Baptism for children
@ Perry Hall
“Go, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” Matthew 28:19
Do we baptize infants? Why not?
At Perry Hall, we believe the Bible teaches that baptism is for believers (Matthew 28:19, Acts 2:38, 9:36-37, 16:31-34). When a child is old enough to understand and place their faith in Christ for salvation, we do baptize him or her when they and their parents decide they are ready.
The one passage that is often used to defend infant baptism is Acts 16:31-34 where a new convert’s entire family was baptized. While it does not say whether or not there were any infants in the home, it does say that they spoke about the Lord “to all who were in his house” (which you wouldn’t do to an infant) and that “all his family was baptized… having believed in God with all his household.” So rather than teaching infant baptism, the passage argues for believer baptism which may include children.
What does baptism mean?
Baptism does not save, but it is a command of Christ that we obey after we have placed our faith in Him. So first, baptism is an act of obedience – we do so because Jesus said so and to follow His example. Second, baptism is an act of identification. It identifies us with Christ who was baptized (Matthew 3:13), and with all his followers throughout history and around the world, and especially with those in this local Church (1 Corinthians 12:12-13). And third, baptism is an illustration.
It pictures Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection on our behalf – when we go down under the water, it pictures His death and burial, and when we come up out of the water, it pictures His resurrection (Romans 6:3-6). Baptism is also a beautiful picture of our new life in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17, Galatians 2:20).
When is my child ready to be baptized?
Like any other person, your child must be a believer in Christ before being baptized. The man whose entire family was saved and baptized in the story above asked Paul what he had to do to be saved, and Paul replied, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). Another man asked Philip what he had to do to be baptized, and he replied, “If you believe with all your heart, you may” (Acts 8:37).
When your child is old enough to understand his or her sin and guilt before God, and to understand Christ’s sacrificial death in their place on the cross, and has placed their faith in Christ and committed their life to Him to your satisfaction, you and your child may consider believer’s baptism. The Bible does talk about receiving salvation with child-like faith (Mark 10:15)!
We do baptize children at PHBC who are old enough to understand and receive salvation. Jesus said in that same passage, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them, for of such is the kingdom of God” (Mark 10:14). So how could we possibly refuse them? But how old is old enough? Each child is different, and you as a parent certainly know better than anyone your child’s heart. Are they just copying someone else or interested in being in the water or in front of the Church? Or do they really understand salvation and the symbolism of baptism and genuinely want to obey Christ’s command? They may bring up the subject after a baptismal service or you may bring it up. You certainly will want to explain to them in terms that they will understand what baptism means from the paragraph above. When you are satisfied that they have trusted Christ for salvation and are ready for believer’s baptism, please call the Church office and we will schedule them for a consultation with a Pastor or children’s worker to see if they are indeed ready.
When they are ready, your child’s baptism will be an unforgettable memory for both you and your child and an important step in their walk with Christ! If you and your child or children are interested in following the Lord in believer’s baptism at PHBC, please contact the office at 410.256.8880 or firstname.lastname@example.org.