Why We Baptize Adults AND Babies
This Sunday at 3:00 we will gather at the Eddon Boat Park at the corner of Stinson and Harborview for our annual Harbor baptism ceremony. I hope you will come. It is a wonderful public testimony to our faith and every year, scores of people on foot, in car and in boats, meander by and listen in as we proclaim our love for Jesus and, more importantly, His love for us.
Which brings me to something I want to talk about: why we baptize babies as well as believing adults. The other day I saw one of our young dads holding a newborn and said, “We’ve got to get her baptism scheduled.” He responded, “Oh, we are going to wait until she is old enough to remember it.” I invited further conversation… and it struck me that all of us might benefit from that conversation.
Baptists believe that you wait to baptize until a person is old enough to profess love for Jesus. Presbyterians believe that you baptize the babies and children of believers too, because it declares a more important love: Jesus’ love for us… the love that loved us before we ever thought about loving Him.
We also baptize the babies of believers because the Bible encourages it. In Acts 2:39 when the crowds asked Peter what they must do to be saved, he replied, “Repent and be baptized ever one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins… The promise is for you and your children…” In Acts 16, we read about two different instances in which entire households were baptized… and no age distinction is mentioned.
In Colossians 2: 9 and following (please read it!), Paul equates circumcision and baptism. Baptism, he says, now replaces circumcision as the sign that someone belongs to God’s family. And you will recall, circumcision was performed when baby boys were eight days old. I guarantee you, they never asked the boys their opinion about whether or not they wanted to be circumcised as a sign of their membership in God’s family. And I doubly guarantee you, they didn’t want to wait until they were “old enough to decide for themselves and remember” what was done for them. No, circumcision was the sign that and claim on the covenant promise that everyone belonged to God’s family, including children.
Think about it this way. What if I had asked that young dad, “What is your daughter’s name?” and he replied, “Betty Lou.” And I said, “Ah… Betty Lou Jones.” And he shot back, “No… just Betty Lou. We aren’t giving her our last name yet. We are going to wait until she is old enough to decide for herself whether she wants to be a member of our family. And we want to remember her naming ceremony.” It would never happen! He gave that little girl his name the moment she was born… because she belonged to that family, whether she knew it or not.
We baptize babies because, as the Bible teaches, we want to claim them for the family of God affirm the promise of God that he or she should be called a child of God by marking them with God’s commanded seal of baptism. Do they still need to make a decision later on? Of course. That’s why we have confirmation… to confirm for themselves what their parents did proclaimed on their behalf. That is the service they get to remember.
But on that day when we baptize her into the family as a baby, we will be there and we will remember and we will tell her for the next 13 years, “We remember the day you were baptized and we gave you the name of Jesus’ Child. You belong to His family.”
So that’s a quick lesson on why we Presbyterians (and many others) baptize babies and children. I hope that helps! Anyhow, come Sunday at 3:00pm and celebrate with us as 20+ people, old and young, take the name of Jesus for themselves!
P.S.. If you want to provide support to families that have been burned out in eastern Washington and the firefighters that are risking their lives, follow this LINK for a list of items that would be appreciated. Bring them to church Sunday and leave them in the lobby near the sign that says, “Fire Victims” and we will see that the items are delivered.
P.S. # 2. Saturday Night at Chapel Hill starts September 19, 6:30pm in Memorial Chapel! Spread the word among your friends that can’t come to church on Sundays!