Disclaimer: About This Blog

THIS BLOG IS: my personal journey of how I am rethinking some of my spiritual beliefs.
THIS BLOG IS NOT: intended to point fingers at people who I think are wrong.
I do not believe the final judgement will be based on how many correct answers we get on a theology exam. I believe many people throughout history have had genuine relationships with our Lord and Saviour Jesus, despite holding questionable beliefs and practices. I make no claim to having it all figured out or being your judge. If we end up disagreeing over these topics I pray we can find a way to demonstrate grace.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

When Should Believers Be Baptized

This is post #7 on a series on baptism:

  1. Baptism Questions - some questions I'd like to sort out
  2. What Did Baptism Mean? - a look at how the Greek terms get used and translated in other literature
  3. Baptism without Water - a look at baptism references that are not talking about water
  4. Baptism and Culture -  It seems Christianity adopted a common custom of the time.
  5. The Heart of Baptism - What is at the heart of this ritual 
  6. Who Can Baptize? - Do we think Matt 28:18 - 20 is addressed only for the clergy? 
  7. When Should Believers Be Baptized - At what age? At what level of maturity? 
  8. Baptism With The Holy Spirit - comparing immersion with water and with the Holy Spirit 
  9. Baptism Summary Thoughts

I've always wondered what age someone should be before they are baptized.  This is a question before me as my two children gradually mature.  In the Christian traditions I have been part of infants are not baptized.  The idea is that we want to wait until a child reaches an age where they can make the decision for themselves.  If salvation comes by faith, we want to wait until the child can declare their own personal faith.  What age is best?  Some say 8 years old, some say wait until well into the teenage years.

One problem I have always seen is this:  What about those with disabilities who do not mature mentally the way others do? When can they be baptized?

I was also confused why there wasn't a clear passage that speaks about this waiting for maturity before baptism.

So today I think I have reached maturity enough to study this issue for myself.  I am not an expert on this, so I welcome further input. But from what I have read today I have gained respect for those who believe in infant baptism.

Acts 2:38 - 39 (NIV)
Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off —for all whom the Lord our God will call.” 

We also see examples of entire households being baptized (Acts 16:14-15; Acts 16:30-33; 1 Co. 1:16).

We should also consider the idea that the outward sign of  baptism replaces the previous outward sign of circumcision.  Circumcision was done to children who were 8 days old.
"In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead." (Colossians 2:11-12  NIV)

Do we believe children can have the Holy Spirit?

If so, what hinders them from being baptized?

Matthew 19:14 (NIV)
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

We should also consider adult converts? Should they wait a year or more? Do they need to go through a baptismal class first?  Although I think there are some good intentions behind the idea of baptismal class, I certainly don't see it as a requirement anywhere in Scripture.  What I see in Scripture is people getting baptized immediately following their conversion.  It is an outward symbol of the change they are going through at that time.

What do you think? What level of maturity (physical, spiritual, emotional, mental) is required for baptism?

Should we hinder or encourage children and new converts to get immersed in water and in the Holy Spirit?


Steve Martin said...

I think you knew this was coming from me, Jon.

Since God does the actual baptizing, the person's age is of NO imporatnce. The Lord gives (Acts 2:38) "the forgiveness of sins and the Holy Spirit" in baptism and "the promise is to you and your children". No mention of any age requirement.

Grace comes before faith. As we teacg the little ones what great things God did for them in their baptisms, and faith does come (by hearing), then baptism is complete.

The Holy Spirit is not hindered by anyone's age and "can speak to them in sighs too deep for words."

Thanks, friend.

Steve Martin said...

I thought I had a lot of posts on Baptism on my blog. You are giving me a run for my money! :D

Jonathan said...

Thanks, I like how you see the faith coming for the children as they grow up hearing about their baptism (and other things God has done for them). Good thoughts.

Steve Martin said...

Yes, it is good that children learn, hear, and come to faith.

But we should always remember that God's grace comes first.

"We love, because He first loved us."

G'nite, Jon.

Thanks, again.