When is too young to baptize someone? I don’t know of any member of the body of Christ who would condone infant baptism. Yet, many very young children are being baptized into the churches of Christ. Before you allow your child to be baptized consider a few things first.
Age of accountability is not an age at all, but a level of readiness and maturity. Parents, you must determine your child’s level of maturity. You have the most contact with them and can best evaluate their readiness to make a life long commitment. Here are some questions to ask or ways to help you determine if your child is ready:
- Is your child only afraid of going to hell at night? Or, do they express their fears and need during the light of day as well? Someone truly convicted will have concerns beyond the “night fears” that are common to children.
- 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.
- What sins do they claim to have committed? Have them write down all the reasons they feel they should be baptized. Keep their reasons for some future date when they may question whether they were baptized for the right reason.
- Ask them what would have been the Ethiopian’s reaction if Philip said he could NOT be baptized? (Acts 8:36) If they realize he would have had to have done it anyway, then ask them, “What if I said ‘no’ to you about being baptized?” Do they feel as if they would have to do it anyway? Are they willing to do God’s will before their parent’s will? Interestingly, Jesus at the age of 12 determined that he needed to be about his Father’s business. At the age his Father’s will was more important to him than the will of his parents (Luke 2:49).
- Ask them, “how will your life be different when you become a Christian?” Do they have an “old man of sin” that needs to be crucified? (Romans 6:6).
- Ask them are they prepared to be persecuted for the cause of Christ once they are baptized into the body of Christ (2 Tim 3:12; 1 Pet 4:16). You might be surprised how many aged adults do not know the saints of God will be persecuted. A young child in the faith won’t be able to stand up against the trickery of the devil as would a prepared adult in the faith (and them barely).
What would most parents do if their 9 or 10 or 11 or 12 year old came home and said, “Mom and Dad, I believe in Jesus Christ and I want to be baptized”? I think most Christian parents would be thrilled beyond words! They would rush that child down to the building and upon their confession of Christ, the child would be baptized. But now consider this:
If that same child came home and said, “Mom and Dad, I do not believe in Jesus Christ and I won’t be going with you to church services anymore!”
How would most parents respond? Would you say, “You’re not old enough to make that kind of decision! You’re going to church with us!”
Now parents, consider very carefully: If children are not old enough to decide against Christ, how could they be old enough to decide for Christ?
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.”
Ask yourself this question: Would you let your 13 year old get married? No? Why? Because marriage involves a lifelong commitment. In much the same way, one commits for life to the Lord. Obeying the gospel is a spiritual marriage between us and Christ. A child does not yet understand the nature of such a commitment. Just as we would not approve of their marriage at a young age, we should seriously think about allowing them to commit to the Lord when they don’t know the nature of that commitment.
One Final Consideration
If your child should die under the age of 12 having not obeyed the gospel, do you honestly believe they would go to hell for having not done so? Remember, the gospel is for the lost, not those who have yet reached the age of accountability.
Conclusion: Teach your children daily the Word of God (1 Tim 4:13 f; 2 Tim 2:15). Teach them right from wrong. Pray to God for help in leading your children to make the right decision, at the right time.