Question of the week: My husband and I are going to have a son later this month. We are Christians but do not go to church. Our question is do we have to baptize our son in order for him to be saved. If so, can we do it ourselves or does it have to be done by a pastor?
My answer: Different Christian denominations have different beliefs about the practice of water baptism. These differences are tolerable since the way Christians do water baptisms does not affect our salvation. The following is my personal understanding of the primary scriptural texts (Acts 2:29–41; 1 Corinthians 1:13–17; Ephesians 1:13–14; Colossians 2:12; 1 Peter 3:21) relevant to baptism.
In my interpretation of Scripture, water baptism does not save anyone. Water baptism is a symbol of the spirit baptism that does save. See 1 Peter 3:21. When your son is old enough to understand the gospel and to receive Jesus Christ as his personal Lord and Savior, then he should get baptized. Water baptism then will be a public demonstration that he has committed his life to Christ. The ceremony should include a personal testimony from your son where he describes how he came to faith in Jesus Christ. The reason for the public demonstration is to clearly communicate that no one is more important in one’s life than Jesus Christ. For that reason, there should be more than just two or three witnesses to the testimony and the baptism. Water baptism, in my opinion, need not be done in a church or by a pastor, but it should be done in front of an audience that includes both believers and nonbelievers. Most of the baptisms I have conducted were done in mountain streams before audiences of several dozen people.
I do believe in baby dedications. Baby dedications are where the parents of a newborn or an infant bring their child before a congregation or group of believers and publicly commit themselves to model Christian behavior before their child and to raise, nurture, and train their child in Christian instruction, behavior, and character attributes. Here, the baby dedication can be conducted by a pastor or any other Christian leader. My personal recommendation for you is to have your baby dedicated, train your son in Christian character attributes, and provide Christian instruction for him. When he does make Jesus Christ his personal Lord and Savior, encourage your son to be water baptized.