Note to reader: This is part three of a three part blog series on children and salvation. If the reader would like to read the previous two blogs on this subject, they are invited to click on those blogs in this site.
4. WHY CHILDREN REACHING ACCOUNTABILITY AND ADULTS CAN ONLY BE SAVED BY THE BLOOD OF CHRIST
The fall into sin by our original parents, Adam and Eve, came from the soul. Concerning God’s plan of salvation to save sinners, the pattern for innocent substitutes dying in the place of guilty people was set in Genesis 3:21, when God provided coats of skin for Adam and Eve. The blood itself is the physical emblem of the soul. In Leviticus 17:11 we read: The life of the flesh is in the blood…” In the Hebrew text this can literally be rendered: “The soul of the flesh is in the blood”, indicating the physical connection between blood and the human soul. When Christ came to die on the cross, He fulfilled his picture by shedding His own blood, which alone is the source of salvation and must be applied by faith in the lives of those so affected by the Grace of God (Ephesians 1:7).
Children, like adults, need salvation. Their souls have been drastically affected by the sin they have inherited from their parents. In an interesting observation of Ephesians 2:1-3, Commentator Warren Wiersby notes that before the age of accountability, the child is characterized as a child of wrath. Due to the fact they are descended from Adam, they are guilty by virtue of the fact they inherited and had imputed to them his sinful nature as a result of God’s curse on humanity (Romans 5:1-11). Each child will differ in terms of what age and what stage of moral development they attain in their young lives. However after the child comes to a self awareness of the difference between righteousness and unrighteousness, the child now is also a child of rebellion, making him susceptible to the penalties of judgment.
5. Why the “Age of Accountability” teaching is crucial to Christianity
As I close out this paper, my prayer is that this will aid the body of Christ in thinking through the issues surrounding children and the gospel. Making the distinctions as outlined in this paper represents how the church has historically handled questions surrounding the Gospel and childhood evangelism. Key doctrines of Christianity are impacted by what we believe about this area. Below are some final thoughts as to why we uphold the biblical distinction on this matter:
a. God’s Goodness/Justice. If God were to enact the penalty of suffering in hell on infants and young children, the justice and goodness of God would be seriously in question.
b. The law and gospel. If anything, teaching young children the law of God (the Ten Commandments) is foundational in their moral development. The Law of God is designed to act as a school master, pointing them to Christ (Psalm 19:7; Galatians 4:1-4). This is why the church for centuries always began teaching children about their accountability before God and His law, followed by a presentation of the Gospel.
c. Doctrine of the Holy Spirit. Somewhere along the way, when a child exhibits alarm over the fact that they are not right before God, or that they can’t be made right by being a good boy or girl, this could indicate they are being dealt with by the Holy Spirit (John 16:8-11).
d. Children need to hear the Gospel. Children still represent the largest segment of people who have responded by faith to Jesus Christ. Moses (Deuteronomy 6); Solomon (Proverbs 1-7); Jesus (Matthew 18; Mark 10); Peter (Acts 2) and Paul (Ephesians 6) all make statements pertaining to the message of salvation needing to be communicated to children.
There are other thoughts that we could mention, but the above should suffice to show that how we approach children in matters of salvation matters greatly in how we understand God the Father’s dealings with His people. May we exercise discernment and biblical love as we consider those little ones God has placed in our lives.