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Can My Infant Child Be Saved? - Comments (19)

Printer Friendly Category: Articles,Doctrine
Author: John Malone
Date: 15th February, 2007 @ 09:29:59 AM

Some friends of mine have a tiny baby in critical condition. The thoughts of loved ones around them have gone to the eternal status of the child.

It’s interesting to me that many people wonder about the state of the child, but often overlook their own state!

But I though perhaps the consideration arises in the minds of many Christians, “Can this child be saved?”

In order to answer that question Biblically, we first must consider what “saved” means. The word always means “delivered” from some peril, whether large or small. In other words, “saved” must always have an object, and so there must be a salvation FROM something.

Therefore, before answering the question, we must know what the child needs to be saved from. Biblically, we immediately think of “sin” and “sins.” If we are not saved from the penalty of sin, we know the consequences are eternal separation from God, and the appropriate punishment for our misdeeds.

Some might say that children are not sinners. This is not true, according to the Bible. Children ARE sinners, even in their mother’s womb. Psalm 51:5 reads, “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.” So this is clear that the nature of “sinner” is the only nature known to us in the womb, except, of course in the miraculous circumstance of the Lord’s birth.

We also know that, although sinners by nature in the womb, babies do not sin in the womb. Romans 9:11 reads “For the children (Jacob & Esau) being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;”Once babies emerge from the womb, they can start sinning, one surmises, at least in thought. Therefore, it is possible to find sins even in very, very young babies.

But an important factor, often overlooked is found in Deut 1: 39: “Moreover your little ones, which ye said should be a prey, and your children, which in that day had no knowledge between good and evil, they shall go in thither, and unto them will I give it, and they shall possess it.”
Apart from the context, we can see the assertion by the Lord that the children of the Israelite exiles from Egypt had not reached a certain state of knowledge concerning good and evil. This condition has come down to us as “the age of accountability.” It’s not a precise age, and has to do with knowledge, but it is certain that a vast number in the wilderness had not reached it.

Religious people have tried to name this age. Jewish religionists (who today are among those who have stumbled by failing to receive the Lord Jesus Christ) attempt to place circumcision as necessary in securing eternal life to children who have not reached this age of accountability.

They have their counterparts in those “Christians” who would require an infant sprinkling, pouring, or immersion for the same purpose.

But what do such rites teach? They teach that without these rites, a child is condemned or consigned to hell when God does not. I remember when I was young, and in a Roman Catholic school, they told us that “unbaptized” infants went to “limbo” which was just like heaven, but without God. Well, I don’t know what I thought then, but today I think anywhere without God is a nasty place indeed! I also know they just made that stuff up.

So, back to the original question: can an infant be saved? Actually the question SHOULD be “Does an infant need to be saved from his sins?” The answer is “no.” He may have them, but God has not imputed those sins to him, until he reaches an age where he knows good and evil: an age of accountability.

I personally agree with Dr. J. Vernon McGee on this point, who said he thought that time was much later than most people have speculated.

In my own case, I received Christ as my Savior by faith when I was 24 years old. I don’t think I had been accountable for my sins very long before that. When I realized my sins were my own responsibility, it scared me seriously, and I was sure glad to discover God’s plan of salvation in the meritorious work of Another.

Comment by Matt Davis » 13th May, 2007 @ 12:41:20 PM

“When I realized my sins were my own responsibility, it scared me seriously…”

So until someone realizes they are responsible for their sins, they are not accountable to God? I know plenty of unbelievers that do not believe they are even sinners in the Biblical sense. Does that mean they haven’t reached the age of accountability?

Even though children do not have the knowledge of good and evil, this does not excuse their sinfulness before a holy God, and therefore, it would follow that they are indeed accountable. I don’t think this is what you are intending to say, but I’m not sure there’s a way around that implication. In other words, I think J. Vernon McGee’s opinion on the age of accountability does attempt to excuse one’s sinfulness.

I do not pretend to understand how election works. But I do believe that God is actively involved in the process of salvation. It is in that that I rest my hope. We can only be saved through an act of God’s grace in our lives. This would include senior adults, children, and the unborn.

Comment by Jerod Santo » 13th May, 2007 @ 10:11:46 PM

“This would include senior adults, children, and the unborn.

I don’t see how one can be born-again having never been born the first time.

Comment by John Malone » 13th May, 2007 @ 10:24:48 PM

Matt, I am just guessing that you are somewhere between the ages of 18-30. This is general the age a male believer is when he gets infected with a Calvinism virus.

The good news is that you can recover.

I did NOT say that if someone does not think they are accountable for their sins, or that they are even sinners, that they are not accountable to God for them.

If you want to argue this matter, at least accept the premise, which is, by the way “Can My Infant Child be Saved?”

Somehow you have convoluted this into the premise of God’s election, which is an especially Calvinistic thing to do, and thus my conclusions about you, right or wrong.

The rest of us, not so blessed with spiritual scope, are limited to what God has said about Himself in these matters, and especially the matter of our sins.

So there is no sense talking about indiviuals, their ages, their dispositions, their accountability – indeed, even their sins – when election is the topic.

After all, God loved Jacob and hated Esau before there was ever any offense, {that election might be election.|Rom 9:11-13}

Let’s deal with election first. There appear to be two time references with respect to election: BEFORE the foundation (or overthrow) of the world, and SINCE the foundation (or overthrow) of the world.

In either case – before or since – there are no infants, no adolescents, no grown men, no human beings alive at all with the time reference of election. So election does not have at all to do with the existence of people. It has to do with God, and Him alone, acting out of Himself.

So why is it even germaine when it comes to discussing giving an account to Him? Right, it’s irrelevant to the discussion. But it is something Calvinists like to say, usually with a special intonation, having demonstrated their mind’s wide grasp of the Entirety of God.

The rest of us only know about God from what He tells us. We do not have our minds wrapped around Him to understand His holiness, before which not a single person can stand, let alone the unjust. Our minds are way too fragile, blinded by sin, and limited.

But election was certainly NOT the topic here, but salvation from sins, and the need for the new birth.

Now, you have failed to distinguish excusing from failure to impute. God never excuses anything. You may also confuse forgiveness and/or judgment for imputation.

No one is going to be punished merely because they sin. They will only be punished once God, the righteous judge, IMPUTES – or reckons, puts to their account – their sins against them. He does that imputation whenever He wants to.

When a man is justified by faith in Christ, God actually has imputed the righteousness of Christ TO them, and so there is no sin nor sins imputed AGAINST them. In other words, that person has only black ink on their ledger.

Now it is you who say that everyone has red ink on their ledger because they have sinned. That is no more true than to say someone has black ink on their ledger because they have not sinned.

Adam had no sins for a certain period of time, and yet did not have any black ink on his ledger, because he was not justified: declared righteous by God, having the righteousness of Christ imputed to him.

I could go on more about this matter of election, but I won’t at this time, except to say I think you are someone who does not have children, and therefore you have not faced this problem in detail.

There is a basis for considering the Lord does not impute sin when there is no consciousness of the sin.

Firstly, the Gentiles are not condemned in Romans for failing in the law given to Moses, because they did not KNOW the law given to Moses: it was not given to them.

Instead, they are condemned because they violate the law written on their heart (mind). This clearly associates sin with knowledge.

Secondly, the Lord told the Pharisees (John 9):

39 … For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind.
40 And some of the Pharisees which were with him heard these words, and said unto him, Are we blind also?
41 Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth.

Comment by Dan Backens » 21st May, 2007 @ 08:23:31 AM

Matt, when someone tells you they don’t believe they are a sinner, in the biblical sense, do you just accept that position? I have always found it easy to show someone they are a sinner. I just point out some of my sins and they find the same things in them. This is what Romans 2 means. Even those to whom the law was not written have knowledge in themselves that they break the law. So when someone says otherwise, they are merely lying, adding another sin from which they need to be saved. I find that to be a good opportunity.

Now, it is true I have met those who do not believe they will be held accountable, but that is an entirely diferent matter. That is John 3:19 – And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.

Comment by Nenad Ikonomovski » 8th July, 2007 @ 01:46:23 PM

Hi John,

Thanks for all your extensive research and articles on various topics. I just discovered your site but am finding that we’re on the same page in many things.
I agree with most of what you said on this topic. I would just like to comment on “So this is clear that the nature of “sinner” is the only nature known to us in the womb, except, of course in the miraculous circumstance of the Lord’s birth.”
From studying the Scriptures and what I believe the Lord has revealed to me while doing so, I think where people get confused is “the sinful nature” vs. sin itself. Everyone born in the flesh (where the sinful nature resides) has the sinful nature, i.e. tendency to want to sin. That would include our Lord Jesus. The main Scripture I base this on is Hebrews 4:15 “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all [points] tempted as [we are, yet] without sin.” If the Lord did not have the sinful nature working within His flesh, His temptation would not be a temptation at all. That is why we believe that He is fully God but also fully man. So, He had to resist that temptation just like any other man that is in the flesh and of course was the only man that was ever completely victorious in resisting sin and never sinning.

Comment by John Malone » 8th July, 2007 @ 02:20:52 PM

I will answer Nenad’s contention with the statement so often told to me by A.E. Wilson, one of the men who helped me a great deal in the ministry in my earlier years. Brother Wilson said: “A diamond doesn’t have to be a piece of glass to be tested.”

Now, what he meant by that was that a diamond is tested to be proven a diamond by placing it under severe presssure that, if were mere glass, would break it to pieces.

And yet, just because glass breaks under that pressure doesn’t mean there is any chance whatsoever a diamond will.

The Lord Jesus was tested, but had absolutely no inclination to sin. He did not pass such tests “by the skin of His teeth,” nor did he have any inclination to sin. The test was the same as the one we fail, and yet there was no chance whatsoever He would fail.

I think I could give hundreds of other examples of such tests, but I think you get the idea.

He’s God Almighty. There is no chance He sins.

If He could have sinned while on earth, He could still sin, and we would have no assurance whatsover. His nature is precisely the same today as it once was.

Comment by Nenad Ikonomovski » 8th July, 2007 @ 02:43:16 PM


As for the age of accountability, I think that it varies depending on the individual and God determines it for everyone individually. I do think, though, that Scripture indicates that it is somewhere around 12-13 years old.
A few of the reasons I believe so is:

1. In Luke chapter 2:
The Lord was 12 years old when His parents found Him in the Temple and Mary asked Him (verse 48) “”Son, why have You done this to us? Look, Your father and I have sought You anxiously.” Of course, here Mary was referring to Joseph when she said “Your father” and to that the Lord responded “Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?”, referring to the Heavenly Father. It is interesting that this is one of the rare events recorded in Scriptures that takes place in the Lord’s life after His infancy and very early childhood and prior to the beginning of His ministry at the age of 30. I believe one of the reasons the Holy Spirit decided to include this in the Scriptures is to show us that at around the age of 12 a child should know who His REAL Father is, i.e. should have been born of the Spirit of God (born again) into the family of God.

2. In Genesis 17:25 we read “And Ishmael his son [was] thirteen years old when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin.” If we read carefully Galatians 4:22-31, we see that Ishmael is a type (symbol) of the carnal nature (flesh), while Isaac is a type of our newly born spirit, which has a covenant with God. So, we see in Gen.17:25 that at the age of 13 Ishmael entered into a covenant with God through circumcision. Of course, this Old Testament requirement (that is supposed to represent entering into covenant with God) is just a type of the real thing that we have access to now, in the New and Eternal Covenant (Testament), and that is being born of the Spirit of God by faith in Jesus Christ.

Comment by Nenad Ikonomovski » 8th July, 2007 @ 02:51:10 PM

Thanks for the quick response. I’m not sure a fully get the diamond analogy. So, does the diamond “feel the pressure” or were all the temptation “a piece of cake” for Him?

To your statement “If He could have sinned while on earth, He could still sin,”

I don’t think this is the case because at His resurrection He received a glorified/immortal body, no longer prone to sin.

Comment by Nenad Ikonomovski » 8th July, 2007 @ 03:58:52 PM

Back to our original topic – my favorite Scriptures are:

Matthew 18:2-3
“Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.”
So, a converted person is like a little child and vice versa.

Matthew 18:10
” Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in heaven their angels always see the face of My Father who is in heaven.”
I believe this to mean that they are blameless before God so the Father’s face is not turned away from their angels.

Matthew 19:14
“Jesus said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”

Comment by Brian Lehmer » 10th July, 2007 @ 11:15:49 AM


Several years ago I worked in metallurgy. One of the things we did frequently to determine the type of an unkown material was hardness testing. When the pressure of the test was applied to a metal its behavior would help us to determine some facts about its nature and therefore to know more precisely what we where dealing with.

It is important to distinguish between the test and the test results. The test always reveals something about the nature of the tested. When you apply a force to a diamond to test its hardness…or cause the diamond to “feel” the pressure of the test… it responds in a manner that reveals it has the nature of a diamond. You don’t question whether the diamond actually felt the force of the test.

The Lord is able to sympathize with our weakness not because he had a similar nature but because he also underwent testing. The result of His temptation however shows us something about His perfect sinless nature.

Christ was not changed after the resurrection – He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. His glorious nature was even unveiled to Peter James and John whilst upon the mount prior to his resurrection.

Hope this helps to clarify the analogy.

Comment by Jerod Santo » 11th July, 2007 @ 07:18:40 AM

One verse that helped me determine if the Lord had a sinless nature or if He simply suppressed it is 1st John 1:5

“This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all.”

Since there is no darkness in Him, it is obvious to me that His temptation was purely external.

Comment by Judith » 26th July, 2007 @ 09:00:27 AM

I agree with the age of accountability (not in a figure though), but wish to add that David did pray to have the ‘sins of his youth’ be forgiven. This implies that even when he ‘unaccountable’ he sinned and wanted those forgiven. This accountability does impede the urgency to spread the gospel. For if you’re to be judged by conscience then a lot of people would be saved outside of the gospel. Could it be that you are condemned even when you don’t know the gospel?

Comment by Ange-Michek » 18th June, 2008 @ 08:16:36 AM

Brothers; I thank you all for your comments concerning the age of child¨s conscience.
i am in Burundi in East africa.I have been strugling with the question of knowing at what age a child is called a sinner.As a preacher and teacher who is passionate with teaching about the grace of God through the accomplished work of Jesus Christ on the cross;I believe that a child is conscious of evil between 6-7 years old.That means that even if a kid is born from a sinful mother as Psalm 51:5 says,he is not accountable of evil before God because he does what he sees around him without knowing whether it is good or evil.But when a child becomes conscious of good and evil which is as researchers heve done between 6-7 years;then he can receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.We need to understand that Adam and Eve before the fall were like little infants,but when they sinned,their spirits right away died.That spiritual death was caused by the knowing of evil.It is the same with kids.When they become conscious of evil from good;they spiritually die and therefore need a savior.However,that is not the case with adults because everyone knows his/her sins even some call them MISTAKES.
I also want to add that even if people are judged by their consciences,there is a need of the spread of the gospel because rebirth does not happen in the conscience or soul,it rather happens in the SPIRIT.People need to know what becomes born again because it is this same spirit which will go to hell if it does not have jesus Christ as lord and Savior.

Comment by Ange-Michel » 18th June, 2008 @ 08:22:06 AM

Just remembering to say that the church of christ needs to be taught the truth about salvation and where it takes.Just defferenciate the Soul and the Spirit.

Comment by Dan Backens » 26th June, 2008 @ 05:09:00 PM


The researchers you referred to, did they take into account what the scriptures say? I understand their point was that children begin to understand right and wrong around the age of 6-7. But I don’t think God agrees with the conclusion you make.

You mentioned Adam and Eve and said they were like infants. Why do you say that? We have no indication of their age, except that Adam had to be less that 130 years old by simple deduction (930 – 800 when Seth was born). But that leaves quite a bit of room. And furthermore, why would they be like infants even if they were only a few years old. They were already fully grown, and Adam seemed to be quite capable since he had already given a name to all living creatures.

But, as John mentioned above, the children of Israel were held accountable at Kadesh-barnea if they were 20 years or older. Those who were younger were actually said to not know good and evil. Surely they had some knowledge, but not enough to be held accountable. So, I put the age much closer to 20 than 7.

And for Judith, I believe the sins David is referring to are probably those he committed as a young man, not as a young child. In any case, he was no longer either when he prayed.

Comment by Alex » 27th May, 2009 @ 01:02:09 PM

So, a baby that is unborn or has died before it can be baptized goes to hell? That’s insane! This poor child that passed away before it was born or due to infantile illness is consigned to hell because….why exactly? That seems immensely unfair and cruel.

Comment by Dan Backens » 29th May, 2009 @ 12:57:44 PM

Alex, the lake of fire (I assumed that’s what you meant when you said hell) was prepared for Satan and the angels that followed him, who openly rebelled against God almighty. It wasn’t created for men at all. But men decided to follow Satan instead of God. God told us not to eat the fruit of the tree of knowlege of good and evil. Eve ate the fruit and gave it to Adam, who also ate it, because Satan told her God was lying. That was sin. And they knew it. That’s why they tried to cover their shame with fig leaves. But instead, God killed an animal and made coverings for them from it’s skin, showing them that blood must be shed for the remission of sins. That blood was a picture of what was to come.

The descendents of Adam (including you and me) all sin against God, just like Adam did. But God provided a sacrifice for all of us, the Lord Jesus Christ, who was God made flesh and had no sin. He died so that my sins could be forgiven. When I believed on Him, I was unconditionally saved from the lake of fire, because His righteousness was imputed to me.

But if I had not believed, there was a time in my life that God still had not yet imputed my sins to my account. So, even though I sinned, I was not going to be cast into the lake of fire. Eventually, when I was much older, I became accountable for my sins. That is what this whole discussion is about.

Infant baptism is a made-up ritual by various religions, but I assure you, it’s a nothing to the child. The child in this account is certainly with God for all eternity.

Comment by Gary Roberts » 9th November, 2011 @ 11:04:00 PM

In relation to the discussion about what happens to a child that dies in infancy.

“All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”
“there is none righteous, no not one.”
” the wages of sin are death.”

You have to do a lot of work to get around these and other like worded statements and unless we are willing to believe that God imputes righteousness apart from faith, then “anyone” that has not placed faith in the finished work of Christ at the cross, will face the eternal judgement of God.

Obviously an infant cannot, neither can a child to young to comprehend. So what about them?

I submit that God, who is infinite in knowledge and understanding, knows not only the things that are and all that will be, but also knows the things that could have been. Every conceivable out come to every conceivable situation.

In Matthew ch. 11:20 Jesus is upbraiding the cities. In vs.s 21 and 23 He makes two statements that support my contention. Basically if the mighty works that Chorazin and Bethsaida witnessed had been seen in Tyre and Sidon those cities would have repented in sackcloth and ashes. The same thing goes for Capernaum vs Sodom.

This is either hyperbole or truth. I believe Christ spoke only the truth. Plainly then God knows the outcome of circumstances that never occurred. Nothing that will happen or could happen is outside the knowledge of God. Is it not reasonable to conclude then, that God knows whether or not one that died at birth or in infancy would respond in faith to His revealed truth? Is He not the judge of the world?
Is he not righteous?

To word it differently: what ever God determines about the eternal destiny of those that die before an age of accountability, will be right. Those who seek to wring from scripture doctrines that it does not teach do a terrible disservice to the truth.

If God did not know that man would fall into sin why would Rev. 13 tell us about the Lamb that was slain from the foundation of the world ? If He knew man would sin before man was created, then He also knows those that will respond to Him in faith before they are born.

Comment by Kevin McGraw » 26th January, 2012 @ 12:50:22 PM

Thank you, Gary. I think your comments hits the nail right on the head…

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