When is my child ready for Baptism?
One of the first storybook Bibles my oldest son received was the Rhyme Bible Storybook. It was rhythmic and joyful read through the stories of the Old and New Testaments with some fun illustrations.
But when we got to the story of John the Baptist, my son was a little freaked out by this image, and declared, “I never want to be baptized!” If this picture was a mark of what being baptized was, I wouldn’t either. It looks like John dunked the man against his will. We laugh about it to this day.
After the joy and celebration of Jesus’ death and resurrection during the Easter season, it is not uncommon for the question of baptism to come up.
Baptism can get a lot of focus from church leadership, but there are a lot of questions to consider when thinking about this next step in faith, especially as a Christian parent.
Now a little disclaimer- There are several different camps when it comes to baptism. I know this topic can be polarizing in the Christian community. Biblically speaking the only examples of Baptism are after accepting Jesus as savior and being immersed in water. But it is the heart behind being baptized that I will discuss here. If you have further questions about types of baptism consult a spiritual leader in your life.
The focus of this post is knowing if your child is ready for Baptism. Chap Bettis in his great book The Disciple-Making Parenthttp://a.co/2Mr0D7b says that salvation and baptism are the first adult decisions in a child's life...” so it is a decision to process and prepare.
What is Baptism?
“…Baptism is neither ritual purification nor a preparatory rite. Rather, baptism is an immersion in the new life offered by Jesus. For example, following his Pentecost sermon, about 3000 people were baptized (Acts 2:41).
Baptism becomes the appropriate response to hearing (and accepting) the gospel. Throughout the book of Acts, the apostles make frequent appeals for people to “Repent and be baptized.” Repentance simply means to turn, to change one’s direction. Thus, the call to baptism is essentially the call to turn one’s life toward Jesus and be immersed in his Spirit. For those rising from the baptismal waters, baptism entailed living a new life.” SOURCE: What is Baptism? Meaning and Importance of Being Baptized
So, in essence, baptism is a response to the transformational work of Jesus in one's life, and to proclaim to those both in the church and the community that you are associating yourself with Christ.
What is the purpose of Baptism?
“…Baptism to the Christian life that Jesus makes the call to baptize a fundamental part of Christian discipleship (Matthew 28:20). This is something that the disciples took to heart. Not only did they begin a ministry of baptism while Jesus was with them (John 4:2) but they were diligent in calling people to the waters of baptism after his resurrection. This is because the very image of baptism was an image of the new creation. Being plunged into, and rising out of, the baptismal waters, signified one’s death to sin, and one’s participation in the resurrected life of Jesus. Baptism, therefore, was held up as the appropriate way to respond to the gospel. SOURCE: What Is the Purpose and Significance of Baptism? Why Do People Get Baptized? (biblestudytools.com)
Top 4 questions to ask to see if your child is ready for baptism.
Do they understand the Gospel?
This is where is all starts because truthfully many people are saved and not baptized, and many who are baptized are not saved.
So where do we start?
Who Jesus is- The gospel itself begins and ends with who Jesus is. Having an understanding that Jesus was the son of God, both fully God and fully man without sin. Now, this is a very deep topic with A LOT of technical theology behind it, and there is not expectation for a child to have a full understanding of Escatology to be saved. But to know and accept who Jesus is is key because without accepting who he is there is no power in why he came.
Why he came- From the beginning of creation, God desired to have a relationship with human beings. He wanted to provide good and love. But when Adam and Eve sinned, God could no longer be in a relationship with the creation he loved because of sin. God being holy(Perfect and pure) could not be near sin. But God in his love knew how to restore the hearts of the people to a relationship with him. We needed a savior, a perfect sacrifice, so Jesus came to earth.
What he did- This part is crucial. To understand that Jesus lived a sinless life and died a sinners death on the cross. He was fully dead when he was placed in the tomb and just as Jesus had said to the disciples, Jesus rose to LIFE again three days later, conquering sin’s power of death.
Having an understanding of the gospel comes at different ages, and just as we each have to accept salvation on our own there is no perfect age to be baptized. And just an understanding of the gospel isn’t all they need to know.
Do they recognize their sin- It is one thing to understand this world is broken. It is easy to see the evil of the world, but to recognize the evil inside of us is often masked by pride. Recognizing our need for a savior is an important step. Our kids can often want to be a ‘Christian’ or be baptized because of social pressures. But it is through a bit of maturity that we truly recognize our need.
Is there a desire to seek God- A genuine belief causes change? A change of heart, focus, words, or hobbies. I’m not saying every person to be baptized should become an evangelist, but as it says in John 15:4 ‘…no branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.’ So do you see fruit in your children’s life? Granted they are still children and the influence of sin is everywhere. So I’m not saying they should be perfect angels, but there should be a greater willingness to accept their wrongs and seek forgiveness. A willingness and/or desire to learn more about God, even if it is still guided by parental involvement.
Can they communicate their choice- this is where my introverted son gets stuck. I don’t doubt his belief in Christ, but his hesitance to stand in front of people and declare his choice, just means he’s not quite ready for baptism. He knows all he needs to know, but baptism is a public proclamation, so we’ll be patient until he is ready.
I hope these questions help guide you and your family in a greater understanding of what baptism is and if your child is ready for baptism.
Also, check out these other resources: