Baptism – Or Child Dedication?
The clock just struck eleven this evening, and Janet went in to bed. I headed outside, and for the first time this year, I am enjoying our firepit. I lit it earlier tonight to roast marshmallows with our grandson Carter, before I drove him home after dinner. I am sitting here in the glow of the fire reliving the events of the day – I have already put the cover on the grill, cooled down from the hamburgers and hot dogs I cooked for dinner, and after I finish this post, I will head in to bed. It’s just a special quiet time for me right now.
Earlier this evening, all three of our children; Kristin (who had surgery last week), Jill, home from Oklahoma for a visit since last Sunday, and Andrew, our only son, were all here in the house. That doesn’t happen much any more – with all of them grown and having their own families. But nonetheless, it reminded me of days long gone. And although none of the kids mentioned it, I thought it was a special time – if only for a little while. Andrew left to get back to his own family, but Kristin, with one of her sons, Carter – and Jill with her 20 month old son, Drew, joined us for dinner in the kitchen. And talk turned to Mother’s Day; and the brunch we intend to have together on Sunday.
With all the grandchildren around the last several weeks, and Mother’s Day approaching, my thoughts turned to kids and moms; and how Mother’s Day is one of the biggest days of the year for what the church refers to as “child dedications.” And we just came off Easter, which is the biggest day of the year for baptisms – so I thought about these different events and how people arrive at the decisions they make about which path to follow in bringing their children to the Lord.
And certainly, it is not my place to judge, but you know by now, that in most things theological, I at least have an opinion. And this decision is particularly important to me as Jill is interested in having Drew “dedicated” while she is in town. So what does this mean? And is it biblical? And what about infant baptism? So, hopefully, without too much controversy, I can set the record straight about these two very well-known, but theologically different events.
To begin with, baptisms have been done for centuries, and most of us who grew up in the church were baptized as infants. Baptism, depending on your theological beliefs, is either a requirement for church membership, an act of obedience to Jesus Christ, or something we just do as acceptable in the church. We bring our children to be consecrated to the Lord, and to be sprinkled (most child baptisms do not include immersion) in order to “ensure” their safety, or even salvation, with the Lord. Hopefully, nothing bad will happen to them, but if it does, many people believe in the the assurance of salvation for their baptized children. And those who are not baptized as children are usually baptized in some way as adults.
On the other hand, there are a growing number of churches who now practice child dedications instead of baptisms. Their thought is that each person must decide for themselves when the right time is to be baptized. From a biblical perspective, they believe that the most parents can do for their children is to promise the Lord that the children will be raised in a Christian environment. And, just as I can’t eat for you, I also cannot in any way ensure your salvation through baptism. I can, however, demonstrate to God my desire to dedicate my efforts to honoring Him by promising to expose my child to Christian teachings, and to the prayer support of friends and family as my child grows up.
The difference of opinion comes into play at this point. From a biblical perspective, every baptism in the Bible, from Jesus, to all the others, including the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8:36, and the Roman centurion Cornelius, all were baptized after their profession of faith in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior – we call this “post profession.” But what about children? Many of them are baptized before they are able to make a “profession” of faith – they are too young to know what they are committing to. What to do? Child dedication to the rescue!
And is it really biblical that baptism should be “post profession?” Well, according to Peter it is. In Acts 2:38, we are told, “Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” So first, you must repent (or turn around and go in the opposite direction), and then be baptized.
Therefore, my encouragement tonight, regardless of where you fall in this age old debate, is to celebrate mothers this week-end and realize that our moms have done the best job they could in raising us to be the best we could be. And that’s tough – especially today. And my prayer is that you will honor the attempts of your mother to raise you in a way that was consistent with the love and caring she had for you. And for those of you who may have lost a mother, or had a mom who fell short of delivering the love and caring that you needed, I will pray for you this week-end, that you may have a special place in the heart of Jesus Christ as He showers you with his divine love. And each of us may consider, child or adult, re-dedicating our lives to God. Amen.