Answering your Questions
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN CHILD DEDICATION and BAPTISM?
This is a question many parents have regarding their newborn infant or toddler. Members of the First Baptist family come from various religious and cultural backgrounds. Hopefully, this explanation will help you to understand our beliefs regarding Child Dedication and Baptism.
PART I: CHILD DEDICATION/DEDICATION OF CHILDREN
This service is actually a parent commitment service—"a promise of parents to offer their child (usually in infancy) to the Lord and to dedicate themselves to the rearing of the child for the glory of God."
Parent Commitment/Child Dedication . . .
1. is meant to give parents of young children an opportunity to recognize God’s gift of a child to them. (Psalm 127:3)
2. is the parents’ public declaration of their intent to raise their child in a Christian environment. (Deuteronomy 6:5-7)
3. is a challenge to parents to guide their children in their faith education. (Ephesians 6:4)
4. is a challenge for Christian parents to model the love of Christ for their children in the hope that they will one day choose to follow Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior.
As parents, we cannot “decide” our child’s salvation for them. Each person must make his or her own decision about their relationship with Christ. When a child becomes old enough to understand the concept of sin and their responsibility for that sin before God, he or she is becoming ready to make a decision about salvation.
Parents can, however, lay a foundation by their teaching and example that helps their child to be ready to make that decision when the time comes. (An illustration of this is marriage. We don’t decide when or if our child will marry and we can’t guarantee them a happy marriage. However, our positive example can lay a foundation for them making a good decision when that day comes.)
The dedication of a child is not a baptism. It is not a sacrament. It does not impart salvation to the child.
The Baby/Child Dedication or Parent-Child Dedication Service is viewed as a promise made by the parents and their church family to raise the child in a godly way until the child is old enough to make his or her own decision in accepting Christ as his or her personal Savior.
The dedication of children is taught in the Bible:
“Joseph and Mary took Him [Jesus] to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord.” (Luke 2:22)
“And He [Jesus] took the children in His arms, put His hands on them and blessed them.” (Mark 10:16)
PART II: BAPTISM
A. WHO is to be baptized?
All believers are to be baptized. (Acts 2:41, Acts 8:12, and Acts 8:13)
Only faith in Christ makes you a believer. The only requirement for baptism is belief in Jesus Christ. We do not baptize children until they are old enough to understand and believe.
B. WHAT is baptism?
Baptism is symbolic of Christ’s burial and resurrection. (1 Corinthians 15:3; Colossians 2:12)
It is a symbol of your new life as a Christian, an outer demonstration of an internal change—that you are now a redeemed follower of Christ.
C. Baptism does not make you a believer.
It shows that you are a believer.
D. Baptism does not save you.
Our acceptance of God’s grace through Christ and our faith in Him saves us.
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)
PART III: WHAT IF A BABY OR YOUNG CHILD DIES?
(A question of concern for some parents)
A baby does not need to be baptized. A baby is totally under God’s spiritual care until he or she is capable of making his or her own decision. Your task is to commit yourself to raising your child in God’s love.
Salvation is granted to children who die in infancy or before they have come to understand the meaning of a relationship with Jesus Christ.
“This belief is not based on specific scripture, but on an understanding of the nature of God as revealed in Christ. Since an infant does not have the power of self-determination, he does not have personal guilt. He has not yet come to the age when he can of his own free will accept or reject Christ. Therefore, Christ’s atonement covers all who die young before reaching the age of accountability.”
If you would like to have additional information regarding child dedication or baptism, please feel free to contact our Pastor to Children or one of our other pastors.
Quotations are from the Broadman Ministries Handbook, the Encyclopedia of Southern Baptists, and the most reliable source—The Holy Bible (New International Version).