christians displayed a mysterious joy; similar to the negro spirituals arising from Christian slaves who suffered cruelty upon cruelty. There was an other worldly hope on the faces of the Sudanese people. When he asked where he could learn more about Christianity, Kuol surprisingly told him to read the New Testament book of Romans.

So Edgar found himself sitting under the only tree he could find in the early evening hours of a hot day in March. There he sat reading a tattered copy of the New Testament book of Romans, the only copy in English he could find. And he was surprisingly intrigued by it. He felt the naive idealism of his youth slowly fading over the past months as he confronted the evil effects of a civil war. Paul’s letter to the Roman Christians powerfully moved him as it offered a substantive explanation of what motivates people in the midst of the moral chaos of civil war. Edgar found the letter to be cogently written and warmly engaging.

He had put off by Christians in the past, but it was different this time. It was shortly after finishing his third reading of this ancient letter that he began exploring God and the Bible through rich conversations with Kuol. Edgar soon found himself on the path of discovering God’s love. And much of his newfound faith had to do with this letter where Paul explained God’s workings through Jesus Christ. Bible study has a powerful effect upon the mind and the lives of people everywhere. What Edgar experienced in his personal life has been replicated throughout the past two millennia. Time and time again, the Bible in general and the book of Romans in particular has both ignited and transformed people’s lives in numerous ways.

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Beginning last Wednesday evening, September 25, I started a nine week journey through the letter called Romans. This is not my first time teaching and studying the book of Romans. I have found the book to be amazingly relevant despite the yawning gulf between the Roman Empire and our day. Let me suggest at least four ways you will profit by studying the New Testament book of Romans.

1. The Bible is God’s way of changing you. When you go to read the Bible, the Bible is also reading you. It’s a book with eyes as God’s Word is alive (Hebrews 4:12). Like no other book on your shelf, the Bible’s uniqueness shines through again and again because God Himself uses it to change lives. Whether you read it in prison or on a cruise ship, the Bible is God’s way to change you.

2. Romans stretches your intellect. It is not always a straightforward text. In certain places, Romans is quite difficult to understand. Despite its challenges, the letter is immensely interesting as it touches on the vital touchstones and perplexities of life. A systematic study of Paul’s letter to the Romans will stretch your faith.

3. Romans’ history.  Augustine of Hippo was born on a small farm in what is now known as Algeria. During his younger days he was addicted to his sexual passions. But his mother, Monica, prayed for him. During the summer of 386, he heard Bishop Ambrose preach. It was there that he went to the garden in order to be alone with his burning struggle in his soul. Like Edgar above, Augustine sat down under a fig tree. It was then he heard these words: “Suddenly I heard a voice from a nearby house chanting as if it might be a boy of girl … saying and repeating over and over again ‘Pick up and read, Pick up and read’ … I interpreted it solely as a divine command to me to open the book and read the first chapter I might find…. So I hurried back to the place where … I had put down the book of the apostle when I got up. I seized it, opened it and in silence read the first passage on which my eye lit: ‘Not in riots and drunken parties, not in eroticism and indecencies, not in strife and rivalry, but put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh and its lusts’ (Romans 13:13-14). I neither wished nor needed to read further.  At once, with the last words of this sentence, it was as if a light of relief from all anxiety flooded into my heart.  All the shadow of doubt were dispelled.”

4. Romans will introduce you to God’s marvelous grace. Even a quick read of Romans captivates you with God’s love and mercy. God’s grace rises to Himalayan heights in page after page. Despite our sin against God, He offers a wide mercy to sinners. Here are two glimpses: 

“He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things” (Romans 8:32)?

“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).

Programming Note: NRHBC offers a wide variety of discipleship courses on Wednesdays nights this fall. For a list, please visit www.nrhbc.org/courses. I hope to see you on Wednesdays this fall.

A Pastor’s Letter to a Muslim

Earlier today I wrote a letter in response to a man who worships with our church and who also presents himself as a Muslim. The gentlemen is kind and caring; he is always smiling when I see him. He writes of our distinct faiths (Christianity and Islam) but he also mentions we worship the same God. I have dealt with the mistaken notion that Christians, Muslims, and Jews all worship the same God here, but wanted to share with my friend about the distinctive nature of God’s grace.

It’s not often that a pastor has the privilege of writing people of other faiths. In an age of so-called tolerance, few of us possess the civility to talk about the differences in what we believe. Too much of the time we talk past one another and shout over one another on TV talk shows. This is unfortunate and hurts the free expression of our faith. I thought I would share the contents of the letter with you.

Please note: the names presented in letter below have been changed.

Dear Mubid,

Thank you for your kind letter. I am so pleased that you are worshipping with us at North Richland Hills Baptist Church. We are, as you mentioned in your letter, devoted to making sure God’s Word prevails and our desire is to love others as we endeavor to connect all people with the grace of Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I want you to feel at home in our church and I am so happy to hear of how you have felt welcomed by our church. My prayer is that we show you every kindness. My hope is that you find our church family welcoming, friendly, and warm for years to come.

You mentioned in your letter that, “The belief in Jesus is fundamental to embrace Islam.” We as a congregation are eager for everyone to come to know Jesus Christ personally and experience God’s free gift of salvation that is available only through faith in his Son, Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9). Since even our best moral efforts cannot make us acceptable to the one true and perfect God, we strive to share the message that all people are far worse than they have imagined but they are also far more loved than they can comprehend. Allow me to explain this last sentence.

You mentioned the distinct faiths of Islam and Christianity. One thing that I am praying you to experience while you are with us is God’s grace. The Bible speaks of the “riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:7). Grace is an unusual thing and it is a “big deal” for Christians. God’s grace causes believers in Christ to be humble people because they have not earned God’s favor but have received God’s mercy as a gift. God’s grace is a gift as God Himself gives it to people. Grace is where God treats people with goodness and mercy when they deserve only punishment. Instead of receiving what we deserve, God shows His kindness toward sinners. When we have received His kindness through Christ, how can we be anything other than humble toward others?

The Bible clearly states, “For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:20). And this a fundamental difference between Islam and Christianity. Because of Christ’s death on the cross for my sins, Christians can be absolutely certain they are forgiven. Allow me to say that again: because of Christ’s death on the cross for my sins, Christians can be absolutely certain they are forgiven. A Christian’s certainty of God’s acceptance is not because they are righteous or because they are good. Instead, our certainty rests solely in the death and resurrection of Jesus alone.

There are numerous laws in the Qur’an as there are in the Bible. The law in the Bible acts much like a mirror. The law shows us our sins like a mirror shows us what we truly are. Again, the law acts like a mirror so we see our sinfulness. Once we see our sin, we know we need a Savior.

Again, it is my prayer that you experience the grace of God for His grace is reserved only for those who trust in Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection as the payment for their sin (John 14:6; Acts 4:12). Because Jesus was both God and man, His sinless life and death stands in the place of sinners who place their faith in Him. Only God can grant forgiveness of sins and Jesus had the right to forgive us (John 1:12). Again, I want you to experience the grace of God. I want you to experience the sweet life where you know the God of heaven loves you and accepts you based on the death of His Son. I want you to experience the grace of God so you will be free to love others from the love you have experienced in Christ.

Thank you for taking time to read my letter. You are kind and thoughtful and we are so glad you are with us. I would like to sit down with you and enjoy a cup of coffee with you in the days to come. This would give us more time to talk. Please know I will be praying for you.

May Christ richly bless you,

Scott Maze

Pastor

North Richland Hills Baptist Church