God (Jesus) and Little Children
Matt 18:1-6, 10, 14
© Richard Banham
In a continuing effort to deal with the prevalent self aggrandizement in His disciples, (Matt 18:1, 11:25, 20:20, 21, 25, 26, 23:12) Jesus called a little child (Greek: paidion) unto Him sitting him in the middle as an “object lesson.”
He proceeded verbally and visually to instruct them that the attitude for entrance, itself, into the Kingdom of God was the childlike qualities of humility and faith.
He also, in doing so, strongly indicated the disposition of the eternal God toward children who are as yet incapable of understanding the propitiation (Notice, that He initiated the contact with this child.)
In verse six, He indicated that children (in some sense) believe in Him.
In verse ten, He states that their angels do always behold the face of His Father in heaven.
In verse fourteen, He says that it is not God’s will that any of them should perish.
All this would seem to indicate that little children, who have not reached moral accountability are received, not because they are innocent (Ps. 51:5), but because Jesus died for them (1 John 2:2).
Contrary to any false idea of universalism, Paul’s doctrine of God’s judgment on sinful humanity seems to be predicated by some moral understanding of the Divine Nature (Rom. 1:18-21).
Though limited in scope, this moral understanding in all men produces an accountability before God (Rom. 3:19). In Romans 2:15 Paul states that Gods law is written in the hearts of men.
But who then is not accountable? Certainly those who are incapable of making a moral choice are not accountable. This would include the mentally retarded and children before they reach the “age of accountability”. God’s attitude toward those who cannot discern seems to be an attitude of grace (see Jonah 4:11).
That there is a time in life that children become accountable (whatever age that is) is indicated in scripture.
One will notice God’s benevolence toward the children of the children of Israel in the day when their fathers refused to enter the land that He was giving them (Deut. 1:39). Notice that the little ones had no knowledge of good or evil” at that time.
One will also notice that the child born to the “young woman” in Isaiah 7:14-16 developed to an age of knowing to refuse evil and choose good. These illustrate an age of accountability. In the case of the young prophetess’s child it was an unspecified age.
Perhaps the best biblical illustration of God’s redemption to the unaccountable is the story of David’s first child by his adulterous affair with Bathsheba (II Sam. 12:19-23). The child was very sick and David prayed and fasted all night. When his servants advised him that the child died, he washed, anointed himself and changed his clothes. At that time David made a remarkable statement regarding the location of the child.
He said, “…can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.”
It should be carefully noted that David when he died, went to heaven (Ps. 16:10, 11) (Peter also quoted this reference in relationship to the risen Christ in Acts 2:25-35). David knew that he was going to Sheol/Hades (heaven at that time).
Notice that David and Peter differentiated between the “soul” and the “flesh”. David’s baby preceded him to Sheol, the place of consciousness and rest for the righteous departed. David had said that he would be with the child after physical death (“I shall go to him”). God is not the God of the dead, but of the living (Matt. 22:32) (Note Jonah 2:2 in this connection). Though somewhat unclear in the Old Testament, it is obvious that Sheol was a place not only of punishment for the lost (Ezekiel 32:21, Luke 16:23) but a place of bliss for the saved. This would indicate that the baby, who was not accountable, was nevertheless because of God’s grace taken to a place of bliss (Psalm 16:11).
All t his serves to support the nature of the character of God. God judges those that know they are guilty not those who cannot discern good and evil. “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Genesis 18:25b)
Jesus said, “Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not, for of such is the Kingdom of God (Matt 19:14).” To believe and teach that God sends infants who die to hell is an assault against His character.