Last Sunday, I had the precious opportunity to baptize my 9 and 7 year old daughters, Kaylea and Aubrey. It was quite the emotional Sunday. I’ve never baptized anyone before, so it was a joy to have my own two daughters be my first ones. I’d like to share a bit about my journey toward baptizing my kids so that it may be an encouragement and challenge for any parents out there who are wrestling with the question of when to baptize your kids.
Several questions came up in my own thinking about whether I should baptize my children at a fairly young age. I talked to several people, blogged about it, and searched the Scriptures to figure out when I should baptize my kids and on what basis. So here’s what I’ve learned.
First, the Bible says that people should be baptized based on a confession and not based on evidence of genuine faith. The Bible is clear: faithfulness and obedience are the evidences of faith (James 2:14-26), and yet the Bible doesn’t say that one should withhold baptism until you know for sure that your kid is saved. A confession, and not fruit, is the only condition for baptism (Acts 8:36-38). And my kids have made such a confession for quite some time now. So if you were to ask me, “how do you know that they are genuinely saved,” I would say “I don’t, but that’s quite irrelevant for their baptism.” Biblically speaking, you baptize someone who confesses Christ as Lord and Savoir; you don’t need to wait until they have obeyed Jesus for a period of time.
Second, how do I know that they have genuine faith? After all, they are just kids. Yes, it is true that they have “faith like a child,” but what does the Bible say about a child’s faith? It elevates it! The Bible doesn’t downplay or disregard a child’s faith; rather, it uses it as a standard to measure adult faith (Matt. 18:1-4). As far as I can see, whenever a child’s faith is mentioned in the Bible, it’s elevated not relegated. So I don’t think that my children’s “child-like faith” would be looked down upon by Jesus and considered insufficient for baptism.
Third, what if they end up falling away? I would have baptized an unbeliever! Perhaps, but the Bible never warns against baptizing someone prematurely for fear that they might end up falling away at some point in the future. It only says that those who confess Christ as Lord and Savior should be baptized. Time will tell if they have been genuinely redeemed, but such time is not a precondition for baptism.
Fourth, while we often shy away from baptizing people too quickly, we often don’t consider the disastrous sin of withholding baptism—the first major act of obedience—from a genuine believer. Think about this one. What if I, as a Christian parent, have been withholding my daughters, who as far as I can tell are genuine believers, from offering up to Jesus, their confessed King, the most basic act of obedience: baptism? You wouldn’t prevent a confessing believer from sharing the gospel with others, or from giving money to church, or from reading the Bible, praying, or singing. So why would is it okay to withhold baptism—the most basic act of obedience—from a confessing believer? It’s not okay. Some would consider it immoral.
Fifth, what about your daughters getting baptized just to please you, rather than the Lord? This one is a tough one and I need to discuss it in a bit more detail.
On the one hand, I wouldn’t want my daughter to get baptized just because she wants to please me, rather than Christ. I want her to worship Jesus and not me, and I sincerely hope she decided to be baptized because of Jesus. However, I’m quite comfortable with the distinctions being blurred a bit. Here’s what I mean.
I teach my daughters to do all sorts of things that are considered “acts of obedience” to Christ. I tell them to pray, and they pray. We sing worship songs together, and they sing. I have them memorize Scripture (actually, their mom is their memorization guru), and they do so. I teach them (or tell them) to share, and they share. I regulate what they watch, who they hang out with, and what sorts of language they should use, and they do so. We read the Bible together, and they listen. I even have them save up money to give to the poor, and they give. The point being: I am hugely influential in many aspects of their obedience to Jesus. Why would I not influence them towards baptism: the first, most basic, aspect of obedience toward Christ?
Were my two daughters baptized last Sunday because I had an influence in their decision? Well ya, of course they were. Were they only baptized because they wanted to please me and not Jesus? No, I certainly hope not. But I think that my influence in their life, and their love for Jesus toward baptism, cannot be firmly separated, just like their obedience to Jesus in all sorts of other areas—sharing, giving, praying, loving, reading, singing—can’t, and shouldn’t, be separated from my influence as a Christian parent. It’s dangerously individualistic to think that you should have no influence over whether or not your child should be baptized. God ordained the family unit to have a positive influence over your children’s moral decisions (Deut. 6:7-9)—and baptism is a moral decision.
So after a 4 month period of praying, talking, and reading together, they both came to me and wanted to be baptized. They said they love Jesus, and they both articulated a good understanding of what baptism is (and what it’s not). So in obedience to the New Testament call to be baptized, I joyfully baptized my two precious daughters on September 16th, 2012: Kaylea and Aubrey Sprinkle.