If you or your child are considering being baptized, you may have some questions about what we believe about baptism at The Trails. We hope the information below helps answer your questions, but if you have any additional questions, email firstname.lastname@example.org. If you're ready to be baptized, you can sign up for the next baptism service here.
“IS BAPTISM NECESSARY FOR SALVATION?”
No. The classic defense of this is the thief on the cross who, upon repentance, was promised that he would be with Jesus in paradise, even though he had had no opportunity to be baptized.
First Peter 3:21 is often cited to prove that baptism is not only necessary for salvation, but that it actually causes salvation (a view called “baptismal regeneration”). But while Peter does say “Baptism… now saves you,” he is quick to add: “not as a removal of dirt from the body.” In other words, the only thing that the physical act of baptizing someone in water cleans is their body. That which baptism symbolizes (“an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ”) is what saves us. A helpful illustration is to think of baptism like a wedding ring. A wedding ring does not make you a married person. It is an outward sign of the covenant that you have entered into with your spouse through marriage. Similarly, baptism is an outward sign of the covenant one enters into with God through faith in Jesus.
Even though baptism is not necessary for salvation, it's very important. As followers of Christ who are called to shine his light in this world (Matthew 5:16; Philippians 2:15), the act of publicly declaring through baptism your death and resurrection with Jesus is a significant moment. It is an opportunity for you to testify to the work he has done in you and for the church to celebrate with you.
“WHAT’S THE AGE REQUIREMENT FOR A CHILD TO BE BAPTIZED?”
Since the only prerequisite for baptism found in the New Testament is a believable profession of faith in Christ (salvation), there is no set age requirement found in the Bible for when a child can be baptized. To ensure that we are upholding this prerequisite though, The Trails Church prefers not to baptize children under the age of seven. In no way does that mean we don’t believe salvation can occur earlier in the child’s life. Rather, it reflects our desire to give the child time to show the fruit that stems from repentance.
“I WAS BAPTIZED AS AN INFANT. SHOULD I BE BAPTIZED AGAIN?”
Yes. Since baptism represents our union with Jesus in his death and resurrection, and since infants are incapable of giving a believable profession of faith, we believe that it is appropriate to administer baptism only to children and adults who have given evidence of being unified to Jesus through faith.
“I GAVE MY HEART TO JESUS AND WAS BAPTIZED WHEN I WAS 8, BUT I DIDN’T FULLY UNDERSTAND WHAT THAT MEANT UNTIL MUCH LATER. SHOULD I GET BAPTIZED AGAIN?”
The real question is: were you a believer or not? As we grow and mature as believers in Christ, our understanding of our salvation will naturally increase. You should understand the significance of your baptism more now than you did when you were actually baptized! If this is the case, we would not ask you to be baptized again. However, if you didn’t understand what baptism meant because you never actually repented of your sins and turned to Christ, and if you have since placed faith in Christ, we would invite you to be baptized.
“MY CHILD WANTS TO BE BAPTIZED. NOW WHAT?”
If your child has expressed a desire to be baptized, we at The Trails would love to celebrate that with you! It is our desire to see your child come to know Jesus and to grow in their knowledge of him. We believe that parents are God’s primary means of instructing children in the ways of the Lord, and so we want to come alongside you and help you fulfill that role in any way we can. If your child would like to be baptized, the first step is to ensure that they have trusted in Jesus and are ready to be baptized. To that end, ask yourself if they have shown evidence of having truly been born again. Additionally, the following questions are helpful to ask your child:
“Who is Jesus?”
“What did Jesus do?”
“Why did Jesus have to die on a cross?”
“Do you know what ‘sin’ means?”
“Do you know what baptism is? Why do you want to be baptized?”
Because a Christian’s understanding of his salvation only grows over time as he comes to know God more, it’s not necessary (or perhaps even possible) for your child to give you an exhaustive answer to these questions. However, they should still be able to give you accurate answers to these questions before being baptized. (You might even need to supplement the questions with some clarifying ones.) It’s important that they understand the basic message of the Gospel: that they have rebelled against God and deserve punishment for their sins, and that God in His love sent Jesus who is the Son of God to earth to live the perfect life that we could not live, that He was crucified to take away our sins, raised to give us new life, and that He will one day return and judge the world. Furthermore, do they understand what “sin” means? Many children know and say that “Jesus died for my sins,” but it is important to make sure that they know what that statement means. They need to understand that sin is disobeying God and loving anything else more than him. Finally, do they understand the meaning of baptism? Do they know that being baptized is an outward sign that they are saved and that it does not save them?
Again, what’s important is that they give accurate answers to these questions, not necessarily exhaustive ones. On that note, remember that even accurate answers to these questions will sound very different depending on how old your child is. For example, a younger child may say that sin is disobeying God, whereas an older child might say that it is when we love other things more than God. Either answer is true and acceptable. Regardless of their age and vocabulary, what’s important for them to grasp is that sin is an offense or disobedience against God (as opposed to just “doing bad things”).
If you have asked your child these questions and feel that they are ready for baptism, you can fill out this form to schedule a baptism interview.
If you realize that your child is not ready to be baptized, don’t be discouraged! Pray that God would save them from their sins, remembering that it is His responsibility to save them, not yours. In addition to your prayers, continue to teach them the things of the Lord (Deut. 6:4-7).