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How “Biblical” Is Your Typical Baptist Baptism?

Jim Somerville makes an interesting point about the baptisms most Baptist pastors perform most of the time:

In the Bible the candidate for baptism is, typically:

An adult
Who has grown up Jewish or Gentile
Hearing the good news about Jesus for the first time
Responding in faith
Repenting of his or her sins
Entering the new life in Christ
Through the waters of baptism

How different is that from the candidate I often immerse:

A child
Dedicated to God as an infant
Having heard about Jesus all her life
Now professing her faith publicly
And joining the other members of the church by
Taking the next step in her Christian journey
Through the waters of baptism.

That’s beautiful, but it is not—in the strictest sense of the word—biblical.

As Jim says, there is a difference between “making” disciples and “raising” them, and that needs to be figured into how we talk about baptism—and what we expect of those who were baptized as infants and later seek membership in a credobaptist church.



  1. mikelioso says:

    I don’t think children should be baptized, kids really can’t be trusted to make commitments. I know it’s a common practice but before a pastor baptizes a child they should ask “would I perform their wedding now if they asked?” If their no old enough for marriage or military service, they’re not old enough for their commitment to follow Christ to be any kind of binding.


  2. I think it depends on who is doing the baptizing. Is the child or adult doing something in the baptism or is God (Holy Spirit) doing the work in the baptism? Obviously, I come from a different background than the others discussing this question and I include other Bible verses when judging whether the baptism is Biblical.

    The baptism of an adult, in the strictly symbolic sense, apart from the work of the Holy Spirit, emphasis the life changing nature of belief in Christ. Of course, in some sense, this assumes that the adult was unchurched and had never heard of Jesus before recently coming to belief. But if the adult baptismal candidate had really known and believed in Jesus all his life, but had never been baptized, then the baptism would be because of Biblical command, but not symbolize a change in life style and choices.

    The baptism of a child, in the strictly symbolic sense, apart from the work of the Holy Spirit, emphasis the saving work of Christ on the cross, that we don’t merit and can never earn, and can’t attain through anything that we ever could do in our life, including making a commitment that we can keep completely, even if we are adults [just look at the breaking of vows of all sorts in our society.] Infant and child baptism emphasizes that Christ did it all for us.

    An adult who will be baptized will repent before baptism. It is often said that baptizing a child can’t be valid if that person can’t understand repentance. But as Christians, we are called to daily repentance and daily renewal of our baptismal vows, daily commitment to choices in line with the teachings of Jesus. This is true not matter how long ago we “got wet.”

    The work of salvation, symbolized in baptism, among other things, was already done once and for all, for all who believe and for all times by Jesus on the cross.

    The work of repentance and commitment is a daily necessity on the part of every Christian, only accomplished as much as is humanly possible, with the help of the Holy Spirit.


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