The Forum

The Forum

Dear G. D. R.

The second paragraph of your letter asks, “What Scriptural justification have we for saying that children who have not reached the age of accountability will go to Heaven if they die in innocency?”

We understand what you mean by speaking of babies dying in innocency, but let us remember that there were only two human beings who lived in innocency, Adam and Eve before the Fall. Every child born since has been born in sin and shapened in iniquity (Psa. 55:5). Moreover, “The wicked are estranged from the womb, they go astray as soon as they be born speaking lies” (Psa. 58:3).

Naturally, people are anxious to know at what age children become conscious of right and wrong behaviour. As far as one can discover there is no general age for such moral awakening to cover all cases. It would appear to vary in children, and to be changed by the different degrees of intelligence as well as by heredity, environment, and other contributing factors. Some children may discern between good and bad when only four or five years old, while others, because of mental deficiency, never attain this capability.

Shall we consider four important elements that would lead us to accept what your question embodies, that children are safe should they die before they have reached the years of accountability?

The Character Of God

God’s judgment upon guilty Sodom provides us with a very illuminating statement. Abraham said to God, “That be far from Thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked; and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from Thee: Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Gen. 18:25).

Abraham here is not speaking of spiritually saved and lost; he is speaking of God’s governmental dealings with those who lived morally right in contrast to those who lived wicked lives. Since God differentiates in His moral government, shall not the Judge of all the earth do right and differentiate between a child without a moral consciousness and a child already possessed by such light? The very nature of God is such that He would differentiate between the two. Isaiah records, “There is no God else beside Me; a just God and a Saviour” (Isa. 45:21).

The Intimation Of Christ

“Jesus called a little child unto Him, and set him in the midst of them, And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 18:2-3). It is obvious that the Lord Jesus had in mind here the spiritual aspect of the Kingdom (Col. 1:13).

The argument is clear; if proud man must humble himself and in the simple confidence of a child must trust God for salvation, then a child must already be in that condition until he becomes conscious of sin and follows its dictates. This he definitely will do when he reaches the consciousness of sin in the world because of the sinful nature he has inherited.

It might, therefore, be said that a child is safe because God in His righteous character takes into consideration moral immaturity in view of

The Work Of Christ

Here we must contrast the work of Christ in saving children with His work in saving adults.

When speaking of the salvation of Zacchaeus, Jesus said, “This day is salvation come to this house, … For the Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). Three things are evident here. Zacchaeus was lost in the past; Christ came that way to seek him out, and having found him, saved him. Such is the way of salvation of all conscious sinners.

In Matthew’s Gospel 18, the Lord Jesus is speaking with a child in the midst of the group around Him. He speaks tenderly of little ones whose protective angels always have access to His Father’s presence. Then He makes the same statement used concerning Zaccheaus, but with this modification, “For the Son of Man is come (Here Christ omits the words ‘to seek.’) to save that which was lost.” Here there are only two factors to consider, the coming of the Son of Man and the saving of the child. The very example that Christ had with Him demonstrates that the Good Shepherd does not have to seek little ones in the pathway of sin, “Jesus called a little child unto Him.” Instinctively and immediately the child responded.

Biblical Examples

David had a baby son that died. During its fateful illness, he mourned for his child, but after the little one had passed away, David said, “Wherefore should I fast? can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me” (2 Samuel 12:23). David the saint who rejoiced so in divine forgiveness, (Psa. 32) when he had served his generation fell asleep, and went to the place where his child was.

A less convincing example is seen in 2 Kings 4. When Gehazi asked the Shunammite woman whose child had died, about her family, he enquired, “Is it well with thee? Is it well with thy husband? Is it well with the child? And she answered, It is well.” It was well with them as parents in life for they now knew God; it was well with the child in death for he was now with the Lord, but since her child was a child of promise and recompense, he felt that she might still claim him as such. She apparently knew that, since the babe was given through the prophet, in resurrection he would be restored through the prophet.

We hope that others may supplement what we have suggested, for this is of keen interest to all parents.

Sincerely in Christ,
J. G.

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The spiritual state of a Christian is as much indicated by what he refuses as by what he chooses.

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When a Christian worker delivers a message which he knows is the message of God, the peace of God fills his heart, and he cares neither for the praise nor the blame of anyone.

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Not they that eat most, but they that digest most are the most nourished. Not they that get most, but they that keep most are richest. Not they that read most or hear most, but they that meditate most are the most nourished and enriched spiritually.