Terms of Salvation
What Does a Person Need to Do to be Saved?
Can a Young Child be Saved?
But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer [allow] the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.
David Egner shares the following pertinent observations:
The Lord Jesus became angry on only four occasions in the New Testament. Significantly, one of those times had to do with children. You remember the story. Some children wanted to come to Jesus, but the disciples refused to let them. We can probably understand why. The disciples were busy learning all Christ wanted them to know in their ministry as His followers. Besides, they also knew His time was very important, so they didn't want to bother Him with interruptions by something as trivial as a group of children.
But Christ did not see it that way! Mark tells us that when Jesus saw it, "He was greatly displeased and said to them, 'Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God' " (Mark 10:14). The words rendered "greatly displeased" literally mean "became angry." [David C. Egner, writing in the forward of the booklet Don't Forget the Children by Alan D. George (Radio Bible Class publication).]
It angers the Lord and displeases Him greatly when children are turned away from the things of Christ. How thankful I am that the gospel message is so simple that even a little child can understand it! We must never fail to teach our young children the precious truths of the gospel from their earliest days. Timothy was taught the Holy Scriptures from the time he was a child:
But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them, and 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 (2 Timothy 3:14-15).
No doubt Timothy as a child learned these great salvation truths from his grandmother and mother, both of whom trusted the Lord (2 Tim. 1:5).
Children need to be taught the simple truths about Christ and the wonderful salvation He died to provide. The words of John 3:16 are not complicated. Young children have alert minds and they can understand more than we sometimes realize. Most importantly, the Spirit of God is able to take the Word of God and reach the heart of a young person, even as He can do for those who are older.
I knew of one dear brother who had a special burden for the salvation of his child. When his little boy was born, the father did something quite unusual. Before he said anything else to his child, he opened his Bible right in that hospital room, and carefully explained God's simple plan of salvation. He told his newborn infant the "old, old story of Jesus and His love." Why would he do such a thing. Surely the father knew that the baby did not understand a word that he was saying. Yes, he certainly knew this. What he did was symbolic. The father wanted the gospel to be the first thing that his son would ever hear from his lips. The father was sending an important message, "Lord, the thing I want most for my son is for him to hear and understand the wonderful good news about Your Son. I'm going to keep on teaching him as he grows and develops, and someday, by the illumination of the Holy Spirit, he is going to understand the message of the cross. Help me to be the father I need to be and to meet the spiritual needs of my children."
God's method of cleaning or cleansing Naaman the leper was so simple that Naaman at first became angry and refused to follow the instructions (2 Kings 5:10-12). Finally his servants convinced him to follow God's simple instructions and he was cleansed (2 Kings 5:13-14). Likewise, God's instructions for how a sinner can be cleansed and have eternal life are so simple that even a little child can understand and obey.
My wife, thank God, received the Lord Jesus as her Saviour at a very early age, thanks to a devoted mother who instructed her in God's Word from her earliest years. The person who led me to the Lord was saved as a young boy in a Bible club taught for children. Thousands have testified to the fact that God saved them when they were very young. Christ wants the children to come to Him, and we are not to forbid them or hinder them in any way.
Jesus Loves Me
Jesus loves me this I know.
I sang it as a little girl many years ago.
Just a little bit of faith I had then.
Understanding only as much as a young child can.
But questioning not for somehow I knew.
Jesus loved me, I knew it was true.
But now when I hear this childhood song,
The words have meaning and linger long.
For Jesus to love me is a miraculous thing,
and joy fills my heart when I hear one sing,
That simple little chorus of long ago.
Jesus loves me this I know.
How can He love me with all my sin?
How can He open Heaven's door to let me in?
To cleanse my soul, He died for me.
Tho' children believe this so easily,
And accept by faith all that is said,
I as an adult sometimes question instead.
I wonder how can it possibly be?
That Jesus could love a sinner like me?
Jesus loves me this I know.
I believed it in my childhood many years ago.
Today I choose to go back a few years.
Removing all the doubts, the questions, the fears.
And believe once more as I did years ago.
Jesus loves me this I know.
LORDSHIP SALVATION AND THE SALVATION OF CHILDREN
John MacArthur’s views on child salvation are of interest because they seem to relate to his understanding of Lordship salvation. On September 25, 1990 at the Calvary Baptist Church in Brewer, Maine (Rev. Larry Pawson, pastor), Dr. MacArthur was involved in a question and answer session which was publicly taped. During that session he said the following about child salvation:
"Now let me say this and I don’t want you to panic when I say it. Saving faith is an ADULT ISSUE. Saving faith is an ADULT EXPERIENCE. Salvation is an ADULT EXPERIENCE. Am I saying that a child cannot be saved? I’m saying that salvation is a conscious turning from sin to follow Jesus Christ with an understanding of something of the sinfulness of sin, its consequences and something of who Jesus Christ is, what He has provided and that I’m committing my life to Him. At what point can a child understand that?...I tell parents that salvation is an adult decision....There is no illustration in Scripture of childhood salvation. There is none. People want to throw in the Philippian jailer and his household; well that’s talking about his servants so there is no reference there about his children. So there is no such thing as a childhood conversion."
In fairness, MacArthur is not saying that a child cannot be saved. But he does seem to be saying that if a child is to be saved he must understand as an adult, make an adult decision and have an adult experience. [The Lord Jesus taught that to be saved adults must become as little children (Matt. 18:3); MacArthur teaches that to be saved children must become as adults.]
How does this relate to Christ's teaching on Lordship? If salvation is by simple child-like faith in the Saviour, then child salvation is no problem. On the other hand, if salvation involves obedience to Christ’s commands, surrendering to Christ’s Lordship, fulfilling the demands of discipleship, commitment of one’s life to the Saviour, etc., then salvation has become a very involved and complicated thing that would not at all be simple for a child to do. If we complicate the gospel with all kinds of Lordship requirements, then we have indeed made it very, very difficult for children (and for adults)! If we proclaim the gospel message that salvation is simply by grace through faith (based upon the Person and work of Christ, not based upon sinful man’s fragile commitment), then this is a message that can be gladly received by people of all ages.
For a more cautious statement on child salvation, see Faith Works, pages 208-210. There John MacArthur says, "Children cannot be saved before they are old enough to understand the gospel clearly and can embrace it with genuine faith" (p. 208). How old does a child need to be before he can understand the gospel as defined by Lordship salvation advocates?
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