After reading my post at http://adisciplesthoughts.blogspot.com/2009/05/dad-why-would-someone-go-to-hell.html, a concerned friend asked me why I had not baptized Christopher yet. She explained that she had her daughter baptized at birth so that her daughter would not go to purgatory if she died as a child. My friend is a good mother. I would have done the same thing if I had shared her understanding of baptism. No decent parent wants his or her child to suffer in such a manner.
However, as I explained to my friend, I have a different understanding of baptism. Baptism was meant to be an expression of one's faith and repentance.
Before being baptized, a person needs to understand his need for God. He needs to have some comprehension of his sin and its consequences. He needs to know that he has violated God and faces the danger of God's wrath.
He needs to understand that he cannot do anything to pay off his debt to God. He must realize his need for God's mercy and grace.
Then he needs to know that Jesus Christ is his only hope of forgiveness and a guilt-free life. As the Son of God, Jesus suffered God's wrath on behalf of sinners. He took the penalty in our place. He died to save us. When he returned to life, he did so by the power of God, proving God's acceptance of his sacrifice for us.
If a person believes that message and it affects his emotions and will to the point that he wants to give up his life without Christ in exchange for following Jesus, he is ready for baptism. He is ready to follow the apostle Peter's instructions: "Peter replied, 'Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit'" (Acts 2:38). He is ready to walk with God and to live under the influence of the Holy Spirit. He is ready to follow the instructions of Christ who wants disciples to be baptized "in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (Matthew 28:19). He is ready to mark the end of his old life and embrace a new life living in the grace of God. As the apostle Paul taught, "When we went under the water, we left the old country of sin behind; when we came up out of the water, we entered into the new country of grace--a new life in a new land! That's what baptism into the life of Jesus means. When we are lowered into the water, it is like the burial of Jesus; when we are raised up out of the water, it is like the resurrection of Jesus. Each of us is raised into a light-filled world by our Father so that we can see where we're going in our new grace-sovereign country" (Romans 6:3-7, The Message).
I expect to baptize Christopher someday. Janet and I are sharing the message of Christ with him every day. We are loving him. We understand baptism to be an expression of a heart that trusts in Christ and wants to turn from sin to follow him. We do not want to baptize him before it would be meaningful to him. We will continue to pray, teach, model, and wait until our son is impacted by God's love to the point that he wants to be baptized. Then we want to celebrate his baptism with him.