How young is too young for a person to be baptized?
There is no question as to whether a believer on the Lord Jesus should be baptized (Mat 28:18-20). There is no question as to the mode of baptism – only baptism by immersion is seen in the Bible. There is also no question as to the significance of baptism. It is a statement of identification with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection (Rom 6:3-5). It is a confession that the sins of the person being baptized have been washed away and that he/she is going to walk in newness of life (Act 22:16; Rom 6:4). Simply put, the one being baptized is making the public confession, “I belong to Christ.” But how young is too young for a person to be baptized?
Consider Acts 8:12: “But when they believed Philip as he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized” (NKJV). Is Acts 8:12 a statement as to who was baptized in the apostolic age? Is it a prescribed pattern that only men and women (adults) are to be baptized? Or is it a statement that on the occasion recorded “men and women were baptized”?
An aged missionary stated that he could not give any Scripture for not baptizing a person under the age of fourteen but that he could give fifty years of experience. However, this does not close the spiritual debate on the question. We wish to caution the reader that we are presenting here a value judgment on the issue, but I believe we can baptize a young person if we have considered the following:
First, is there clarity of conversion? Can the person tell you about their experience in coming to know the Lord? Have they assurance of salvation based on the work of the Lord Jesus on the Cross? Second, are there evidences of regeneration? Are there spiritual desires? While John’s baptism was not the baptism prescribed for the Church dispensation, there are nevertheless poignant principles for us. For example, John preached that fruit in the life was a prerequisite for his baptism (Mat 3:8). Third, is the candidate mature for his/her age? Maturity does not happen at the same age in all individuals. Is the person sufficiently mature to make the decision personally, without pressure from parents or spiritual mentors? Fourth, is there some understanding of the teaching concerning baptism? This does not mean that the young person needs to be able to give a dissertation on the doctrine of baptism but should have some understanding of the biblical teaching. It would be valuable to do two interviews, a couple of weeks apart, in the second of which there is a review of the Scriptures discussed in the first interview. Finally, is the desire based on what has been seen in the Scriptures? There is a danger of the younger person seeing only a “tradition.” Is it just the normal thing to do? The person being baptized should have the desire based on convictions from a personal study of the Scriptures.
In conclusion, chronological age is not the only factor to be considered.