Baptism, the Lord’s Supper & Membership for Children at Covenant Hope Church
We, the elders of Covenant Hope Church, after prayerful searching of the Scriptures and discussion, conclude that, while Scripture is clear that believers only are to be baptized, the age at which a believer is to be baptized is not directly addressed in Scripture.
- We do not understand the simple command to be baptized to settle this issue.
- We do not understand the imperative to be baptized to forbid raising questions about a baptismal candidate's maturity.
- We do understand that the consideration of an appropriate age for a believer to be baptized is a matter of Christian wisdom and prudence on an issue not directly addressed by Scripture.
What is clear in Scripture is that Baptism, the Lord’s Supper and Membership fit together.
- Baptism is a sign of a person’s entry into the New Covenant with God. “Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.” (Acts 2:41 NIV) That they were “added to their number” is an indication of membership into the Body of believers.
- The Lord’s Supper is the renewing of the Covenant. “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.” (1 Corinthians 11:26)
Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are the Biblical covenant signs marking the entry into, and renewal of, our membership in the church. If a person shows evidence of being born again (regenerate), we would not want to withhold baptism or the Lord’s Supper. Additionally, if we would affirm one’s admittance into the Universal Church, recognizing or administering believer’s baptism, then we would not want to exclude that person from the local church, including all the benefits and responsibilities of that position (discipleship and accountability, serving in the church, member meetings, public care list, church discipline, etc).
According to our constitution, to qualify for membership “a person must be a believer in Jesus Christ who gives evidence of regeneration.” As elders and church members, we are called to assess the credibility of a member candidate’s profession of faith.
Though the baptisms in the New Testament seem largely to have occurred soon after the initial conversion, all of the individuals we can read of are both adults and coming from a non-Christian context. Both of these factors would tend to lend credibility to their profession of faith. The credibility of the conversion is the prime consideration, even though the effect of baptism on the individual candidate and the church community are legitimate secondary concerns.
We believe that the normal age of baptism should be when regeneration becomes naturally evident to the church community. This would normally be when the child has matured and is progressively leaving the God-given dependence on their parents, and is beginning to live more self-consciously, making their own choices, displaying a God-given wisdom which marks one who has felt the tug of the world, the flesh and the devil, but has decided to follow Christ, despite these temptations. While it is difficult to set a certain number of years which are required for baptism, it is appropriate to consider the candidate’s maturity.
With the consent and encouragement of Christian parents who are members, we will carefully consider requests for baptism for a young person but would urge parents toward patient caution. Of course, children can be converted. We pray that none of our children ever know any lengthy period of conscious rebellion against God. The question raised by baptism is the ability of others to be fairly confident of their profession of faith. The malleable nature of children is a gift from God and is to be used to bring them to maturity. This nature should also give us caution in assuming the permanence of desires, dreams, affections, and decisions of children. Nevertheless, should the young person desire to pursue baptism and membership in the normal course set out by the church, we will examine them on a case-by-case basis, with the involvement of the parents.
In the event of young persons from non-Christian families coming to the church for an extended period of time, professing faith and giving evidence of the credibility of this profession, requests for baptism and membership would be considered without the involvement of the parents. While all the previous comments on the nature of immaturity stand, the fact that such a young person would be doing so despite indifference, or even opposition, from their parents, could be evidence for the reality of their conversion.
Nothing in this statement should be construed as casting doubt about the legitimacy of the baptism of any existing members, regardless of how young they were when they were baptized. Because they have continued in the faith into their adult years, we assume the legitimacy of their initial profession made at baptism. The question we are concerned with is looking forward, not backward.
Our Membership Covenant states, “We will earnestly work to bring up any who may be under our care in the training and instruction of the Lord, and by a loving example and speaking the gospel, seek the salvation of our family and friends.” Our children are the most important non-members regularly attending our church. We long for our young ones to come to a true and lasting faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.