We have been discussing issues related to baptism in our congregation of late and I will be teaching on a couple of them in the near future.
One significant question that comes up for Baptists is when to baptize children. This is a question that we will think through biblically during our Sunday teaching hour. There are also other good resources already out there which deal with this question in different ways.
Grace Community Church, where John MacArthur pastors, offers a children’s ministry resource which mentors parents and other children’s workers in the discipleship of children. Included in the instructions on evangelism of children are some cautions about common pitfalls in child evangelism. Here is a blurb:
“The next pitfall is assuming with certainty that a child’s positive response to the gospel is full-fledged saving faith. The temptation here is to regard regeneration as a settled matter because of an outward indication that the child has believed. One cannot assume, however, that every profession of faith reflects a genuine work of God in the heart (Matt. 7:21-23), and this is particularly true of children.
“Children often respond positively to the gospel for a host of reasons, many of which are unrelated to any awareness of sin or real understanding of spiritual truth. Many children, for example, profess faith because of peer pressure at church or because of desire to please their parents.
“In addition, Scripture indicates that children tend to be immature (1 Cor. 13:11; 14:20), naive (Prov. 1:4), foolish (Prov. 22:15), capricious (Is. 3:4), inconsistent and fickle (Matt. 11:16-17), and unstable and easily deceived (Eph. 4:14). Children often think that they have understood the ramifications of a given commitment when they have not. Their judgment is shallow and their ability to see the implications of their decisions is very weak. Despite the best of intentions, they seldom have the ability to think far beyond today. Nor do they perceive the extent to which their choices will affect tomorrow. This makes children more vulnerable to self-deception, and it makes it more difficult for a parent to discern God’s saving work in their hearts.
“For this reason, only when a child’s stated convictions and beliefs are tested by circumstances in life as he matures do parents begin to learn more conclusively his spiritual direction. While many people do continue to make a genuine committment to Christ when young, many others–perhaps most–don’t come to an adequate understanding of the gospel until their teenage years. Others who profess Christ in childhood turn away. It is only appropriate, then, that parents move cautiously in affirming a child’s profession of faith and not be quick to take any show of commitment as decisive proof of salvation.”
Later they say:
“A final pitfall for many parents is having the child baptized immediately after he professes faith. Although Scripture commands that believers be baptized (Matt. 28:19; Acts 2:38), it is best not to rush into the ordinance in the case of a child. As previously stated, it is extremely difficult to recognize genuine salvation in children. Rather than rushing them into baptism after an initial profession, then, it is wiser to take the ongoing opportunity to interact with them and wait for more significant evidence of lasting commitment. Even if a child can say enough in a testimony to make it reasonably clear that he understands and embraces the gospel, baptism should wait until he manifests evidence of regeneration that is independent of parental control.
“…Because baptism is seen as something clear and final, our primary concern is that when a younger child is baptized he tends to look to that experience as proof that he was saved. Therefore, in the case of an unregenerate child who was baptized—which is not uncommon in the church at large—baptism actually does him a disservice. It is better to wait until the reality to which baptism testifies can be more easily discerned.”
Mark Dever has also preached a very helpful sermon on this topic: At What Age Should Believers Be Baptized