Can a very young child truly be saved and on his way to Heaven? Can he be in the Kingdom of Heaven here on earth, one of those who is a genuine believer?
A Christian educator has said that the faith of a child up to age 12 could be called a “borrowed faith” –borrowed from his parents or a Sunday School teacher. Then in his early teens would be the time to exercise a “chosen faith.” Then further along, he would move to an “owned faith.”
What I would like to know is, is a borrowed faith a saving faith? Sounds pretty shaky to me. Not something you’d want to put eternal stock into.
Let’s see what Jesus had to say. Matthew 18:1-4 “At that time, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.’”
OK, so the disciples have a different question than I originally posed; they want to know who’s the greatest in the kingdom of Heaven. Jesus calls a little child. Lest you question whether this really is a young child, the Greek word is paidión, which means “little” or “young.” So, he didn’t just call a child, he called a LITTLE child. Now remember, in that culture, a 13 year-old boy enters manhood. Young people were married at 16. So, if they are calling a child little, they mean little.
Jesus didn’t immediately answer the question of greatness. First he said this: Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” So, basically he’s saying, “Guys, before we talk about greatness in the kingdom, let’s start with getting INTO the kingdom. How does one get into the kingdom? Change and become like little children.”
And then he answers their question and says whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of Heaven, but greatness is off our topic. We’re talking about whether a child can believe on his own, be saved from sin, and on His way to Heaven.
Let’s go to Mark 10:13-16. “People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.’ And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.”
How do we receive the kingdom of God like a little child? With simple faith in what Jesus has done for us. Very, simple faith. No little child is going to give you a dissertation on faith.
We adults are to come with the simple faith of a child. So, who’s borrowing who’s faith here? I, the adult, am borrowing the simple faith of a child. I throw away my need to know and explain things well, and just trust Jesus. I’m not saying throw your brains out the window–if you have questions, you can get answers. But when it comes to decision time, the kind of faith that pleases God is the kind that just abandons all and trusts whole heartedly in his ability to take away my sin for me. I’m as helpless as helpless gets!
We can get so immersed in the process of education, that we explain away the Spirit of God, who stirs our hearts to recognize truth and respond to it. He’s not limited by the growth patterns of the human mind and body. The Holy Spirit has power to transform the human spirit in ways we can’t understand or measure.
So, believe the Bible, present the gospel to young children and accept their expression of faith.
For more on the biblical basis of children coming to saving faith, check out the free seminar, Can Children Be Saved? on the online learning management system for Children’s Ministries Institute Online Training Program – Children’s Ministries Institute. It takes five minutes to register and then you have access to a variety of seminars, lessons and courses.