This might not be a problem for you as you might think you have all the answers, but when someone asked me how children fitted into the Israel experience, I could not answer the question immediately. I had to do some soul searching and eventually turned to the LORD for His answer.
This question can also open up a minefield if you are not careful, depending on your own background. If you come from a traditional Roman Catholic/Luther/Calvinistic background you might think that all that has to happen is that the baby must be baptised within the first three or so months and then everyone can relax, as the child now belongs to Jesus. But what about the infant that dies within the first couple of hours? What happens to them? That is why the Roman Catholic Church baptised dead persons as they could still be saved according to them. Maybe you think that the child will belong to Satan as Jesus has no say over the child if it isn’t baptised.
If you have a Pentecostal background you believe that the child must believe in the saving grace of Jesus before being baptised. As the child was brought up in a Christian home the child will be saved, even before baptism can be administered. As soon as the child is eleven or twelve most Pentecostal and Charismatic churches will baptise the child and then everything is all right.
But where in the Bible do we find answers to this question in the Bible? I asked the LORD to answer it for me, as I did not know how to overcome everyone’s objections. Even if we look to Israel’s’ example, we find that the children were baptised with their parents in the Red sea and therefore their sinful nature was removed. They were thus baptised with their parents and thus were part of Gods nation. Or are they?
Let us look at a couple of scriptures before we continue. The first scripture comes from Galatians four verses one and two. “Now I say, That the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all; But is under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the father.” (Gal 4:1-2) This scripture confirms that a child is under the authority of its tutors and governors until the time decided on by their father. Only when the father decides that the child can stand his own ground, will the child be allowed to accept responsibility for himself.
Romans 5 verses 1-2: “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” (Rom 5:1-2) This scripture points out that we are saved by faith only and not by baptism. This is an extremely important issue, as everyone rushes of to say that Peter said it is the baptism that saves us, but the Bible spells it out in Roman and Galatians as well as other books, that we are saved by faith in Jesus Christ. He is the only one that can save me from hell. If we examine the scripture referred to in the first book of Peter, he declares that it is near impossible to believe and not to be baptised. That is why he declares it is the baptism that saves you. Noah had to first believe that the LORD was going to destroy the earth through water before he built the ark. These scriptures all confirm that it is faith that will save us.
These scriptures also confirm various other parts of scripture. Both Galatians and Romans follow a set sequence, firstly repentance, then faith and then baptism. These verses in Hebrews give us the exact sequence. “Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.” (Heb 6:1-2) Mark also uses the same sequence. “And he said unto them, 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”. (Mar 16:15-16). This scripture tells us that we would not be damned if we aren’t baptised, but we will be damned for not believing. Only once you put your faith in Christ can you be baptised.
This sequence was first given to us in Exodus. Israel had to first call out to the LORD, (repentance), then call out to the LORD to save them, (faith), and then had to have the Passover meal. They then left Egypt and were baptised in the Red Sea, and at Mara were baptised with the Holy Spirit.
If we then look at our children, we find that the LORD did not expect them to believe that they would inherit Canaan, as they were still under the jurisdiction of their parents. The same is true today. The LORD expects me to take responsibility for their lives until we can trust them never to stray of His way. But that is where the problems start. We as parents do not want to take this responsibility and hence want to get them baptised in order for them to be responsible for themselves. No, the LORD wants us to shoulder this responsibility until we can rust them to make this decision. He will judge these children according to our lifestyles. That is why Moses declared in Deuteronomy as follows: “And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.” (Deu 6:5-7)
How convinced am I? The first time Israel reached the Jordan river and were ready to inherit Canaan, they declared that they were scared to cross the Jordan, as their wives and children would suffer and die. “And wherefore hath the LORD brought us unto this land, to fall by the sword, that our wives and our children should be a prey? were it not better for us to return into Egypt?” (Num 14:3) The Israelites tell the LORD that they are worried about their wives and children. We do exactly the same. We declare that we want to do what is best for the children as it is them that we are worried about. The LORD gave Israel the following answer: “Say unto them, As truly as I live, saith the LORD, as ye have spoken in mine ears, so will I do to you: Your carcases shall fall in this wilderness; and all that were numbered of you, according to your whole number, from twenty years old and upward, which have murmured against me,” (Num 14:28-29). The LORD is not interested in my arguments concerning others, no He is concerned about my relationship with Him. If I have received the baptism as a believer, He will not judge my children, but give them the ability and chance to decide for themselves.
This also tells us that nobody is born in Canaan. No, everyone is born in Egypt, in other words all have sinned and must be saved. We all must decide for ourselves to serve the LORD, or to go to Canaan. If they never decide to get out of Egypt they will be damned and die in Egypt, and receive a sinners judgement. Ezekiel puts it as follows: “The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.” (Eze 18:20) “Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, saith the Lord GOD. Repent, and turn yourselves from all your transgressions; so iniquity shall not be your ruin.” (Eze 18:30) I am aware of the fact that it is very harsh words, but it doesn’t help putting it any other way. I as father or guardian of the child will have to take the responsibility for my children until age twenty. Only after that will the LORD judge them according to their own life. He did that to Israel and will do the same to us.
Something else that crept out of the woodwork while working on this issue, is the covenant meal, commonly referred to today as communion. As soon as I believe that the LORD is the only one that can save me is the time I am allowed to partake of this meal. It is only a meal for believers, and hence children cannot partake of it. My children cannot share in it as they must have something to look forward to when deciding to follow Jesus. The communion must become a meal again as it was meant to be, something to go up to Jerusalem for. It must remind us that the first time we took part of it was the first time we took responsibility for our own lives and based on that death could not have a hold on me. I can now appear before the LORD without fear or anxiety as I am now clothed with the righteousness of Jesus Christ. This is also the place where those that administer childhood baptism get stuck, as they never leave Egypt. This is why they have to fight against the enemy everyday; as they never get rid of their sinful desires and wants. You have to leave Egypt for that to happen, as they all die in the Red Sea.
In closing I want to mention something else. Jesus was both First born and Lamb. He had to die the death of the first-born and declare the tenth plague null and void, so that we do not have to be circumcised. He could not plead the Blood of the Lamb over Him, as He was the Lamb that had to die. This means that I no longer have to worry about the death of the first born, as Jesus paid the price for that. The only thing I have to worry about is to teach my children to walk in the ways of the LORD, and when they come of age, to lead them to Jesus, which they have to decide if they would follow Him or not. I also have to ensure that they do not decide at a young age to get baptised, as they have to understand the full consequences of their decision before being baptised. If we don’t this scripture will remind us of what would happen to them should they decide to stray or deny Him during their teenage and young adult lives. “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame” (Heb 6:4-6) We as parents have to understand the impact of this decision and then would probably agree that we cannot allow children before their teenage years or early adult life to make this decision to follow Jesus. Once they have gone through these years will they have to make the decision.
Paul tells is what the LORD felt like when He realised that Israel did not trust Him to take them into Canaan. “Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; And did all eat the same spiritual meat; And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ. But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness. Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted.” (1Cor 10:1-6)