By Pastor Tedd Mathis
These essays have been written to encourage parents and us as a church to wait until our children are at least young adults before they are baptized. This final essay addresses the privileges and expectations that come with baptism.
Remember the story of the man who was born blind and Jesus healing him? The Jewish leaders who detested Jesus were grilling and drilling the man’s parents. Their response was, “He is of age; ask him” (John 9:23).
Most likely their son was at least 20 years old. Under Jewish law that was the age when a male was responsible for himself. With the age of 20 came adult privileges and expectations that were not given to or expected of those under the age of 20 (Numbers 1:2-3; 22ff; 14:29; 32:11; Ex. 30:14/Deut. 16:16-17).
That way of thinking is not unique to the nation of Israel. Today, American citizens have to reach a certain age before they can legally get married, drive, or vote. You should be glad the law prohibited me from driving at age four!
How does this principle apply to baptism?
Under the New Covenant there are no religious rites to be performed upon children. Parents are not given a certain age to baptize their children (unlike circumcision at 8 days old under the Mosaic Covenant). Local churches are not given a specific age when they are to baptize people.
Neither do we see a specific age given under the New Covenant where those already baptized may begin to enter into the privileges and expectations of service and participation in the local church.
What we do see is, once a person is baptized, there are privileges and expectations they participate in because they are baptized.
Baptism is an act that comes with holy expectations
One of the saddest and most solemn chapters in the New Testament is I Corinthians 5. A member of the church is openly practicing gross sexual sin. And not only is the church not confronting him, but the church is also not mourning over it (5:2).
Do you think the Lord was being honored with His blood-bought people ‘boasting’ in incestuous sin among them (5:6)? Of course not! This is why the Apostle Paul confronted the baptized members in the church at Corinth and commanded them to put the man out of the church.
When this occurred the church at Corinth had only been in existence for about five years. The Apostle Paul had come with the Gospel a few years before he wrote this letter. It is highly probable most in the church had been baptized in those years (Act 18:8-11) — and many had come out of religions that celebrated sexual immorality (see I Corinthians 6:9-20).
Earlier in First Corinthians Paul addresses the church about the spiritual immaturity among them. Even though they were a young church he did not excuse their ‘fleshly’ spiritual state; he rebuked them (I Corinthians 3:1-4).
What this teaches us is that baptism is a sanctifying act that comes with holy expectations (I Corinthians 1:2; 3:16, 23; 6:9-20).
Consider the following in your own life and in our church:
+ Baptism is your public confession that you have renounced and rejected every other spiritual or religious identity or belief system and you have identified all of who you are with the death, burial, resurrection and return of Christ (Romans 6:3-6; I Thess. 1:9-10).
+ Baptism has placed you in the visible church (Acts 2:37-47).
+ Baptism is a public statement you can now be counted as one committed to live your life trusting and obeying Jesus as Lord and faithfully assembling with Christ’s people (Romans 6:3-6; Ephesians 4:1-6; 17-32; 5:3-12; Hebrews 10:22-25; I Corinthians 11:18).
+ Baptism precedes the privilege of your partaking in the Lord’s Supper (Acts 2:41,42; I Corinthians 11:17-34).
+ Baptism places you in the community given the solemn privilege of examining and appointing men to serve as elders or deacons (I Timothy 3; Titus 1; Philippians 1:1; Acts 6:1-6).
+ It is only men who have been baptized that would be examined to fill the office of elder or deacon (I Timothy 3; Titus 1; Acts 6:1-6)
+ Those baptized are to lovingly confront other believers about sin and mourn over known sin in their assembly (Matthew 18:15-20; I Corinthians 5).
+ Baptized believers have the solemn authority and duty to put another baptized person out of the church should they remain in unrepentant sin — and receive them back upon evidence of their genuine repentance (I Corinthians 5; II Corinthians 2:6-11; Matthew 18:15-20).
Because baptism is an act that confers holy privileges and expectations tied to the visible local church, professing believers should be old enough to understand and be personally accountable for those expectations. This is why we should wait until our children are at least young adults before they are baptized.