Child Baptism

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Child Baptism

Michael Pickford

In a previous article, I dealt with the concept of infant baptism. This article will deal with a closely related concept, but one that IS different. Iím speaking of the concept of baptizing a child who has grown beyond the infant state. For example, a pre-teen. Since this is a situation which many parents and preachers have faced, and will face, I offer here my thoughts on the subject.

There are some sincere folks who would object to baptizing a child, say, 8 years old. When pressed, however, itís difficult to get an answer from them as to exactly what age would be appropriate to baptrize a young person. On the other hand, those who would favor baptizing the child stumble at trying to give an answer as to what age is too young. I prefer to make my decision based not just on the age of the child, but the child himself. What kind of knowledge does he have? How mature is he? Everyone must admit that some children mature quicker than others. These things must be taken into account.

Itís important to use some observation and common sense as to why the child desires to be baptized. Is it because others have been getting baptized lately? Also, most of the time children are taught from a very young age (and rightly so) that one must be baptized to have sins remitted, to be saved, and to be added to the Lordís church. A sinner must be baptized in order to go to heaven. However, although a child may have learned these basic facts, he may not be mature enough to fully understand the import of them.

I have also heard of cases where a man has pushed his very young children too hard to get baptized because he wanted to serve as an elder. This is an abuse, not only of Godís plan of salvation, but also of the qualifications of an elder. I would hope and pray that churches would see through such a ploy and refuse to choose such a man to serve as an elder over them.

For what itís worth, let me explain what my practice has been over the years. If a pre-teen child expresses the desire to be baptized, I am very serious about asking him some questions regarding sin, baptism, being part of the church, responsibilities of a christian, etc.. Not just to get the facts, but to try and determine how serious he is about his feelings regarding being a sinner in need of forgiveness. I also speak with the parents to get their thoughts. Parents know their own children better than anyone else. Based on the information I receive from both child and parent, I then make my decision as to whether or not I will baptize the child. I havenít been faced with this delimma too often, but in every case I have decided to go ahead with the baptism. I am slow about refusing the baptism because, although some common sense can be used, we simply can NOT fully know the hearrt and mind of the child. What if he really was at the point where he needed the cleansing blood of Christ and I refused him? I donít want to be held accountable for his lost soul. Also, when the child gets older, if he looks back and decides that he wasnít really ready at that time, he can always be baptized again. Some would object to this arguing that there is only one true baptism (Eph. 4:4-6). To this I say Amen! However, if the first one wasnít true, then the second will be. If the first one was true, then all he did was get wet the second time. Either way, he is saved. I donít believe the second baptism, even if not valid because the first one was, makes a mockery of baptism. The individual made his decision from his own conscience.

It may also be worthy for a parent to consider the attitude their child develops toward baptism when they are told they cannot be baptized yet. On one hand, it may instill within them the attitude that Mom and Dad doesnít want me to be baptized. They may take this stigma with them into early adulthood, thus causing them to wait too long to obey the Gospel. One the other hand, telling them no along with a proper explanation as to why may instill within them a greater sense of the importance attached to baptism. Iíve seen this work both ways. Iíve seen children who ended up waiting too long before obeying, and Iíve seen children who went ahead and kept pursuing the matter until Mom and Dad decided it was time. I just pray all godly parents faced with this difficult situation will, through much prayer and study, come to the proper conclusion on the matter. I hope these thoughts help.

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