Baptism of Children

Our brethren in the Reformed world who adhere to paedobaptism (baptism of children) understand the church to be a mixed multitude of saved and lost people, believing the church to be made up of believers along with their “covenant children.”  In this view, baptism is seen as the functional replacement and sacramental equivalent of the rite of circumcision and symbolizes the internal cleansing from sin. According to this view, the children of believers are regarded as being included within what is referred to as the 'Covenant Community' and therefore, they too (according to this reasoning) ought to receive this sign of the covenant (baptism).  As adherents to credobaptism (confessor’s baptism), we do not see the same continuity of the covenants.

 

We believe paedobaptism to be inconsistent with the nature of Christ’s church, and a practice that actually creates confusion as to the identity of the true body of Christ. It is our conviction that the Scriptures teach that the true church is made up only of regenerate believers. There is no parallel that can be made to the covenant community of Israel in the Old Testament and the covenant community of the Church under the New.

 

We postpone the baptism of our children until the work of God in election and calling is made visible in and through a faith that God alone births into the soul of His divinely chosen people, according to His sovereign grace, as the New Covenant declares.    

 

Scripture does not state a specific minimum age requirement for baptism, however it is made very clear that baptism is reserved only for those who have put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ alone. Among those who practice believer’s baptism (credobaptism), there is some debate as to when a believing child should be baptized. Some advocate that a child should be baptized immediately on any profession of faith regardless of age, while others believe that it is wise to wait until the child is old enough to stand on his or her own profession of faith apart from the care, guidance, and direction of their parents. Proponents of both views intend to obey the Scriptures and adhere to the same teachings about the significance and role of baptism. The most notable difference between the two viewpoints is the perception of whether the greater danger is in the unwitting discouragement of young believers, or in aiding the deception of false converts. Those who are concerned more with discouraging a young believer would tend to baptize at an earlier age, while those more concerned with the possibility of aiding in the deception of a false convert would defer baptism until maturity. Regardless of when baptism occurs, it is agreed that salvation at the earliest ages of responsible action and repentant faith is possible and valid, and that is indeed our sincere desire for all the children of the church. 1      

 

After searching the Scriptures and careful study, the Elders of Pacific Hope Church share the conviction that the most prudent approach is to withhold baptism until a child has reached maturity. Waiting in this manner reduces the chance of “nominalism" and false conversions. It emphasizes the importance of baptism and clarifies that it is faith, not baptism, that saves. It allows time for the child to be better taught, to emphasize humility while waiting, to mature, and to better remember, cherish and use the experience of his or her baptism. True conversion manifests itself over time. Children are childlike and trusting for a reason. To ask a pastor to try to separate out the tightly knit strands of affection for parents and for God, and to discern which is primary in a child is to ask more than may be best for the child. Time allows the child’s faith to mature and evidence itself consistently.”2   We agree fully with Capitol Hill Baptist Church’s statement regarding the baptism of children, which can be found here.

 

In summary, we believe baptism is an ordinance for those who understand what is being done in baptism, and why. There must be evidence of the ability to understand and respond to the gospel, as well as the maturity to relate to the church as an individual, rather than being primarily under the authority and leadership of his or her parents.

 

Finally, we believe children are vitally important in the life of the body. They should be included and engaged in service to the church alongside their parents, as well as in age-appropriate Bible studies, prayer, and fellowship.  As Mark Dever wisely states, “A refusal to baptize is not intended as a statement asserting that the child is not regenerate, but simply as a reluctance publicly to affirm that which has not yet been maturely evidenced. Parents can hold a baptistic position and still love and spiritually care for their children. The children of believing parents do not need baptism to be taught the Ten Commandments, the Lord’s Prayer, and the gospel in all its fullness.”3   Above all, we desire to bring glory and honor to Christ in our observance of His command to “go and make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”       


For more information or for questions on this topic, please contact the church office.


1  For a full discussion, see Chapter 10, “Baptism in the Context of the Local Church” from Believers Baptism: Sign of the New Covenant in Christ, by Thomas R. Schreiner and Shawn Wright, Editors (Available on Amazon.com)


Believers Baptism: Sign of the New Covenant in Christ  Mark E. Dever, Contributor,  pp. 349-350


3  Capitol Hill Baptist Church website: http://www.capitolhillbaptist.org/ministries/children/baptism-of-children/