This message was preached at Word Of Grace Church on Sept 5th 2021 by Lasya D via zoom. For the audio & video please click here. To listen to the worship please click here.
What exactly is a baby dedication? Where does it come from?
I'm going to go one step back and first explain that we at Word of Grace Church are Evangelical Christians. By that, I mean that the final authority for faith and doctrine is the Bible - the Word of God. The Bible stands above every Pastor, Bishop, Pope, authority, or even Christian Tradition. What that means is that every Christian teaching and practice must be compared with the bible and where the teaching or practice contradicts the Word of God, that teaching or practice needs to be brought in line with scripture or discarded.
In Acts 17 - The great Apostle Paul came to Berea and began teaching in the Synagogue. The Bereans were described as noble because they received Pauls message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. (Acts 17:11).
As you listen to the word preached or you engage in Christian practices like worship, baptism, giving, etc - do you examine the scriptures to see if what is preached is in line with God's word - or do you blindly take it in. So we at Word of Grace aim to be Evangelical Christians.
Even when Jesus taught the two disciples on the Road to Emmaus in Luke 24:27 - He didn't just tell them to believe. He took them to the Scriptures. And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. Our Lord Jesus himself upheld the authority of Scripture and pointed to scripture to validate events.
So what is baby dedication?
- The dedication of babies is a Preference and not a command in scripture. So why are we doing it? Well, it's a good thing and does not contradict scripture. e.g. All those who are married - you must have had a wedding reception. Where is that commanded in scripture? Or you have celebrated your birthday. Where is that commanded in scripture? But wedding receptions and birthday parties are a good thing. The 2 ordinances that Jesus explicitly commanded in scripture are water baptism and the breaking of bread. We will come to them a little later.
- The Purpose of dedication. What is happening here? Christy and Esther are so thankful to God for blessing them with baby Jason, that they want to publicly thank God for this blessing and want to present him to the Lord, and commit themselves to raise him up in the ways of God. The purpose of child dedication is really to be found in the purpose of the parents. Rightly understood, the ceremony is one of parental dedication. The parents are pledging themselves to obey the command of Paul, who in Ephesians 6:4 (NIV), tells parents, to “bring them up (your children) in the training and instruction of the Lord.”
- The Precedent of dedication is found in Jesus being presented to the Lord in Luke 2:22 22 When the time of their purification according to the Law of Moses had been completed, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord. Jesus as an infant was presented to the Lord. Here it was the faith of the parents that were at work. At age 30 Jesus was Baptized. Here it was Jesus who chose to be baptized. 2 distinct events. One carried out by the parent's decision and one carried out by the individual deciding.
- The Process of dedication - what exactly are the steps that are prescribed in Scripture. Well the answer is found in Hezekiah 3:16. There is no Hezekiah 3:16 and there is no process prescribed in Scripture for dedication or for that matter a marriage ceremony or a worship service. We take our tradition and make it gospel truth when the reality is that Scripture gives us much freedom in choosing how we celebrate, what instruments we use for worship or even a traditional white gown and vows at a marriage service. There is no prescribed format! For a marriage, the only two conditions are that they should be male and female and both should be believers. But the white wedding gown, the vows and the ceremony etc. are more tradition than explicitly mandated in the bible.
So what about the baptism of babies?
- If you read the Bible from the index to the maps you will find exactly zero instances of babies being baptized. Zero, none. There are several accounts in the NT of adults being baptized - Jesus, the Ethiopian eunuch, the 3000 on the day of Pentecost, Cornelius and his household, the Samaritans, Ephesian disciples, the Philippian jailer and his household. In all these instances, they heard the word being preached, they believed and as a sign of their repentance and faith they were baptized. Acts 16:31 31 They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. 33 At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household were baptized.
The pre-requisite for being baptized is belief and repentance - Acts 2:38 Peter replied - Repent and be baptized, every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins...
So that is why biblical Baptism is also called Believers Baptism.
Babies cannot believe and they cannot repent. So if you were baptized as a baby - it was probably more a dedication than Christian baptism.
- Baptism - means immersion. Like a tea bag dipped in water. In every instance where a baptism account is detailed in the New Testament - there is a body of water to get into like a pool or a river. John the Baptist - did not sprinkle people - Mt 3:6 Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.
Mt 3:16 As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water...
- Baptism is a command of Jesus - Mt 28:19-20 Go and make disciples, baptizing them At Word of Grace Church, we dedicate children rather than baptize them. Just as Hannah dedicated Samuel to the Lord and Joseph and Mary dedicated the infant Jesus to the Lord according to the Jewish custom. We believe dedication more closely follows the biblical pattern than baptism, of which we have no precedent of an infant being baptized in the Bible. Thus, this dedication does not impart faith or forgiveness of sins to JASON. Rather it is CHRISTY and ESTHER’S public acknowledgement that JASON is a gift from God to them, and that they have a spiritual responsibility for the Christian nurture and training of JASON.
The precedent for child dedication may be found in Scripture, as in the presentation of Samuel to God by JASON in 1 Samuel 1:28 and the presentation of Jesus to God by Joseph and Mary in Luke 2:22.
1 Sam 1:28 28 So now I give him to the Lord. For his whole life he will be given over to the Lord.”
Luke 2:22 22 When the time of their purification according to the Law of Moses had been completed, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord
Ps 127:3 Sons are a heritage from the Lord, children a reward from him
Paul reminded Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:15 (NIV), “how from infancy (he had) known the Holy Scriptures.” Jesus considered children to be infinitely precious, and in Mark 10:14 (NIV) said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”
Charge to the Parents: Let us hear the Word of the Lord as it comes to us in Deuteronomy 6:6-7 (NIV): “These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”
1 John 3:4 I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth. It is the command of God that we should diligently seek to raise our children in such a way as to lead them to trust Christ as Savior and serve Him as Lord. In response to this command, these parents bring their child today to present them to the Lord and dedicate themselves to this task.
A DEDICATED FATHER
I am going to share why a father is so important and why, if you are a father, you are important. In America, 90% of the prisoners are male. 75-90% of those prisoners grew up without a father. Suicides – 60 % of suicides take place where there is no father. 90% of homeless and runaway children are from fatherless homes. 80% of all people who commit rapes are from fatherless homes. A father is a very important person. Our role is vital. There can be another instance, you can have an absentee father. When you remove a father from a home, society becomes sick.
Fathers are needed even with animals. In Kruger national park in South Africa, the elephant population was growing so much that they were endangering other animals. They moved some elephants to another park where there is more space. Moving elephants is a problem. So they only moved only the mother and baby elephants. At that other park, the white rhino was becoming endangered because they were being killed. So they set up cameras to find out who is killing the rhinos. They found that the young male elephants were going on a rampage and killing the rhinos. SO they moved some of the adult male elephants to that park. These elephants fixed the problem! If you’re a father this morning you are the adult male elephant that will shape the life of your children.
Q. What is your role as a father?
1. To protect your family: Men and women are different. Sadly the world is trying to go into a genderless society. They are confusing function with equality. We are equal but we have different functions. Men are more aggressive. Women say let's understand one another. When the person who is supposed to defend the family starts attacking the family, it is not okay. We protect the family by taking on the heavy-duty work.
2. To be the provider: in Genesis when God created men and women, God said the men had the duty to tend the garden and to bring food to the table. Sadly, in our Indian society, women are working and husbands are gambling. Your wife may or may not work, but you are responsible to provide for the family. 1 Tim 5:8 “if anyone does not provide for his family, he has denied his faith and is worse than an unbeliever”. Looking after the garden was the primary job of the man. Earn the right to lead your family by
3. To be the promoter: Your job is to take your children and train them up to become the best that they can be. Proverbs 22:6 “train your children in the way they should go and when they are older they will not depart from it.” The first part is overwhelming love. Discipline is also needed. Either extreme is difficult. Eph 6:1-3 “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” These are the 2 things sons and daughters are called to do. The command to fathers is this – in verse 4 “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” So you discipline out of love and not to exhaust them. You exasperate children when you promise and don’t show up.
a. Hug your children and tell them I love you. Communicate love. Daughters who don’t get love from their fathers seek love out there. So beware of that.
b. Love is spelt T-I-M-E. No matter what age they are, make sure you’re spending quality time with them.
4. To be a priest for his family: it often happens that the women in the home are more inclined to follow God and the men want to do something else. In Joshua 24:15 “And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” In 1 Corinthians 11 Paul says imitate me as I imitate Christ. So, fathers, your behaviour will determine the outcome of your children.
Today we know better and we can strive to be better fathers. We have been given an amazing privilege and responsibility from God to lead our families.