Is The Age of Accountability Biblical?
by Tony Warren
The age of accountability is one of many misleading terms often bantered about in Christian circles. Most people would agree the general definition is that it means, "a person who is young enough that he is not yet able to understand fully the results of his actions." It is theorized that because of their youth, these children are not held accountable for the things that they do, which are against God's law. For example, a six year old child that might hit his sister over the head with a toy block in anger, theoretically is not held accountable for that because he had not yet reached an age where he is able to fully understand what he was doing. The problem with this theory is that it is based upon the logical processes of fallen human thought, and is a perverse twisting of God's law for the sake of what seems right in our own eyes. There is nothing in God's law that declares that man must fully understand sin before it is actually accounted as sin. On the contrary, this doctrine is both un-biblical and self serving. For it presupposes unrighteously that sin must first be recognized as sin before man is actually accountable. Nothing in scripture supports such a thesis.
Another theory held by some Christians is that all children are automatically guaranteed salvation because God loves children. The texts most often quoted in support of this idea are found in Matthew 19:19, Mark 10:14 or Luke 18:16, where Jesus says things like "Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven." But this is a misunderstanding of the passage. For Christ often uses children as representatives of Christians, illustrating that spiritually they are all children of God. He also makes the analogy of how the saints are to be humble "as children." These teachings are to illustrate that believers are to walk meekly, accepting and receiving the word of their Father God, even as children do with their earthly fathers. This has nothing to do with children being inherently righteous or without sin because of their age. In fact, this would actually be a heretical teaching, because all Christians should understand that "there is none that is without sin, except God." Only those who are elect of God would ever be saved, and that by being washed in the blood of the Lamb.
While these doctrines of an Age of Accountability may serve to comfort bereaved parents who have lost children either through accidents, murder, miscarriage, abortion, or sickness, it is not a Biblically validated view, and is contrary to all that God has declared of sin and those who commit it. The plain truth is, this is simply a natural response in humanistic sentimentality related to man thinking more of himself than is justified. In other words, we naturally all want to think nice things about children. But man does not regulate how we are to understand God's word, the word itself should be the governor. And God doesn't share the popular Church opinion that children's sins are somehow unaccountable because of their age.
This is just one of the scriptures that knocks down any concept of a child's works being pure because of their age. The fact that this verse explicitly declares that a child's doing or actions can be impure, is a testimony in itself against the doctrine of children being sinless. They can't be known by their actions if all children's actions were pure. So they obviously are not all pure in God's eyes.
- "Even a Child is known by his doings, whether his work be pure, and whether it be right."
The argument used by most people in support of an age of accountability is that, "it has to be true in order to keep God fair," but this is simply an emotional response based on nothing but personal opinion. In many cases Christians don't even realize that they are telling God what has to be fair, and what cannot be fair. That's like the pot telling the potter the right and wrong way to author pots. The idea that small children cannot be held accountable for sinning because they are not mature enough to understanding what they do is secular reasoning, not Biblical declaration. When man does not spiritually acknowledge God's word as authority, then they are assuming and depending upon their own understanding, rather than following and trusting God. Do we make our own paths and go our own way, or do we let God direct our steps?
When we go our own way we are dealing in carnality, emotionalism, humanism, and feelings. We are directing our own paths, rather than having our understanding directed by the authority of scripture. God tells us that children are neither pure, nor righteous, nor good, nor unaccountable for their actions. The problem is not that this is not clear in scripture, the problem is man's natural tendency not to receive it. And except God purge sin from anyone, child or man, we remain unsaved and carry that sin unto death. By the same token, if God purge it from us, we shall never see death. It has nothing to do with age, but with God will.
- "Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.
- In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths."
The Bible clearly tells us we are born in sin. Moreover, we can clearly see sin in children at every age if we dare look close enough. And if we know what sin is. In some cases we might think it's cute, or mischievous, or we call it strong willed or some other euphemistic term to avoid the truth. But if even finite sinful humans like ourselves can see sin in children, think what a Holy sinless God can sees when He looks deeper. If we looked at children honestly, we would see that they are simply small adults, sinning in every way just as we do. Any serious (read, honest) attempt to actually determine the age of wilful sin would automatically drive that age downward until it reached birth. At which point, we would then be in agreement with God's word.
- "Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.
- Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom.
- Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow."
That is God's word confirming the age that God sees sin in Children and exactly when He holds us accountable. And what is the judgment of the word? "Break their teeth, O God, in their mouth." Isn't it amazing how God doesn't see children as some of the Church today see them. We need to understand that to a righteous God, our sinfulness makes us comparable to poisonous serpents or vipers. And whether we are a small viper or a large snake, we are still vipers. According to scripture, no one (including Children) is born righteous, nor are their sins unaccountable.
- "The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies.
- Their poison is like the poison of a serpent: they are like the deaf adder that stoppeth her ear;
- Which will not hearken to the voice of charmers, charming never so wisely."
1st Corinthians 7:14
How can children be unholy except that they are unsaved? I challenge you to ask yourself honestly with no preconceived ideas about the answer, "If God saved all children, would God's word say that there were some children who were unclean?" Again, the only honest answer is no.
- "For the Unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the Husband: else were your children unclean, but now are they Holy."
These are the types of questions that those who fall prey to this doctrine called "the age of accountability" stumble over. They would rather simply toss them out or trample under foot. but the facts are, children are not automatically Holy, set apart, nor saved. And verses like these proves it to any objective and faithful Bible student. But if we're indoctrinated by Church leaders to believe that all children are justified, regardless of what God says about it, then no manner of logic, reason, or biblical evidence is likely to change that. Only a conscience grounded in Christ will receive His truth. A seared conscience will not receive the testimony of scripture, rather it will be at enmity with it.
Another objection by some Christians is that since 1st John 3:4 tells us that sin is the transgression of the law, and that without knowledge of the law there is no sin. This means that when the scriptures said that Adam had no 'Knowledge of Good and Evil' (prior to his fall), he had no accountability. Therefore they surmise that man was separated from his God by the Knowledge of Good and Evil, just has Adam was. Their theory being that where there is no such knowledge of the law, innocence exists, and there can be no separation between God and man regardless of the nature received from Adam's fall. This is an obviously false premise. If Adam and Eve had no knowledge of good and evil making them unaccountable, then they would not have been accountable for eating from the tree of knowledge when they were commanded not to.
So the question is, how do we reconcile this seeming contradiction? The truth is found in man being made in the image of God so that he had an inherent knowledge of good and evil, and that is why God held Adam and Eve accountable. Adam did not sin before He ate from the tree, but he most certainly had knowledge of good and evil, but not the experiential knowledge of good and evil that his disobedience gave him. Very much like someone saying that he knew his wife, meaning intellectually, and someone else saying he Knew his wife, meaning physical union. In the same way, when Adam ate of the tree, for the first time he then 'knew' good and evil because he physically knew or experienced evil. But He knew before that he shouldn't disobey God and eat of this tree when God commanded him not to, but after he ate, He then knew good and evil on another level. One is a knowledge of what is good and evil, and the other is knowing good and evil experientially. Which is also illustrated in Adam and Eve not knowing their nakedness as it was sinfulness until 'after they disobeyed.' In other words, before he ate of the tree, they were naked and not ashamed to be that way because they had not 'experienced' sin and in this way had no sinful thoughts about their nakedness. After they ate, they gained knowledge of sin through their disobedience and thus saw themselves in their nakedness, and had pride (sin) and self respect that they wanted to cover up. A whole new knowledge which they obtained 'through' disobedience. And God uses this as a spiritual example of how all men stand naked in their sin (children included) and how we all must be clothed with Christ. This was represented by the sacrifice of those animals and their skins provided for Adam and Eve to be clothed with. We too, when we gain knowledge of good and evil, see ourselves as spiritually naked before God in our sin, and we recognize our need for a covering (rev. 3:18).
Moreover, this teaching that 'we must know the law first, or we have no sin,' leaves us with the obvious question, "if we had never read a Bible to know the law, as many people in foreign or isolated countries, would that then mean that we could murder someone and not be accountable because there was no knowledge of law?" Immediately we understand this is an untenable theory. Therefore, by mere logic and consistency and harmony of scripture we must conclude that written or spoken law given by God, is on top of the law which we are inherently born with. That is the reason all (regardless of reading or hearing the law) still stand accountable to God when they die. We were created in the likeness of God so that we have no excuse of ignorance of the law.
As I previously stated, man doesn't have to have the law in order to be held accountable by God for sins (ala Adam). He is without excuse standing before God on judgment day because He inherently should have known God by what he is born with. Again, PROOF that the written law didn't have to be given for man to be held accountable, and that Adam and Eve were accountable before the fall. That idea of non-accountability has no basis in biblical truth. That which may be known of God is manifest (made known) in us, that not one of us have any excuse for sin, whether we have heard the law verbally/written or never heard it.
- "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;
- Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them.
- For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:"
I've given this example before, but any mother honest with herself can tell you that their babies sometimes test them 'KNOWING' that what they're doing is wrong (sin), and then turning to look at the mother to see what her reaction will be. That (whether we like to believe it or not) is the ability to both understand what's forbidden, and to do it anyway. ..in a word, sin! They have knowledge of Good and evil. But even when we rationalize away evil, claiming it's not evil, we still are held accountable. Those who attempt to make children unaccountable may try and use scriptures such as Deuteronomy 1:39, but there is no merit in such attempts. There God said that the little ones and the children of the people that came out of Egypt had no "Knowledge of Good and Evil." But careful examination will show that this defense will not stand in the light of God's Word.
The context clearly shows that God is saying they had no knowledge of the 'sins of their fathers,' meaning they had no part in the previous rebellions, but not that they had no understanding of what was evil. The same principle is at work here as in the Garden. Experiential knowledge in sin where they had not been the ones sinning this sin, or KNOWING that way of that sinfulness. It quite obviously does not mean they did not 'know' of the sin of their fathers, or that they didn't commit any sin, or that they didn't know what sin was, or that God gave them Canaan because they were somehow sinless. In other passages God clearly says they 'were sinful,' and He gave them the land not because of their righteousness (sinlessness), but because of the wickedness of the Canaanites. So again, that whole idea that these passages speak of a lack of knowledge of sin and it means they were sinless, is without any solid Biblical foundation. It would make a mockery of God's word if we were to believe such doctrines of man's sinlessness.
- "Moreover your little ones, which ye said should be a prey, and your children, which in that day had no knowledge between good and evil, they shall go in thither, and unto them will I give it, and they shall possess it."
The problem of course is almost as old as dirt. Man is 'selective' in what scriptures he wants to receive as the truth, and which ones he wants to ignore. The Bible says there is none that doeth good, and that there are none righteous, no not one. But some Christians choose to act 'as if' these scriptures do not exist. But if man does this, then anyone can make the Bible say anything that they want. Because we cannot have 'none' righteous in God's sight, and also have children righteous. That makes no sense. The difference between being the faithful Christian and the mere professing Christian, is receiving God's word as authoritative. Children are not, and never have been born righteous or without sin being accounted to them.
If there was but ten righteous children here, God wouldn't have destroyed Sodom. But God did destroy Sodom, didn't he? Which means that this theory of children being sinless, merely by being children, is quite nonsensical considering the Biblical facts. Unless we choose to ignore God in favor of our own selective scriptures and humanistic reasoning. Then we can form any doctrine we choose.
- "And he said, Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak yet but this once: Peradventure ten shall be found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for ten's sake."
2nd Kings 2:23-24
Did the Lord really love these little children so much that He had the man of God curse them in 'His Name,' and sent two bears out of the woods to tear them to pieces? Of course not. Again, this whole idea of children sinlessness is founded upon sentimentality and worldly scholasticism. It is truly bankrupt of any semblance of scriptural continuity or harmony. It effect it is a twisted man made doctrine where a good God sends bears to tear apart 'righteous and sinless' Children. The true believer is left to ask, what nonsense is this that contradicts God's word?
- "And he went up from thence unto Bethel: and as he was going up by the way, there came forth little children out of the city, and mocked him, and said unto him, Go up, thou bald head; go up, thou bald head.
- And he turned back, and looked on them, and cursed them in the name of the LORD. And there came forth two she bears out of the wood, and tare forty and two children of them."
Some Christians have readily admitted that it makes no sense, but honestly cannot understand what is written in Romans chapter 7 about Paul being alive without the law.
He is not talking about when he was a baby, but before He became a Christian. He says he was alive without the law. The Greek word translated without is [choris], which means "apart." So the Apostle is declaring how He was separated from the word where he had no understanding of the law. He certainly doesn't mean He didn't have the law (he most certainly did), but that he was separated from it experientially. And when the command of God came, sin revived. In other words, he was then brought close to the law by Christ so that his sin came alive so that he now had knowledge of it and recognized it as sin. He died in that he is no more without or 'apart' from the law, but dead with Christ that the law of sin is made manifest or known to him. By the law he now sees and recognizes sin for sin. Read on:
- "For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died."
That by the commandment, he might 'recognize sin' as sinful, which he didn't do before, when he was living without or 'apart from the law.' ..being deceived. Not that his sin wasn't sin before, but that he didn't KNOW it before, being 'apart from the law.' It is the law that 'shined the light' upon his sin, working death in Him, to his good!
- "Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.
- Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful."
It all depends on how we understand being 'apart' from the law. If we define it as only the written law, then the passage I quoted before (Romans 1:18-20) makes no sense. Because there we understand that man is going to be judged by God's law, having never read that law. You see the point here? He doesn't need to read God's word written in the Bible to be judged by God's word. A more open and shut case, I cannot imagine. God's law extends beyond a baby or man having to physically hear it or read it. It's made known to us because we were created in the image of God, and though the unsaved no longer conform to that image, these are still truths they know instinctively through being the creation. They have inherent knowledge of good and evil, that there is now no excuse.
All of this is not to say God won't save children. I trust God will bring to faith all for whom He has died, and all whom He has chosen to bring to faith. He is able to do so, and who those are is not really our business. The point is, it's His Sovereign right to decide, not ours. And being God, He may in fact choose to save children who die in infancy, but not based upon their age. He will have mercy on whom He will have mercy. It is His call, not our humanistic sense or sensibilities. God knows what we do not know. He knows that a child who will be wicked and remain unsaved as an adult, was wicked and unsaved as a child. Because we cannot go from a saved child, to an unsaved adult. You cannot lose eternal Life, else it is most certainly not eternal. Therefore, if you were saved as a child, you will still be saved as an adult. Likewise, if you are never going to be saved as an adult, you could not have been saved as a child. That would be confusion and tortuous of scripture. So if this person who will never be saved as an adult, had died as a child, he died unsaved! the doctrine of age of accountability not withstanding.
The faithful Christian should not loose any sleep over children being saved or not, because we know of a surety that God is "Just and Holy" and always does what is righteous and true. We should be wholly satisfied and comfortable in that knowledge. Of course I am sure that there are many who of the Spirit understand that this is true, but who find it hard to take. Personally, I don't think there is one single Christian who finds it easy to take that some children may not be saved, but we trust that God is sinless, and whatever He does is just and righteous. Not in our carnal ideas of what is righteous but His. So we forsake going our own way, and judging by what seems right in our own eyes, and we surrender to what God's word declares about the matter. We understand His ways are not our ways.
We are not asked to figure out the mysteries of the universe and judge God's thoughts or compassion, but to 'trust' and obey His word. We can never go wrong in trusting and obeying the authority of scripture. Those who go wrong are those who refuse to receive what God says, choosing instead to be offended and reinvent God in their own image. God asks only that we simply forsake our thoughts for His.
- "Many, O LORD my God, are thy wonderful works which thou hast done, and thy thoughts which are to us-ward: they cannot be reckoned up in order unto thee: if I would declare and speak of them, they are more than can be numbered."
For now we understand as looking through a glass darkly, but God understands all. He is infinite, we are finite. So who are we to argue with Him about his calling cute little babies wicked and akin to 'snakes and little lions?' It is His sovereign right to do so, to have mercy on whosoever He Chooses, and to not to have mercy on whoever He chooses. We cannot pretend to know better than our Lord when and whom He must save in order to be righteous.
- "Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
- For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.
- For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts."
In truth, the "age of accountability" doctrine is the offspring of the well oiled myth that man must Choose God in order to be saved. This doctrine of course clearly contradicts scripture which says God hath both called, and has Chosen us unto salvation. Unfortunately, some have distorted God's word and claims that it actually means we must choose Him first. Then He will choose us. They teach that we must first do our part in accepting Christ, and then He will accept us. They are fond of saying, "You Choose God and he'll choose you." There is the rub. For new born babies and toddlers do not do this (which would make all children unsaved), and so they had to come up with an additional teaching to bridge the gap. Thus, "The age of accountability" was invented. ..otherwise, they would have to drop their, "you must first accept Christ" doctrines and confess in truth that salvation is by God's Sovereign good will in choosing whom He wants, and not by man's alleged free will.
So then, salvation is of God's will to draw whosoever He will, not of man's (supposed) Free Will to come. Many Theologians deny these truths and teach that it is of man's free will that he comes to Christ. Thus, without this "age of accountability," they would be forced to believe in God's Sovereign right to save whoever He chooses (as He said) and not be in obligation to save "whoever Chooses Him." Because let's be clear about this, if salvation is of man's free will to choose, then God cannot choose whoever He wants (such as children not old enough to choose), he can only choose whoever wants him. Else salvation is not by man's free will and their doctrine is proven faulty. They can't have that, and so they teach that Children are saved automatically 'outside of their doctrine of free will' by this magic wand called 'age of accountability.' They do this even though it is confusion and clearly a contradiction to their own teachings that God 'doesn't' save by His own Sovereign Choosing, but by man's Free will to choose. Their inconsistency is blinding. And inconsistency is the hallmark of error.
- "For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.
- So then it is Not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy."
These doctrines notwithstanding, God is sovereign and can save any child, or not save any child, and He does it regardless of age, ethnicity, their evangelism, parents, or understanding. Because in true salvation, God will supply the measure of faith required. Salvation requires the faith of Christ, not our own. Let us take an honest look at the pertinent scriptures dealing with this question. For this popular doctrine of children being immune to accountability has multiple and irreconcilable problems.
(1.) There is absolutely no Solid Biblical Support for the doctrine!
This is the first and foremost problem that faces this teaching. The passages that are frequently used in an attempt to support this view falls miserably short in doing so. This is because it is a doctrine that was formulated, and 'then' a search was made to try and biblically justify it. In other words, by a backward exegesis. Doctrines should originate from the Bible, not from man's personal opinions or private interpretations. One of the verses privately interpreted and used in justification of this view is 2nd samuel.
2 Samuel 12:23.
This verse neither says, nor alludes to the idea that because this was a child he was automatically saved. At best we can conclude that because David was a man of God (a saved man), He believed that God in His sovereignty would save his child also. We might also believe that all David was saying was that, "the baby has died, and someday, he will also." Nothing more earth shattering than a simple statement that he cannot come back to life, but that David shall die as he did. But this is hardly Biblical validation or justification to teach that unsaved parents have any basis for expecting that their children would be saved. Which is not to say their children won't be, it is to say if they are, it will be by the sovereign right of God to do so in His mercy, not because of any idea of an age where sin is unaccountable.
- "But now he is dead, wherefore should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he shall not return to me."
And indeed, if there were an age of accountability, then what of the mentally impaired man who is over this alleged age of accountability, and yet cannot understand fully his actions? Do we make up another humanistic law and call it "the law of mental non-accountability" to bridge that gap also? In truth, we don't have to, because if this mentally handicapped person will be saved, he will be saved the exact same way that a baby will. Not by any humanistic reasoning or secular thesis, but by God's sovereign right to have compassion on whoever He will. Be it a baby, a mentally handicapped man, or a sinner who is unworthy to lift up his head.
Can't get any plainer than what God has declared. He will not have mercy because someone is willing that He does, or because someone is less than twelve years old, or because someone is a better reader, or someone is a better worker, but for His own purposes and by His own will rather than man's free will. God will not have compassion on someone who is twelve years old and not on someone who is twelve and a day. Because that's not God's sovereignty, that is man's beliefs based upon man's jaded sensibility rather than on the Bible. God will have mercy and compassion on whosoever he will, and their ages have nothing to do with it. And that is precisely why a child can be saved, or that a mentally ill person can be saved or someone with no ability to reason can be saved. Not because of the man made tradition of accountability, but because of God has the right and righteousness to save whoever "He Chooses" regardless of any merit, work, age, or mental fitness.
- "For He saith unto Moses, I will have Mercy on whom I will have Mercy, and I will have Compassion on whom I will have Compassion!
- So then, is is Not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of GOD who showeth Mercy."
(2.) We are all born in Trespass and Sin!
The second problem of the "age of accountability" doctrine is the issue of man's wickedness. We are all sinful (in violation of God's laws) and are thus guilty before God. We are "all" born with a sinful nature, and sin must be accounted for.
- "Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in Sin did my mother conceive me."
From the time that we are born, we are sinful human beings. Our nature (whether as children or an adult), is to sin because it was 'imputed' to us in the flesh through the fall of Adam. To impute sin in Biblical terms means it was passed on to us in the flesh at birth. As an opposite example, Christ's righteousness is imputed to us by Grace because of the rebirth of Christ, the second Adam (1st Corinthians 15:45), that we are made righteous. In other words, it was unearned. In this same way, the stain of sin is upon us by birth because of the fall of Adam, so that we all will commit sin. We are in a real sense, in bondage or slavery to sin by the flesh. The judgment of which is not a wink and a nod, but death!
The only way that anyone could escape this imputed sin which brings death, is through the resurrection and new birth in Christ. It cannot be escaped through non-accountability (we are all accountable), it cannot be escaped by good works (there is none good), it cannot be escaped by obedience (we have all transgressed the law and fallen short), the righteous judgment of God can only be escaped in Christ.
- "Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned,
- (for until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not Imputed when there is no law."
1st Corinthians 15:21-22
Since this is undoubtedly true, then from the womb, we are all sinners. Those people who say babies don't have any sin are lacking knowledge of God's laws and truths. Since there are no exceptions to God's law, "the wages of sin is death," there can be no (theorized) non-accountability clause to the law. Unlike the laws of men, the laws of God don't bend. There is none righteous God says, no not one! He didn't say that there are none righteous except babies. Those are the thoughts of men, and God's thoughts are so far above ours that we cannot comprehend them. Romans 5:12 says: "Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned." It doesn't say "all except for children," it says all.
- "For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.
- For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive."
When God said in Genesis chapter eighteen that if there were 10 righteous people in Sodom, He wouldn't destroy them, some professing Christians obviously think God was lying. Because they insist the children there had to be righteous in God's eyes because of non accountability. Not so! They were burned in the city right along with the older people (revisionist accounting notwithstanding). God saved only His servant Lot and his two daughters whom 'He had chosen' to save. Clearly, none of the rest were accounted righteous in God's sight. Did God say get the children out before I rain fire and brimstone, or did God bring out Lot and his house only? The truth is, over ninety-nine percent of the scriptures have to be either ignored, wrested, or tossed aside, in order to hold to the doctrine that children are somehow automatically accounted righteous, their sins not to be accounted of.
The answer? Only in Christ. Not by being young, but by being chosen from the foundation of the world, born of God and justified in Christ. Because man is born of a Woman, and he has the stain of man's original sin, and he cannot be made righteous apart from Christ. It is obvious not just from this verse, but all verses, that children are sinful in the economy of a Holy God. In other verses God calls them liars and snakes. The Problem with some Christians today is that they insist on trying to make God in their image, instead of receiving the God of the Bible in His own image. They expect God's ways to be their ways when God's ways are so far above theirs that we can't get a handle on it. And so they start formulating doctrines of their own, and assigning them to God. But these postulations of an age of accountability will not stand the test of scripture.
- "How then can man be justified with God? or how can he be clean that is born of a Woman?"
(3.) Accountability! (God's law Requires Judgment for Sins)
The third problem is accountability itself. We are all accountable for our sins, and there are no exceptions made by God. None! Man can make all the exceptions that he wants, but in the end, it means nothing. Except Christ be their propitiation, anyone who sins, is accountable for that sin.
There are no exceptions made to sin. Even a sin in ignorance is still a sin to be taken account of. To stand righteous before God, it too must be atoned for. It cannot be cast aside as some sin that won't be accounted for.
- "Behold, all Souls are Mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is Mine: the Soul that sinneth, it shall Die!"
There is no, "sin in ignorance that is unaccountable." It must be atoned for just as any other sin no matter if it is in ignorance or not. Just as our legal system would say today, "ignorance of the law is no excuse." Likewise, ignorance of God's law is no excuse. Mercifully, we have Christ as our high Priest today who atones for all our sins, whether sins in ignorance or known sins. Those who claim that sins of ignorance in a baby are unaccountable, don't really understand the nature of sin, or God's law.
- And the Priest shall make atonement for the Soul that sinneth ignorantly, when he sinneth by ignorance before the lord, to make atonement for him. and it shall be forgiven him."
It's curious how the proponents of age of accountability make different rules for people at different times in their life. While on the one hand they claim you must accept Christ in order to be saved, on the other hand they do a 180 degree turn and say, but some don't need to do so, depending on their age. But how accepting Christ can be both a "requirement" for salvation, and yet not be required for salvation in children, is a mystery that they cannot coherently explain away. This is the disjointed nature of their teaching. If judgment is required for sin (and it is) then nothing short of judgment will do. And if newborns cannot accept Christ, and yet are saved from their sins, then either accepting Christ is 'a doctrine of men and was never a requirement for salvation' in the first place, or it truly is required and newborn babies are never saved. There is no other option.
But we can praise God that it was never a requirement, and that God has the Sovereign right to have Mercy and compassion on children and anyone else, regardless of if they can't talk, or can't walk, or can't understand. Accepting Christ has nothing to do with it. For God doesn't ask children, He chooses them. Yes, God's law requires judgment for sin, and so babies who are saved have had their sins forgiven just as we do. Not by being good, not by accepting Christ, but by God's Sovereign Grace! ..Unmerited favor!
(4.) The way of Salvation!
Knowing that we all sin and that God's law requires judgment, we know that salvation of anyone must be by God's Son that was given for that purpose. Therefore, the fourth problem of this age of accountability doctrine is the inconsistency in the way salvation is obtained. We're all saved the same way, and yet this doctrines purports that children are saved a different way. And to be frank, that is Ludicrous. They are not saved by their age, by their lack of understanding, by comprehension skills, or by being born without sin, they are saved just as God says. By Grace, through faith, which is a gift of God. A unmerited gift! It was not by works or non works, but by Grace. Not by being born, but by being born of God! No one gets Saved, but through Christ! And since newborn babies cannot "accept" by their free will, the Father must (as with us all) not only call, but choose, sanctify, and justify, making righteous these babies. All by his sovereign good will and pleasure (as he said), not our own.
So either God gave that baby the faith, or that baby is never going to be saved. But one thing is for sure, a newborn baby cannot have that faith of it's 'own free will' as some misguided souls teach. It is all of God, whether we understand it or not. The same as with everyone who becomes saved. There is one God and one atonement, and we simply cannot have two different methods of salvation.
- "for by Grace are ye Saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is a gift of God:
- not of works, lest any man should boast."
So how would a pre born or newborn baby "believe" or "have faith?" This is the inconsistency of obtaining salvation by 'age of accountability' standards rather than by Biblical standards. One has got to be wrong. And so again, we know conclusively that there is no requirement to (by free will) accept or (by free will) have faith or (by free will) believe, because that would exclude all newborns. But the truth is much more biblical. And that is, like with Lazarus, God not only called him from the dead, He gave him the ability to respond and the legs to get up from the grave and the strength to come forth. Lazarus didn't have any ability to rise from the dead of his own free will. He was without life! Likewise all unsaved (Children and older) are dead in trespass and sins. We are raised up not by our free will, but by the will of God in Christ, according to God's election. He Called, He Chose, He drew, He Sanctified, He Justified and He Glorified. We can but give thanks and Glory to Him.
- "for God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting Life."
(5.) Baby Security means Adult Security!
The fifth problem of the doctrine of "age of accountability," is the teaching itself. That all babies are saved. If that were indeed the case (which of course it cannot be) then All grown people would be saved, because there is no loss of everlasting Life once one obtains it (else it is salvation based on continued merit). A salvation of works rather than grace. You see, this is the impossibility of this doctrine and how it is incompatible with eternal security or God declaring that we are sealed unto the day of redemption by the Spirit. If all babies were saved, then when they grow up, they are still saved. And that would mean there are no unsaved people in the entire world since we all were once babies. Did God give these babies the everlasting waters of salvation that He says we'll never thirst again once received, and then when they reached the age of twelve, it is taken away? It was all a lie and they thirst again because they now someone lost their eternal security and are not saved? That's the ridiculousness of this doctrine, and the twisted logic of this plan. And if you think that is ridiculous, if all babies are redeemed, that means they become unredeemed after they grow up. And then some become redeemed a second time when they become saved as an adult? Like Alice in wonderland, it just keeps getting curious-er and curious-er.
There are even some Christians who try and circumvent scripture by saying, child salvation only lasts until they reach a certain age or accountability, and then their salvation simply disappears? God's word doesn't teach of a vanishing salvation at age four, seven, or twelve. God's word promises eternal security, a seal unto redemption. He says He is both the author (starter) and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). God's word says when we are saved he is always with us and will "never" leave us. God's word speaks of everlasting life at salvation, not temporary life dependant on our works or age. God says no one can pluck them out of His hand. What do we then retort? That this is all wrong?
Do we say, "that's not true what God says about them never perishing, and having eternal life?" Does never perish now change to, "well, they just might?" If all children were indeed under God's salvation, then they would never perish and have everlasting life, and no one could pluck them out of God's hand. And that would mean every man woman and child in the world (we were all once children) are saved, and will never perish. Again, this is the foolishness of the doctrine of age of accountability.
- "And I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand."
In all points, the doctrine of the age of accountability is both inconsistent with everything that the Bible has to say about man and his fallen state, and incompatible with God's sovereign right to choose, and the lawfulness of saving by Grace. We are all accountable by birth not by age. If some were not accountable, then none would be accountable. For our God is a righteous God whose idea of Righteousness is far above that of man's perceptions. Notice in Ephesians 2:3:
"We . . . were by nature the children of wrath."
That scriptures tells us that 'by nature' we are children under God's Wrath. We were always accountable for sin and therefore condemned. Moreover, another thing that should not be lost in the shuffle is God's teaching of divine election.
In Romans chapter 9:8-16 Rebecca had twins in her womb. And though the children had not yet been born, "having done neither good or evil," God called saying which one would be chosen. As it is written in verse 13,(Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated) And in verse 15 it says as God had said unto Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. In verse 16 it says So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy. Shall we argue with God saying it is unrighteous of you to call Esau hated even before he was born? Or that it is by him that willeth, because free will must be accounted of? God forbid!
- "For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil.."
Yes, I believe there is accountability. But that means that we are all held accountable, bar none. It is not for us to question or judge the Maker about what seems righteous to us. Is there unrighteousness with God? God Forbid! Therefore, God has the Sovereign right to save whosoever He will regardless of who, what age, how, what they did or didn't do, or their understanding level. That is indeed exactly what Sovereignty means.
Yes, there is an age of accountability. The Biblical age of accountability is CONCEPTION. Sure, many can and do disagree with this, but they do not have any Bible verses to back up their belief that a person has to be old enough to realize that he is a sinner or be able to understand God's salvation plan before he has real sin. The fact is, there is one way of salvation, one name whereby we must be saved, and one salvation plan for all. Whether Jew or Greek, Baby or Elder, Man or Woman, White or Black, we are all saved by grace through the faith of Christ. The new popular doctrines are nothing more than excuses to hold onto modern tired doctrines like "we must accept Christ" and "we must choose him" and "we must have free will" and "we must sign the check" we, we, we, we! If they would just take their eyes off "themselves," and put them on the Lord, they would see the truth. But this is the "ME generation." And in order to have credit or boasting for coming when those other sinners didn't, they must have a doctrine wherein they freely accepted Christ. Which of course then means that another new doctrine had to be invented for babies who can't freely accept Christ--else the children must be Saved by Grace Alone. Sola Gratia! ...and they can't have that.
Peace,Feel free to duplicate, display or distribute this publication to anyone who would like a copy, as long as the above copyright notice remains intact and there are no changes made to the article. This publication can be distributed only in it's original form, unedited, and without cost.
Copyright 1998 Tony Warren
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