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AGE OF ACCOUNTABILITY (Various thoughts on this subject in no particular order.) Deuteronomy 1:39-40 (NIV) 39 And the little ones that you said would be taken captive, your children who do not yet know good from bad--they will enter the land. I will give it to them and they will take possession of it. 40 But as for you, turn around and set out toward the desert along the route to the Red Sea." The people apparently used their children as an excuse for not attempting to enter the land. Verse 39 is important for more than revealing the rationalizing effects of unbelief, for God seems to acknowledge a so-called "age of accountability" of children. Apparently children are not held accountable by God until they are aware of the difference between good and bad. However, nowhere does the Bible state what that age is. The children were not held responsible for their parents' cowardice but were assured possession of the land, whereas the parents were sent back to the desert (cf. 2:1) to die. The author of Hebrews later pointed to the wilderness strewn with the corpses of this generation as a grim reminder of the consequences of a believer's lack of confidence in God's power (Heb. 3:16-19). The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures by Dallas Seminary Faculty. ************************************* Romans 7:9 (NIV) Once I was alive apart from law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died. Paul is speaking in terms of his own personal history. Does he mean that as a child he was born without original sin and there was a period in his life, before he understood the law, that was sinless? No. He is speaking comparatively here. There was a time--from his birth until he was a cognizant, knowledgeable creature--when he did not know actual sin. That is why we make distinctions like the age of accountability. We don't know when that age is but we have different requirements for four year olds than for forty year olds. We recognize that in the child there is a lack of understanding of what is commanded and what is prohibited. The transition from childhood to adult is marked in the Jewish culture by the ceremony of Bar Mitzvah. It is a rite of passage from childhood to manhood, from immaturity to maturity. In Judaism, and particularly Old Testament Judaism, the Bar Mitzvah signified the age of accountability. Bar Mitzvah means `son of commandment', indicating that the child was able, as he was instructed in the law, to have a clear moral sense of what was required by God. He became a son of the commandment, one who was instructed in the law and expected to serve and obey the law. I think those commentators are right who speculate at this point that Paul is thinking back to his own childhood and has specifically in mind his own Bar Mitzvah. -- Gospel of God: Romans, The ************************************* ACCOUNTABILITY, ACCOUNTABILITY, AGE OF Age at which God holds children accountable for their sins. When persons come to this point, they face the inevitability of divine judgment if they fail to repent and believe the gospel. Scripture speaks plainly of the need for sinful humans to be converted in order to have eternal life, but it does not directly address the matter of the destiny of children who die in infancy or young

childhood. Some things are clear, though. Scripture is specific that all persons are sinners, even little ones. "The wicked go astray from the womb; liars err from birth" (Ps. 58:3 HCSB). "Indeed, I was guilty when I was born; I was sinful when my mother conceived me" (Ps. 51:5 HCSB). The psalmist is not saying that only certain persons are sinners from birth, nor is he saying that his mother sinned in conceiving him, but rather that all persons are sinners from their earliest days. Jesus also made it clear that all who are born are in need of regeneration when He informed Nicodemus, "Whatever is born of the flesh is flesh, and whatever is born of the Spirit is spirit" (John 3:6 HCSB). People are converted when, under the convicting power of the Spirit, they repent of sin and place faith in God who saves through the atoning work of Jesus on the cross (Acts 2:38; Rom. 3:21-26). In order to be saved, one needs to have a basic understanding of the faith and of the relationship between one's sin and Christ's sacrifice (Rom. 10:9-15). This requires, of course, a certain amount of cognitive knowledge and reasoning ability, along with the convicting work of the Spirit. Though there is no specific "age" of accountability technically speaking (for instance, age 12 or 13), there is a "time" in one's life when he or she is accountable for sin. What hope is there then for little ones who are too young to work out all of these issues mentally and spiritually? Much hope, actually. First, it is clear in the account of judgment against Israel for its failure to trust God at Kadesh-barnea that God held accountable only those who were decision makers--the children were not held responsible (Num. 14:29-31). Though judgment in this case was only temporal and not eternal, it does illustrate a principle of mercy toward those not in a position to make such determinations. It is not that children are innocent, but only that God is merciful, a mercy seemingly applied somewhat differently to infants than to those who are older--that is, universally. Second, when David's child died seven days after being born, the king informed his servants, "I shall go to him, but he will not return to me" (2 Sam. 12:23 NRSV). He clearly was convinced that he would see his child after his own death. This same king wrote in another place that he would spend eternity in the "house of Yahweh" (Ps. 23:6 NJB). It is to that house that he believed his son would go. If that which is born of the flesh is flesh, and one must be reborn in order to see God, how is it possible for little ones to be saved? Again, Scripture gives no mechanism for this procedure, though it does drop hints. John the Baptist was filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother's womb (Luke 1:15). This makes it clear that the Spirit can have a relationship with someone who has no intellectual understanding of that bond. This ought not to surprise Bible students since Jesus noted that the Spirit moves where He wills (John 3:8). God's Word does not present an explicit and unequivocal case for infant salvation; it is somewhat silent on the question. Insofar as it does address the relevant issues, however, it seems clearly to imply that those who die before reaching an age of responsibility will not be condemned by God, even though they are sinners by nature and choice, but will instead be received into eternal salvation. See Family;Regeneration;Salvation. Chad Brand - Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary. ************************************* Isaiah 7:13-16 (NIV) 13 Then Isaiah said, "Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of men? Will you try the patience of my God also? 14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. 15 He will eat curds and honey when he knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right. 16 But before the boy

knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, the land of the two kings you dread will be laid waste. ************************************* This page is located at: In our experience with the Christian Answers Network, one of the most frequently asked questions concerns the death and eternal state of infants, children and those who are not mentally capable of accepting Jesus Christ as their savior. This question is charged with emotion and has been debated since the early Church fathers. Unfortunately, the Scriptures do not directly and explicitly address this topic. It would be presumptuous, therefore, to suggest that we have written the final and authoritative answer to this important question. Nevertheless, the following considerations may help to bring some light to a confusing issue. 1. In one of the darkest moments of the Psalmist's life, the death of his son, David makes a proclamation which many feel reveals the eternal state of an infant. 2 Sam. 12:23 states, "But now he has died; why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he will not return to me." Was David teaching that he would be reunited with his son in heaven, or that death was inevitable for all human life? Most biblical scholars believe that the context of this verse indicates that David was probably acknowledging the inevitability of death and thus this verse adds little to our understanding of the eternal state of infants. If one chooses to believe, however, that David was hopeful of spending eternity with his son, we must ask if his hope is an explicit declaration of biblical truth. Even if David had, in a time of great grief, expressed hope of being with his deceased child, this should not be viewed as a theological promise for the salvation of infants. David, although a man after God's heart, was not infallible and many of the things he said that thought were not in accord with truth. For example, read any of David's imprecatory Psalms--7, 35, 55, 58, 59, 69, 79, 109, 137, 139. Although the Bible faithfully records David's feeling and his call to God to bring righteous judgment, few would argue that these words represent the consistent promise of God's judgment toward sinners. 2. We cannot simply assume that children are "innocent" and are therefore exempt from the penalties of sin. The Bible teaches clearly that infants are in a state of sin and need to be regenerated. They, like all humanity, can be saved only through Christ. Ps. 51:5 -- "Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me." John 3:6 -- "That which is born of the flesh is flesh."

Rom. 5:14 -- "Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the likeness of Adam's transgression." In Matthew 19:14, Jesus warned against forbidding children to come to Him. This account testifies that children, just as adults, need to come to Christ. 3. At the same time that Jesus implied the children's need to come to Him, He praised children for their innocent faith-- "for such is the kingdom of heaven." While this is most probably an endorsement of healthy character and attitudes, it is also an approval of children in general. Jesus' teachings concerning children show the highest love and respect (Matt. 18:1-6). 4. While Christ's endorsement of childlike character is not a denial of sin nature, the Bible does seem to teach that compared to the sins of adults, infants and children possess a "relative innocence." (Deut. 1:39, Jonah 4:11, Rom. 9:11) Deuteronomy 1:39-40 (NIV) 39 And the little ones that you said would be taken captive, your children who do not yet know good from bad--they will enter the land. I will give it to them and they will take possession of it. 40 But as for you, turn around and set out toward the desert along the route to the Red Sea." Jonah 4:11 (NIV) But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?" Romans 9:11 (NIV) Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad--in order that God's purpose in election might stand:

5. To reconcile the truths that all humans are sinful but that children do possess a kind of "relative innocence", some theologians have suggested that the distinct variations in sin could carry different kinds of "death penalties." For instance, could it be proposed that the penalty for inherited sin (sin passed genetically from generation to generation) is spiritual death (separation from God) which state, if left unchanged and confirmed in personal sin (sins personally committed as an act of free will) results in eternal death and eternal separation from God? Could the penalty of imputed sin (Judicially passed from Adam directly to each individual - Rom. 5:12f) be physical death?

If so, it could help us to understand how a child (born in sin, yet having not committed sin as an act of the will) could be subject to physical death without being subject to the penalty of eternal spiritual death. Infants, born "guilty" of both imputed sin (ultimately resulting in physical death) and inherited sin, would not be subject to the eternal penalties of sin until confirmed by personal acts of unrighteousness committed with an understanding of right and wrong. It must be confessed that the Scriptures do not explicitly teach the existence of these distinctions. The Bible does, however, allow for this possibility. 6. The condition of salvation for adults is personal faith. Infants are incapable of fulfilling this condition. For this reason, many have suggested that there is an age of accountability. By this, it is understood that at a certain time in a person's life he/she becomes aware of personal responsibility for wrong actions. This is not simply a recognition of cause and effects, but of personal accountability and responsibility. This "age of accountability" would probably be different for every individual. Indeed, some who are mentally handicapped may never become aware of their own struggle against unrighteousness. Again, this concept is not explicitly mentioned in the scriptures, but seems to be an accepted part of early Jewish custom. It has been suggested that one of the reasons that the apostles do not directly address the subject of infant mortality is because it was understood in their culture that a person was not responsible to God/to covenant until maturity, approximately 12 to 13 years of age. If in some sense there is an age of accountability, it seems that provision is made for the infant's reception of Christ in some other way. There is a possibility that infants are objects of special grace for which normal rules don't apply. In this case, we would appeal for salvation based upon God's love and compassion for those who are incapable of making decisions about their eternal destiny. 7.

Some would argue that the salvation of an infant is not so much related to the child's righteousness as it is to the righteousness of God. Based upon the gracious character of our God, we would argue that God would not condemn an infant to eternal punishment. In Genesis 18, Abraham talked with God about the impending destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. During his intercession, Abraham appeals to God's righteousness, "Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?" (vs. 25) To Abraham, it was an impossibility that God would send destruction and wrath upon those who did not deserve it. He challenged God that a righteous Judge would certainly do right. In response, God promised to acknowledge the existence of those who were righteous and not to destroy the cities if even ten could be found who had not conformed to wickedness. Unfortunately, ten faithful people could not be found. Even then, however, God proved his righteousness by saving Lot and his daughters from destruction. Conclusion Through the ages, this question of infant salvation has been emotionally debated. The persistence of this debate has been aided by the fact that the writers of Scripture did not explicitly comment on this subject. Having reviewed many pertinent avenues of reason, we can safely say that the salvation of infants can be regarded as at least an uncontradicted hope. It is my conviction, however, that although infant salvation is not taught explicitly, based upon the justice and character of God, infant salvation is an implicit certainty. In humility, we worship a righteous God who will certainly do right! Author: Mark Van Bebber of Eden Communications This page is located at: Copyright © 1996, Eden Communications, All Rights Reserved - except as noted on attached "Usage and Copyright" page that grants ChristianAnswers.Net users generous rights for putting this page to work in their homes, personal witnessing, churches and schools. ************************************* Five-MonthTough Questions Raised by the Death of a Five-Month-Old Fetus 9 Then God said to Jonah, "Do you have good reason to be angry about the plant?" And he said, "I have good reason to be angry, even to death." 10 Then the LORD said, "You had compassion on the plant for which you did not work and which you did not cause to grow, which came up overnight and perished overnight. 11 "Should I not have compassion on Nineveh, the great city in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know the difference between their right and left hand hand, as well as many animals?" (Jonah 4:9-11, emphasis mine).

Here, God rebuked Jonah for wanting the entire city to perish. God revealed to Jonah that He had compassion on the innocent, while Jonah did not. The population of Nineveh was far more than 120,000 people. This is the number of children who are under the age of accountability, who are not yet able to distinguish their right hand from their left, let alone good from evil. Jonah was rebuked for wanting to see these innocent children (and animals, whom we surely cannot call sinners) die painfully. Is God not indicating that those who are so young do not yet have the capacity to understand the revelation of God in nature or in the gospel? God does not condemn those who are innocent. Jonah wanted every Ninevite to die, regardless of age or accountability. Jonah was wrong for failing to distinguish the innocent from the guilty. In the first 3 chapters of the Book of Romans, the apostle Paul seeks to show that all men are sinners, rightly under divine condemnation and the sentence of death, and desperately in need of salvation (see the summary in 3:9-18). But whether it is the heathen in some dark land, who has only the revelation of God in nature (Romans 1:18-32), or the Jews who know God's law very well (Romans 2:1-29), men are condemned for rejecting the revelation about God which He has made known to them. But what of the unborn and the very young, who have never heard or grasped God's revelation, in Scripture or in nature? I believe that such people are those to whom God referred as those "who do not know the difference between their right and left hand" (Jonah 4:11). Are innocent children to be condemned to eternal hell, only because they are ignorant of their sin and of God's salvation in Christ? I think not. This is why David found comfort in the death of his first child by Bathsheba. Consider these words of Scripture: 19 But when David saw that his servants were whispering together, David perceived that the child was dead; so David said to his servants, "Is the child dead?" And they said, "He is dead." 20 So David arose from the ground, washed, anointed himself, and changed his clothes; and he came into the house of the LORD and worshiped. Then he came to his own house, and when he requested, they set food before him and he ate. 21 Then his servants said to him, "What is this thing that you have done? While the child was alive, you fasted and wept; but when the child died, you arose and ate food." 22 He said, "While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept; for I said, 'Who knows, the LORD may be gracious to me, that the child may live.' 23 "But now he has died; why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me" (2 Samuel 12:19-23). As a result of David's sin with Bathsheba, the first child of their union became gravely ill. David petitioned God to spare the child, but when the child died, David was comforted. His servants were amazed, and asked him how this could be. David informed them that while the child could not return to him (by coming back to life), David would join the child (by spending eternity in heaven with him). David found comfort in his assurance that he would join the child in heaven. How can this be? How can anyone be saved without hearing the gospel and accepting it? The only way that this can be is if the blood of Jesus Christ reverses the curse Adam has brought upon his offspring, all mankind. Jesus Christ's death, burial, and resurrection is that which saves these little ones. Because they are too young to know about their sin and about God and His salvation, they are not held accountable for responding to the gospel. The saving work of Jesus Christ saves them, before they are even able to know it. Such children who die go to heaven. This is what comforted David. It is what comforts us as well. I understand the theological basis for David's comfort and hope to be set down by the apostle Paul in his Epistle to the Romans. Paul's words in Romans chapter 5 are his answer to the question, "How can men be saved by believing in one person, Jesus Christ?" Paul's answer is that it was one man, Adam, who brought sin and condemnation upon the entire human race. It is therefore through one man, Jesus Christ (called the "last Adam" by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:45), that God has made salvation possible for lost men. Paul's entire argument is based upon the premise that Christ in His righteousness has outdone Adam in his sin. Whatever Adam has done to bring condemnation upon the human race, Jesus Christ has outdone, making salvation available to the human race. If

God were to condemn an unborn child to suffer eternally in hell, it could not be for the willful sins that child has committed. The condemnation of such a child would have to be the penalty for Adam's sin, not the child's. But if Christ has outdone Adam, then the death and resurrection of Christ has rescued all mankind from the penalty for Adam's sin. Any man who comes under divine condemnation is condemned for his own sins, and not for Adam's sin. Therefore, I believe that Paul teaches that the unborn child and the infant are saved by the work of Christ. Just as the world involuntarily became participants in the sin of Adam, so the unborn and young child becomes the beneficiary of Christ's saving work at Calvary. Our sorrow cannot be for Faith. Our sorrow is due to our loss of knowing her, but not in any loss on her part. If Faith's destiny is heaven, due to the saving work of Jesus Christ, then her death in the womb was the quickest way to heaven. I was impressed as I read two passages in which men of God spoke of their wish to have died in their mother's womb. The first is Job (Job 10:18); the second is Jeremiah (20:14-18). Now I realize that these men were suffering and in despair. But I also believe that their words were based on the assumption that had they died in the womb, they would have immediately gone to heaven, and thus bypassed all of the sorrows and tribulations of this life. Such was not God's will for these two men, but it was His will for Faith. Let us rejoice in the fact that God not only has taken Faith in death, but that He has taken her home to Himself, the quickest way possible. ************************************* (2 12:14-31) The Death of David's Son (2 Samuel 12:14-31) By: Bob Deffinbaugh , Th.M. (Bio) The following is an excerpt from the above sermon. David found consolation and comfort in the death of the child because he was assured that, although the child could not return to be with him in life, he would go to be with the child in heaven: "But now he has died; why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me" (verse 23). I believe there is only one way this verse makes any sense, and that is by understanding David to be saying something like: "I cannot bring the child back to life, to be here with me once again, but I can look forward to being with this child in heaven, after I die." This conclusion, expressed above, is not accepted by all. Some would understand David to be assured that he will be reunited with this child in heaven. They would not necessarily conclude that this means that all babies who die go to heaven. Some who believe in infant baptism may be tempted to believe that those babies who are baptized as infants will go to heaven if they die as babies. There are also those who are strongly convinced that since babies cannot repent and trust in Jesus Christ, none who die go to heaven. If this were the case, David would have to be understood to say something like this: "I cannot bring this baby back to life, but I will join him in the grave." I want to address this last view first, and then seek to defend my own view, which is that babies who die (before the age of accountability) go to heaven. There are some who understand David to be speaking of joining the child in the grave. In the context of our text, I find it difficult to understand how. David has fasted, wept, and prayed, so

much so that his servants have become concerned for his own well-being. They could not convince him to get up off the ground or to eat. Suddenly, after the child dies, David goes on with his life as though nothing had happened, and when asked why by his servants, he gives the answer we find in our text. A part of this answer is that while he cannot bring the child back, he will someday be with the child. In the minds of some, David would be saying something like this: "I was greatly intent on expressing my repentance, and in petitioning God for the life of this child. But now the child is dead, and I know that he will be buried in lot #23 at Restland Cemetery. To my great joy and comfort, I know that I will be buried in lot #24. This is the reason why I can be comforted in my grief. We will be side by side in the grave."56 I simply do not find this explanation to be an adequate explanation for David's comfort and conduct. I believe that David is looking beyond the grave, to his reunion with this child at the resurrection. Is that not the same sense that we gain from Paul's words below? 13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. 15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). Caveats and Cautions I think we must admit that the view that all babies go to heaven if they die is the one we would most like to believe. For this reason alone, we are obliged to approach this matter with skill and caution. I would also agree that our text in 2 Samuel 12 alone would be thin evidence for my conclusions, if there were no other supporting texts and truths. It is certainly true that my conclusions are based upon inferential evidence. Having said this, I would also say that any other point of view on this subject is also inferential, and based (in my opinion) on even thinner evidence. Let me say one final thing before proceeding with some of my arguments. This subject (Do babies who die go to heaven?) is not one which should divide evangelical Christians. It is not a fundamental of the faith, and it should not be viewed as heresy, no matter which of the views (stated above) are held. In the final analysis, we should be willing to say that God would be righteous and just in sending every human being (including babies) to hell, if He chose to do so. Further, those of us who know and love God should be willing to trust Him in this matter. Sometimes certain subjects and questions are not clearly answered. In such cases, I believe this is deliberate so that we have to trust in God Himself. Supporting Evidence With all these caveats, let me list the factors which incline me to the conclusion that babies who die go to heaven. I will focus on four lines of evidence.

First, in the Book of Jonah, God clearly makes a distinction between children and adults, and and rebukes Jonah for desiring that divine judgment come upon little children. We all know the story of

how Jonah, the prophet of Israel, was instructed to go to Nineveh and to proclaim the coming of God's judgment on this wicked city. We remember how Jonah rebelled, but was finally compelled to go to Nineveh, where he announced the coming of God's wrath on Nineveh in 40 days. The people of Nineveh repented, and God relented. Jonah was furious. He wanted God to destroy this wicked city and all who lived in it. Defiantly Jonah stationed himself outside the city, where he waited for the destruction that God had threatened and canceled. Jonah waited in the heat, still intent on watching the Ninevites perish. Then, this account follows: 5 Then Jonah went out from the city and sat east of it. There he made a shelter for himself and sat under it in the shade until he could see what would happen in the city. 6 So the LORD God appointed a plant and it grew up over Jonah to be a shade over his head to deliver him from his discomfort. And Jonah was extremely happy about the plant. 7 But God appointed a worm when dawn came the next day and it attacked the plant and it withered. 8 When the sun came up God appointed a scorching east wind, and the sun beat down on Jonah's head so that he became faint and begged with all his soul to die, saying, "Death is better to me than life." 9 Then God said to Jonah, "Do you have good reason to be angry about the plant?" And he said, "I have good reason to be angry, even to death." 10 Then the LORD said, "You had compassion on the plant for which you did not work and which you did not cause to grow, which came up overnight and perished overnight. 11 "Should I not have compassion on Nineveh, the great city in which there are more more than 120,000 persons who do not know the difference between their right and left hand, as well as many animals?" (Jonah 4:5-11, emphasis mine). Jonah was angry with God. The cause for his anger is astounding. He was angry with God because of the grace He had shown to these sinful Ninevites. He was incensed that God would forgive unworthy sinners, when they repented of their sins. To a large degree he was wrong because he seems to have assumed that God blessed the Jews on another basis -- the simple fact that they were Jews. Jonah hated grace, especially when bestowed upon those he considered unworthy sinners.57 The sad irony is that he failed to understand that God's blessings to Israel and to him were also based solely on divine grace. Ultimately, Jonah himself seems to have trusted in something other than grace. God gave Jonah a lesson in grace. He gave this pouting, rebellious prophet a source of shade, even though he had no good reason for staying out in the heat. When God took the plant away, and thus the shade it afforded Jonah, the prophet was hopping mad. God challenged him concerning his anger. Did Jonah deserve the plant and its shade? Then why was he angry when God took it away? Jonah did not deserve this gracious provision, yet Jonah somehow felt he did deserve it. Now God turns Jonah's attention from this object lesson to the real issue, the destruction or deliverance of the Ninevites. Why would Jonah be so intent on the condemnation of 120,000 who could not tell their right hand from their left? It seems to me that this text suggests that God views the 120,000 differently than He does the older Ninevites. Those who can tell their left hand from their right can also discern between what is good and what is evil. While Jonah is eager to condemn such children, God is not. God does not argue with Jonah about the grace He has shown the repentant (adult) Israelites. He rebukes Jonah for desiring the children to suffer divine wrath along with the adults. Jonah does not distinguish between the children and the adult Ninevites; God does. The basis for this distinction is what is of concern to us in our study of the death of David's son. God's rebuke of Jonah is based upon the fact that Jonah is unwilling to make a distinction between the sinful (but repentant) adult Ninevites and the 120,000 children of Nineveh. The distinction is

not just one of age, but of rational ability. These 120,000 children cannot distinguish between their right hand and their left. If this is so, and they cannot make concrete distinctions, how can they possibly make abstract distinctions like the difference between good and evil? How can they consciously choose to willfully disobey God, or to trust and obey Him? God also mentions the cattle. They cannot choose to serve or reject God either, not because of their age, but because of their nature as beasts which lack the capacity to reason. Jonah would delight to watch these children and cattle suffer the wrath of God; God rebukes Jonah for this thinking. Does this principle not apply to all children, and not just the children of Nineveh? I believe it does.

Covenants, Second, according to both the Old and the New Covenants, children are not to suffer divine condemnation for the sins of their parents.

"Fathers shall not be put to death for their sons, nor shall sons be put to death for their fathers; everyone shall be put to death for his own sin (Deuteronomy 24:16). 27 "Behold, days are coming," declares the LORD, "when I will sow the house of Israel and the house of Judah with the seed of man and with the seed of beast. 28 "As I have watched over them to pluck up, to break down, to overthrow, to destroy and to bring disaster, so I will watch over them to build and to plant," declares the LORD. 29 "In those days they will not say again, 'The fathers have eaten sour grapes, And the children' s teeth are set on edge.'30 "But everyone will die for his own iniquity; each man who eats the sour 30 grapes, his teeth will be set on edge. 31 "Behold, days are coming," declares the LORD, "when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them," declares the LORD. 33 "But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days," declares the LORD, "I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 34 "They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them," declares the LORD, "for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more" (Jeremiah 31:27-34, NAB, emphasis mine). Whether under the Old Covenant or the New, children are not to suffer condemnation for the sins of their parents. Each one is to suffer for their own sins. In Romans 5, Paul writes: 12 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned -- 13 for until the Law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. 14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come (Romans 5:12-14). In other words, Adam's sin has been imputed to the entire human race. Even before the Law was given, men were sinners by nature. And for this, all die a physical death. Adam's sin makes the whole human race sinful by nature. In Romans 7, Paul speaks of being alive apart from the law, and then coming alive to the law: I was once alive apart from the Law; but when the commandment came, sin became alive and I died (Romans 7:9).

It would seem from this text Paul is speaking of the coming of the age of accountability. In his infancy, Paul was "alive apart from the Law," because he was not yet able to grasp the law, and thus to discern good and evil. Since he was unable to grasp either the need or the nature of the choice before him, he was not yet alive to the law. But there came a time when he became alive to the law, and at that moment, he fell under its curse. In chapters 1-3 of Romans, Paul lays a foundation for the rest of the epistle. He seeks to demonstrate that all men are sinners, subject to the eternal wrath of God, and unable to save themselves by any work of their own (and thus in need of the gift of salvation in Christ through divine grace). Paul's conclusion (that all men are sinners) is summed up in chapter 3, as he draws together a list of Old Testament citations: 9 What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin; 10 as it is written, "THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NOT EVEN ONE; 11 THERE IS NONE WHO UNDERSTANDS, THERE IS NONE WHO SEEKS FOR GOD; 12 ALL HAVE TURNED ASIDE, TOGETHER THEY HAVE BECOME USELESS; THERE IS NONE WHO DOES GOOD, THERE IS NOT EVEN ONE." 13 "THEIR THROAT IS AN OPEN GRAVE, WITH THEIR TONGUES THEY KEEP DECEIVING," "THE POISON OF ASPS IS UNDER THEIR LIPS"; 14 "WHOSE MOUTH IS FULL OF CURSING AND BITTERNESS"; 15 "THEIR FEET ARE SWIFT TO SHED BLOOD, 16 DESTRUCTION AND MISERY ARE IN THEIR PATHS, 17 AND THE PATH OF PEACE THEY HAVE NOT KNOWN." 18 "THERE IS NO FEAR OF GOD BEFORE THEIR EYES" (Romans 3:9-18). This indictment is the conclusion of all that Paul has written up to this point, beginning with chapter 1, and especially verse 18: 18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness. How did Paul prove men to be sinners, under divine condemnation? In chapter 1 Paul shows that the heathen who have never heard the gospel are sinners, under divine condemnation. These folks are assumed not to have heard the gospel of Jesus Christ. Nevertheless, they have received a divine revelation about God, which they have willfully rejected. This revelation comes through nature: 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. 21 For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures (Romans 1:2023). I believe the argument goes like this. God has revealed Himself to all men through nature. This revelation is not complete, and it does not include the good news of the forgiveness of sins through the substitutionary work of Christ on the cross of Calvary. Even so, a person's response to what God has revealed to them in nature is a demonstration of how they would have responded if more had been revealed to them. Those who have received the revelation of God in nature have rejected it, twisting it into a religion of their own making, so that they worship God's creation rather than God the Creator. In Romans 2 and the first part of chapter 3, Paul shows that God justly condemns men as sinners for failing to live according to the standard of their own conscience, and most certainly

for failing to live according to the standards set down in the Law of Moses. He shows that all men are sinners, deserving God's eternal wrath, because they have been given some revelation about God and they have spurned it, perverting the truth that was revealed to them and exchanging it for something they would rather believe. Everyone who is condemned as a sinner in Romans 1-3 is one who has received a revelation about God, who has the mental capacity to grasp it and respond to it, and has rejected this revelation. I contend that unborn children and infants (I won't try to define where the so called "age of accountability" begins) have never received such revelation and have no capacity to reject it as evil or embrace it as good. They have not sinned in the sense of knowing what is right and willfully choosing to do what is wrong. Here is where some folks begin to get uneasy. They fear that saying this is to deny the sin nature of all mankind, including children. They fear that this is tantamount to declaring young children innocent. I am not saying this at all. Whether an unborn or an infant, every offspring of Adam (i.e., every human being, regardless of age) is a sinner by nature. This sin nature is the result of Adam's sin, which has been imputed to all his offspring. There is a difference, however, in being a sinner by nature and being a sinner in deed. A tiny newborn baby is a sinner by nature, but he will not become a sinner by deed until he willfully chooses to do what he knows to be wrong. Apart from a premature death, every child who is a sinner by nature will blossom into a child who is a sinner by deed. But what of those children who die before they have become a sinner by deed? If we were to conclude they are condemned to hell for all eternity, for whose sin(s) are they being eternally punished? I would have to say they would be punished for Adam's sin. They would suffer eternally for being a sinner by nature, for being born. I believe the distinction God was making in Jonah 4 was between those Ninevites who were sinners by deed, and those who were sinners by nature, but not by deed. I believe God was rebuking Jonah for wanting to see sinners by nature (only) suffer God's wrath as though they were sinners by decision and deed. On what basis can God save sinners by nature, so that they need not be condemned? That is our next topic of discussion.

Third, Third, in Romans 5 Paul teaches us that the sacrificial death of our Lord Jesus Christ atones for the sin of Adam, so that no descendant of Adam's is condemned to hell for Adam's sin. If I understand

the Scriptures correctly, the only reason that an infant could go to hell is because of Adam's sin. The Old and New Covenants tell us that this cannot be, since children must not be punished for the sins of their parents. Romans 5 tells us how God has accomplished a means for infants to be saved from condemnation. The issue addressed by the fifth chapter of Romans is this: "How can one person ­ Jesus Christ ­ be the Savior of all those who believe in Him?" "How can one man save many by dying for them?" The answer Paul gives us in Romans 5 is very simple: "It was one man (Adam) who brought sin upon the human race; so, too, it was one Man (Jesus Christ) who provided the solution to the problem of sin for all who believe." 17 For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ. 18 So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men (Romans 5:17-18).

45 So also it is written, "The first MAN, Adam, BECAME A LIVING SOUL." The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 46 However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural; then the spiritual. 47 The first man is from the earth, earthy; the second man is from heaven. 48 As is the earthy, so also are those who are earthy; and as is the heavenly, so also are those who are heavenly. 49 Just as we have borne the image of the earthy, we will also bear the image of the heavenly (1 Corinthians 15:45-49). Our Lord Jesus Christ is called "the last Adam" because He is the only One who can reverse the effects of Adam's sin. He does so, not by automatically saving all men, but by making atonement for the sins of men, so that all who receive the gift of salvation have the forgiveness of sins and eternal life. All children have a sin nature which they have inherited from Adam. They obtained this, not by committing any sin, but by being born into the human race. They involuntarily obtained a sin nature. Paul's argument in Romans 5 is a "much more" argument. He argues that whatever Adam did by his sin, Christ did (or rather undid) much more. If any child goes to hell simply because of Adam's sin, then Christ's work on Calvary is not "much more" than Adam's. All those who suffer the eternal wrath of God for their sin are those who have, by their own willful choice, rebelled against God and rejected the revelation of Him He made known to them. All those who have not yet made this willful choice to identify with Adam in his sin, and who die before doing so, are involuntarily covered by the shed blood of Jesus Christ. Adam could thus corrupt the whole human race, but Christ could do much more in that He could atone for Adam's sin and transform guilty sinners into forgiven saints. The death of Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary is the means by which infants are saved from the guilt and condemnation of their sin nature, just as it is the means by which all (adults) who believe are saved. This is how I explain the confidence and peace David demonstrated when his son died. David was assured that he would not die, and this was due to the fact that his sins were "taken away." Under the Old Covenant, there was no salvation for David, only the condemnation of death. David must therefore be delivered from divine wrath due to God's provision in Jesus Christ, in accordance with the New Covenant. This is the basis for the salvation of every saint, Old Testament or New. If God dealt graciously with David, on the basis of the new covenant, would He not also deal with his son on the same basis?

Fourth, the belief that infants are saved by the blood of Christ is the view held by some of the most view highly regarded students of Scripture. The doctrinal position of the church throughout its history

does not have the authority of Scripture, but it does help to validate or call into question contemporary interpretations of the Scriptures. When one holds a view or interpretation of Scripture that the church has consistently rejected throughout the history of the church, it certainly calls that interpretation into question. Allow me to cite a few quotations which express the viewpoint of some respected theologians and preachers of the past. First, let us hear from Charles Haddon Spurgeon: Now for one or two incidental matters which occur in Scripture, which seem to throw a little light also on the subject. You have not forgotten the case of David. His child by Bathsheba was to die as a punishment for the father's offence. David prayed, and fasted, and vexed his soul; at last they tell him the child is dead. He fasted no more but he said, "I shall go to him, he shall not return to me." Now, where did David expect to go to? Why, to heaven surely. Then his child must have been there, for he said, "I shall go to him." I do not hear him say the same of Absalom. He did not stand over his corpse, and say, "I shall go to him;" he had no hope for that rebellious son. Over this child it was not--"O my son! would to God I had died for thee!" No, he could let this babe go with

perfect confidence, for he said, "I shall go to him." "I know," he might have said, "that He hath made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure, and when I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I shall fear no evil, for he is with me; I shall go to my child, and in heaven we shall be re-united with each other."58 And once again: Now, let every mother and father here present know assuredly that it is well with the child, if God hath taken it away from you in its infant days. You never heard its declaration of faith - it was not capable of such a thing; it was not baptized into the Lord Jesus Christ, not buried with him in baptism; it was not capable of giving that "answer of a good conscience towards God," nevertheless, you may rest assured that it is well with the child, well in a higher and a better sense than it is well with yourselves; well without limitation, well without exception, well infinitely, "well" eternally. Perhaps you will say, "What reasons have we for believing that it is well with the child?" Before I enter upon that I would make one observation. It has been wickedly, lyingly, and slanderously said of Calvinism, that we believe that some little children perish. Those who make the accusation know that their charge is false. I cannot even dare to hope, though I would wish to do so, that they ignorantly misrepresent us. They wickedly repeat what has been denied a thousand times, what they know is not true. In Calvin's advice to Knox, he interprets the second commandment, "showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me," as referring to generations, and hence he seems to teach that infants who have had pious ancestors, no matter how remotely, dying as infants are saved. This would certainly take in the whole race. As for modern Calvinists, I know of no exception, but we all hope and believe that all persons dying in infancy are elect. Dr. Gill, who has been looked upon in late times as being a very standard of Calvinism, not to say of ultra-Calvinism, himself never hints for a moment the supposition that any infant has perished, but affirms of it that it is a dark and mysterious subject, but that it is his belief, and he thinks he has Scripture to warrant it, that they who have fallen asleep in infancy have not perished, but have been numbered with the chosen of God, and so have entered into eternal rest. We have never taught the contrary, and when the charge is brought, I repudiate it and say, "You may have said so, we never did, and you know we never did. If you dare to repeat the slander again, let the lie stand in scarlet on your very cheek if you be capable of a blush." We have never dreamed of such a thing. With very few and rare exceptions, so rare that I never heard of them except from the lips of slanderers, we have never imagined that infants dying as infants have perished, but we have believed that they enter into the paradise of God.59 Finally, let us hear from Loraine Boettner, who cites the position of a number of other theologians: Most Calvinistic theologians have held that those who die in infancy are saved. The Scriptures seem to teach plainly enough that the children of believers are saved; but they are silent or practically so in regard to those of the heathens. The Westminster Confession does not pass judgment on the children of heathens who die before coming to years of accountability. Where the Scriptures are silent, the Confession, too, preserves silence. Our outstanding theologians, however, mindful of the fact that God's "tender mercies are over all His works," and depending on His mercy widened as broadly as possible, have entertained a charitable hope that since these infants have never committed any actual sin themselves, their inherited sin would be pardoned and they would be saved on wholly evangelical principles. Such, for instance, was the position held by Charles Hodge, W. G. T. Shedd, and B. B. Warfield. Concerning those who die in infancy, Dr. Warfield says: "Their destiny is determined irrespective of

their choice, by an unconditional decree of God, suspended for its execution on no act of their own; and their salvation is wrought by an unconditional application of the grace of Christ to their souls, through the immediate and irresistible operation of the Holy Spirit prior to and apart from any action of their own proper wills . . . And if death in infancy does depend on God's providence, it is assuredly God in His providence who selects this vast multitude to be made participants of His unconditional salvation . . . This is but to say that they are unconditionally predestinated to salvation from the foundation of the world."60 Conclusion We have lingered long on this sad incident in which David finds joy and comfort, but allow me to conclude by pointing out several areas of application.

First, this text (along with the others I have mentioned) offers comfort to all those who have suffered (or will suffer) the loss of a little one. I believe that our Lord summed it up as concisely as

possible when He said, "Permit the children to come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these" (Luke 18:16). What comfort there is to know that our little ones are in His arms. Second, we learn from this incident that even when God forgives our sins He does not remove all painful painful consequences. David's sins with Bathsheba and with Uriah were forgiven, but the death of this child was still necessary. Sin has painful consequences. Even though our sins are forgiven, they are never worth the price tag that comes in terms of consequences.

Third, God is more concerned with His reputation than our happiness. Some people think that God

is a kind of magic Genie, who awaits our every command, and who seeks to satisfy our every whim. David would have been happy to receive his child back, but God's reputation required that He deal with sin in a way that makes it very clear how a holy and righteous God feels about sin.

Fourth, we can learn a lesson about unanswered prayer. David prayed as earnestly as a man could pray, but God clearly answered, "No!" David was content with that. He did not protest or complain. He accepted God's will as that which was best. He worshipped God in spite of his loss and his pain. He did not agonize that he simply lacked faith. He knew God had heard him and He had answered. How many of us praise God when He has told us "No!"? Finally, the believer's hope and joy in the midst of trials and tribulations is the context for witnessing to our faith in Jesus Christ. David's servants expected him to (re)act in a very different

way, once he learned that his son was dead. They were amazed at the way he found comfort, joy, and a desire to worship God when his family was struck by tragedy. They asked David concerning this hope, and David was able to give an explanation of that hope. Our response to our sufferings and trials affords us the same opportunity. Let us learn to rest in Him in Whom we have placed our hope, and then to share this hope with those who do not possess it (see 1 Peter 3:15).

51 Incidentally, this was done with another teacher present, as a witness. 52 When God struck Nabal, he died after ten days -- see 1 Samuel 25:38. 53 The NKJV is similar, when it renders, "He may do some harm."

54 We do not really know whether any of the servants knew of Nathan's word that this child would surely die. If not, then they may not understand why David is so serious in his mourning of repentance and petition. 55 See also Jonah 3. 56 I am duty bound to point out the words of Barzillai in 2 Samuel 19:37. There was some comfort in being buried near one's relatives, but this does not seem to be sufficient comfort to explain David's words and actions in our text. 57 In this, Jonah is not that different from the self-righteous scribes and Pharisees of Jesus' day. 58 "Infant Salvation," The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, a sermon delivered on Sunday morning, September 29th, 1861, By the Rev. C. H. Spurgeon, at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington. 59 Spurgeon in the same sermon as above. 60 Loraine Boettner, The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination (Philadelphia: The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1963 [eleventh printing]), pp. 143-144.


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