THE GRACE OF GOD IN CHILDREN
Notes of an address
1. All are born into a sin-ruined human-race. Psalm 51.5. Romans 3.10 and 5.12-19.
2. No one is saved or goes to heaven on the ground of personal innocence.
3. All who are in heaven at last are redeemed by Christ out of the fallen race of Adam.
4. The Bible does not define the age at which children become responsible and accountable for their sins.
5. The very young and the unborn, who could not be guilty of active personal sin, still need to be saved and cleansed from a sinful nature and original sin. `For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.’ 1 Cor. 15.22.
6. The normal experience of salvation in those of older years is impossible for the very young and the unborn. Repentance, faith, and conversion proved to be genuine by the evidences of sanctification is obviously not possible for the very young and unborn.
7. The Bible does not specifically tell us of God’s method of dealing with the very young in regard to their salvation.
8. It is very significant that Christian parents see wilful sin in their children long before they could intelligently respond to the ministry of the Word. Loving but firm discipline is needed from the earliest signs of such wilful sin. Such discipline is a vital ingredient to a child’s growing awareness of its sinfulness.
9. There have been two ways of speaking of infants in the great Confessions of Faith,
a. The Westminster Confession of Faith, 1647, Ch.10.3, states, `Elect infants, dying in infancy, are regenerated, and saved by Christ, through the Spirit, who worketh when, and where, and how He pleaseth: so also are all other elect persons who are uncapable of being outwardly called by the ministry of the Word’. The references given are; Luke 18.15-16, Acts
2.38-39, John 3.3, 5, I John 5.12, Rom. 8.9, John 3.8, 1 John 5.12, Acts 4.12.
b. The Baptist Confession of Faith, 1689, Ch. 10.3, states, `Infants dying in infancy, are regenerated…’ The references given are; John 3.3,5,6, & 8.
10. It is interesting to note that Ch. 10 has to do with Effectual Calling. Evidently the Baptists in excluding the Paedobaptist view of `covenant children’, `infant sprinkling’ and `presumptive regeneration’, excluded the reference to Acts 2.38-39 since v.39 specifically defines the limits by the words, `even as many as the Lord our God shall call.’
The infants under consideration are too young to respond to any call through the ministry of the Word. The Westminster statement is obviously true since all the elect must be saved.
The Baptist Statement goes much further and implies that all infants dying in infancy are regenerated etc. There is no clear
statement to this effect in Scripture. This conclusion can only be reached by consideration of other factors, such as,
a. The knowledge of God’s character as just and merciful, righteous and pitiful, all powerful and compassionate.
b. God’s willingness to hear the prayer of believing parents.
c. David’s words in 2 Samuel 12.23, `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.’
11. Just as young children were brought literally to Christ to be blessed, so Christian parents bring their children in prayer to Christ to be blessed.
12. We cannot be dogmatic about the salvation of the unborn or very young where the Scriptures are silent. Samuel Waldron in his book, A Modern Exposition of the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith pp. 150-151, says, `Our knowledge of the purpose of God must also guide us. We know that God’s general purposes of mercy towards His children include temporal and even spiritual benefits for their children collectively or as a whole (Prov. 20.7, Ps. 112,1-2, 115.1415). We must be cautious here, for these are only general and conditional promises. It is not, however, wrong to deduce from such passages that God does so love His children as frequently to embrace their children in His saving purposes. Such considerations as these, while not fitted to satisfy carnal curiosity or rebellious grief, are fitted to calm the aching heart of the bereaved but submissive child of God’.
I have read somewhere that C.H. Spurgeon argued that Col. 1.18, … that in all things he might have the pre-eminence,’ indicated that Christ would have the numerical pre-eminence since an uncountable number of infant souls would be in heaven.
The Salvation of Children
The main question for today is this, `Can God work a saving work in the young who are not infants and, if so, how soon and what are the evidences?’ The brief answer is `Yes,’ to the first part of the question. The answers to the second and third parts of the question cannot be so briefly given.
1. God is absolutely sovereign, almighty, and gracious.
2. The pattern of a saving experience of the grace of God in all who are old enough to know such things will be the same as the pattern in adults so long as we make due allowance for the differences in understanding because of the difference in ages.
3. What are the evidences to look for?
a. Regard for the Bible as the Word of God.
b. Some simple understanding of the Biblical truths about God and His character.
c. Some awareness of personal sin, sinfulness, and spiritual need, i.e. basic repentance.
d. Some knowledge of, faith in, and trust in Jesus Christ as the Son of God as the only Saviour for sinners and of His saving work. e. The beginnings of true prayer.
f. A teachable attitude and desire to understand the scriptures.
h. Respect for parents, other Christians, and the Pastor.
4. It is essential to work with and consult parents. If they are Christian parents, their view of the child can be helpful. Have they observed any change in the child? Have they seen any of the above evidences of a change?
5. Consulting other Christian relatives or close friends and Sunday School teachers may be helpful.
6. We need to be cautious about the opinions of some parents or relatives who may be unwisely pushing a child towards a Christian profession or unwisely biased in favour of their own children.
7. What are some of the difficulties in pastorally discerning God’s work in the young?
a. Shyness and inability to explain or express inner feelings. b. Lack of knowledge and discernment.
c. Desire to please parents and other adults – sometimes! d. A tendency to seek attention and gain adult approval.
e. A tendency to be greatly affected by another’s baptism but for it to be a passing enthusiasm which is so common with the young. f. Inability to control emotions.
g. In trying to make allowance for youth and inexperience we may be too charitable or too harsh.
8. My personal practice is to be sympathetic, encouraging, and gentle, but to be slow to act in regard to baptism. Even with adults where the evidences may be clearer and more clearly expressed it is sometimes wise to wait and see if the change is a lasting one. I think it is the case in Romania that no one is baptised before the age of twelve. Children and teenagers change so much as they get older.
9. Earnest prayer for wisdom is essential as we so much need the Lord to guide us in such serious decisions.