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What is Baby Dedication?

Many churches engage in a practice called “baby dedication.” You won’t find this practice commanded by the bible. It isn’t part of any law, and there are no formal rituals that mention it. However, it does have its origins in biblical events. For instance, Joseph and Mary took Jesus to the temple after his circumcision and presented him to the Lord when adhering to a portion of the mosaic sacrificial system (Luke 2:22). This appears to be a recognition on their part that a child is ultimately a possession of the Lord that they are meant to steward, rather than own.

Probably, the most famous example of baby dedication happens with the prophet Samuel. His story begins well before he is even born. His mother, Hannah, desires a child but cannot have one. She prays that if God will give her a child, she’ll give that child back to him. God gives her Samuel, and she promptly gives Samuel to Eli the priest, by whom he is raised for priestly service (1 Samuel 1:1-28). Later, Samuel is even recognized as a prophet.

Baby dedication is very different from another practice we often see in the church: baptism. Unlike baby dedication, which isn’t commanded in the bible, and which isn’t regulated by it either, baptism is a sacrament given to us to practice (Matthew 28:19). But Baptism isn’t something someone can do for you. It is something that you, as an individual, must do on your own, with an understanding of its symbolism. The person undergoing baptism is publicly declaring his allegiance to God, and associating his identity with the death, burial and resurrection of Christ.

Unlike baptism, baby dedication is something that someone does for you. When a parent dedicates a child to God in a church service, they are making a public statement before their faith community that the child does not belong to them. They are devoting the life of that child to God and to his service, and they are asking their community to help provide an environment in which that child can learn about the example of Christ, and flourish as a disciple. And in this vein, it is a concept strongly promoted by scripture. Deuteronomy 6:4-7 commands us to diligently raise our children with an understanding, reverence, and commitment to God. Doing so ensures the strength of your community, and the future of your children. So make baby dedication a practice, and not just a ritual.

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