When is too young to be baptized? Does the bible give us a minimum age before we allow one to obey the gospel? The Bible tells us that teaching must precede baptism (Matthew 28:19-20). Infants cannot be taught. The person must believe before baptism (Mark 16:15-16). Infants cannot exercise faith. The person must be convicted of their sin before they’re baptized (Acts 2:37-38). Infants can’t be convicted of sin. The person must be repentant (Acts 2:38). Infants cannot repent.
The practice of infant baptism isn’t found anywhere in the New Testament. In fact, it is a practice that is contrary to very clear Biblical teachings.
If infants can’t be baptized, then how young is too young? How old does a child have to be before they’re baptized? The Bible doesn’t give a specific age requirement, so we have to use Biblical principles to answer the question.
While there is no pass/fail test to gauge a child’s readiness, there has to be a certain level of faith and understanding. If your child cannot tell you in their own words why Jesus died on the cross, if they can’t express what sin is, if they can’t explain why they want to be baptized, then they’re not ready to make this commitment.
Age of accountability is not an age at all, but a level of readiness and maturity. Here are some questions to ask or ways to help you determine if your child is ready:
- Has your child committed sins worthy of repentance? Do they realize that they have committed sin? Do they know only baptism can wash away their sins?
- Does your child want to put off getting baptized until some future day at worship, for instance? If so, then they may not see the urgency of baptism. Someone truly convicted will not want to delay. (Acts 22:16 “And now why do you delay? Arise, and be baptized….“)
- How long have they discussed the subject? Do they bring it up on their own or is it prompted by you or some other event (like someone else being baptized)? We need to be wary of the “bandwagon” effect.
- Lust is a definitive sin all must face and can be challenging in our teenage years. Has your child reached puberty? Do they have any interest in the opposite sex? Are they asking questions about their sexuality? These are imperative questions to ask because each child reaches these stages at different ages.
- Do they realize that all faithful Christians will suffer persecution? Are they prepared to begin the hardships of being a Christian? (2 Tim 3:12 f; 2 Tim 2:3,4).
- Has your child memorized the steps of salvation and now feel they are ready for baptism? This doesn’t mean they are ready to be baptized but that they are in a learning stage. Can they in their own words tell you what the gospel of Christ entails? Do they know what it means to believe? Do they know what repentance really means? Do they know why baptism was commanded?
- Will your child remember their baptism once they get older? Will they recall the reasons why they needed to be baptized? Was it their decision or yours? Were they being encouraged to do something they were not yet prepared for?
Often we preach about baptism and children feel compelled to respond. They know the answers but can they live them? Too many children later get “re-baptized” because they know in their heart of hearts that they were not ready to be baptized at such a young age.
Conclusion: If your child should surprise you by responding to the invitation, do not feel as if there is nothing you can do. If you believe they are not yet ready, then simply come up and join them on the front pew. Ask the congregation for its thoughts and prayers, and especially the elders of the church for advice. Don’t rush a child to be baptized, but rather give them time to think and ponder.
We all know infants and toddlers are much too young to be baptized for obvious reasons. If your child is too young to drive, too young to vote, too young to be married, or too young to stay home by themselves, then they probably need the advice of their parents and the church before they enter into a lifelong commitment with the Lord.