One of the greatest privileges a parent has in the life of their child is to dedicate the him or her to God. In this article we will discuss the reason for baby dedication and what it means to the church and the family.
When Jesus was just an infant, He was brought to the temple to be dedicated to the Lord. After 40 days of purification, according to Leviticus 12:2-6, Mary and Joseph traveled to the temple for the dedication.
At eight days of age, Mary and Joseph had Jesus circumcised. Again, in accordance with the Levitical law.
The dedication of a baby involves more than simply going to church and going through a ceremony. A baby dedication involves promises on the side of the parent as well as asking for the Lord's blessing.
One of those promses is found in Deuteronomy 6:5-7:
"You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise."
In other words God has called parents to teach their children His Ten Commandments. Notice the frequency that the teaching should take place, when you sit in your house, walk by the way, lie down , and rise...in other words all the time.
The parent promises, with the help of God, that they will train, teach, and raise the child in a way that is in harmony with the Gospel and the Law of God.
God promises in Proverbs 22:6 "Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it." He promises that, when the child grows up, they will remember the teachings, law, and love of God.
One of the greatest legacies a person can leave behind is a child who truly loves the Lord. Proverbs 17:6 says "Grandchildren are the crown of the aged, and the glory of the children is their fathers". A person will be remembered through the life of their descendants. Thus, it is a good thing to have children.
At one point children were the retirement program. You would have been blessed to have many children to help on the farm and care for you in your old age.
Psalms 127:3 reminds us that "children are a heritage from the LORD". Ultimately our children belong to God (Acts 17:24-26). God, in His love and generosity, gives life and breath to every child Isaiah 42:5). Therefore, no child is an accident in the eyes of God.
One of the greatest examples of child dedication is seen in 1 Samuel chapter 1 in the lives of Hannah and Samuel.
Hannah wanted nothing more than to have a child. In the time she lived, having children meant everything to a woman. If you could not have children people may view you as defective or worthless. She realized the gift that lies in a child.
After desperately seeking the Lord in prayer and tears God answered her prayer for a child. Her response to God answering her prayer was to give the child right back to God for the rest of his life (1 Samuel 1:28).
Many scholars believe Samuel was 5 or 6 years old when he was taken to the temple and dedicated to the Lord. 1 Samuel 1:24 says he was taken when he was weaned. In the ancient Jewish culture a child was first weaned from the physical milk then "weaned" from the spiritual milk. Hannah likely had Samuel until she had taught Samuel dilignetly the Jewish beliefs.
Colossians 3:21 gives us further instruction on how to teach a child saying "Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged." Raising our children in the way that God deals with us will bring encouragement to the child. Conversely the opposite will bring discouragement. Overdemanding, exacting parents may bring up a child that will exhibit the exact same traits.
Proverbs 10:1 explains the repercussion of mismanaging our children? "...A wise son makes a glad father, but a foolish son is a sorrow to his mother". Because of the unique love of a mother to a child the mistakes a child makes may cause heartache and grief to the mother.
God will ultimately honor the choice we all make. As parents we will have to watch some unfortunate mistakes of our children. However, when we heed the Lord's instruction and train a child properly we can at least limit those mistakes as much as possible. Let’s do our best to properly train our children.
Fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge (Proverbs 1:7). In dedicating our children, we promise to teach them to love and respect God. If a wise son makes his father glad we definitely want the child to be "wise unto salvation" (2 Timothy 3:15).
Let's go back to the dedication of Jesus at the temple which meant something to more than Mary and Joseph. Just like when we dedicate our children today it is very important to the church as well as the family. Some in your church may have lost all hope in this generation. The dedication of a child ensures the church that there is still hope for a morally declining generation.
Simeon had been waiting for the Messiah (Luke 2:25 - 32). The Holy Spirit had revealed to him that he would not see death until he had seen "the Lord's Christ". Not only were Mary and Joseph doing what the Lord asked, but there were other people waiting to gain a blessing from the event. This event meant everything to Simeon. It was a confirmation to Simeon that Jesus was the Messiah and another confirmation to Mary and Joseph as well. This meant everything to them.
Mary and Joseph were not promised a painless life in raising Jesus (Luke 2:34, 35). Here we see another prophecy of the death of Christ when Simeon said to Mary "a sword will pierce through your own soul".
Of course, this would mean pain to Mary. However, she knew that if she would heed God’s instruction and exercise faith in her redeemer, God would use that pain to bring many people into the kingdom of Heaven (Isaiah 53:11).
Not only was Simeon blessed by the dedication of Jesus but so was the prophetess Anna (Luke 2:36-38).
As a result of this event, she spoke about the Savior to all she came across. This event meant everything to her. The dedication of a child calls for promises not only on behalf of the parents but also on behalf of the church. The church members promise to guide and encourage the parents and child, to raise the child up in a way that glorifies and honors God.
As a result of truly dedicating Jesus to the Lord, the result was that
Jesus grew strong (physically), wise (mentally), and grace (spiritually) was upon Him. This set the compass of the rest of His life (Luke 2:39-40, 52).
One question remains, is child dedication the same as baptism? Our example is in Jesus Christ Himself. A dedication is the choice and promises of a parent. Baptism is the individual's choice --the one being baptized. Jesus was dedicated as a baby to the lord, but it wasn't until He was 30 years old that He chose to be baptized.
There are three things that must take place before baptism
1 - The one being baptized must be taught about God and His Word (Matthew 28:19 - 20).
2 - The one being baptized must believe what the Bible says and that Jesus is the only way of true salvation (Mark 16:16).
3 - The one being baptized must repent, turn from sins, and experience conversion (Acts 2:38, Acts 3:19).
Since a baby is incapable of these three things it is not possible for a baby to be baptized (Isaiah 28:9). However, we may follow the examples sighted above in dedicating our children to God.
Please consider the following biographical statements on the life of Christ:
"When the Majesty of heaven became a babe and was entrusted to Mary, she did not have much to offer for the precious gift. She brought to the altar only two turtledoves, the offering appointed for the poor; but they were an acceptable sacrifice to the Lord. She could not present rare treasures such as the wise men of the East came to Bethlehem to lay before the Son of God; yet the mother of Jesus was not rejected because of the smallness of her gift.
"It was the willingness of her heart that the Lord looked upon, and her love made the offering sweet. So God will accept our gift, however small, if it is the best we have, and is offered from love to Him." Review and Herald, Dec. 9, 1890.
"The priest went through the ceremony of his official work. He took the child in his arms, and held it up before the altar. After handing it back to its mother, he inscribed the name 'Jesus' on the roll of the firstborn. …
"From the first Mary looked forward to the Messiah's reign on David's throne, but she saw not the baptism of suffering by which it must be won. Through Simeon [at Christ's dedication as a baby in the temple] it is revealed that the Messiah is to have no unobstructed passage through the world. In the words to Mary, 'A sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,' God in His tender mercy gives to the mother of Jesus an intimation of the anguish that already for His sake she had begun to bear."-- The Desire of Ages 56 (1898).
"The child Jesus did not receive instruction in the synagogue schools. His mother was His first human teacher. From her lips and from the scrolls of the prophets, He learned of heavenly things. The very words which He Himself had spoken to Moses for Israel He was now taught at His mother's knee. As He advanced from childhood to youth, He did not seek the schools of the rabbis. He needed not the education to be obtained from such sources; for God was His instructor".-- The Desire of Ages 70 (1898).
As you can see in the examples of Hannah and Mary, New Testament and Old, child dedication is in harmony with Biblical principals. As far as baptism goes, let us as parents continue to raise our children in the fear of the Lord and encourage them to make that decision at a time and age that is appropriate for them.
If you are interested in dedicating your child or have further questions I encourage you to contact your local pastor, elder, or church leader.