Baptism of Children
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People often ask me how old  a child should be before they can be baptized.

Many 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 have worked as a lay pastor and full-time paid Bible worker, elder and literature evangelist. I did not tell him that to boast. I just wanted to reassure him, that at the age of seven, 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 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 I believe 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 children the workbook, I also visit with them and their parents, and I ask the children 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 children are 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 children, 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 a little 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 when I see parents, hanging 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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About William Earnhardt

William Earnhardt has been a Bible Worker, literature evangelist and lay pastor in Oklahoma and Texas, before coming to the Tampa Bay area, where he has been a Bible instructor and lay pastor for the past 11 years. He has also held revivals and evangelism seminars, as well as soul winning workshops from Peru to Connecticut. You can find William's study guides and devotionals at williamdearnhardt.com

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Baptism of Children — 18 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. 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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  3. 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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  4. 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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  5. I was baptised at 13 and have always thought after 12 was the right time to be baptised.

    But now I am re-thinking my position. By law we don't let children get married, drive a car, drink alcohol, sign a contract, fly alone on a aeroplane until they have reached a certain age, why? We believe their brains have not fully developed and they are not able to make such significant decisions on their own.

    So if we believe they are too young for those decisions why do we believe they are old enough to make a decision as important as committing the rest of their lives to the LORD?

    My grandson at 6 years old a few months ago "graduated" in cap & gown from Grade R, and now goes to "big" school and is in Grade 1.

    Maybe we should provide our children "levels of decision to live for Jesus" instead of Baptism until they are adults. Is being baptised at 12 only a few steps away from baptising a baby? What other major decision do we allow 12 year olds to make? Have sex? Drink alcohol? Drive a car? Buy a house? Decide on a career?

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    • Shirley, rather than comparing the age of baptism to the age of drinking and driving (!!), I invite you to consider the age that Moses left for Pharaoh's house as a boy. We don't know exactly how hold he was, but he may not have been even 7 years old.

      At what age did Jesus astonish the teachers in the temple?

      I believe it would be a mistake to set a specific age for baptism as we do for getting a driver's licence or for drinking alcohol (which should be set at the age of 200!!). I believe persons should be examined regarding their understanding of the "cost" of discipleship with age-appropriate questions. (See Luke 14:26-35) Then parents, children and pastors together can decide on an appropriate decision for each child. When children are baptized as early as seven (which I don't think happens very often), the parents are committing themselves to continue to guide their children in the ways of the Lord.

      Along the same lines, but from a different perspective, I believe that mistakes are more likely to be made when a whole age group in school is instructed for baptism. Peer pressure can persuade a lot to make a profession of faith they do not really feel.

      In the end, it comes down to all persons involved being led by the Holy Spirit, and we cannot organize the actions of the Holy Spirit. (I'm not even sure that there is a greater rate of recidivism from the baptism of young people than the baptism of adults. Young hearts and old hearts alike are made of different kinds of "soil." (Luke 8:11-15)

      I can sympathize with your desire to have set stages from which children can graduate to culminate in baptism. But I am cautioned from thinking in this direction by a book I'm currently reading, called "From Apostle to Priest." It traces the development of the hierarchical system of governance as practiced in certain other churches often considered part of Babylon. The original purpose was not to give all power to the person at the top of the hierarchy. The original purpose was to preserve doctrinal purity. I'm a little afraid that formalizing stages of conversion before baptism will have a similar result of excluding the leading of the Holy Spirit.
      The book is listed in our Amazon US store and our Amazon UK store. And I'm pretty sure you can download a version directly from Amazon US.

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    • Shirley I think your questions are valid. Obviously there are some that are more perceptive than others and have different opinions base on there perspective. Is there a wrong reason for being baptized ? I think it is possible. Is there always a change in ones life after being baptized? Should there be? If the answer is yes how long? We probably all know of some that the changes didn't last very long and have reverted to an old way of life. It can be a complicated matter regarding the right age or the right reasons for baptism.

      Like(0)
    • Thank you all for your input. I have discovered that my approach to this question of when to baptise a young person was incorrect. A decision to accept Jesus as our Lord & Saviour is a heart matter, a spiritual issue much more than a rational issue.
      Secondly the reason why we set age limits for the decisions I mentioned are because of the possibility of harm to the child, however a decision for the LORD can only bring good to the child.
      But most of all my above approach did not include consulting the Word of God for the answer.
      Solomon said "train up a child when he is young and when he is old he will not depart from it"
      Jesus said "suffer (or allow) the children to come unto me" and he took a child and put it into the midst of them and said

      Mat 18:3 and said, Truly I say to you, Unless you are converted and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of Heaven.
      Mat 18:4 Therefore whoever shall humble himself like this little child, this one is the greater in the kingdom of Heaven.
      Mat 18:5 And whoever shall receive one such little child in My name receives Me.
      Mat 18:6 But whoever shall offend one of these little ones who believes in Me, it would be better for him that an ass's millstone were hung around his neck, and he be sunk in the depth of the sea.

      I now believe that just as my child can love me with all her heart she can also love Jesus with all her heart and with the right guidance can make a decision for Jesus.

      Like(6)
    • I personally feel there is no wrong age to be baptized. Once you feel the Holy Spirit in your heart and He speaks to you, it's a conscious decision you make with the guidance of the Lord. When I was 13 I knew that I wanted to be baptized and wanted to continue to live my life for the Lord, but now it was a commitment, a pledge I made to him witnessed by others. I'm now 32 and an certain I made the right decision when He spoke to me.

      Like(3)
  6. A couple of things regarding the proper age for young people,(children) to be baptized. Firstly the part of Inge's response about the reason children are baptized as a group, I am very familiar with. I was 12 and as the result of a week of prayer observances many of us were baptize. Mostly because of peer pressure. I doubt many if any were repentant and had any conviction to stimulate a desire for baptism. God only knows the heart, so one cannot judge what one cannot see. I wonder however if the rush to baptize is for the right motive? Secondly Samuel was dedicated to God by his mother because He answered her repeated, many times, prayer. 1Samuel 1:11

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  7. My non-Adventist parents sent both my brother and I to Helderberg College in the late 1950's. In my case it meant a 4 day train journey and a life-changing experience. I took my stand for Jesus when I was 16 and was baptized on my 17th birthday. I did not ask my parents for permission - and they respected my decision. My brother, being 6 years younger, expressed his wish to be baptised when he was 13. My mother asked what I thought and my foolish reply, based on 'church' thinking at the time, was that he was too young still and should wait a while. John got into trouble in his final year of high school and chose to go home - never to complete hight school and never to take another stand for the Lord. At 67 he knows the truth but has never expressed a desire again to fully follow the Lord. He lives in place where there is no church. We share when we can and just can just keep praying. How many other 'lost souls' are there out there because a young person was told to 'wait'? In Jesus' day a boy was considered a spiritual man at 12 ... why are so many 'church elders' reluctant to accept that 12 is the last year of childhood before the terrible teens! The time when the fruit is ripe for the plucking.

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  8. I was seven and a non Adventist when a minister gave our school class a scripture lesson. He mentioned that we were 'Christians' when we believed in Jesus Christ. I was so happy, I knew I believed in Jesus and had done for a very long time. That trip home from school was amazing, I found I was jumping higher over the cracks in the pavement, the sun seemed brighter, the birds whistled louder, and the more butterflies hovered around me. 'I am a Christian' I kept saying to myself.
    If I would have had the opportunity to be baptised then I would chosen that day. I have never forgotten it and never has the marvelous 'knowing' that I am a Christian ever left me since. Even though there has been dark days, when I conjurer up the happy memories I calm down again in the secure knowledge that Jesus loves me and always has.
    I have since been baptised and that too, was a happy day for me, That was after I had been accepted into the Adventist church by Profession of Faith in church one day. My baptism was a very quiet affair, very moving and very significant for me, in the ocean nearby at 6:30 in the morning. My favourite time of day. The Pastor's prayer for me was just powerful and yet he later confessed he was troubled by my wanting privacy for that event.

    I think no one has the right to determine what goes on in another's head, including children of any age and retarded children too. They know they are loved by Jesus and want to make a declaration of their love to Him and should not be discouraged in any way. Children can die at an any age, would it be right to have on one's conscience a refusal of cooperation that the child has not been baptised when they wanted to be?

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  9. The counsel concerning age in which to baptize is only meant to be a guideline, not an absolute rule that is set in stone. Furthermore, mistakes in judging the person's spiritual condition will always be made; it is difficult, to say the least, to know how a person is relating to a call even when we think the Holy Spirit is guiding.

    As for using Samuel, Moses, and Jesus as examples those are exceptions for when someone is specifically, formally, dedicated by God he or she is divinely sanctified and falls into the same general camp as prophets and should not be considered the norm by any stretch of the imagination. For the rest of us some will mature sooner than others which is something we should take time to carefully consider.

    There are also some mature adults that shouldn't be baptized and some that should be baptized as soon as they seem to be ready and not put off for some stupid church reason for statistical purposes that the church can glory in which happened to me. If it weren't for my tenacious stubborn desire to be baptized I would have walked away and never joined the church. In all of this we need to be wise shepherds of the flock carefully considering the situation all to the glory of God rather than our glory either personally or corporately.

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  10. I have a question - does allowing a child to be baptized at a early age guarantee that they will not loose their faith at a later age?

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    • In my opinion, Shirley, baptism doesn't guarantee anything concerning anyone whether they are young or old. To me it amounts to nothing more than a statement of faith one has at the time. That being the case to me it demands that the person being baptized understand what it means and what it implies concerning his or her life.

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      • Hi Tyler, I agree baptism is an outward confirmation of an inward decision. Accordingly whether the adults allow or disallow this outward sign to a child it should not have a determining factor on their inward decision and love for the LORD.

        Accordingly I am concerned when I hear some stories where there is an implication that if only the adults had allowed the child to be baptised then that person as they grew older wouldn't have lost their faith in the LORD.

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  11. I think baptism is a decision one takes and hence age doesn't matter! Personally i toyed with the idea to get baptised for so long until i was 14! I was just shy much as i wanted all along! My mum never forced me much as she. constantly encouraged me! Then one Sabbath after others had gotten baptised i couldn't take in any more and in the afternoon i walked to the pastors home as he was finishing his lunch and demanded he baptises me

    The pastor accepted and that day i got baptized alone with only two witnesses, the pastor and the deacon!

    So I think time comes when you have to make that decision. and that's when you are ready!

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  12. So did I. I was baptized when I was seven years old! I was brought up as a Catholic by my dear Grandmother. My father was a devoted Catholic himself. But the Holy Spirit touched my father's heart and surrendered not only himselft but all his entire family members to God. I was the youngest to be baptized to receive the blessings!!

    Yes, I agree that I was very young to understand but, I was so grateful then, and had the right to believe so even now. As the Bible says; in (Matthew 18:1-5) NKJV; "At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me."

    I believed then and READY with no doubts; AND with no denying - that I failed at times - AND because He loved me first. (1 John 4:19) KJV; "We love him, because he first loved us." I got up again to continue to study His words. I always knew that He is there for me from the moment I believe again (re-born) AND even when I die (temptation). Yes, I was baptized at the tender age of seven, but then, it helped me knowing that; in (Proverbs 22:6), NKJV; "Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it." That's a very powerful words that noone can ever deny... and I'm so thankful that I am living it today!!

    By baptizing in the name of Jesus Christ, the Father and the Holy Ghost... you accepted Him wholeheartedly, knowing that without the guidance of the Holy Spirit, Satan will be defeated!!

    I am blessed by having been baptized early in life with the unceasingly protection by the Holy Spirit. So grateful that it came to me early in life... that made me strong in faith and became who I am today. Just let Him lead your life till He takes us home!!

    God bless us all while we're waiting for the second coming of the Lord, Jesus Christ.

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