The Age of Baptism

Tomorrow is a big day in the Woodward house. My middle son Luke is going to be baptized. He is 12, and his older brother  and sister were also baptized at 12 or 13. This is actually not a coincidence. In our  home, we of course look for signs of the Spirit working in the lives of our children and try to respond to their questions. All of our kids thus far–and we praise God for this reality–have sought a relationship with Christ at an early age. We  assume nothing other than sincerity with an early decision, which has occurred more than once with our six children, but we also assume a time will come later in life when the child who makes an early decision comes to a fuller  understanding of that decision or fuller sense of conviction of sin, and in some instances the child believes the later understanding or conviction coincides with the actual moment of salvation. I believe in some instances that the earliest decision is valid but each of us must wrestle with the reality of initial salvation from the Father.

Assuming the child has accepted Christ  by 12, which has  occurred for each of our oldest three  children, we proceed toward baptism at some point between the ages of 12 and 13. However, we have started another tradition to help seal this important  moment in the lives of our children. Usually the day before the baptism, we gather with immediate family and sometimes extended family or a family friend, and we question the child regarding basic doctrine. I believe the one who is being  baptized needs to be able to talk about the Trinity,doctrine of Christ, doctrine of sin, and doctrine of salvation, even if it is in 12-year-old language. We seek to assure the  child that having a right answer does not equal salvation. Rather, salvation occurred at the moment he or she genuinely accepted Christ  as Lord and Savior. We will ask again before the family council if the child asked Christ into his or her life at the earlier point–note that at this point if the child has  questions we can pray at that  very moment to receive Christ.

For those who might still be with me at this point in the article, let’s see if I can stir up all the Baptists in the room. Once the child is baptized, you are not allowed to be baptized again as long as you live in our home. If the child comes to me at 14 and says, I believe I have just now genuinely accepted Christ, I will say, “That’s wonderful; you’re mother and I rejoice with you in this decision.” But the child  will not be baptized again. I am amazed at the number of people I encounter in ministry that  have  been baptized  twice, including myself. I don’t think the original “re-baptizers” had what we do in mind when the Baptist denomination begin to emerge a few centuries ago. Sure if a person experiences infant baptism, an additional baptism is needed. But  in my view, if the average committed Christian has been baptized more than once under the category of sole-competency, something is wrong with our system. I am sure statistically that  at least one of my children will get baptized twice, but it will not be during his or her developmental years.

So some might be wondering why 12, I will answer in extended manner if anyone is interested, but for now, let me simply say that this age was determined through research on developmental understanding. At 12 a child can begin to have profound understanding of symbolism. I didn’t create this reality. This reality unfolds from God’s sovereignty of the developmental process. Notice this is also the threshold of young manhood or womanhood.

And yes you are right if guessed that there are historical models for this practice. As I have said elsewhere on this blog, our  main guides in leading our family or churches in worship are biblical and theological, but comparing our conclusions against the weight of history is not a bad idea.

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