Having a newborn baby is a life-changing experience. That baby is a living eternal soul. Thus it is an awesome responsibility a mom and dad face in preparing that child for this life and for the one to come.
Having a baby seems to bring people closer to God, at least for a little while. A sense of awe and wonder that can't be described often accompanies a parents concerns for what is best for the child. Also mixed into a number of different emotions is the fear of God and a concern that the child be right with God and ready to meet him. Many religions offer baby "baptism" to parents as a practice that is believed by some to wash away original sin and make the baby a part of the family of God. This then relieves that parents fears.
Other religions do not "baptize" babies but offer child dedication services for parents to publicly set the child aside to God and dedicate themselves as parents to bring up the child to know the Lord as soon as the child is old enough to make that decision.
Because baby "baptism" and baby dedication are different, and religions are different, this emotional issue can become quite charged and divisive between family members of different religions. Often it is impossible to reconcile what parents want and in-laws want. One or the other is sure to get offended if their way is not followed. In the light of this let us turn to the Bible, God's own Holy Word, and see what He says about this subject.
I. David's Seven Day Old Baby Dies And Goes To Heaven.
II Samuel 12:16-23, "David therefore besought God for the child; and David fasted, and went in, and lay all night upon the earth. And the elders of his house arose, and went to him, to raise him up from the earth: but he would not, neither did he eat bread with them. And it came to pass on the seventh day, that the child died. And the servants of David feared to tell him that the child was dead: for they said, Behold, while the child was yet alive, we spake unto him, and he would not hearken unto our voice: how will he then vex himself, if we tell him that the child is dead? But when David saw that his servants whispered, David perceived that the child was dead: therefore David said unto his servants, Is the child dead? And they said, He is dead. Then David arose from the earth, and washed, and anointed himself, and changed his apparel, and came into the house of the LORD, and worshipped: then he came to his own house; and when he required, they set bread before him, and he did eat. Then said his servants unto him, What thing is this that thou hast done? thou didst fast and weep for the child, [while it was] alive; but when the child was dead, thou didst rise and eat bread. And he said, While the child was yet alive, I fasted and wept: for I said, Who can
tell whether GOD will be gracious to me, that the child may live? But now he is dead, wherefore should I fast? can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me."
David knew that he would go to be where his baby was someday and David spoke confidently of himself being in heaven someday because of his faith in the Lord. Psalms 23:6, "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever."
Nothing special was done for his baby boy. No baptism. No dedication. No religious service. Yet David had the confidence he would be with the boy in Heaven someday. He had so much peace about it he washed himself and had a big dinner rather than mourn or cry. Strange reaction? No, just the actions of a man who knew God. Do you have that faith Mom and Dad?
II. An Age Of Accountability.
Deuteronomy 1:39, "Moreover your little ones, which ye said should be a prey, and your children, which in that day had no knowledge between good and evil, they shall go in thither, and unto them will I give it, and they shall possess it."
There is a short period of time when a child has no knowledge between good and evil. They cannot yet "hear with their ears, and ... understand with their heart, and ... be converted ..." Matthew 13:15.
Every child is born a sinner by nature. Romans 5:12, "Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:
Every child eventually becomes a sinner by choice. Human nature is bent toward sin and evil. We do not need to teach our children how to do bad. They will do it by nature. We need to teach our children how to do good. As soon as they are old enough, we need to teach them how to be saved. God the Father wants every child to be in Heaven with Him. Even yours! It is His will. Matthew 18:14, "Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish."
That child needs to be instructed in the gospel when he/she is old enough. I have seen children as young as four, five and six come under conviction of sin and their need of a Savior. They have turned to Jesus Christ and accepted him as their savior by faith from their heart. A baby can't do that, but some children can at any early age. When they can make choices for themselves they are then accountable for their actions. Parents should teach their children God's simple plan of salvation as early in life as possible.
III. Biblical Baptism Is For Believers Not Babies.
Let's look at just one of the thirteen different stories of baptism in the Bible that are recorded for us. This story is found in Acts 8:29-38, "Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot. And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest? And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him. The place of the scripture which he read was this, He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth: In his humiliation his judgment was taken away: and who shall declare his generation? for his life is taken from the earth. And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man? Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and
preached unto him Jesus. And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him."
It was adults who were baptized in the Bible. There is not one single story in all Scripture of one baby being baptized.
The person who was baptized was to be a believer first. Of his own free will, he had to receive Jesus Christ as his/her personal savior.
The word baptism means "to overwhelm, dip, submerge, immense." It does not mean "to pour or sprinkle."
The first recorded instance of "infant baptism" was when the Roman Emperor Valens insisted his dying son be "baptized" - in the year 370 AD. The church caved into his fears and baptized the infant. Today churches continue to cave into parental fears and "baptize" babies.
This is unscriptural. The mode of "sprinkling" was not sanctioned until 1311 AD by the Council of Ravenna. They had no right to change Scripture.
In this story above (Acts 8:29-38) "they both went down into the water." Who? Two adults.
IV. Baby Dedication Implied In The Scriptures.
Luke 2:21-22, "And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called JESUS, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb. And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord;"
Mary presented Jesus, her first born son to the Lord in Jerusalem. Jesus was not baptized till He was 30 years old, but was presented when he was eight.
Hannah, the mother of Samuel dedicated her son to the Lord in this story:
I Samuel 1:24-28, "And when she had weaned him, she took him up with her, with three bullocks, and one ephah of flour, and a bottle of wine, and brought him unto the house of the LORD in Shiloh: and the child was young. And they slew a bullock, and brought the child to Eli. And she said, Oh my lord, as thy soul liveth, my lord, I am the woman that stood by thee here, praying unto the LORD. For this child I prayed; and the LORD hath given me my petition which I asked of him: Therefore also I have lent him to the LORD; as long as he liveth he shall be lent to the LORD. And he worshipped the LORD there."
Every parent should realize that children are a heritage from the Lord. They are a reward from God. Psalms 127:3, "Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward."
It might be wise, but not necessary for a parent to "officially" dedicate their child to the Lord in a public service. That is between the parents and God.
I would recommend that parents take their children to Sunday School and church on a weekly basis. Don't send them, take them. I also recommend that you strive to have a Christian home where each parent is a believer in Jesus Christ, a student of the Bible and a man or woman of prayer. No religious leader or religious ordinance or sacrement can make your child right with God. Only faith in Jesus Christ can save them when they are of age.
Parents should not fear for the child, but for themselves that they will live a good example and testimony before their children while they are growing up so that child will not be turned off by hypocrisy.
Fathers and mothers - face your responsibility! Ephesians 6:4, "And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord."