Common Baptism MistakesPublished by josh mulvihill on Wed, 04/18/2012 - 1:06pm
By Josh Mulvihill
This post is the second of four on baptism. Baptism is important. Jesus word (Matt. 28:19-20) and example (Matt. 3:13-17) emphasis how significant baptism is. The book of Acts stresses the priority of baptism and reveals patterns the church can follow. The baptismal practices of the early church, as recorded in Scripture, can help parents avoid four common mistakes in the baptism of their child.
- Assuming salvation.
In every instance of baptism in Acts there is care taken to determine if belief in Jesus is present prior to baptism. No assumptions are made. Acts 19:4-5 is a good example of this priority as Paul explains the gospel, determines salvation, then baptizes. Like Paul, parents and pastors must start with the gospel, not skip over it. A common mistake is parental assumption that a child knows, understands and can articulate the gospel. A child must know what Jesus accomplished on the cross, what they believe and why. A parent can ask themselves two questions: “Does my child understand the gospel?” And, “Can she articulate it without any help or prompting from me?”
- Baptizing to baptize.
It is a noble desire to want a young person baptized. Yet, there is a proper time and way to baptize and the church is given oversight of this process. A baptism is a major milestone in a person’s life; therefore, we want to make sure a person is not going through the motions but has a conviction to be baptized. It does little good to get a person wet if there is no understanding or desire on their part. A parent can ask themselves two questions: “Is there evidence my child wants to be baptized or I am pushing my child before their heart is ready?” And, “Does my child understand the meaning and significance of baptism?”
- Requiring more than is biblical. There are two extremes we want to avoid; making baptism to easy (#2) or making it to hard. At certain periods of church history some denominations have required extensive doctrinal training, sometimes lasting years, leading up to baptism. While doctrinal training is always of value, there is no biblical pattern that such a requirement is necessary to be baptized. The only biblical requirement for baptism is belief in Jesus as Savior.
- Relying on the church too heavily.
Baptism is an ordinance given to the church, not to the family, so it is critical that a pastor takes leadership in the baptism of a young person. This, however, does not mean that parents cannot have a key role in the process. Baptism is an important faith moment in a child’s life and it is good to share this occasion with a parent. It is the parent who will be present to celebrate this momentous step of faith, encourage the child on his faith walk, and hold the child accountable as he lives for Jesus. A parent can prepare a child by making sure the child understands the gospel and the meaning of baptism and by celebrating the child’s baptism.