Can very young children be saved?
Howard Coles, Coleford, England
Can very young children be saved?
Christian parents often wonder whether their young children can be genuinely saved. Many would possibly judge that a young child is too immature to understand the complexity of God’s plan of salvation. Sometimes parents might also wonder whether a child has made a profession out of their desire to please rather than because of genuine conviction and conversion.
The Lord Jesus welcomed young children with open arms during His time here and blessed them. ‘Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven’, Matt. 19. 14. Some of these children may have been too young to understand, but it is clear that faith can be exercised even from an early age, as the Lord appears to hold out that possibility in His statement, ‘Verily I say unto you, whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein’, Luke 18. 17. The Greek word used for ‘children’ in Matt 19. 14 is the word used of those who were very young and the same word is used in 2 Timothy chapter 3 verse 15 where Paul tells Timothy that ‘from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus’.
Obviously, a child has to reach an age where he can understand the basics of the gospel. Since children are susceptible to pressure from parents, care must be taken to ensure that the decisions are truly their own. They can make a confession of faith merely to please a parent or friend. This could happen without genuine repentance over sin or personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Once a child realizes that he is a sinner and responds to that sinfulness by repentance and faith in Christ, he can and will be saved, regardless of age. We must not be guilty of the misjudgement of the disciples, who probably wrongly assumed that the children could not understand, for which the Lord rebuked them, Matt. 19. 14.
The first gospel appeal of the church age emphasized that the salvation message could include children, for Peter said, ‘For the promise is unto you, and to your children’, Acts 2. 39. The promise Peter spoke of was of God’s salvation to all who recognized Christ as the Son of God and accepted Him, Acts 2. 22-42.
The Lord spoke to adults and held out to them the example of implicit and innocent trust of which children are capable. He said, ‘Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven’, Matt. 18. 3. By this is illustrated the fact that it is invariably easier for a child to perceive and receive spiritual truth than an adult.
Children in Christian homes usually accept Christ earlier in life than children from non-Christian homes, the reason being obvious, that the Christian family has the Bible at its centre and the children are taught its truths from their earliest days. Since ‘faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God’, Rom. 10. 17, one would expect those who are taught from the word to respond sooner than those who seldom or never hear it. For this reason, God gives many instructions to parents to take personal responsibility for their children’s spiritual education. Did not Paul note that Timothy first heard of the ways of God at the feet of his mother and grandmother? See 2 Tim. 1. 5; 3. 15.
The Lord can call and save children. He called Samuel at such an early age that even Eli, the High Priest, did not think it possible at first that Samuel could hear and discern the voice of the Lord. But it was Eli’s hearing that was dull and imperceptive not Samuel’s! 1 Sam. 3.
Let us never forget that God’s plan of salvation is so simple that children can understand and accept it and many parents have witnessed this by seeing their children come to the Lord at a very early age.Let us make sure that if we have young children they hear the gospel from as early an age as possible and that equally importantly, they see it lived out practically in the home.