[ 35 minutes to read ]An open interaction with Raul Enyedi’s, “Should Baptists Baptize Children?” [I] read an article by Raul Enyedi recently shared on social media and sent directly to me via private message. Bro. Enyedi is a Baptist pastor in Bocsa, Romania. He is studious, uses English well, and is a capable writer. I pray he will be gracious if I have made any error in identifying him. We have not met personally, though I and the church I pastor are thankful for the church in Romania and pray for our brothers and sisters there.
I don’t have much more to go on than the text of the article, and that’s what I want to interact with. I am using the text as the article was sent to me in Word format. The article contained 3,647 words in 21 paragraphs. I will put the text of his article in blockquotes and number the paragraphs in brackets for reference, e.g., . I do this in hope I don’t misrepresent him and to help anyone interested to follow the interaction. Hereafter, I will address Bro. Enyedi directly.
The Problem Stated
 Some time ago I learned about a practice among our churches which is strange to us: that of baptizing young children. We in Romania were perplexed when we heard of it because it seems to us so contrary to the strong stands our kind of churches take on baptism and church truth. We expressed our concerns both in private and public. Since this practice seems to be gaining more of a foothold, we would like to call everyone’s attention to the potential harmful effects that such a practice may have in the life of individuals and in our church life. Some may find this article offensive and think it exaggerated, but I wish it would be perceived as a token of our love and appreciation for our sister churches in the U.S. All I ask is that they give us a fair hearing.
The problem identified is “baptizing young children,” and since you qualified the churches as, “our churches,” and “our kind of churches,” I am assuming you mean Sovereign Grace Landmark Baptist Churches. It is important to note that my remarks are not concerning Southern Baptists, or any other groups, or the Arminian practices of high-pressure child evangelism. The tone of the opening gives the impression this problem is something of an epidemic in the United States among “our churches.” It may be a big problem, but I am unaware of it. Most of the churches I am aware of here are hardly baptizing anybody, much less young children.
The opening paragraph ends with a request for a “fair hearing.” I infer from your request for a fair hearing that you are also inclined to give a fair hearing, which would be a discussion and the reason I am interacting with your article in this open way.
Toward a Cautious Reading of History
 I have done my best to research the matter and to understand why Baptists would adopt such a practice. I learned that baptizing preteen children is of recent origin. It started in the 20th century (there may be exceptions, but I haven’t come across any yet) and is mostly practiced in America and in places where American Baptists have a strong influence. In other parts of the world Baptists usually delay baptism until a person reaches at least teenage years or even adulthood. This has been generally true throughout our long Baptist history. Back in Reformation times we find that even some early Reformers (Zwingli is one such example) recommended at first that parents would wait in bringing their children to be baptized until they were 12 years old. What would our forefathers, the Anabaptists, say if they saw us baptizing children that are younger than those initially baptized by the Reformers? Looking at history I learned that baptizing preteen children is something new among our Baptist churches and, as with any novelty, it should be put to the test to see whether it is something harmless or not.
You seem well-read in Baptist history. Would you provide some references that speak specifically to this subject, either the baptizing of young children or the deliberate delaying of baptism? I would be interested to read those. I am aware of a couple of statements in the mid-19th century.
- Of the many boys and girls whom we have received into Church-fellowship, I can say of them all, they have all gladdened my heart, and I have never received any with greater confidence than I have these: this I have noticed about them, they have greater joy and rejoicing than any others; and I take it, it is because they do not ask so many questions as others do, but take Jesus Christ’s word as they find it, and believe in it.
(Charles Spurgeon, Sermon No. 581)
- Intelligent piety has, in all ages, been found in children who have not yet reached maturity; and such children have a Scriptural right to church-membership.
(J. L. Dagg, Manual of Church Order, p. 145)
I am not asserting agreement with Spurgeon or Dagg in everything, but merely pointing out a couple of examples. Spurgeon speaks in that sermon of the salvation of the very young, such that they are lisping their profession of faith in Christ. He is directly refuting infant baptism/sprinkling in the sermon but does refer to children making conscious professions of faith and being received into church fellowship. Yes, I am assuming he means by baptism because I don’t know any other way of being received into church fellowship. If he means something else, that is not clear in the sermon.
You concluded your historical research deciding this is “something new.” Did you not find it in history because it didn’t happen, or could there be other reasons? If you found specific references to delaying baptisms, were they delayed by scriptural precept, or were they delayed in reaction, or overreaction, to Rome and the reformers? There could be many possible explanations why one might not find the practice in the annals of church history and it would take extensive research to draw reasonable conclusions. I agree with your following paragraph that history is not the rule of faith and practice, but the Bible is.
Part of the problem with researching this subject in history is demonstrated in your article. You have tried to address something specifically but have done so in general terms so that I’m still not clear on exactly what you mean. You have written of “young children,” “preteen children,” “teenage years,” “adulthood,” “children,” “little children,” and the Swiss Reformer not baptizing until “12 years old.” In one place you stated, “the conversion of little children (their repentance and faith) is something that cannot be verified until years later when they grow into adulthood,” and then later wrote, “Teenage years are the earliest usual age when the first fruits of true conversion can be seen, therefore, we believe it is wise that baptism is not considered before anyone reaches this age.” You also wrote, “Delaying baptism until definite signs of conversion are obvious (in later teenage years at least) will confirm to children the seriousness of the subject and will lead them to continually evaluate themselves until they are assured by the Lord regarding their salvation.” So is it adulthood when conversion can be verified satisfactorily enough for baptism, or is it the teenage years, which start at thirteen? Or, is it the later teenage years? What is the exact minimum age for baptism according to Scripture? At what year of age can we declare someone a valid candidate where one year less of age would make them invalid candidates according to the Bible?
Another problem is the way we think about childhood and maturity is not the same at all times in all cultures. Our modern conception of childhood and mature adulthood is a product of the development of child psychology of the 20th century. In the 21st century we now have a further designation of kidult that refers to delayed adulthood where independence is not established until ages in the 20’s and 30’s for some. Periods of schooling are extended and marriage is delayed later than in previous generations.
Ideas about maturity, responsibility, and capacity change. Compulsory school attendance in the 19th century ended at 14. Most of us don’t have to go too far back in our family histories to find brides who were 14 or 15 years old, maybe younger. At 17, George Washington was named the Official Surveyor of Culpeper County, Virginia. David Farragut was born in 1801 and was a commissioned midshipman aboard the warship Essex at age 9. He served in the navy during the war of 1812. He was given command of a ship and a specific mission to accomplish when he was 12. At age 10 or 11, Clara Barton began nursing her brother back to health with a competence that surprised the medical staff and saw it through for two years until he was recovered.
My point is that we need to be careful when reading history that we are not projecting our modern concepts and notions onto the historians of that day. I suppose we also need to be careful when we talk about what “children” are capable of and not capable of.
The Interpretation of Scripture
 But what does the Bible say? With us it is the Bible not history or any tradition that should have the final say in the matter. When we look in the Scriptures we do not find a minimum age of the candidate stated. But does this silence grant us the liberty to baptize children at any age? No, it does not. Even though we do not have a minimum age of the candidate stated, when we look at the baptisms in the book of Acts we first find that personal faith in Christ is a prerequisite for baptism. One that does not or cannot believe in Christ is not a proper candidate for baptism. In the book of Acts those that believed the Gospel are repeatedly described as “men and women,” (Acts 5:14; 17:12). All the baptisms in the New Testament were performed on “men and women,” (Acts, 8:12) and church members are described as “men and women,” (Acts, 8:3, etc.). In the book of Acts we do not find little children believing, being baptized and becoming church members. We have enough evidence to see a pattern even though a minimum age is not given: the person baptized must be old enough to understand the great truths of the Gospel and independent enough to declare personal faith and loyalty to Christ.
You wrote, “When we look in the Scriptures we do not find a minimum age of the candidate stated.” I agree the Bible never gives a minimum age for baptism and I agree we do not prove Bible doctrine from silence. The argument from silence is a double-edged sword because it leads to the regulative regress—The Bible doesn’t say to do it, but neither does it say not to do it. The argument from silence is viewed as either restrictive or permissive. I have seen the argument from silence used to prove the sprinkling of babies, that instrumental accompaniment should not be used for congregational singing, exclusive psalmody, praying to saints, and more. We complain about it because it’s used arbitrarily and without contextual warrant. Silence can be meaningful, but it needs to be shown how it is meaningful and why from the context. Even when silence is meaningful, it is never conclusive alone. It might add something and it might not. At best, silence can only be supportive and not definitive.
The crux of your biblical argument is in this third paragraph. Everything else you say is based on a presuppositional conclusion you have drawn from a few examples and a form of the argument from silence. The structure of argument generically stated is: the Bible gives a few examples of A, B, and C; therefore, only A, B, and C are valid and D through Z are invalid. To put it another way, the statement of anything is the statement of everything. You have taken the restrictive view of the argument from silence—everything not stated is excluded. The argument runs like this: The Bible says A happened, therefore only A ever happened and X did not happen.
Interpretations have to be validated by the Scripture. With a valid interpretative principle, we draw valid conclusions and they are consistent. So let’s test this principle and see if the conclusion is valid. Acts chapter 1 tells of the church tarrying together in Jerusalem as Jesus commanded. Verses 13-14 specifically name the eleven disciples, women, Mary, and Jesus’s brothers. Verse 15 gives the membership of the church as “about an hundred and twenty.” There were 15 men (eleven disciples and Jesus’s four brothers), Mary, and unnumbered women. According to the principle, there must have been about 104 women and no other men. Of course, we encounter a problem when we get to verse 23 and find two men were among their number “from the baptism of John,” named Joseph and Matthias who were not brothers of Jesus. When Peter addressed the church, he addressed the “Men and brethren” (Acts 1:16); that is andres adelphoi, or brother men, though we know women were present.
Acts 2 gives the first record of baptisms in the book. Verse 5 specifically states men were in Jerusalem. When Peter addressed the multitude, he addressed men (vv. 14, 22, 29). Verse 41 states that 3,000 were baptized after receiving the word gladly. According to the principle, we must conclude that the 3,000 were only men. The account only specifies men being in the multitude. Does this seem reasonable? Peter stated what was happening on the day of Pentecost was a partial fulfillment of the prophecy of Joel that signaled they were in the last days. He spoke of the outpouring of the Spirit on all flesh, including sons, daughters, young men, old men, servants, and handmaidens. He commanded everyone to be baptized upon the repentance of sins and said, “For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call” (Acts 2:41).
Acts 4:4 reports that through the preaching of Jesus, the number of men in the Jerusalem church increased to about 5,000. Apparently, they had not added any women to this point?
Chapter 5 speaks of “young men” in verse 6 and 10. The word in verse 6 is neoteroi and means a youth down to one recent born. The word in verse 10 is neaniskoi and means a youth under 40 years, which was considered full age. Verse 14 does say “men and women” were added, as does 8:12 and 17:12. Those passages could mean that in those instances men and women 40 and over were baptized or believed. The phrase could also be less specific in order to emphasize the diversity of the many people who were being baptized. Unless a specific age is given, the words used are not specific and can cover a range of ages. We could quibble over the ages. Some scholars say full age was reached at 20 and others say 40. Regardless of that, we cannot establish a precise age from the Bible.
In the case of the household baptisms (Acts 16:15, 33; 18:8; 1 Corinthians 1:16), we are only told that all of the house were baptized. The baby sprinklers use this as their strong argument. We must agree that because the Bible doesn’t give an example of an eight day old baby being baptized, it doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. The answer is not to artificially constrain the text. Regardless of the silence, we know baby sprinklers are wrong because of the true nature of salvation and baptism. The Bible teaches salvation includes conscious faith and that baptism does not regenerate. If the Spirit had wanted to teach an age restriction, he could have done so in any of the didactic teachings or commands about salvation or baptism, but he did not do so.
The problem is you are arguing the same way the baby sprinklers are, only in the reverse. They assume baby sprinkling and assume the households mentioned must have included babies. You are assuming adult baptisms and assume the households were only adults, though you cannot specify an age. We don’t have to do this to prove a point. This is a narrative account of an event. Regardless of who was in the household, we don’t find anything inconsistent with the Bible doctrine of the nature of salvation or baptism. Paul and Silas spoke the word of the Lord to them, commanded them to believe, and then they were baptized (Acts 16:30-33).
Furthermore, if we take this method of interpretation and go to the institution of the Lord’s Supper, we read that the twelve were in the room with Jesus (Matthew 26:20) and that only men were at the table (John 13:28). By this method, we have no example of women partaking of the Lord’s Supper and must conclude it is for adult men only.
This interpretive method does not work for at least two reasons. 1) Acts is narrative history. You are not applying this method to specific commands but rather to statements of what happened. 2) There is no scriptural reason to interpret this way. This principle of interpretation must be demonstrated from Scripture that we should take the statement of anything to be the statement of everything.
The Fruits of Repentance
 But what about little children that profess faith in Christ? Do we not see in the Book of Acts that all those that profess faith are baptized? Why not baptize them? I believe this is often the reasoning behind this practice in our churches. There are several things to consider. First, all those mentioned in the book of Acts that professed faith are men and women not children. Second, since God-given repentance and faith produce visible changes in one’s life, we should demand signs of true conversion before baptizing anyone at any age. This is what John the Baptist did; he refused to baptize those who did not show “fruits meet for repentance.” Is this also true for the baptisms in the book of Acts? Yes, even though it is not specifically mentioned. Let us remember that all those that professed faith in Jesus as Christ came from a non-Christian background. For the Jewish leaders our Lord Jesus was a deceiver: an impostor. His followers were hated, mocked and persecuted. There was an immediate price to pay for anyone that publicly professed faith in Him. So if a person professed such faith it meant that they were ready to pay the price for following Him. This is still true in non-Christian societies in our day and time. (Think of a man or woman in a Muslim country professing Jesus as Lord and Savior. Such a profession is proof in itself of conversion because there is a high price attached to it). But in societies that have a Christian tradition there is no such price tag implied in our profession of faith and this is why we should wait until we see fruits of conversion in any candidate. So who was baptized in the book of Acts? Men and women that professed faith in Christ: their profession involving the readiness to pay a high price for discipleship.
The example of John the Baptist is pertinent to this discussion. We do find John calling for fruits of repentance (Matthew 3:8; Luke 3:8), but the text says more than that. There were those that came to him and many were Pharisees and Sadducees, and some were publicans and soldiers. John rebuked them for trusting in Abraham rather than Jesus (Matthew 3:8-9; Luke 3:8), lack of love for their neighbor (Luke 3:11), extortion (Luke 3:13), abusiveness, false witness, and covetousness (Luke 3:14). They also doubted his message and questioned if John was the Messiah (Luke 3:15). John rebuked their sin and pointed them to Christ, the coming One (Matthew 3:11-12; Mark 1:7-8; Luke 3:16-17). So John did not baptize those who did not believe in Christ and repent of their sin.
That’s not all of the story though. John came preaching a message of repentance and the coming of the kingdom by the coming of the Messiah (Matthew 3:1-2; Mark 1:4; Luke 3:3). There were other people that came to John besides those we looked at in the previous paragraph. These others came receiving the word John preached, confessing their sins, and John baptized them (Matthew 3:5-6; Mark 1:5). There were those John baptized and those he didn’t, but what we don’t find with John or the churches in Acts is any lengthy probation period between conversion and baptism. Those John didn’t baptize were obviously not scriptural candidates because they were not believing and repenting.
At the root of this issue is the question of who is a scriptural candidate for baptism? This question is answered by studying the didactic teaching and explicit commands concerning salvation, i.e. repentance and faith, and baptism. The Scripture does not set an age for either, so why should we set an age? Any age we set is going to be arbitrary. A person is either a scriptural candidate for baptism or not, regardless of age. Trying to talk about this in terms of age cannot be done from the biblical text.
 The Lord can save someone at an early age. But the conversion of little children (their repentance and faith) is something that cannot be verified until years later when they grow into adulthood and become independent enough to make their own choices and experience life on their own. This is one reason why we should delay baptism of children that come to profess Christ. When children profess Christ without being manipulated they are no doubt sincere. They are sincere even when they are manipulated: this is one of the great qualities of a child that all of us adults should desire to imitate. We should be aware that children are naive, easily influenced and changeable. These are actually good qualities because they make a child trainable. But they also make it difficult to recognize the permanent changes that conversion brings in someone’s life. Despite of all our precautions and good intentions, it is so very likely that a child will make a profession in all sincerity without being really saved. If a child was really saved in his preteen years, then the cementing of his individuality in teenage years will confirm the genuineness of his conversion. Such teenagers will be able now to understand better the great truths of the Gospel and the greatness of salvation in Christ. Teenage years are the earliest usual age when the first fruits of true conversion can be seen, therefore, we believe it is wise that baptism is not considered before anyone reaches this age.
You wrote: “The Lord can save someone at an early age. But the conversion of little children (their repentance and faith) is something that cannot be verified until years later when they grow into adulthood and become independent enough to make their own choices and experience life on their own.” This conclusion is based on what Scripture? As far as I can tell, this is based on the presupposition you’ve drawn from a couple of examples of supposed adults being baptized using an unproven method of interpreting silence. Your two statements are inconsistent. Here is the shape of your argument:
- A person can be saved at an early age
- Salvation cannot be verified by us until adulthood
- Therefore, baptism must be delayed for many years
Churches are commanded to baptize those who come to believe (Matthew 28:19). All who come to believe are commanded to be baptized (Acts 2:38). The great commission is: go, make disciples, baptize, and teach. The idea of making a disciple, then teaching and observing them for years, and then baptizing them is not consistent with the command nor the practice of the churches in the New Testament. Are we to take one who has been saved and instruct them to be disobedient to God (1 Peter 3:21), to not publicly profess Jesus Christ and their faith in him (Romans 6:3-4), and to deny their new identity in Christ (Colossians 2:6-13).
My point again is that we are to examine candidates for baptism. John refused to baptize Pharisees because they did not come in repentance and faith. It wasn’t that they were professing Christ and repenting of sin and John told them they would have to wait a few years to make sure. Again, he did baptize those who came repenting and believing. It is simply not about age. In 1 John we have many criteria for judging the claims of salvation, but not one of those is based on age.
It is apparent at this point you have added three extrabiblical requirements.
- Minimum age
- Lengthy probation/waiting period for baptism
- Personal independence
No Scripture proves any of those. Presuppositions based on silence in a few narrative passages does not prove any of those. If you’re going to write to churches to correct them for the error of baptizing too young and not following these requirements, then you are going to have to actually demonstrate them from Scripture, including a clear minimum age that is too young. Churches have a responsibility in judgment concerning baptism, mission work, church discipline, finances, and more. Churches have to continually seek wisdom, search the Scriptures, pray, exercise prudence in all matters. A young child may well be an improper candidate, but for that matter, a forty-year-old can be an improper candidate as well. John discerned the Pharisees were improper candidates and did not baptize them and neither should we baptize improper candidates.
You have argued that a child is an improper candidate, though you haven’t exactly given an age. For sake of the argument, let’s say a preteen makes a profession and is baptized. They grow into adulthood, which also hasn’t been established by age. They have consistently shown the fruits you’ve talked about in their life and have been faithful to the local body. At 40 years old they move to Bocsa and wish to unite with the church there. What would you do? According to what you’ve expressed in this article, you would have to explain to them that their baptism was invalid based on their age making them an improper candidate when they were baptized. You would then have to baptize them in order to receive them into membership. Are you willing to own that consequence of what you are teaching? Even if you do practice this in consistency with what you wrote, that doesn’t prove it from Scripture but only demonstrates consistency on your part.
 As children grow they begin to explore and discover their own individuality and the surrounding world. In teenage years children have the natural tendency to disobey their parents and question the established facts that they were taught. This rebellion against authority is part of the process of becoming independent from their parents and building their own individuality. They want to put everything to the test and see for themselves if what they were taught is true or not. These are also the years in which we discover our sexual desires. It is a time of being self-centered mostly because it is the time when we discover our own selves: who we really are. The matters of faith are not excepted from questioning and many teenagers and young adults discover that what they thought to have been a conversion was not something real.  There are two reactions to this sad discovery: some in an attempt to be honest with themselves will deny their former profession of faith to the disappointment of their parents while others, even though doubting the reality of their conversion, will not deny it. Some will not have the courage to re-evaluate themselves from fear of finding a lack of true conversion and will continue to trust themselves in that profession even if real fruit is lacking. Outwardly they will keep a form of obedience and service to Christ without being changed inwardly. In the cases above the early profession of faith caused more harm than good to everyone involved.  But there is something else to consider regarding conversion. Let us remember what conversion really is. It consists of repentance toward God and faith in Lord Jesus Christ. Repentance is more than being sorry for sin. A lost person can “repent” in that sense too and at any age. But this is not God-given repentance. Even if the person is sincere such a repentance does not last long because the nature has not been changed. The apostle Paul talked about a godly sorrow that works repentance so being sorry for sin and true repentance should not be confused. God-given repentance is a total change of heart: it is an attitude that involves our intellect, emotions and will. Our intellect is involved because we must understand the message of the Gospel. The Gospel starts with the bad news for the sinner and talks about our rebellion against God and the just condemnation for our sin. The sinner hearing the Gospel needs to thoroughly evaluate himself (his past experiences, his character, his world view) through the lens of the Gospel message. The Spirit will convict him and assure him that the message is true. His conscience will bear witness to his failures to live by God’s standard. The outcome is that his self sufficiency and confidence in his own merits will crash. He learns that he stands before God already condemned and awaiting the execution of that condemnation.  When he reaches the sense of total helplessness and realizes that there is no way he can escape the just condemnation of God the Spirit will point him toward the Person and work of Lord Jesus Christ who bore our sins and paid in full our debt. The helpless sinner will then cast himself at the feet of Jesus, cling to Him as his only help and understanding the magnitude of His love and grace will pledge his unconditional allegiance to His Lord and trust Him with his life. Faith in Christ is more than agreement with some statements or facts. It implies faithfulness or loyalty to Him. But that doesn’t come without an ability to comprehend the cost of service to Him. And this means that we understand what we’re giving up and what we are taking upon ourselves when we declare our faith in and allegiance to Him.
Some of what I would say would start to get repetitive, so I want to make only one observation from this section. The concern in this section, and also in some other places in the article, is false professions. False professions are real and are concerning. False professions, though, come in all ages, shapes, and sizes. Just to clarify again, I am considering churches where the Gospel is preached and not places where people, especially young children, are pressured and manipulated into decisions and repeating prayers.
The answer to false professions is to consistently preach the true Gospel, not to add extrabiblical protections against false professions. If Jesus (John 6:60, 70-71), Philip (Acts 8:9-13, 18-23), and Paul (2 Timothy 4:10) had false professions, we will also. In fact, the Bible assures us we will have false professions by the parables of the sower, the wheat and tares, the net, the wise and foolish virgins; the visions of future judgments (Matthew 7:21-23; 25:31-46); the reality of false teachers in our midst (Acts 20:29-30); and further warnings. If we are to guard against false professions by extra-strenuous practices, why were we not told so in Scripture? Why are we not given special procedures for dealing with special groups of people, e.g., preteens, teens, young adults, adults, etc.?
The Bible also tells us how false professors are dealt with. Some will be weeded out by persecutions (Matthew 13:21). Some will fall away into temptations (Matthew 13:22; 2 Timothy 4:10). Some will be removed by church discipline (Matthew 18:17-18; 1 Corinthians 5:4-5). Some will depart of their own (1 John 2:18-19). Some will go through their whole life never being exposed as a hypocrite and even self-deceived until judgment (Matthew 7:21-23). Ultimately, God is the judge and he is the one who knows men’s hearts.
Our responsibility in light of this is not to add extra requirements but to do what Jesus commanded us to do and teach the baptized believers all things Christ commanded (Matthew 28:20). Consider Paul’s example. He wrote letters to those he called brethren and he was deliberate and explicitly clear in preaching the Gospel to them. We must be consistently clear about sin, depravity, unrighteousness, and self-righteousness. We must be consistently clear about saving faith and God’s grace in salvation apart from works. We must be consistently clear about repentance and calling men to repentance. We must be consistently clear about our standing and new identity in Jesus Christ and not in gifts, goodness, intelligence, maturity, baptism, etc. We must be consistently clear that saving faith brings forth fruit of good works and perseveres unto the end.
 God-given repentance and faith involve the deepest of our emotions and the strongest determination of our will. But they also involve our intellect. They involve the ability to understand concepts like life, death, good, evil, justice, forgiveness, service, love, sacrifice, etc. They also involve the ability to know ourselves and evaluate our past actions, character and world view in light of the statements of the Gospel. It should be obvious that preteen children are not able to comprehend the Gospel as described above except in a limited and superficial way. God can save them even with limited understanding, but there is no guarantee of true conversion until they will be independent enough to make their own choices: to know themselves and discover their own identity. No one can be given assurance of salvation until they come to understand the magnitude of things involved in their conversion. Therefore, when young children are baptized there is no definite proof that their conversion is real. But their baptism is actually a confirmation to them that they are truly saved in the estimation of the adults around them (parents, church leaders and members) who understand conversion much better than they. If they are not truly saved as often is the case then they are led to trust in a false profession: they are given a false hope. If the Lord does not show them their condition later in life they will be lost religious people. Baptizing young children puts them into a worse position than the infants baptized by the Protestants who encourage such to make a profession later in life. When Baptists baptize young children they do so upon what they consider genuine profession of faith and children will naturally trust in that profession (genuine or not) since the adults around them confirmed it by accepting them for baptism. Delaying baptism until definite signs of conversion are obvious (in later teenage years at least) will confirm to children the seriousness of the subject and will lead them to continually evaluate themselves until they are assured by the Lord regarding their salvation. This is far better for the children because if they were not truly saved in early years they avoid the discouragement of finding that they weren’t saved even though the adults around them assured them that they were by approving their baptism.
You wrote: “They involve the ability to understand concepts like life, death, good, evil, justice, forgiveness, service, love, sacrifice, etc. They also involve the ability to know ourselves and evaluate our past actions, character and world view in light of the statements of the Gospel. It should be obvious that preteen children are not able to comprehend the Gospel as described above except in a limited and superficial way. God can save them even with limited understanding, but there is no guarantee of true conversion until they will be independent enough to make their own choices: to know themselves and discover their own identity.”
I am very confused by these statements. Earlier you wrote, “The Lord can save someone at an early age.” Then here you wrote, “preteen children are not able to comprehend the Gospel … except in a limited and superficial way.” Then you wrote, “God can save them even with a limited understanding, but there is no guarantee of true conversion until they will be independent enough to make their own choices…”
Is regeneration conditioned on maturity, ability to comprehend, and fully understand “life, death, good, evil, justice, forgiveness, service, love, sacrifice, etc.”? Or, is regeneration a supernatural, sovereign, monergistic work of the Spirit where he gives life, faith, and repentance to those chosen by God unto salvation? Is regeneration with the effectual drawing of God unto Christ for salvation not based on anything we are, have done, or can do? Does regeneration happen at the time sovereignly appointed by God before we were ever born (Galatians 1:15-16) according to his will and not our’s?
Also, regardless of age, our confidence is never to be in our baptism but in Christ alone. Why would we assume anyone of any age to have assurance of salvation based on their baptism? That’s actually covenant theology and not the biblical Gospel.
 There is something else to consider: what are the effects of this practice upon church membership. When we are baptized we are immediately incorporated into the church body. In this body all members are equal even though each one is different in strength and function. Church membership is a great blessing, but it involves great responsibilities. The church is the administrator of the “keys of the kingdom” and one use of them is the power to discipline unrepentant members as the Lord teaches us in Matthew chapter eighteen. In order to do that the members of the church must be able to understand and judge the cases brought before the church. Members must have a degree of maturity and independence of thought to form their own opinions and vote according to the dictates of their own conscience in order for their vote to amount to anything. If that is not the case then the church has a congregational form of government in name only. It should be obvious to all those that have participated in business meetings that young children do not have the maturity of comprehension and the independence of thought to form their own judgment and exercise a vote accordingly. Therefore, they are not fit to be church members until they reach an age when they are independent and capable enough to make their own judgments.  Baptizing young children affects negatively the testimony of a church: it weakens it. How can we defend believer’s baptism against the Pedobaptists when our candidates are just a few years older than theirs? How strong can be our case for congregational form of government when our deliberative body is composed of members that cannot even comprehend the matters under discussion?  Even though we readily admit that God sometimes saves young children we wonder why is it that in the last decades we see a steady increase of such professions and baptisms? Let us look around at those who practice them on a large scale. What kind of Gospel do they preach? In most cases it is a diluted Gospel message or an altogether false one. Many respond to such a call, but they are still dead in trespasses and sins no matter the age. Baptizing young children and baptizing anyone without looking for signs of conversion endangers the church. The Lord built His church to be composed of regenerated members. If we keep adding members that are lost our church will fall into apostasy like countless other churches before us. Apostasy is real: is irrevocable. No church is spared. The soundest church is only one generation away from apostasy. Brethren, let us realize that if we do not guard the faith our church will become apostate. We are not immune to it. If we let the guard down we will be overtaken.
This section deals with church membership and the assertions made about independence and individuality are not in the Bible. A church member in the Bible is one who has made a profession of faith in Christ, including the repentance of sin, and has been baptized by the church into the membership. Where is the requirement for omni-competence in every member? Paul taught that the body has many different members though they are equally part of the body they are not equal to one another. Churches face many tough things and have to judge, discern, and decide. That doesn’t mean that each individual has equal ability or competence to do so. Churches are given pastors, teachers, shepherds, elders, deacons, i.e., spiritual leadership and oversight. There are special requirements for such men that they be able to teach, lead, and rule well. A novice is not suitable to be a pastor, but he is to be a church member if he has professed Christ and obeyed him in baptism. The whole body is to work together to edify itself in love that every member grows up to maturity (Ephesians 4:11-16).
I have known saints in the later years of life who had a good testimony of many years of faithfulness and fruit of the Spirit who had limited understanding in complex matters. Does this mean they couldn’t be church members? This makes no sense to me at all. What of weaker brothers in the church and the commands to receive them, help them, and support them (Romans 14:1; 15:1; 1 Corinthians 8:9; 12:22-24; 1 Thessalonians 5:14)? Did not Paul address the church in Corinth as “babes in Christ” because they lacked maturity (1 Corinthians 3:1-2)?
The individualism you have asserted is strange to me. It seems to suggest that church membership nullifies or supersedes any authority and relationship structures in a person’s life. The way we relate to one another in the church is always going to be with respect to the relationships and authorities we are under. If you have a husband and a wife who are members of a church and one of them is in sin, the church needs to deal with that one, but on some levels that dealing is going to be with both of them. One example would be the way Paul dealt with Onesimus. Onesimus was the slave of Philemon and Paul recognized and respected that relationship and authority structure. He instructed Onesimus to return to Philemon and appealed to Philemon to receive him as a brother in forgiveness. In the Roman world, slaves were not free and independent. Paul recognized that Onesimus could not act completely independent and individually and he dealt with him through Philemon.
By your principles, slaves could not be members of a church. However, Paul specifically addressed slaves in his letter to the Corinthian church (1 Corinthians 7:20-24). He instructed them to be faithful and obedient to their masters, as they were also instructed in other epistles (Ephesians 6:5-9; Colossians 3:22; 1 Timothy 6:1-3; 1 Peter 2:18-24). You will note he also instructed the masters in their responsibility to their slaves.
The church epistles do the same thing with husbands, wives, parents, and children (Ephesians 5:22-33; 6:1-4; Colossians 3:18-21; 1 Peter 3:1-7). In fact, one of the evidences of salvation and faith is how a person submits to the authorities they are under in life (Romans 13:1-5; 1 Corinthians 16:15-16; Ephesians 5:21; 1 Timothy 2:11; Hebrews 13:17; 1 Peter 2:13; 5:5). The church has the responsibility of teaching godly, humble submission to proper authorities, not individualism.
 A word to believing parents: every parent desires that their children will be saved and spared from the defilement of the world. But baptism and church membership will not spare them from the temptations and rebellion of teenage years and young adulthood. If they weren’t truly saved it will make it worse for the children, for the parents and for the church. If the Lord saved a child at an early age that child will be a good member of the church some years later. Teach children the great truths and virtues of the Scriptures, set yourselves as examples and pray for them constantly! Explain the Gospel to them. Exemplify with your life what it means to be a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ. Make sure you make time for family prayer and devotion. But do not push for a profession of faith and for baptism. You sow the seed and let the Lord work in His due time. The salvation of every person rests ultimately with God.  A word to people that made early professions: if the Lord saved you in your childhood years and you came to this assurance, be thankful, praise Him and love Him with all your being for He chose to spare you from many pains! It is a great grace that not many have received! Live a clean life that honors Him!  If you find yourself among those that made a profession of faith in your early life, but you are not sure if you are really saved then I urge you to come to the Lord! If you do not hunger and thirst after Him and His Word: if you are not different than lost people around you: if you do not see the fruit of the Spirit in your life then do not try to trust in something that you did: come to the Lord now! Baptism will not save: your years of coming to church will not save you! Only He can save you and give you true assurance!  If you made a profession of faith and realized that your life is not changed – if you question the reality of salvation and believe everything is counterfeit – let me tell you that counterfeits exist because the real thing exists! Regeneration is a life changing experience and it is real! Do not be discouraged: seek the Lord! Come to the Lord now and ask Him to grant you true repentance and faith! He will not cast away any one that comes to Him!  A word to preachers: let us carefully examine ourselves before the Lord! We are His messengers! We proclaim His message not ours. Let us make sure that we do not remove anything from it! The true Gospel is foolishness to the flesh! Only those that are regenerated by the Spirit of God can answer the call of the gospel of grace! If unregenerate and unconverted people (no matter the age) can habitually answer to the call of the Gospel that we preach then there is something wrong with our preaching! It means that we have taken out the element that is offensive to the flesh. But that very element is what distinguishes the true Gospel from its counterfeits and what makes it the power of God unto salvation of anyone who believes. Many have changed the Gospel and adapted its message to the liking of their hearers no matter their ages. The direct result of it is that their churches are large, but largely lost. Let us make sure that we learn from them and steer clear from that danger! Let us emphasize what true repentance and faith are! This is our duty to the Lord that sent us and to the people that we serve!  A word to churches: brethren, we have a holy task: to protect, to preserve and to proclaim the truth at any cost. We are members of the Lord’s churches not men made organizations. A true church is not a trivial thing. If the Lord tarries we must make sure that we entrust the sound faith and practice to the next generation for them to carry on the Great Commission when we are called home. It is probable that our times are the greatest times of apostasy in all our history. What is our attitude about it? Should we be pleased with being just a little better than apostate churches? They should serve us as a warning, not as a standard! Some baptize children of age five or younger and call it believer’s baptism. And most of their membership is most likely lost. Should we be satisfied to being just a little better than them?  A church will stand or fall depending on how she guards her ordinances. Baptism is the means to enter into church membership. Why is it so important? Because the church is designed by the Lord to be composed of regenerated persons. It is the only way it can function properly and fulfill its purpose. The need for regenerated membership is the very reason why we advocate believer’s baptism. Only those who can make a valid profession of faith are scriptural candidates for baptism. Since we do not believe that baptism is necessary to salvation we should demand from all candidates “fruits meet for repentance,” that is, clear visible proof of a changed life and delay the act until such fruit is made visible.  I do not doubt the good intentions of the parents whose greatest desire is to see their children saved and baptized. Neither do I doubt the good intentions of the churches that baptize young children because it is a great joy when a person raised among us comes to faith and asks for baptism. But we need to see what a practice does on a long term basis before generally approving it. And it does much more harm than good, it weakens our churches and has the potential of even leading toward apostasy. Let us learn from the mistakes of others and return to the practice of our predecessors for the benefit of our children, our churches and for the testimony of Christ!
This is the rest of the article. It is mostly practical words and there is a lot of good in it. Where I don’t understand or disagree should be obvious. I don’t want to repeat myself, so I will only make a few comments. You are obviously concerned about a problem in American churches. I do repeat here that maybe it is a big problem, but I don’t know where this is happening. I admit that the churches here have problems. There are problems of pride, traditionalism, lack of humility, lack of grace, lack of consistent go-therefore evangelism, neglect of the whole counsel of God in favor of hobby-horses, ax grinding, preachers who see themselves as pastors-at-large, busybodies, laziness, neglect of discipline, phariseeism, worldliness, and we could go on. One of the greatest needs of the hour is for churches to get back to the actual text of Scripture, the “Thus saith the Lord,” and not the thus saith John Gill, A. W. Pink, or anyone else.
Concerning this issue, the Bible does not set a minimum age and I don’t see the point in discussing this in terms of age. If we are clear about salvation and baptism, then we should be clear on who is a proper candidate without adding extrabiblical requirements. I agree with you that we should take salvation, baptism, church membership, and discipleship very seriously.
If you’re reading this then you must have read the whole article. I appreciate that. To you and the church there in Romania I extend nothing but brotherly love, appreciation, and thankfulness for your witness in that part of the world. May all of the Lord’s churches everywhere be first-love faithful to Christ and be as the Bereans ever searching the Scriptures daily to prove all things and hold fast to that which is good.