This week’s reading: Acts 16:33
Christians differ on the fitting age for full initiation into the life of the church. For those who practice infant baptism, the question centers on when someone is ready for confirmation and first Communion. Some think the “age of discretion” is age 12, because it’s the age at which Jesus encountered the teachers of the Law and probably had his bar mitzvah, when he could fully participate in Jewish worship.
For those who believe baptism should be reserved for believers, the question centers on when one is capable of truly repenting and embracing Christ in wholehearted discipleship. Some emphasize the adult character of this decision, making baptism a post-puberty rite. For others, the age is much lower; some even baptize toddlers.
Some guidelines for determining an appropriate age: First, we should not impose some arbitrary age. God works sovereignly in the lives of all persons made in his image. Each child should be dealt with individually and encouraged toward every “step toward Jesus” without manipulating for an early decision. Second, we need to develop a proper understanding of God’s relationship to children. The Bible seems to indicate that the children of believing parents stand in a special providential relationship to the people and promises of God (see 1Co 7:14). It is the responsibility of parents and the church to lead those children by prayers, instruction and example toward true faith in Christ.