Q. Please comment on the practice in many churches of dedicating infants and children in a church service ceremony. Is there a Biblical basis for this practice?
A. I see nothing in Scripture that requires such a service, and I see nothing in Scripture that forbids it either. A local church has the option of providing this opportunity for believing parents to publicly commit to raising a soul in a God-honoring way, to show unity of purpose as the husband and wife in the marriage bond, to recognize the divine institution of the family, to publicly acknowledge that the baby ultimately belongs to God, and to seek the support of other believers in accomplishing their important endeavors.
It is vital that parents, congregation, and other witnesses understand that baby dedication is not a waterless infant baptism, or even a somewhat apologetic substitute for infant baptism. It is also not some type of guarantee that the child will turn out to be a godly believer. Nothing magical happens in such a ceremony to place a baby in some special standing with God. In fact, the ceremony should be seen not only as a dedication of the infant but also as a dedication of the parents to God and to the tasks they will have in raising the child in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. This is a major difference between infant baptisms and baby dedications. The former emphasizes the infant, since those holding to baptismal regeneration believe that baptism of an infant secures the child’s salvation. Bible-believing Baptists, on the other hand, affirm that no one can obtain salvation for someone else. Christ commanded water baptism to be practiced as an ordinance during this Church Age to show outwardly what has occurred inwardly in a person who has believed on Jesus Christ as Savior.
Water baptism is not, therefore, to be regarded as a means of salvation. Should babies and children die, they are, due to God’s nature and grace, covered by Christ until they reach the age of accountability, the time that they as individuals become responsible to accept God’s gift of salvation in order to possess eternal life. Salvation takes place as the Word and the Holy Spirit work in the person’s life and that person believes on the Lord Jesus Christ. Water baptism should then follow as an act of obedience and as a testimony of salvation.
The Bible contains many passages about child-raising, and a dedication ceremony is a perfect time to affirm their truths. Psalm 127:3 and 5 read, “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward. . . . Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them.” Other verses are, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6); “For this child I prayed, and the Lord has granted me my petition which I asked of Him. Therefore I also have lent him to the Lord; as long as he lives he shall be lent to the Lord” (1 Samuel 1:27, 28); and “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you were born I sanctified you” (Jeremiah 1:5). Jesus said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God”; then “He took them up in His arms, laid His hands on them, and blessed them” (Mark 10:14, 16).
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