googlef87758e9b6df9bec.html A Sure Word: Are Babies Saved? A Scriptural Analysis of the “Age of Accountability”

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Are Babies Saved? A Scriptural Analysis of the “Age of Accountability”

Having grown up in a Baptist church, I had always been told that children who die before reaching the “age of accountability” will go to heaven. Sometimes, we hear things about the Bible repeated so often that we simply assume it's really in the Bible. It's like the oft repeated claim that Adam ate an “apple.” The Bible doesn't say it was an apple but only says Adam ate of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. What exactly the fruit was is of little consequence really. However, a subject like the age of accountability is considerably more significant. I've heard people argue that, because of who God is, He would necessarily show mercy on infants. Certainly God is loving but we need to be careful before saying how we think God should act. His ways are not our ways. As always, we must look to Scripture to support any belief we claim is doctrine.

The Bible talks a lot about salvation but says surprisingly little about the disposition of children who die before coming to a saving faith in Jesus. I would start by noting that the idea of infants who die being with the Lord is not a new idea. When the infant son of David and Bathsheba died, David said, “While the child was yet alive, I fasted and wept: for I said, Who can tell whether GOD will be gracious to me, that the child may live? But now he is dead, wherefore should I fast? can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me” (2 Samuel 12:22-23).

It seems that David believed the child was gone to be with the Lord and that someday he would be with him again. David, of course, being one of the authors of the Bible, had a relationship with God that very few people have had. Though David did not have the full canon of Scripture that we have, something led him to believe his child would be with the Lord. Because we know that David received revelation from the Lord, we should not quickly dismiss his confidence as though it was simply the vain imaginations of a grieving parent. David may have had a type of “inside knowledge” about the matter.

Moving forward to the New Testament, I also have noticed something very interesting about Jesus' ministry on earth. Jesus often spoke openly about the spiritual condition of the people around Him. He told the woman who touched the hem of His robe that her faith had saved her (Matthew 9:20-22). He told the Pharisees that they were the sons of their father, the Devil (John 8:44). Jesus often judged the spiritual condition of those around Him but we can see it is only among adults. Concerning children, Jesus said, “Suffer the little children to come to me and forbid them not” (Matthew 19:14, Mark 10:14, Luke 18:16). Nowhere have I ever seen Jesus discern the spiritual attitude of children the same way He did among adults.

There is still another passage of Scripture that I believe bears greatly on this subject. In Numbers 14, God judges the nation of Israel and tells them that, because of their disobedience, they will not inherit the land which He promised them. Numbers 14:31, though, says, “But your little ones, which ye said should be a prey, them will I bring in, and they shall know the land which ye have despised.” Admittedly, God chose the age of 20 as the dividing line but even so, we can still see that the wrath of God's judgment falls on the older generation while the younger generation is spared.

Though the Bible speaks very little about the subject directly, I believe it has much to say about it indirectly. From these passages and others, I believe we can have confidence in knowing that children who die before they are able to understand the need of a savior receive God mercy nonetheless.

No comments: