Thursday, July 16, 2015

When is a person ready to be baptized?

“He that believes and is baptized will be saved, he that does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16)

I direct a week long summer Bible camp, and it is common for a handful of young people each year to decide to put on Christ in baptism and have their sins washed away. (Praise be to God!!!) One of the things we worry about at camp is that a young person may choose to be baptized prematurely or because of peer pressure. Many of the teens at camp are thinking spiritually for the first time. It is easy to get caught up in the moment and get baptized without thinking about the lifelong commitment that is being made. This post intends to answer the common questions about baptism that are asked in regards to “when is a person ready to be baptized?”

Common Questions about Baptism:
  • Are there things a person must know before being baptized?
  • At what age should a young person be baptized?
  • Could it be that in the past we have rushed people into the water?
  • Are their consequences to baptizing someone prematurely?
Baptism in the Bible
  • In Acts 2 it is observed that baptism comes after one comprehends the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus.
    • One needs to know that in baptism they are emulating those 3 acts (Romans 6:3-4).
    • One needs to know that they are “baptized into Christ” in order to “put on Christ” (Gal. 3:27).
  • One needs to not think that baptism is a work in which they now have earned salvation (Eph. 2:8-9).
    • Instead they should understand that in baptism they are placing their trust upon Christ’s work on the cross.
  • One must believe in Christ in order to be ready to be baptized.
    • (John 8:24) “unless you believe that I AM he, you will die in your sins” - This is more than just believing that Jesus existed.
      • This is belief in His Lordship, His Deity and all that it entails.
  • When one is baptized, they are submitting to His Lordship; they become His slave, and He is their Master.
    • “... if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9).
      • When you confess Jesus is Lord before baptism, you are confessing that you are making a commitment to Him through baptism, because HE IS LORD.
In the New Testament one is baptized because they understand two things:
  • 1. The Lordship of Jesus. 
  • 2. Their own sinfulness.
    • Romans 3:23; Romans 6:23; Revelation 21:8.
    • Baptism is for the purpose of receiving the forgiveness of sins that Jesus made available to all when He died on the cross. (Acts 2:38, Acts 22:16).
  • This means that before a person is baptized, they must have an idea of:
    • What sin is.
    • Their own personal sinfulness.
    • The consequences of their own sinfulness and because of the consequences of sin they must have a desire to place their trust solely on Jesus to remedy their sin problem.
Questions to ask a person (especially a younger one) who expresses a desire to be baptized: 
(These questions are not at all meant to discourage a person from following God, but instead are designed to make sure a person is ready, and understands what they are doing.)
  • Why do you want to be baptized?
  • Do you believe in the Lordship of Jesus and understand what that entails?
  • Do you understand the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross?
  • Are you a sinner?
    • (If they answer “yes”) Since you are a sinner, do you believe that right now, if you were to die that you would go to Hell?
  • Do you understand the commitment that you are making?
At what age should a young person ready to be baptized?
  • The Bible does not give an answer to this question, however, in the New Testament, the only examples are of adults getting baptized.
  • The Bible may not tell us a specific age, but it must be at an age when:
    • They can sin, realize it, understand its eternal consequences and feel compelled to do something about it.
    • They must comprehend the Deity of Christ and be willing to submit to His Lordship.
    • They must mentally and emotionally be able to make a lifelong commitment to God.
    • They must understand what Jesus did at the cross and how that ties into what they are doing in baptism.
Other points to consider about a young person being baptized:
  • When one is baptized, they are becoming the bride of Christ. 
    • Would this young person be ready for marriage or at least fully understand the seriousness of a marriage relationship?
  • When a Christian continues in sin and refuses to repent, they are to be withdrawn from.
    • Would we consider this fair or be willing to do it to this young person?
  • There are many passages of Scripture that carry adult themes (Song of Solomon, 1 Corinthians 7:1ff).
    • Would we allow a person of this age to attend a class on these subjects or expect them to understand?
    • Could this young person understand a “virgin birth”?
  • Baptism is a most important decision one will ever make.
    •  It is a mature decision that needs to be made by a mature mind that can make such a decision and commitment. A young person may want to do right, make good choices and follow God, but still not be ready to make a decision of this magnitude. 
      • (In those cases we should encourage a young person to keep trying to follow God in every part of their life. Let them know that when they are ready to make this big decision we will be there to help them. Let them know that God loves them and is glad that they love Him too. Promise them, that when they are ready to be baptized, they will know it for sure.)
A person must be a “sinner” before they require “remission of sins”.
  • Baptism is so one may have their sins washed away.
    • Do we consider these young people that want to be baptized old enough to be capable of committing sins, being separated from God for all eternity in a Devil’s Hell?
  • Just because a child “does bad things” does not mean that they are sinning.
  • Just because a child understands that the Bible commands baptism does not mean that they are ready.
  • We need to be cautious to not push our young people into doing something they do not understand.
  • We need to preach Jesus, sin, its solution, and when they grasp it, they will respond appropriately.
Is it possible to be baptized wrong?
  • Yes, in fact, there are examples of “re-baptism” in Scripture. (Acts 19:1-4).
  • Other reasons for re-baptism:
    • Baptized the wrong way.
    • Wrong reason.
    • Without understanding.
    • Without faith.
    • Without repentance.
The right reasons for being baptized:
  • You believe that Jesus is Lord (John 3:16)
  • You understand your own personal sinfulness and that Jesus came and died on the cross to take the punishment for your sins. (Romans 3:21-31). You understand baptisms relationship to Christ’s actions upon the cross.
  • You desire forgiveness and a committed relationship with Christ. 
  • You have placed your faith in Him (Eph. 2). You have repented of your sins (Acts 2:38). You want to confess that He is Lord (Rom. 10:9).
     “and why are you waiting, arise be baptized, washing away your sins, calling upon the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16).

    CS