Thursday, June 18, 2009

The baptism of children

Guided there from 9 Marks, Justin Taylor recommends this Q&A for parents about the Sacraments:
This document, The Sacraments: Questions and Answers for Parents, is an appendix from a manual for new/prospective members at Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, MD, entitled Starting Point: Our Journey Together at Covenant Life (92-page PDF). The whole thing looks enormously helpful.
Indeed the document does look very good. The following is the advice relating to the baptism of children:
2. What is baptism?
Baptism is the sacrament which uniquely depicts initiation into the Christian life, portraying the believer's union with Christ in his death and resurrection (Romans 6:3-5). It points to the beginning of the Christian life (Matthew 28:19; Acts 2:38) and displays one's commitment to Christ, a commitment which will be lived out in the local church.

"Baptism is the sign of the initiation by which we are received into the society of the church." —John Calvin
3. When should a child be baptized?
Only when he or she can provide a believable profession of faith in Jesus Christ (Acts 2:41; Galatians 3:27).
4. What is a believable profession of faith?
Anyone professing Jesus Christ as Lord should be able to:
  • Communicate the content of the gospel as well as an expression of faith in Jesus Christ for salvation.
  • Evidence godly sorrow over sin, followed by repentance which leads to the fruit of the Spirit.
  • Have the ability to examine himself and the condition of his soul (1 Corinthians 11:27-32).
  • Have demonstrated a willingness to turn away from the world and instead live a life keeping God's commands and loving God's church (1 John 2:15-17; 5:1-5).
  • Exhibit fruit which proceeds from regeneration (Galatians 5:22-23).
5. Does God save young children?
Yes! God can and does convert young children (Romans 10:9-13, Acts 2:21). However, we also recognize that the nature of children, their intellectual immaturity, the frequency with which they change their opinions, the ease with which they can be influenced, and for many, their limited exposure to worldly things, makes it exceedingly difficult to discern with certainty whether a child is truly converted. The younger a child is, the more difficult this becomes.
6. What is the role of the parent in evaluating a child's readiness to be baptized?
Parents bear primary responsibility for the condition of their children's souls. They are to:
  • Teach their children God's commands (Deuteronomy 6:7).
  • Train their children up in the way they should go (Proverbs 22:6).
  • Bring their children up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4).
At the same time, pastors bear primary responsibility for administering the sacraments within the local church and for caring for the souls of those who receive them. For these reasons, parents (and especially fathers) should evaluate the readiness of their children for baptism and should actively seek to involve their pastors in this process. Parents know their children best and are ideally situated to discern the fruit of repentance in their children. (Note: the observations of others—in Care Group, trusted friends, and others in the church—will also be extremely helpful in this process.) A parent who believes his child is ready to be baptized should then meet with a pastor so that the pastor can verify the parent's evaluation. Pastor, parent and child should all be confident in the readiness of the child to move forward with baptism.
7. If my child said a prayer and invited Jesus into his heart, isn't that enough to be baptized?
No. The language of 'inviting Jesus into your heart' is not biblical, ignores critical features of the gospel such as justification by faith, and fails to call forth repentance. Experience reveals that it is relatively easy to persuade young children to invite Jesus into their hearts, but many who have made such a commitment or prayed such a prayer later show no evidence of regeneration. [....]
15. Why not baptize infants?
Scripture nowhere instructs us to baptize infants, nor does it describe infants being baptized. Baptism in the New Testament is exclusive to believers, to those who have repented from their sins and placed their faith in Jesus Christ. Because infants are not able to do this, they are not believers and should not be baptized.
16. What do I do if my child was baptized as an infant?
The biblical pattern is for those who have come to faith in Christ to then be baptized. Thus we urge all who have turned to Christ to be baptized by immersion, regardless whether they were baptized as infants. We say this with deep respect for our brothers and sisters who practice infant baptism.
17. What if my child was baptized at an early age, and now I don't think he was really converted until later; should he be baptized again?
If a child was baptized as an unbeliever, his was not a biblical baptism; he should now be baptized as a believer. [more]
The sections I haven't quoted deal with Communion and are also excellent. I have followed Taylor's example and re-numbered since the original document omitted a number "6."

Between Two Worlds: Q&A for Parents on the Sacraments

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments are moderated. I will gladly approve any comment that responds directly and politely to what has been posted.