Baptism of Children – Article Explanation
Introduction to this Series…
There are a number of aims of these “RBC Baptism Resources”. First, to consider what the Bible teaches about baptism. Second, to consider what RBC has taught and communicated about baptism in the past. And, third, to consider what Christians have taught about baptism throughout history. It is our prayer that these resources might be helpful for building one another up in Christ, equipping the believers for the work of the ministry issuing to the glory of God alone. The aim is not to lose the forest for the trees, so please see this linkto see a summary of how we pursue to obey how the Bible would have a local church make disciples baptizing.
In this recording and the attached document you can find what the eldership of RBC has taught about the practice of delaying baptism for believing children. The article you can download above is titled Baptism of Children. This is an article that is handed out during the membership class and has been handed out to everyone pursuing membership since before RBC constituted as a local church. Prospective members are informed that this is the practice of the church, they are asked to read this, and come to the next class with any questions regarding it. This post is simply an attempt state that the article that has been handed out in regard to this topic clearly explains that the appropriate time for believers to be baptized is when they reach an age of maturity or adulthood where the church can assess a credible profession of faith. Note, that this practice is not something that the membership is required to sign or even be in full agreement with, but as has been taught this is a practice that the those who join must be willing to submit to the leadership of the eldership in. Below is more of an explanation for how the article is clear that we practice delaying baptism until children reach the maturity of adulthood.
The Delay of Baptism for Believing Children
A first goal of this session is to read the article that has been handed out to every member who has pursued membership at Redeemer Baptist Church. Again, you can download the Baptism of Children article above to read through it as well. I have added numbers to the margin on the left side so that references might be easier to find.
A second goal of this session is to explain how this article is clear about delaying baptism until adulthood and how in the context of this entire article it would be inappropriate to conclude that, “before a child has left the home” (Page 1, Lines 32-33), and, “Nevertheless, should the young person desire to pursue baptism and membership in the normal course set out by the church, we will examine them on a case-by-case basis, with the involvement of the parents” (Page 1, Line 41 through Page 2, Lines 1-2), is referring to a child who has not matured to the point in his or her life of assuming “adult responsibilities” and the kind of “maturity” that is described throughout.
The article explains that what the eldership and the church are looking for is maturity to be able to assess the credibility of a profession of faith and of conversion/regeneration. This can be seen on Page 1 lines 1, 11-13, 19, 24, 25, 39 and on Page 2 lines 7, 13. The article describes a number of attributes of the kind of maturity in view:
(1) Self-consciously an individual (Page 1, Lines 19-20)
(2) Making their own choices (Page 1, Line 20)
(3) Having left the God-given, intended child-like dependence on their parents for the God-given, intended mature wisdom which marks one who has (Page 1, Lines 20-22),
(a) felt the tug of the world (Page 1, Line 22)
(b) felt the tug of the flesh (Page 1, Line 22)
(c) felt the tug of the devil (Page 1, Line 22)
(4) The son or daughter to deal directly with the church, as a whole, and not, fundamentally, to be under their parents’ authority (Page 1, Lines 25-26)
(5) As they assume adult responsibilities (Page 1, Line 27)
(6) Sometime late in High School (Page 1, Lines 27-28),
(a) with driving (Page 1, Line 28)
(b) with employment (Page 1, Line 28)
(c) with non-Christian friends (Page 1, Line 28)
(d) with voting (Page 1, Line 28)
(e) with legality of marriage (Page 1, Lines 28-29)
All of this context informs what marks we would be looking for in the case of baptizing “before a child has left the home” (Page 1, Line 33). The article acknowledges that a child can reach marks of maturity and adulthood before they leave the home. They may still be part of their parents household, yet they should be able to exhibit the mark of dealing directly with the church, as a whole, and not fundamentally, to be under their parents’ authority (Mark number 4 listed above). All of this also informs and controls what is meant by “young person” (Page 1, Line 41). In this context “Nevertheless” (Page 1, Line 41) simply means that in the cases when a child exhibits these marks of “maturity” or “adulthood” who is still in the home, the eldership will consider their request for baptism and membership in the church on a case-by-case basis. Looking for these marks of “maturity” or “adulthood” is what this article lays out as the, “baptism and membership in the normal course set out by the church” (Page 1, Line 41 through Page 2, Line 1). This phrase also refers to the normal membership process that those who desire to join go through. Also, the reference to baptizing “pre-teen children” (Page 2, Line 32) at the end of the article does not mean that the eldership would consider pre-teen requests for baptism and membership on a case-by-case basis, but that baptizing pre-teens who have not matured to adulthood responsibilities to assess the credibility of one’s profession of faith is something that is a more recent practice in the history of the church, and not something that RBC practices.
Another thing to observe about this article is how it speaks of adulthood.
(1) All of the individuals we read of in New Testament who are baptized are adults (Page 1, Line 11)
(2) That appropriate time to assess a credible profession is when someone assumes adult responsibilities
(Page 1, Line 11)
(3) That if we have continued in the faith into adult years that lends credibility to the previous profession of faith some may have made when they were baptized before they were an adult (Page 2, Line 13)
(4) That baptism is related to how someone is welcomed into the communicant membership in the church
(Page 2, Line 21-22)
(5) And that historically Baptists were known for waiting to baptize until the believers were adults
(Page 2, Line 36)
The last thing to observe is where the main emphasis lies, assessing the credible profession of faith. The “legitimate secondary” concerns of (1) the effect upon the individual candidate, and (2) the effect upon the church community always serve this primary consideration of discerning a credible profession of faith (See Page 1, Lines 13-15). Because Scripture speaks to these secondary concerns it would be unadvisable and unwise to discount them as illegitimate.
In reading this some may misunderstand or believe that the article is unclear. The article is clear when considered in it’s entire context that delaying of baptism until maturity and adulthood is the practice of assessing the credibility of a profession of faith and conversion/regeneration, or in other words pursuing to truly only baptize believers/disciples. The aim of this session is simply to be clear. The tone of this is meant in love, with the aim to clear up where there may be misunderstanding. Where there has been confusion in the past, we simply want to walk through why this article has not been unclear.