Acts and Baptism: Implications for Parents

Have you noticed that the subject of baptism comes up frequently in Acts?  Maybe what is most surprising is how quickly the baptism occurs after conversion.  In many cases, the answer is moments (like Philipp with the Eunuch), and in a few cases it may have been a bit longer (Paul … was he converted in v. 6 making his baptism 3 days after conversion?).  The point is that the normal protocol was to be baptized immediately or almost immediately after conversion.  It is interesting that in the narrative about Cornelius (Acts 10), Peter commands those in the house to be baptized (10:48).

A Quick Note to Adult Believers

First of all, let me speak to all of you adults.  If you have recognized your sin, admitted it to God, asked for forgiveness, and placed your faith and trust in the finished work of Jesus then you should be baptized – the sooner, the better.  (For those at Faith, we recommend taking the Introduction to Faith class and prepare for baptism at our next church family night.  If you have been through the Intro class but have not been baptized, please contact the church office at 765-448-1986 or and let them know that you want to be put on the list.)

Baptism takes place after conversion rather than before.  Even if you were baptized as an infant, the Scriptures would command you to another baptism – after your conversion.

Recommendations for Parents

We parents have a tough job.  We have to be wise enough to make decisions for our children in some cases, and let them make their own choices in other cases.  What about the issue of baptism?

The teaching on baptism creates a challenge for parents.  If my 6 year old makes a profession of faith, should I encourage/force him or her to be baptized? Isn’t that the pattern?  In the famous conversion in Acts 16:31-34 (the jailor), his household believes and his household is baptized.

My comments may encourage you to think that my answer is “yes, order them (as Peter did) to be baptized.”  However, I can tell you that with two of my children who have made professions of faith, neither my wife nor I have ordered them to be baptized.  We attend church family night, we talk about baptism, and we occasionally ask them when they would like to be baptized, but for the most part we are leaving that decision in their hands.

Here are three reasons my wife and I believe it’s wisest to not order children to be baptized:

1. Our children’s faith has been relatively untested.

I don’t have any reason to believe my two children who have made a profession are not converted.  They shows fruits of conversion – they talk about it, they remember it, they are sensitive to pleasing God (at least as often as I am!), and they exhibit fruit of the Spirit.  However, my children are surrounded by things that encourage them to live that way.  They attend our Christian school, our home has pictures with Scripture on it, we talk about God, we are in church, we attend church functions, and on and on I could go.  The bottom line is that they have a support system that encourages them to do right.

I am keenly aware, however, of people who have made professions that are ultimately not regenerate.  Seeds of doubt, worldly influences, and encouragement to do wrong are still around, but not at the same intensity it will exist much later.  I pray their faith, when tested by fire, will result in the praise and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:7).

This does not mean, of course, that I want my children to live under the intense pressure of trials before their baptism.  It simply means that I want my children to believe that their faith is pure before they stand up in front of the Lord and 600 of his followers and say that it is.

2. Our children must understand the connection between conversion and baptism.

We believe baptism is a matter of obedience.  It is following the commands of Jesus.  He told his disciples in Matt 28:19-20 to make disciples by baptizing and teaching.  Before my kids get into the baptistery, I want them to know that what they are doing is part of the great commission.  I want them to see following Jesus as a joyful walk of obedience – of which baptism is a part.

3. We want our children to remember their baptism and remember that they made the choice to follow the Lord in baptism.

We parents have a tough job.  We have to be wise enough to make decisions for our children in some cases, and let them make their own choices in other cases.  What about the issue of baptism?  I look at this question from the perspective of 20 years from now.  One of my kids asks to join a church … do I really want him thinking, “I got baptized because my dad made me?”  Of course not.  I want my child giving a testimony of when he came to Christ and when he decided to follow Him in baptism.

In Summary

If you are an adult, and “you know that you know” that you have trusted Christ as Savior and you have not been baptized … please read Acts 10:48 every day until you get in the tank.

If you are parent, pray for your unconverted children, and pray that your converted (but not yet baptized) children would have a genuine faith able to pass the trials of life and come out as pure. Also pray that they would follow the Lord in baptism as soon as their faith is sure and as soon as they understand the connection between conversion and baptism.  Along the way, talk about it, be at every church family night (or your church’s equivalent of baptism services), answer questions, and be ready to throw a “baptism party” when the day comes–even if the party is just a trip to their favorite ice cream shop.

Rob Green
Pastor Rob Green oversees Faith Biblical Counseling Ministries. A seasoned counselor, Rob also teaches others how to counsel--through FBCM's training conferences and Faith Bible Seminary's MABC program.