Should we dedicate babies?

Some of the questions I asked myself while I got to thinking about baby dedications were:

Is baby dedication a church sacrament? – No
Is baby dedication the same as paedobaptism? – No
Does it dispense grace on the baby or the parents? – No
Is is regenerative? – Definitely not.

In the Jewish religion, male infants are circumcised in obedience to the Mosaic Law. In Catholic, Lutheran, Orthodox, Methodist, Presbyterian, and other reformed churches, infants are baptized into the church; however, Baptists do not baptize infants, nor do they believe that circumcision is necessary from a biblical perspective. Moreover, Baptists believe that only through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ can a child become a part of the body of Christ. I do see that the baptists are right in their view of baptism and it is biblical. I also agree with reformed soteriology.

I have wondered if the practice of dedicating a baby to the Lord is simply a matter of praying for the infant’s health and salvation. Is this practice based on the example Matthew presents in his 19th chapter where Jesus lays hands on small children and prays for them in verse nine. The trouble with this understanding of the text, I felt is that it would be a very shallow experience.

A few suggest that Hannah’s dedication of her toddler son, Samuel, to the Lord in I Samuel 1:19-28 is the basis for the modern day “baby dedication” ceremony. However, the difficulty with using this passage as the scriptural basis for a baby dedication ceremony is that Hannah left Samuel with the High Priest Eli to serve the Lord all the days of his life at the “house of the LORD in Shiloh” (v. 25). The church is not prepared to rear a child in the house of the Lord forever. Nor are most parents truly giving their child at birth to the work of the Lord in the house of the Lord.

Therefore, it seems best to conclude that we are unsure of the origin or tradition of a baby dedication ceremony. We cannot say that the “baby dedication” ceremony is biblical unless we view Jesus being brought to Simeon (Luke 2) as an act of fulfilling a Mosaic Law requirement (see Leviticus 12)—in which case, a child’s dedication would be an old covenant expectation for Jews. We are also unsure if baby dedication was practiced by the early church. There isn’t anything in the New Testament indicating that babies of believers are to be dedicated to the Lord in a special church ceremony. In reality, the ceremony should be called a parent dedication.

Here is what I see as biblical Parental Responsibilities:

According to Psalm 127:3, children are a gift from God; and parents have a responsibility to rear their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Eph 6:4). Moreover, Deuteronomy 6:4-7 provides even more specific guidance concerning parental responsibilities toward their children.

“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 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 today 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. [Deuteronomy 6:4-7]

Parents are to be the primary teachers of the fundamentals of the Christian faith, beginning with the most orthodox truth that the “The Lord our God is one Lord” who has always existed as three Persons–the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit—and that every man, woman, and child is to love the LORD their God with all their heart, mind, soul, and strength (Matt 3:16-17; Mk 12:30-31).

Therefore, instead of dedicating a baby, it seems much more appropriate for each parent to dedicate themselves to both God and their child to be obedient to their God-given parental responsibilities. Doing this before the body of Christ is a sign of the parent’s commitment to fulfill these responsibilities within a community of believers.

These parental responsibilities include but are not limited to:

  1. Staying married in recognition that God’s plan for the biological father and mother to rear their children in the same home is the best plan. (This is not meant to exempt single parents.)
  2. Being the spiritual leader(s) of their children—which includes setting the example in their relationship with Christ and the church as well as teaching their children the gospel and the whole counsel of the Word of God and its application to life.
  3. Maintaining the health, safety, and welfare of their children.
  4. Praying without ceasing for their children’s salvation and sanctification to the glory of God.
  5. Shepherding their child’s heart toward a full relationship with God through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and the gospel by God’s Sovereign grace.

A summary of what I conclude on dedicating parents/baby dedication is

  1. It does not administer grace to the child or to the parents in any way.
  2. It is not commanded in scripture that it must be a practice of the church.
  3. It serves as a public covenant/promised made by parents to put to practice what the God expects from every parent.
  4. The practice itself is not sinful nor is the choice of avoiding dedication sinful. However, it serves as a reminder to parents and congregants of the duties of parenthood and hence it is profitable to all for the pastors encourage it.

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