Would the age of accountability apply to babies and young children?
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This is a tough issue for Christians. There is no such thing as an age of accountability in Scripture. It's something that we've made up, which is why nobody can say what the age is. Is the age the same for all children? What about the mentally handicapped? It's further complicated by the fact that as Christians, we generally believe that life begins at conception. Indeed, David even references his sinful nature all the way back to his conception (Psalm 51). So if we are human beings, with souls and a sinful nature from the moment of conception - then surely we need Christ to cover our sinful nature from the moment of conception. But there are miscarriages, there are abortions, children die before they can understand they are sinners, and severely mentally handicapped grow up never capable of understanding their need for forgiveness. So the question remains - how does God treat these individuals? Unfortunately, Scripture does not answer us. So what do we do? How do we answer this? For me personally, I look to the character of God. He is just, merciful, gracious, loving, and good. I choose to believe that Christ's sacrifice extends to those that are mentally incapable of having a personal relationship with Christ. It's a hope I have, not rooted in specific Scripture, but rooted in who I believe God is.
This question can be answered by doing a short study on the book of life and a few other scriptures. Rev 17:8 The Book of Life is from the foundation of the world. The Saved are in the book of life, there names WILL NOT be blotted out. Phil 4:3 Clement and fellow laborers (Christians) — names are in the Book of Life. Rev 3:5 The saved, those "clothed in white garments", names will not be blotted out of Book of Life (those that are in Christ Jesus). Rev. 21:27 but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life. (will enter "the holy city, New Jerusalem") The Unsaved names are not in the book of life, they have been blotted out of the book Ex. 17:14 I will utterly blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven.” Ex. 32:32-33 Whoever has sinned against Me (rejected), I will blot him out of My book. Rev. 20:12 another book was opened, which is the book of life (at the great white throne) Deut. 29:20 the LORD would blot out his name from under heaven. Psa. 9:5 You have blotted out their name forever and ever. Psa. 69:28 blotted out of the book of the living, And not be written with the righteous. Rev. 20:15 And whosoever was not found written in the book of life (is cast in the lake of fire, second death) Rev. 22:19 God shall take away his (rejecter of God who tamper with His word) part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book. So we see names are in the book of life. We see names being blotted out of the book of life. We do not see any names being written into the book of life. Therefor we can conclude that all names are in the book (from the foundation of the world). Those who’s names are in the book have a place with God. To have your name blotted out you must sin, reject God. For a person to reject God they first have to be able to understand they are a sinner and God has a plan for their redemption. Children and the mentally handicapped do not have the capability to accept or reject something they do not understand. God does not hold us accountable for what we do not know. (Gen. 20:1-6; Rom. 7:7-11; 1Tim. 1:12-14) The age of accountability for each individual is know to God. Everyone is accountable for what they know. Jam. 4:17 It is his Spirit that delivers the message of salvation. He knows who and when each person accepts or rejects Him and those who do not have the comprehension to do so do to immaturity or impairment. The only unforgivable sin is rejecting God’s message, blaspheme against the Holy Spirit. Mark 3:29, Luke 12:8-10 You have to understand before you can reject. Those who reject have had their names blotted out of the Lambs Book of Life. They will stand before God at the "great white throne" judgement. Those who are innocent or saved are not blotted out. They will not be at the great white throne judgement. Perhaps someone has heard the Gospel several times but has not made a commitment to accept or reject God’s offer of redemption. Not accepting or believing is the same as rejecting salvation. John 3:18 There is no one that will be able to say the never knew God had a plan. Rom. 1:16-21, Psa. 19 God, at some point in everyone’s life, makes Himself known in a way they understand. 2 Sam. 12:21-23 Those who have lost a child or infant can take comfort as King David did having confidence that he would see his dead infant son again when he died.
"What is the age of accountability?" “Is it in Scripture?” The answer will surprise many! Some believe that it is thirteen, yet the only Scriptural basis for this is that Ishmael was circumcised at this age (Gen 17:10-12). It is also a current "tradition” among the Jews to Bar Mitzvah a child at thirteen to celebrate them entering adulthood. However, this tradition celebrates entering into adulthood not becoming an accountable adult. Neither of these is conclusive regarding "the age of accountability." So, most will tell you they simply do not know what the age is; however, God is a merciful judge. This does little to comfort parents who have lost child. And, the older the child... the less comforting it is. However, I believe that Scripture provides a solid answer to this question in the Torah. Following the completion of the tabernacle God tells Moses, “When you take the census of the children of Israel... every man shall give a ransom for himself to the LORD... it shall be a half shekel... (a shekel is twenty gerahs)... from those from twenty years old and above, shall give an offering to the LORD... it shall be a memorial... to make atonement for yourselves.” (Ex 30:12-16) Here the “Age of Accountability” is set at twenty years old when a person becomes responsible to pay a “ransom” price to make personal “atonement.” Shortly after Israel’s second Passover God tells Moses: “Take a census... of every male individually, from twenty years old and above—all who are able to go to war...” (Num 1:2-3) Here God reaffirms the “Age of Accountability” but we now learn it is for going to war and likewise “having victory” or “being killed” in battle. Five months later Israel is to take the Promised Land; but, rebels and refuses to go to war. The result is forty years wandering in the wilderness and the deaths of those “twenty years old and above” who would not “enter the Promised Land.” (Num 14:29) Here, the “Age of Accountability” is enforced on those twenty years old and above. They were held accountable for sin. However, children nineteen and under would enter the “Promised Land.” (Num 14:31) They were not held accountable for sin. Next, God tells us WHY “the children” nineteen and under are not accountable. “Surely not one of... this evil generation shall see that good land... except Caleb the son of Jephunneh... and Joshua the son of Nun... he shall... cause Israel to inherit it. ‘Moreover your little ones and your children, who you say will be victims, who today have no knowledge of good and evil, they shall go in there; to them I will give it, and they shall possess it.” (Deut 1:35-39) Note: “Joshua the son of Nun” translates: “Jesus the son of Eternity” and “Caleb the son of Jephunneh” translates as: “Wholeheartedly (the son of) He that shall be Turned” and... Caleb was a grafted in Gentile (a son of Esau – Num 32:12) who led the tribe of Judah. That is... Jesus the son of Eternity had a Gentile grafted into Judah named “Wholeheartedly he that shall be turned” at His side leading Israel into the Promised Land and with them are little children who have no knowledge of good and evil... Praise God! God states the “little ones” AND the “children” under the age of twenty “have no knowledge of good and evil” and are therefore not accountable for sin. Simply stated, the little ones and children found grace and it was based on the age God Himself set. Here God establishes the twentieth birthday as the age to know enough to refuse evil and do good. Note: The Northern Kingdom of Israel had “19 kings” before God sent Assyria to remove them from the Promised Land. Likewise, the Southern Kingdom of Judah had exactly “19 kings” before God sent Babylon to destroy the temple and removed them! The Hebrew Gematria identifies “19” as the Scriptural Number of “A Completed Order To or From Judgment.” Interesting "coincidences?" The rabbis say, "Coincidence isn't kosher with God."
There is no age of accountability and that's why you can't find it. There is only the condition of accountability that is dependent upon the maturity and knowledge of the individual. A person has to have enough maturity and be able to know right from wrong. Additionally, the person must also be able to understand the gospel and the requirements for salvation. Babies and little children go straight into the presence of Jesus Christ when they die. This is specifically because neither has reached that condition where they were able to make a conscious choice to accept or reject Jesus Christ. If you are a believer and have lost a baby or child, take solace in the fact that you will see them again in the kingdom of God, just as king David knew he would again see his baby boy who died.
2 Samuel 12:22-23 22 David replied, "I fasted and wept while the child was alive, for I said, 'Perhaps the LORD will be gracious to me and let the child live.' 23 But why should I fast when he is dead? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him one day, but he cannot return to me." NLT The implication is that when David dies he will be with the Lord and he will meet the baby in the Lord's presence.
The Age of Accountability is different for each individual, as it is the point in a person's life when they have the mental capacity to understand sin, and understand that sin is an offense to God. Romans 7:9 "For I was alive without the law once; but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died." Paul is referring to Spiritual Life and Death. He was alive at one time, but when he understood the Law and the Commandment (or to say, when he understood right from wrong - and that he didn't measure up to God 's righteous requirements) then "sin revived, and I died." The consequences of Paul's inborn sinful nature came alive, and this separated him from God. Spiritual death. I once had a Pastor who understood his sin, and subsequently accepted Christ, at four years old. Most people are a bit older (seven and eight, often) when they understood that they were sinners. I have known some that were in their early teens before they understood. Some never will in this life. But do not hang all of any doctrine on any one verse. Take in the whole of Scripture, on God's righteous nature. Read all of Romans 7, along with the verses in the other answers. And most of all, pray for wisdom and discernment. You will agree that God will not condemn anyone to eternal punishment if they never had the ability to reject Him.
Knowing right from wrong is taught to toddlers and is a different age than being able to make a decision for Christ as Savior. My daughter was four and told me a lie and when I asked her to be truthful she burst into tears, knowing she had done something wrong. However she was in no way aware enough to understand Jesus' sacrifice. That time came when she was in her teens. Infants, those not yet born, and children and people with mental disabilities are incapable of making a decision that will affect their future eternity, but God, through an abundance of grace, does not condemn them. Instead He guarantees their salvation. In Romans 5:8 Paul explains, 'But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us'. Jesus said in Matthew 18:3 we have to become like little children in order to enter Heaven and in Matthew 18:4 He says 'whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven'. Matthew 18:10 gets to the crux of the question when Jesus says, ' See to it that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that _their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven. Children have their _own angels in heaven so how could they be denied salvation? No where else in the Bible does it say individual people have personal angels. Of course there are different views about these verses, see gotquestions.org answer to 'Do we have guardian angels?', but when I read the passage its plain that Jesus was saying there are angels for all children. John 1:16 states' Out of his (Jesus') fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given'. Jesus has given us all an _abundance of grace and that overflowing of grace is given to those who aren't able to make a choice as well, re: all those I wrote about above. God is love, He loves everyone, and He certainly loves little children and can not and will not condemn them to an eternity without Him. He can't go against His own character which is overflowing mercy, grace and love.
The age of accountability is found nowhere in the bible or in church history and is a false teaching. As for babies who die, they either go to heaven or hell. Those with faith go to heaven, those without faith go to hell. The bible speaks clearly concerning human beings, their sinful nature and who goes to heaven or hell. We are all dead in our trespasses and carry the mark of Adam's sin. Paul teaches that we are saved by faith alone and specifically in Ephesians 2 that this faith is given to us as a gift from God. None of Paul's writings or the words of Jesus nor anywhere else in the bible are there conditions of salvation. It is a free gift given by God. No age is given, no mental capabilities are specified or decision making abilities. It is God who saves through the Word, taught, read, preached, etc. Why would God granting faith to a baby be any more of a miracle than God granting faith to a 35 year old? John 1:12,13 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
Isaiah 7:15 speaks of an age of conscious moral choice for a child. This will differ from child to child. In some countries the age is fixed by law for criminal responsibility. Perhaps it's best for us to leave the accounting to God who knows all things perfectly and is righteous and just in all His ways.
I cannot be dogmatic about the age, but I do believe we can be saved when we are very young. My mother taught me the way of salvation when I was about 4 or 5, and I accepted Jesus as my savior. I did not know much except my mother told me I was a sinner and needed Jesus to save me. I remember so well going to my mother the next day and asking her if I had sinned since yesterday and needed to ask Jesus for forgiveness. I still do not understand everything. Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to Him for righteousness. If our believing that Jesus paid the price for all of our sins is a work, then our faith has to come from God. If faith is not a work, then we are accountable to God to put our faith and trust in Him for salvation. In a way, the bible teaches both. It says we are called, we are chosen by God to believe. But it also says our faith is accounted for righteousness. It is just me but I believe the age of accountabiliy may be different for each person. I do believe that all babies and children under that age will be saved. If God saved a sinner like me He will sure save those that are not yet accountable for their sins. I know the bible says the angels in heaven rejoice over those that come to Jesus by faith. And so do I.
Children under the age of accountability are saved (Matt. 18:1-10; 19:14). Exact accountable age is not known. Matthew 19:13-15 (KJV) 13 Then were there brought unto him little children, that he should put his hands on them, and pray: and the disciples rebuked them. 14 But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: (for of such is the kingdom of heaven.) 15 And he laid his hands on them, and departed thence. 1. [that he should put his hands on them, and pray] It was common among Jews to take the children to godly men for blessings and prayers. 2. [disciples rebuked them] Again the disciples interfered in the busy life of Jesus (Matt. 15:23; 16:22) Verse 14 3. [Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me] Permit or allow and do not hinder. 4. [for of such is the kingdom of heaven] Children under the age of accountability are saved (Matt. 18:1-10; 19:14). Exact accountable age is not known. Verse 15 5. [laid his hands on them, and departed thence] An outward form of blessing in both testaments
James 4:17 has a good explanation of accountability with...."therefore he that knows to to good and does not do it, to him it is sin"
The babies and children are usually innocent as we understand from Matthew 18:3-5. But they can be led away from Christ by others as we understand from verse 5 of this chapter. This means by this time the child has a potential to be drawn away from God by others' influence. So accountability starts from childhood. No wonder the word of God in Proverbs says "Train up a child in the way he/she should go and when he/she is old he/she will not depart from it" (Proverbs22:6). The Lord through Moses admonished the children of Israel to teach their children and grandchildren the laws of God diligently as we read in Deuteronomy 4:9&6:2. As such, once the children come to age of understanding and have exposure to God's Word then they become accountable. But the actual age cannot be told. However, the babies are certainly not accountable as we read in 2 Samuel 12:22&23. In Genesis chapter 8 and verse 21 The Lord says the human heart is wicked from his childhood (NIV) though in (KJV) translation we read this word translated as youth. Thus, though babies are not accountable, the children are definitely accountable from the day they start either accepting or justifying their actions. Let us not forget that our Lord Jesus Himself lights evey one that visits this planet as we read in John1:9. The age of accountability has not been given. However, these scriptures give us enough light to us as parents and grandparents to lead our children in the way of the Lord before they are influenced by the devil's folk. It our primary responsibility to lead our children in the way of The Lord which can be supplemented by the Suday School teachers and pastors/elders/deacons.
It is true; the Bible does not specifically ADDRESS a specific age of accountability. In the book of Numbers it mentions 20 years old and up as the age when people were accountable for their murmuring. So LEGAL age in the Bible is 20 and up. But we are accountable to Christ when we understand. Keith Slough, minister
...The surest way to confusion is to get bogged down in doctrinal issues. "The age of accountability" is not found in the Bible. We can grope... Pull scripture quotes... Try a few connect the dots-style stabs at creating a doctrine out of the phrase... Or we can simply have faith that our triune God knows THE END FROM THE BEGINNING. That phrase--coming from Isaiah--is rife with meaning! It tells us that God knows every which way INCLUDING loose! So... Let's pull that quote from Isaiah 46:10... "I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say, 'My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.'" We actually need go no further... God knows the condition of the heart. He knows individual limitations. While we know an infant cannot possibly understand salvation--but absent extreme mental debility--would certainly have the ability to understand salvation at a certain age. If you wish to contemplate what that age might be, simply substitute numbers for your own individual family members. I have known nine-year-olds with virtually a complete understanding of Biblical concepts... I have known teenagers who just don't get it... I see no scenario in which God has an arbitrary age picked out for a so-called "age of accountability." Yet God KNOWS when an individual understands about love, faith, acceptance of the divine, submission to tenets of Godliness... Mankind cannot know this about another! We cannot judge--BECAUSE WE DO NOT HAVE THE CAPACITY TO JUDGE! (Matthew 7:1). Some have pointed to the fact that Jesus went and taught in the temple at the age of twelve--astounding the gathered learned... That beautiful revelation of our Savior--found in Luke 2:49-- "And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? Wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?" (KJV) This verse in no way defines a so-called "age of accountability." Truly... This cobbled together bit of doctrinal obfuscation can only be harmful to the cause of proclaiming the following ineffable words from Arabella K. Hankey written way back in 1866... I love to tell the story of unseen things above, Of Jesus and His glory, of Jesus and His love; I love to tell the story, because I know ’tis true, It satisfies my longings as nothing else would do. Refrain: I love to tell the story, ’Twill be my theme in glory, To tell the old, old story Of Jesus and His love.
We, as humans, are born into a sin nature. However, a baby or a very young child (or perhaps even someone mentally disadvantaged) is not able to understand this, nor are they able to understand they really need Jesus to forgive their sins. In order to make a decision to accept or reject Jesus and the forgiveness of sin that he offers, one has to be able to know they're a sinner and that Jesus is the only way to eternal life and the forgiveness of sin. So what about those who pass before they can ever really know Jesus or those who pass who are simply unable to grasp the idea that Jesus is they're only salvation in life due to whatever their mental challenge is? This is where the age of accountability comes in. It is widely believed that those who either pass before they're able to know they're sinners, understand they need Jesus, and make the choice of acceptance or rejection (babies, toddlers, etc) or pass without having the ability to know they're sinners and need Jesus and therefore can't make a decision (mentally disadvantaged) are automatically accepted by God into heaven due to God's merciful nature. Since the scriptures seem to be silent on this subject, this is the standard that many denominations accept. So, if in fact this concept is truth, what exactly is that age? It would probably depend on who you ask, and it would also vary from person to person. Some may be able to understand this concept at a younger age than others, so it's hard to really say there's a concrete figure. I've seen children as young as three or four come to this point, and I've seen others much older who never come to this point.
When discussing the age of accountability it is important to look for examples of where it is applied even apart from the phrase itself. In the OT Deuteronomy 1:37-39 speaks of kids before they can recognize good from bad. There must be a recognition of the difference before being judged guilty and this is also in Isaiah 7:16 where the difference between youth unable yet to understand evil behavior before judgement for any deed takes place.
Revelation 20:12 (KJV) And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. Though the Bible did not give us specific age for accountability but in the above scripture it is stated that at the throne of Judgement both infant and old will appear. By implication, it means no matter the age at which one died he has to give account of his earthly stewardship.
Isaiah 7:16, speaking about the messiah to come, states (KJV): For before the child shall know to refuse the evil, and choose the good, the land that thou abhorrest shall be forsaken of both her kings. This verse states that there is a time when a child does not know enough to refuse evil and choose good. The child does have a sinful nature (the messiah does not have a sinful nature, but all other children do) but has not committed willful sins. Is 7:16 clearly states that there is an age of accountability.
For those who mentioned that no age of accountability could be found in the Bible, I suggest you consider these verses from the book of Numbers: 14:26 The Lord said to Moses and Aaron: 27 “How long will this wicked community grumble against me? I have heard the complaints of these grumbling Israelites. 28 So tell them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Lord, I will do to you the very thing I heard you say: 29 In this wilderness your bodies will fall—every one of you twenty years old or more who was counted in the census and who has grumbled against me. 30 Not one of you will enter the land I swore with uplifted hand to make your home, except Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun. 31 As for your children that you said would be taken as plunder, I will bring them in to enjoy the land you have rejected. 32 But as for you, your bodies will fall in this wilderness. 33 Your children will be shepherds here for forty years, suffering for your unfaithfulness, until the last of your bodies lies in the wilderness. 34 For forty years—one year for each of the forty days you explored the land—you will suffer for your sins and know what it is like to have me against you.’ 35 I, the Lord, have spoken, and I will surely do these things to this whole wicked community, which has banded together against me. They will meet their end in this wilderness; here they will die.” Not sure about you but I would consider they are discussing accountability!
I believe that to much is given to much is required and to little is given little is required...This is found in the Bible...We serve a God who is just and He will not turn a baby or child away....
This is what the Lord showed to me and it is not obvious! When you read Exodus 33 God says that the Twenty and older will die in the Land because of their Lust for the Land, they did not want to leave. Now in Deuteronomy 2:14 the lord shows that this event happened thirty eight minus the forty. So that would have made them 18, and all that where up to 58 years of age entered the Promised Land! While this is a very interesting process,I have to judge wisely and say God Judges the Heart Always so sooner one comes to know the Lord and his Ways, the Better!
For your prayerful consideration: To process the concept of the age of accountability, I believe we also need to understand when a person becomes a child of God. I believe that we are all born children of God, but at the age of accountability, we have a choice to make: Follow Jesus as Lord, or not. For more insight about children of God, read Acts 13:10 and 1 John 3:10 below. "You are a child of the devil and an enemy of everything that is right! You are full of all kinds of deceit and trickery. Will you never stop perverting the right ways of the Lord?” ACTS 13:10 “This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not God's child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister.” 1 JOHN 3:10 Now read about the age of accountability in the next two verses to gain clarity about when one becomes accountable for their behavior. “If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn't do it, it is sin for them.” JAMES 4:17 Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." MATTHEW 19:14 Those verses really made me think! I hope this answer helps clarify. Blessings!
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