If you’ve been around our church at all over the past 2 1/2 years you’ve probably noticed or heard that your pastor has struggled with the idea of baptizing young children. It’s partly due to my own story–baptized at six but not truly born again until 21. It’s partly due to how flippantly many Baptist churches have approached the baptism of kids–instead of being cautious some churches have looked like the wild wild west. And yet because of these reasons and more, I’ve spent the better part of two years being cynical. But isn’t it amazing how God can change even the cynical heart of an insecure pastor?
Recently through my own study of Scripture, the loving counsel of fellow pastors, and the gentle correction from our faithful deacons God has been steadily changing my views on this very important issue. Although nothing I’m about to share with you represents a change on any official position at PBC, they do represent the very real changes in my heart and mind over the past few months.
First, let’s consider what is clear in Scripture about baptism: While the Bible says nothing explicitly about the baptism of children, there are several clear principles of Scripture that can help local churches navigate this sensitive issue. These include the following:
Baptism is for believers. It’s the first step of Christian
discipleship (Matthew 28:18-20), the believer’s public profession of faith
(Acts 2:37-38), and the symbol by which a believer identifies with the
Christian community (Acts 10:47-48).
Baptism does not save, but
is the believer’s public profession of faith that salvation has occurred. An individual does not have to be
baptized to be saved (e.g., the thief on the cross in Luke 23:32-43), but those
who sincerely desire to follow Jesus usually also desire to follow Him in
baptism (Acts 8:34-38, 16:33, 22:16).
Baptism generally occurs quickly
after an individual repents and believes.The early church seemed to baptize as
soon as possible after salvation (Acts 2:41, 8:12-13, 8:34-38, 9:18, 16:33,
Baptism is generally
connected to church membership.
In other words, when someone was baptized, they were also welcomed into a local
church family that would oversee their discipleship (Acts 2:41). The Ethiopian
eunuch who was baptized alone with Philip along a desert road is the one clear
exception (Acts 8:26-40). But this instance appears to be an exception for
pioneer missionary contexts where there is
no local church.
Sometimes the church
baptizes wrongly.Sometimes even well-intentioned churches baptize
individuals who are not truly saved. Consider Simon Magus, who was baptized in
Antioch even though he was later condemned as a false convert (Acts 8:9-23). In
many ways this is unavoidable, since the church cannot see the heart of those
desiring baptism. One of the things Jesus promises to do upon His return is to
separate genuine converts from false ones (Matthew 7:21-23, 13:24-30,
The possibility of false
converts should lead churches to be cautious, but not cynical. Yes, churches should be careful to
examine individuals requesting baptism. However, caution can easily turn into
cynicism. This cynicism can lead us to prevent people from being baptized (cf.,
Acts 8:36, 10:47) until they’ve demonstrated “enough” knowledge or fruit. We
believe that baptism should not be withheld from those (1) with a credible profession of faith (i.e., it’s
believable that this person truly has repented and believed in Christ as Lord
and Savior), (2) with a clear understanding of the Gospel, and (3) with a
desire to unite with this church.
Sometimes entire households
are baptized(Acts 16:15; 1 Corinthians 1:16)This does not mean, as
some claim, that infants were baptized along with their parents. Instead, it
seems more likely to conclude that every member of the household believed and then was baptized (e.g., Acts 11:14, 16:31-34, 18:8). It is not
clear, however, the ages of any of the individuals in these households. Were
children included? The text simply does not say one way or another.
Second, let’s consider what is not clear in Scripture about baptism.Most importantly, how do weapply the above truths to children desiring baptism. Since Scripture is silent regarding the baptism of children, we must rely on principles of Spirit-filled wisdom.
First, we believe children
can be genuinely saved, just like adults. Scripture says “whoever calls upon the name of the Lord
shall be saved” (Romans 10:13), and this certainly can include children (see
also, Matthew 18:3-4, Mark 10:13-16, Acts 2:39, 2 Timothy 3:15).
Second, we believe
children can make false professions of faith, just like adults. However, children of Christian parents
may be more likely to profess faith out of a desire to please mom and dad in a
way that adults would be less tempted. This should lead us to exercise a bit
more caution before baptizing children, but we shouldn’t throw the baby out
with the baptism water and refuse to baptize children entirely. Instead, we
should look for the same three criteria in children that we look for in adults:
(1) a credible profession of faith, (2) a clear understanding of the Gospel,
and (3) a desire to unite with this church.
Third, we believe the
church should be cautious, not cynical. In other words, we should work very carefully with
children to ensure the above three criteria are met. We should err on the side
of patience and caution. But we should not do so in such a way that we are
cynical towards the possibility of a child being ready for baptism and
Finally, we believe the
baptism of children should be connected to church membership. This means that baptized children
should be added to the membership list and placed under the spiritual care and
oversight of the local church. Practically, this also means the following:
parents are the primary earthly authority of young children, the church (and
specifically, the elders) will seek to come alongside the child’s parents as
they seek to disciple their child.
of a membership class, the church will provide basic material for parents to
instruct their children regarding baptism, church membership, etc. Parents are
responsible to teach these truths to their children prior to the child’s
to the child’s baptism, the child will sit down with one or more elders for an
interview. In this interview the child will be asked about his/her
understanding of the Gospel, testimony of conversion, and basic understanding
of what it means to be a part of a church (see #2 above). One or both parents
can be present, but they must be careful to not answer for the child.
the elders interviewing the child believe he/she is ready for baptism, they
will present the child’s testimony to the church for approval. Once the child
has been baptized, he/she will be added to the membership list.
members of the church, baptized children should be encouraged and equipped to
fulfill the duties of membership in age-appropriate ways. These can and should
include faithfulness in attendance, serving, discipleship, and more. However,
members under the age of 18 do not have voting privileges at PBC. In this way
we hope to preserve family unity by avoiding situations where children and
their parental authority could be voting in contradictory ways.
the child remains under his parents’ authority, any need for church discipline
for the child would initially go through
his parents. For example, if a teenage member were caught in unrepentant
fornication, the elders would first address the issue with the parents and
would only proceed towards excommunication (Matthew 18:17) if parental admonitions
to repent had failed.
providentially hindered, every PBC member should complete the Discover Class
before turning 18 years old. This will further prepare the child for the duties
and responsibilities of membership as they transition out from under parental
I hope these words bring light and understanding to you as you read them. And as always, my door is open to you to hear your questions and concerns. Thank you for being patient with me, your pastor, as I strive to be daily transformed to the image of Christ.
This Sunday we’re continuing our sermon series, Faithful Parenting in a Fearful World. Get prepared this Sunday by reading Deuteronomy 6:6-9 and come prepared to learn why the greatest tool for shaping the hearts of children is the Word of God. Learn with us as we discuss four steps to using the tool of God’s Word faithfully.
Reminder: this Sunday is Mother’s Day! We hope you spend some time thanking God for your mom, as well as the women who have been spiritual mothers in your lives. And ladies, don’t leave PBC this Sunday morning before receiving your gift from us. And because of the holiday there will be no evening service this Sunday.
This Sunday we’re continuing our new sermon series, Faithful Parenting in a Fearful World. Get prepared this Sunday by reading Deuteronomy 6:4-6 and come prepared to learn why the heart of parenting is shepherding the heart.
Then at 6PM we’ll be presenting a report from our April Mexico City vision trip. Please join us!
This Sunday we’re launching a brand new sermon series, Faithful Parenting in a Fearful World.
Get prepared for this Sunday by reading Deuteronomy 6 and come prepared to learn why parenting is a community project. In other words, whether you’re single or married, young or old, a parent or not, God’s Word has something you need to hear about the formation of faithful parents. Don’t miss it!
You can get ready for this Sunday by reading Esther 9:20-28. This Sunday we’ll look at the Feast of Purim and the importance of rejoicing and remembering. Great rescues lead to great rejoicing. But the greater the rescue, the greater the need to remember.
Begin to prepare for Sunday’s sermon by reading Mark 5:1-20. I’m excited to invite my friend Mark to preach to us this Sunday about the best place to plant Gospel seed.
Second, on Sunday night we’ll hear about Mark’s ministry, Regions in Need. This ministry is focused on reaching and teaching people in some of the most unreached places in the world. You are NOT going to want to miss what Mark has to share with us!
Here’s a few specific ways to prepare for Sunday:
1) Pray and ask God to work in you for His glory.
2) Read and meditate on Mark 5:1-20, our text for Sunday’s sermon.
3) This Sunday we’ll be praying for the nation of Liechtenstein. Learn how to pray for them personally here.
4) Below are the songs we’ll be singing on Sunday. Click on the links to learn any you don’t know so you’re prepared to sing.