Being “of Age”

By | 4 September 2009

Is there an appropriate age at which someone can be considered for baptism? Is there an “age of majority” that needs to be considered before allowing someone who professes faith to be immersed in the baptistery?

I am a firm adherent to believer’s baptism. When a sinner is saved by grace, it is both their responsibility, and their privilege to be baptized and join the church.

But at what age can a profession of faith be “trustworthy”? Is there something magical about turning 16, 18, 20, 21, etc that makes a statement about an internal change of heart more true or more believable? I was not converted until about when I graduated high school. I knew for a long time that I was playing by the rules so I didn’t get in trouble. So by the time I was a Christian, no church I knew of would have had an issue with baptizing me.

But what about people I know who were converted around age 6? Or 10? Or 13? What is about turning 16 or 18 that makes some churches think that now they can believe that a person is really saved? What must be going-on in a converted child’s mind when a church won’t let them be baptized for 8 years because they’re only 10? Does that not lead to a great deal of self-doubt and wondering if what they’ve learned and accepted and believed is really true?

If a person has been truly saved, they can never become “unsaved” – but they can struggle with issues of assurance for years because someone they trust (a pastor, parent, Sunday school teacher, etc) has told them they have to wait.

All of the examples we have in the Bible of people declaring their faith in Jesus have them immediately being baptized as soon as a suitable source of water can be found. Yes – the apostles had special insights that our pastors can’t have today. However, even in the Jerusalem church were there found people who agreed to lie to the Holy Spirit about how much money they received for the plot of land they sold.

Were Ananias and Saphira false converts? I don’t know. But they didn’t show well in the only instance we have recorded of them in the Bible.

My personal conviction is that upon a credible profession of faith, any person should be baptized as soon as possible. As humans, we will make mistakes. We will occasionally recommend the wrong person to the church. Or misapprehend a profession as being what we want to hear, rather than what is really going-on. A verbal profession, followed by some [short] time of observation by both the person’s family, the church, their friends, and maybe coworkers ought to be enough to determine the likelihood of their statement being true.

But when that short observational time is done – and they’re still following what they claim to believe, withholding baptism from them becomes no longer a verification that they are what they say they are, but a way for the church to impose extra rules on top of the examples shown to us in the Bible’s account.

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