Children and Baptism
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Many times I have been asked, how old  a child should be before they can be baptized.

Many people are surprised to hear I was just seven when I was baptized. I still remember the night – I was lying in bed, thinking about the cross and Jesus’ love for me. I decided I wanted to be baptized. I went into my parents’ room, where they were sound asleep, and woke them up to tell them the news. They were very happy, but told me we could talk about it more in the morning. Looking back, I guess there was no reason to wake them up in the middle of the night. I knew I wasn’t going to baptized that night. I wanted my friends to be there, and there was no way we could arrange all that in the middle of the night.

I only had one meeting with the pastor. He went over the baptismal vows with me, and every time I said “yes,” he seemed to roll his eyes. I sensed he thought I was a little young. Forty years later my suspicions were confirmed when I met him again and asked him if he remembered me. “Yes,” he said, “we baptized you a little young, didn’t we?” I assured him I was not too young and knew exactly what I was doing. Forty years later I am a lay pastor and full-time paid Bible worker, elder and former literature evangelist. I did not tell him that to boast. I just wanted to reassure him, that at seven years old, I knew full well what I was getting into, and ever since then I have remained active in the church.

I have never forgotten and will never forget the day I was baptized. I was walking on air all day long. I knew God was with me. I also will never forget the night I was thinking about the cross and decided to be baptized. I think about it whenever I am put in a situation where someone wants me to compromise my passion or convictions. Over the years I have had people make both threats and promises in an attempt to get me to compromise. I always think about that night, when I was alone with Jesus and the cross, and I remind myself, Jesus is the one who died for me, not these people who are pressuring me to compromise. I gave my heart to Jesus, not to them.

So, when a parent tells me their seven-year old wants to be baptized, this is what I do: I give them a baptism workbook. No baptism workbook was ever given to me, or Bible studies, for that matter, and I guess there is no Bible command to finish a workbook before being baptized, but it is an important step.

“Parents whose children desire to be baptized have a work to do, both in self-examination and in giving faithful instruction to their children. Baptism is a most sacred and important ordinance, and there should be a thorough understanding as to its meaning. It means repentance for sin, and the entrance upon a new life in Christ Jesus. There should be no undue haste to receive the ordinance. Let both parents and children count the cost. In consenting to baptism of their children, parents sacredly pledge themselves to be faithful stewards over these children, to guide them in their character building.” –Ellen White, Child Guidance, Pages 499-500

When I give the child the workbook, I also visit with them and their parents, and ask the child why they want to be baptized and what baptism means to them.  The answer they give helps the family and me determine how seriously the child is taking this step. By giving them the workbook, I am also giving them time to grow and mature during the several weeks or even months it takes them to complete it. I encourage the parents to help them with the workbook, but I am also available any time to study with them, and I check in on them to see if the child, or parents have any questions. Parents often like their children to attend my baptismal classes at church or at the church school.

I find it somewhat frustrating, and maybe even amusing, when parents expect their children to understand everything and be perfect when they are baptized. Come on, adults don’t understand everything either, and they are not perfect when they are baptized. We have room to grow after baptism too. It hurts me, when I see parents, hanging it over the head of a newly baptized child, that they should not have made this or that mistake, because they are baptized now. Speaking of newly baptized children, Ellen White tells parents,

“If they err, do not scold them. Never taunt them with being baptized and yet doing wrong. Remember that they have much to learn in regard to the duties of a child of God.” – Ellen White, Child Guidance, p. 500.

“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” Matthew 28:19-20

This verse makes it clear that teaching comes before baptism, and after baptism as well. Neither children or adults know it all when they are baptized, though they should be adequately prepared. This is a very important and special step, in which everyone wanting to participate should be both properly encouraged and prepared.

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Children and Baptism — 17 Comments

  1. I got baptized age nine, and I faltered along the way, but i never forget my vow to Christ, so what im saying it's very important to accept the Lord when you're young, you may not know every thing but the Lord will teach you. God bless you William.

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  2. It's ironic we accuse other denominations for baptizing children. If parents still have to decide for the child being baptized and allowing the process, how's this any different than any other denominations we accuse? I don't think it's anything wrong in baptizing a child too young. I just have an issue with hypocrisy in the SDA church.

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    • We must not forget the prophet Samuel. The Lord called him when he was just a boy, probably less than 12 years old. God calls people from all walks of life; however old or young. The key is to obey the call of God. I have been a Sabbath School teacher for 38 years and I have seen many children who have been baptized. I have seen many children being discouraged from baptism by their parents when they were ready. Sadly when their parents thought they were old enough, these children wanted no part of baptism and would not accept Jesus as their Saviour. Please encourage chidren to do what is right; never speak words of discouragment.

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    • Sprinkling water on the forehead of an infant is not the same as baptizing a child of six or seven who in their 'childish' way understand that Jesus loves them. I just don't see any hypocrisy in the SDA teaching.

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      • Totally agreed Lornette. And I wanted to clarify, in an earlier comment when I suggested the word "inconsistent" over "hypocrisy" I was not suggesting the church was inconsistent on the teaching of baptism, only suggesting a more appropriate word than what was used.

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    • Accuse and hypocrisy are strong words and we really don't do that. What is questioned is the fact that kids are being baptized having no knowledge and understanding of the importance of the ordinance and what it represents. Not even adults should be baptized if they are ignorant of these issues. That is why teaching prior and subsequent to baptism is of vital importance.

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    • From my understanding, the only thing SDA church is against is baptising infants, and by that I mean new born babies who can not consent to being or being not baptized. And Matthew 28:19-20 makes it clear that teaching should precede baptism, and I don't know how infants can be taught.

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  3. Van, hypocrisy, is a strong word. May I suggest inconsistant as a better word? We all can appear to be inconsistant at times, regardless of our denominational ties, so there is no reason to single the SDA church out here. There is also a difference between baptizing infants, and cautioning a child regarding baptism. Parents and church leaders are not hypocrites. They are all doing the best they can, and some of these decisions are not easy. Thank you for understanding and caring enough to write.

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  4. I believe that with what Christ said in Matt. 28:19,29; the command is whoever believes should be baptized, And the question is how will one be able to determine whether the person whether young or old has believed? Is it by word of mouth or by deeds?

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  5. I have always regarded that to be baptised at 7 would be way too early, however, one can not underestimate the power of God working in a child as early as 7 making a solemn decision to take to the water of baptism. I have no issue with child baptism but the important factor here is the element of believe. Should the candidate believes in God, Luke 16.16 says, anyone who believes and baptised shall be saved.

    However, above case is one of incidence. One success story of a child or two taking the vows for baptism at early age is not one stop shop. The view should not be institutionalised to conduct child baptism. On that juncture, the church's long held view must be respected and upheld.

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    • Nickson, I believe that William suggests that we should not blindly follow a tradition of refusing baptism at a certain age. Pastors and parents should prayerfully examine a child to determine whether that child understands the significance of baptism as far as s/he is able.

      Long-held practices are mere traditions not necessarily biblical directives, and we should understand the difference.

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  6. Matthew 19:14  But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto Me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. There is no record in Scripture where children were baptised, perhaps because Jesus' command above states, "of such is the kingdom of heaven." In His younger days, Jesus was different from the other children/youth. He was passionate about the Scriptures and was often found discussing the Eternal Word with scribes and scholars, (Luke 2:46) yet He chose baptism when He was fully matured. Too often, baptism is used as an incentive to "convert" a soul when in realtiy, the soul must first be "converted" before partaking of this sacred ceremony. Sister White in God's Amazing Grace states, "Christ enjoins those who receive this ordinance to remember that they are bound by a solemn covenant to live to the Lord. They are to use for Him all their entrusted capabilities, never losing the realization that they bear God’s sign of obedience to the Sabbath of the fourth commandment, that they are subjects of Christ’s kingdom, partakers of the divine nature. They are to surrender all they have and are to God, employing all their gifts to God’s glory." AG 143.3 As followers of Christ, I would encourage a "thus saith the Lord" and "it is written" to be our constant guide.

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  7. The issue with children baptism is not related to age. The real biblical issue is that baptism represents a symbolic gesture that one have accepted Christ spiritual. If a child has accepted Christ spiritually, not only by knowledge and mental acceptance, that Child or Adult should display in action - initial fruits of spirit and repentance - turning away from the "old man" BEFORE Baptism. Thus the issue is that some kids that are baptisted don't even understand their earthly bearing, who they are, much less, what these things meant spiritually.

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  8. Point 1- many adults are baptised and do not believe fully in that which they are making a stand in relation to. Age is a questionable relevance on its own.

    2- I have done studies with children whose understanding of the word and willingness to accept it is in accordance with the scriptures. Is this not the key and scriptural issue?

    3- The guidelines imposed by some are to be commended where baptism is concerned but we must be mindful of the stomping of our feet when our dots and crosses are not completed.

    4- tonight I sit thinking about a friend who was baptised and later I became aware she was struggling with giving up smoking, A candidate I am aware of is in the same position and the question is being asked as to whether he should be baptised or not. He believes, he wants baptism, understands why he should be. is everything wrong to be eradicated overnight? he says he will give up, but you're not at his house to police him all day. Food for thought.

    5- our walk is not an easy one. Wisdom, the spirit, our saviour and creator need to be found in order to help us in our daily lives as we attempt to do what is right.

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  9. My eldest son got baptized when he was seven and half years old. He had seen God's love in our lives. As a single parent, I constantly pointed them to the many ways God was caring for us. His younger brothers followed in his footsteps and got baptized at 10,11 and 13 years old. From their late teenage years, they have not been attending church but I do not place the blame on early baptism. There were other factors involved. Children of single parents hurt a lot and are constantly looking for a father figure. With the knowledge of and relationship I have with God now, I pray constantly for their reconversion. God in His time will bring them back as I claim the promises. I have seen the many ways He has worked in their lives even though they have strayed and constantly remind them of God's working in their lives.

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  10. Children are a precious gift from God. We need to prayerfully guide them into God's ways. While some kids who were baptized young later insist on baptism "because I did not know what I was doing," some hang on to their faith years on and on. The important thing is to remember that as parents and church members, we must know we have an obligation to nurture our children before and after baptism.

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