Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
October 20, 1966

Children Obeying The Gospel

Robert C. Welch

What is the age at which children are responsible to God for obedience to the gospel? From the extreme advocacy of baptism of infants some have gone to the idea that only an adult is a proper subject of baptism. Age is not the determining factor. No age is set in the gospel. This is being written in compliance with the following request from H. C. B. of Michigan:

"We have been told, by some, that we have no right to allow children to be baptized because it deprives them of their childhood, and we are told that there cannot be found in the Apostles' Doctrine where any child has been baptized or allowed to become a Christian. Every example of conversion, we are told, were men and women...

"Would you please give me any scripture that you know as to whether...children should be baptized as soon as they understand and have a desire, or not? Any findings that you can give me on this subject will be very much appreciated."

The reason for not baptizing infants is that they are yet incapable of belief and penitence. It is not that God has set a minimum age limit. The Lord said, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned." (Mark 16:15, 16). Let no man be so presumptuous as to tell one who believes the gospel that he does not need to believe and be baptized. He who so says is flatly contradicting the Lord's commandment. He is in the same predicament as the man who says that the believer does not need to be baptized in order to be saved.

So far as the Scriptures reveal, the person capable of understanding, believing and repenting of sins is the one to have the gospel preached to him; and the one to be baptized as well as to believe. What was the minimum age of the three thousand of Acts, chapter two? No man knows, for the record does not say. They were capable of receiving the word. That is the determining feature, not an arbitrary age limit which some man has devised.

Since God has not specified an age limit, if some one wants to set the rule that only adults can obey the gospel, then some one else can argue about the age at which one becomes an adult. The Bible does not specify that age either. Such an effort is but the making of a rule or law which God has not made. The Lord has taught that I am not to subject myself to such ordinances of men (Col. 2:20-23).

Because of my personal acquaintance with the person, or sometimes my lack of acquaintance, before baptizing him I might want to question his understanding or the depth of his faith which he expresses. Many factors enter into this: such as the amount and quality of teaching and training, and the intellectual and emotional development of the person. Children are to be nurtured in the chastening and admonition of the Lord (Eph. 6:4). When that is done it is not robbing them of their childhood. And when by such nurturing and admonition they come to believe and want to obey the gospel to be saved, that is not robbing them of their childhood. They are themselves acting upon the training which was scripturally given them.

We need to exercise care lest we lead the child, or adult, into something for which he is neither mentally nor emotionally ready. At the same time we need to exercise care that we not dissuade one from doing that of which he is capable, hence needs to do, for his salvation from sin and service to God.

-1816 Yale Drive Louisville, Kentucky