Can small children come to Christ to be saved?

jesus_w_children(Christiananswers) Both committed Christians and uncommitted skeptics often wonder whether young children can be genuinely saved. The skeptic questions it because he doubts the reality of salvation for anyone, and especially for those he deems too immature to understand the complex theological issues involved. The sincere Christian parent sometimes wonders because he knows salvation is real, and he is concerned lest his child substitute youthful enthusiasm for genuine conviction and commitment.
Jesus Christ welcomed and blessed children during His incarnate ministry. Mark 10:13-16 reveals an interesting incident involving children.

“And they began bringing children to Him, so that He might touch them; and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw this, He was indignant and said to them, ‘Permit the children to come to me; and do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter in at all.’ And He took them in His arms and began blessing them, laying His hands upon them.”

While some of the children brought to Christ were no doubt too young to understand the significance of their meeting, they could at least feel His warmth and love and thus be favorably disposed toward Him when they grew older. The Greek word used for “children” specifies that these were very young children, so was Christ’s effort in vain? No, for that same Greek word is used in II Timothy 3:15 to state that from earliest childhood Timothy had “known the sacred writings which were able to give (him) the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Jesus Christ.”

Some feel a child has to reach a certain age (often called the “age of accountability”) before he can make any spiritual decisions. Often the age of twelve years is advanced, because of Jewish ceremony which marked the twelfth or thirteenth year. Rather than assigning an arbitrary age, one would be more consistent with Scripture to realize that at whatever age a child is capable of learning simple Biblical truths, at that age he becomes accountable to God for acting on those truths.

Since children are susceptible to pressure from significant adults and peers, care must be taken to insure that their decisions are truly their own. Children can feel intimidated to “walk the aisle” merely to please a parent or to go along with a friend. This can happen without genuine repentance over sin or personal faith in Jesus Christ, amounting to no more than merely going through the motions. However, once a child realizes his sinfulness and responds to that sinfulness in repentance and faith in Christ, he can and will be saved, regardless of his age. Christ’s indignation at His disciples probably came because they thoughtlessly assumed that none of the children could understand.

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