This not the usual question one asks relative to such an important matter. Often the question is raised, “Who should be baptized?” However we can, by dealing with the question, “Who Should Not Be Baptized?” give answer as to who should be baptized.
First of all, infants should not be baptized. Children, while being born in a world of sin and being subject to sin, are not born sinners. There is a difference. Sin is not something one inherits but rather it is something one does; “For sin is the transgression of the law” (I John 3:4). While a child inherits the consequence of Adam’s sin, he is not born totally depraved as per the teaching of John Calvin. The prophet Ezekiel explained it this way: “The soul that sinneth, it shall die: the son shall not bear the iniquity of the father…” (Ezekiel 18:20).
Second, young children who are not mature enough mentally to grasp the teaching relative to Jesus, his coming, his purpose for dying, his sonship and an awareness of right and wrong in their lives should not be baptized. The age of ‘accountability’ varies with individual children. There must be the acceptance of God’s grace in this matter. God does not impute sin to those children who are in the years of innocence. This is the time for parents to teach and train their sons and daughters in the way of the Lord (Proverbs 22:6; Ephesians 6:4; II Timothy 3:14, 15). Brethren should be careful about moving children emotionally concerning baptism when they are not yet old enough.
Third, the individual who does not believe in Christ should not be baptized. It would be foolish to immerse an unbeliever. Jesus taught that for an alien sinner to be saved he must “believe and be baptized” (Mark 16:16). The person who does not believe is judged already (John 3:18). We can see why Paul did not instruct the Philippian jailor to be baptized when he asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” It was needful that the jailor first learn of Jesus through the word (Acts 16:30-32). Faith in Christ was produced in his heart by the preaching of the inspired word of God (Romans 10:17; Acts 16:34).
Fourth, the person who is impenitent should not be baptized. One could be immersed a thousand times but if there is not true repentance in his heart, such would not avail him anything. There has to be a radical change in the desire and will of the hart before one can be saved (Luke 13:3). Man may not know absolutely the intent of another’s heart but God does. Peter commanded the people on Pentecost to “Repent ye, and be baptized…unto the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38). True repentance will lead to a reformed manner of life (Matthew 3:8).
Fifth, no one should be baptized who refuses to confess the name of Jesus. This confession is the outgrowth of one’s faith. What one believes in his heart he confesses with his mouth (Romans 10:9, 10). No wonder the nobleman from Ethiopia exclaimed, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God” (Acts 8:37). There have been cases wherein people knew of the divinity of Jesus but refused to confess it (John 12:42, 43). Such people are not suitable candidates for scriptural baptism. Even Jesus will deny such moral cowards before His Father in heaven (Matthew 10:33).
Well, you may ask, ‘Who should be baptized?’ Those individuals who are mature enough to understand the facts and commands of the gospel; those who are believers in the sonship of Christ, who are willing to repent of all sins and who will confess their faith in Jesus Christ. These are the fit subjects for scriptural baptism. If you are in this category, “Why tarriest thou? Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16).