At Church at the Grove, we wait until our children are old enough to believe and understand the true meaning of baptism before we baptize them. Some churches practice a “baptism of confirmation” for children. This ceremony is intended to be a covenant between the parents and God on the behalf of the child. The parents promise to raise their child in the faith until the child is old enough to make his own personal confession of Christ. This custom began about 300 years after the Bible was completed. This is different from the baptism talked about in the Bible which was only for those old enough to believe. The purpose is to publicly confess your personal commitment to Christ.
What if I baptized as a child/infant?
What if I was baptized as an infant? Does that count? And the answer is – yes and no. I’ll tell you what I mean by that. It counts in the sense that it’s a very special event that your parents went through on your behalf. And nothing in a later baptism should denigrate that or devalue that reflection of their love for you and their desire for you to embrace the Christian faith. That’s the “yes” part.
The “no” part is that an infant baptism isn’t the baptism Christ asked for. Your baptism as an infant was a sign of your parents’ faith and their desire for you to grow up and become a follower of Jesus. But it’s not a sign of your faith. You probably don’t even remember it.
So if you were baptized as an infant, you still need to be baptized as a believer. Because the baptism Jesus was after was something to be pursued as a believer, as a Christian, as someone who has crossed the line knowingly, as a self-conscious personal decision – not what their parents wanted – what you decided. Because that’s what baptism is – the sacred act which reflects what you have determined and it symbolizes your faith in Christ.
If you were baptized before you personally placed your faith in Jesus – then your baptism was not a symbol of your faith. You haven’t publicly acknowledged him before men and women as a believer. It would be like going through a wedding without having anyone to marry.
See, most churches that practice infant baptism do so in the hope that one day you will embrace the faith for yourself. And they would be the first to say that later there needs to be something that confirms it in your life when you’re old enough to decide to follow Jesus.
So – in a sense – your adult baptism would be the ultimate fulfillment of your parents faith when they had you baptized as an infant.
Throughout the New Testament, baptism always follows someone’s decision. There’s not a single case in the Bible of somebody being baptized before they made their own decision. It’s always “hear, believe, be baptized.” There’s not one deviation from that pattern in scripture. And since the purpose and meaning of baptism is to publicly confess your commitment to Christ, then if you have not been baptized as a believer following your decision for Christ, then absolutely – without a doubt – you need to be baptized.
Now some of you were not baptized as an infant – but you were baptized when you were really young. Sometimes parental insecurity – if I can be that bold – forces, pushes children toward baptism at too young of an age. The child gets baptized and the parent feels better. But the child hadn’t really made a decision to follow Jesus and didn’t really understand what baptism means. If that’s you – and you made your real decision to follow Jesus later on – you should be baptized. You may have gotten wet before, but you weren’t baptized as a sign of your faith. The point is to have baptism reflect what has happened in your life relationally with Christ. If you went through a baptism before but you weren’t really in that relationship, then it doesn’t matter what you did, or how old you were when you did it, you haven’t really been baptized into the faith as a follower of Jesus.