Many churches baptize babies and small children. Other churches have baby dedication services. Many people have asked me over the last couple of weeks, “What is the difference between child dedication and child baptism?” I wanted to run through the decisions that are being made with each of these cases.
Baptism is obedience to some very clear scriptures. Here is just one of many:
Crispus, the synagogue leader, and his entire household believed in the Lord; and many of the Corinthians who heard Paul believed and were baptized. –Acts 18:8
Baptism is the act of someone who has put their belief in Christ. It is a visible demonstrations of a very deep faith someone has put in Christ. Belief in Christ is what saves someone. With beautiful simplicity, John 3:16 shows us how salvation works:
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
So, to be baptized, a person must first believe. A baby or young child cannot make the decision to believe. When a parent has a child baptized, they are attempting to make the decision for a them.
The problem is, that doesn’t work. One persons faith does not translate to another persons faith. If it did, I would just get out a water hose and spray people who walked by my house yelling “I baptize you in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit!” I could save my whole block in a few weeks. Belief, by definition, is something each person must personally choose to do.
A baby dedication is completely different. A parent is fully aware that this dedication is not an attempt to save the child. It is not a transfer of faith from the parent to the child. A child dedication is more about the parents than it is the child. When a parent dedicates their child they are committing themselves to four things:
- To accept the responsibility as the primary spiritual leader of their child’s life.
- To teach their child God’s word and lead them to a faith in Christ.
- To model the love and grace of our Heavenly Father to their children.
- To raise their child actively involved in church.
In a nutshell, they are committing to cultivating the perfect environment for their child to put their belief in Christ when they are older. This is important, because parents have the most influence in their child’s spiritual development. Sometimes the influence is positive and sometimes it is negative, but the parents are always the strongest influence.
When is my child old enough to be baptized?
When your child is old enough to understand concepts like sin, death, punishment, heaven and hell, then discussions about belief can start. Keep in mind, there is no hurry. Kids who attend church often see a baptism and they want to be baptized as well. Children want to please their parents and like to have the spotlight. Their reasons aren’t always pure belief. I recommend waiting until the children are at least 9 or 10 years old. However, as a parent you know your child best. If they are ready, and it is a decision they are making for themselves, you will know.
Don’t baptize your infant or young child. It’s not a decision you can make for them. Commit to the hard work of leading your child in God’s word. Guiding them with God’s love. When they are old enough, they will have the opportunity to know Jesus very personally.
Want to sign up for our yearly Child Dedication Service on Mother’s Day?