The Age of Accountability
Has the question ever crossed your mind: What is the age of accountability? How old must one be to be baptized? Let us first dispel the notion of infant baptism. Infant baptism is wrong and unscriptural. Newborns haven’t done anything good or bad, nor did they inherit the sins of their parents (Ezek. 18:20). We aren’t worried about their salvation. They are safe. But somewhere along the way, that changes. No scripture is found in the New Testament that teaches us there is an age of accountability, but here are four questions to consider before baptism:
Am I a sinner? When we’re guilty of sin, we become a sinner. And this guilt of sin is a very serious matter. Sin is lawlessness; a violation of God’s law (I John 3:4). It separates us from God (Is. 59:2). It makes our conscience feel guilty (I Pet. 3:21). It dooms us to eternal punishment (Rom. 6:23). Baptism is for people who will spend eternity separated from God if they die without forgiveness. Baptism is for the lost. Those feelings of guilt, shame and separation -- the gospel capitalizes on that state of mind.
Do I need salvation? Paul says in II Cor. 7:10 that “godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation.” This is the mourning God wants (Matt. 5:4). Not the kind of mourning when your favorite football team suffers a heart-breaking loss in the final seconds. Or the kind of mourning when the family pet passes away. The kind of mourning that God wants prepares us for baptism that then leads to change. It's the recognition that "I need salvation."
Do I want to follow Christ? A Christian is a disciple and follower of Christ (Luke 9:23). But before you can follow Jesus, you must know who Jesus is. Do you know Jesus is the Son of God? Do you know Jesus is divine? Do you know Jesus is Lord, who's been given all authority? And you must believe who Jesus says He is (John 8:24). Can you make the same confession the Ethiopian eunuch made in Acts 8?
Do I want to go to heaven? If so, then you’re hungering and thirsting for righteousness (Matt. 5:6). That hungering and thirsting for righteousness goes beyond getting baptized. It’s about changing. Have you ever seen someone be baptized, but not change? If you are old enough to die to sin in baptism, you are old enough to be dead to sin and live for Christ (Rom. 6).
We know when a young person is ready to be baptized the same way we know when anyone is ready to be baptized. Age of accountability is not an age at all. But a level of readiness, maturity and understanding.