- What is a sacrament?
A sacrament is a blessing from Christ which is a sign (a picture) and a seal (a mark of being set apart) given to believers in order to teach and assure us of our salvation. The Lord ordained two sacraments: baptism (Matt. 28:19) and the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor. 11:23), also known as communion. Participation in the sacraments does not bring salvation; this comes only by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone (Eph. 2:8-9; Gal. 2:16).
- What is baptism?
Baptism is the sacrament which uniquely depicts initiation into the Christian life, portraying the believer’s union with Christ in his death and resurrection (Rom. 6:3-5). It points to the beginning of the Christian life (Matt. 28:19; Acts 2:38) and displays one’s commitment to Christ, a commitment which will be lived out in the local church.“Baptism is the sign of the initiation by which we are received into the society of the church.”
- When should a child be baptized?
Only when he or she can provide a believable profession of faith in Jesus Christ (Acts 2:41; Gal. 3:27).
- What is a believable profession of faith? Anyone professing Jesus Christ as Lord should be able to:
- Communicate the content of the gospel as well as an expression of faith in Jesus Christ for salvation.
- Evidence godly sorrow over sin, followed by repentance which leads to the fruit of the Spirit.
- Have the ability to examine himself and the condition of his soul (1 Cor. 11:27-32).
- Have demonstrated a willingness to turn away from the world and instead live a life keeping God’s commands and loving God’s church (1 John 2:15- 17; 5:1-5).
- Exhibit fruit in his life which proceeds from regeneration (Gal. 5:22-23).
- Does God save young children?
Yes! God can and does convert young children (Rom. 10:9-13, Act 2:21). However, we also recognize that the nature of children, their intellectual immaturity, the frequency with which they change their opinions, the ease with which they can be influenced, and for many, their limited exposure to worldly things, makes it exceedingly difficult to discern with certainty whether a child is truly converted. The younger a child is, the more difficult this becomes.
- At what age should children be baptized? Is there a minimum?
The Bible prescribes no minimum age for baptism; it is silent on this subject. Because it is difficult to discern when a child’s profession of faith is truly believable, we believe it is generally wise to wait until a child who professes faith in Christ is in his or her mid to late teens before baptism.
- What is the role of the parent in evaluating a child’s readiness to be baptized?
Parents bear primary responsibility for the condition of their children’s souls. They are to:
- Teach their children God’s commands (Deut. 6:7).
- Train their children up in the way they should go (Pro. 22:6).
- Bring their children up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Eph. 6:4).
At the same time, pastors bear primary responsibility for administering the sacraments within the local church and for caring for the souls of those who receive them. For these reasons, parents (and especially fathers) should evaluate the readiness of their children for baptism and should actively seek to involve their pastors in this process. Parents know their children best and are ideally situated to discern the fruit of repentance in their children. (Note: the observations of others—in caregroup, trusted friends, and others in the church—will also be extremely helpful in this process.)
A parent who believes his child is ready to be baptized should then meet with a pastor so that the pastor can verify the parent’s evaluation. Pastor, parent, and child should all be confident in the readiness of the child to move forward with baptism.
- If my child said a prayer and invited Jesus into his heart, isn’t that enough to be baptized?
No. The language of “inviting Jesus into your heart” is not biblical, ignores critical features of the gospel such as justification by faith, and fails to call forth repentance. Experience reveals that it is relatively easy to persuade young children to invite Jesus into their hearts, but many who have made such a commitment or prayed such a prayer later show no evidence of regeneration.
- What is the Lord’s Supper?
The Lord’s Supper is the sacrament which uniquely depicts continuing fellowship with Christ, a repeated act whereby the believer remembers the Lord’s death and renews his commitment to participation in the Lord and his church (1 Cor. 11:27-34). In eating and drinking the believer is nourished and strengthened to grow in grace (1 Cor. 10:16).
- How do baptism and the Lord’s Supper differ?