Q: Water baptism—should it be done at birth, or is it something done when a person is mature enough to understand what they’re doing?
Asked by: Mary
A: Mary, you’ve asked an excellent question, and I don’t need to tell you that this is a question that has divided the church throughout history—and still does.
So not everyone is going to be happy with my answer, but I need to answer it the way I believe God would want me to.
First of all, let me give you a little background information. Infant baptism arose in North Africa in the early A.D. centuries and soon became the preferred means of baptism throughout all of Christendom. Because of that, infant baptism not only somehow symbolized the birth into God’s family, it also had huge nationalistic overtones—it was proof that Christianity was indeed the religion of the whole Roman Empire. They believed that infant baptism made you a part of “Christendom.”
However, when you think of infant baptism, there are different interpretations of it. For example, Catholics and Lutherans believe that it is the means by which one becomes a child of God. “With this water I make you a child of God,” the priest or the minister says. Whereas, if you were baptized as an infant in a Presbyterian church or a Methodist church, that is more a sign of the covenant. It’s much closer to what we call a dedication service—the dedication service of a child.
As I look at the New Testament, it appears to me that baptism was always about the believer responding to the work of God in his heart. Salvation was something that took place after a person attained the age of accountability (the person understood what was happening); it is after that point in time that the baptism happened. You find this scenario over and over again in the pages of the New Testament.
So we here at The Moody Church, and my personal conviction is, that one should be baptized upon profession of faith. Once you trust Christ as your Savior, and you know what you are doing, it is then that you announce to the world, that you are dying to self, dying to sin, and you are alive unto Jesus Christ.
I hope this helps you, Mary, and if you’ve never been baptized, I hope you will be. And if you were baptized as an infant, and you’re not sure as to whether or not that baptism was really biblical and you want to be baptized as an adult, I encourage you to do that.
- There are no Scripture references.