What is the Age of Accountability?

The battle of Little Bighorn occurred in 1876 in eastern Montana, and is commonly referred to as “Custer’s Last Stand”. The battle took place between the U.S. Cavalry and northern tribe Indians, including the Cheyenne, Sioux, and Arapaho. It took less than one hour for the Indians to overcome Custer and his army, killing General Custer in the process. The Battle of Little Bighorn has memorized students and has been the topic of great debate amongst historians for decades. The reason for these debates is that many myths seem to have taken the place of reality. Facts of the battle throughout the years have become blurred.

Details such as how many soldiers were actually killed, where Custer was killed, the size of the Indian brigade, and even what side of the river the battle took place. There are even famous paintings of the battle that continue to be heavily criticized and debated as to the accuracy portrayed by the artist within the canvas. Over time, people have embellished and over exaggerated the events or they have taken away depending on who you are talking with. Indian historians tend to paint Custer and his men in a cowardly light, saying that they eventually began to hide behind the bodies of their dead. Caucasian historians create a different picture, claiming that Custer and his men stood strong until the very end.

This is just on tiny part of our human experience. At times we will take hard facts and manipulate them ever so slightly so that the story bends towards our preference. And we can see this perversion of truth being exemplified weekly in many of our nations pulpits. Some pastors are very obvious with their distortion of the Gospel, leaning towards an extreme prosperity that anyone with basic biblical knowledge would be able to see through. But others tend to only bend the truth ever so slightly, as to make their audiences feel better. This is especially evident when pastors begin to try to explain things about God with absolute authority that God himself never fully revealed in scripture.

“The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.” Deuteronomy 29:29.

In the verse above, God is plainly telling us that there are some things that are secret. Things that were are not meant to know this side of Heaven. Things that we cannot have absolute answers to. So it is wrong of us to try to explain anything other than what God has given us. The Lord goes on to say that “..the things revealed belong to us.”  Everything that God saw fit to reveal to us is included and bound in the Holy canon of scripture! Everything we need to concern ourselves with is within the pages of the Bible. Still, many teachers and preachers fall into the trap of trying to explain the unexplained to their congregations.

And most teachers dont do this with a mindset to out right pervert the scriptures. Most preachers do this to add an element of relief or ease to the minds of their listeners. You see, human nature doesnt like the unknown. We dont like things unresolved, particularly when its dealing with how God relates to us. We want all the answers and we want them now. In all reality, what we would like is to be able to put God in a tiny box so that we could manage him well, and all of his ways were known to us and everything God did was easy on our minds and worked out the way we deemed appropriate.

But our problem is that we cant put God in a box. CS Lewis described God as an untamable lion. In his epic novel, (and now movies) The Chronicles of Narnia, the Lion Aslan in the story is a mirror image of Christ. When speaking of Aslan (or Jesus), one of the characters asked another, “Is he safe?” To which the other character, Mr. Beaver, replied…“Who said anything about being safe? Course he isnt safe! But he’s good. He’s the king I tell you!”

We will never understand all of the ways of God. God fully explaining his ways to us would be like a human trying to explain himself to an ant. Our minds do not possess the capacity to absorb all of the things of eternity. And the unknown, particularly when it pertains to God, can be a scary thing. But regardless of the things that have not been revealed to us, we can always rest in one certainty. That as Mr. Beaver put it, he is not safe and you cant cage Him…but He is good.

We serve a righteous, good God whose depth of love for us we will never be able to comprehend. So in this truth we know that regardless of what we dont know or understand in the ways of God, His ways are always pure and more righteous than our ways and what we think is right within our fallen and depraved human minds.

 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,”declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9.

Job in his great time of suffering was bold (or dumb) enough to challenge God about why things were working out in ways Job did not agree with. Job was basically telling God that the Lord was wrong because God wasnt doing things like Job thought were right. He was basically calling God unfair. And I love the Lords response in Job chapters 42 and 43, wherein God just beraids Job verbally, asking Job if he were there when God created the universe, or nature, or asking Job if he can control the elements like God. In the same way, we have no right to question Gods ways, or to add or take away from them in order to ease the element of unknown. But we are to rest in knowing that Gods ways are always right.

One of the most twisted workings of God that we tend to add to or take away from fall under the headings of salvation. Especially when it deals with our children. We want to ascribe some sovereignty to ourselves and our kids pertaining to their salvation. Among many perversions of scripture, many churches have created this man made doctrine that we often label as, “the age of accountability.”

In this we say that children cannot be saved until they reach this age of accountability and possess the ability to rationalize the Gospel. The only problem is that the scriptures never say that a child nor an adult for that matter can reach an age where he or she can save themselves with a decision. Let me put it this way. I am a minister. My wife and I pray with our children and surround them with the things of God. My seven year old has more scriptures committed to heart than I did until I was in my late 20’s. But just because I am a minister and my kids go to church doesnt save them.

We cannot push or pressure our kids to make a decision for themselves that has nothing to do with us! My childs salvation is between him and the Lord. So as a parent, the best I can do is to surround my children with the kindling of the things of God and pray that one day, the Holy Spirit ignite that in their hearts. My wife and I dont pressure or prod our kids into walking and aisle and praying a prayer. Instead, every night, we pray over them. I pray for each of my boys and I ask God to open their eyes in His perfect timing….and save them. Because I cant do it. It is God who saves, not me.

As for this “age of accountability”, I think we have misinterpreted the doctrine. Yes, I believe there is an age where a child’s mind matures enough to distinguish between evil and the ways of the Lord. And I believe that an infant that experiences death goes on to be with the Lord.

“And the little ones that you said would be taken captive, your children who do not yet know good from bad—they will enter the land. I will give it to them and they will take possession of it.” Deuteronomy 1:39.

But I do not in any way think that their salvation hangs in waiting until the blooming of this age of reasoning within a child or in the childs decision. You see, the story has already been written. But dont take my word for it, let us look to what the Lord has revealed.

“I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning
and from ancient times things not yet done saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,” Isaiah 46:10.

King Nebuchadnezzar said it this way….

“His dominion is an eternal dominion; his kingdom endures from generation to generation. All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: “What have you done?” Daniel 4:-34-35.

Paul writes of God say the same thing to Moses like this…

“I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” Romans 9:15.

And the Psalms put it this way…

“The salvation of the righteous comes from the Lord” Psalm 37:39.

The disciple whom Jesus loved said it like this…..

“Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—  children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” John 1:12-13.

To sum it up, salvation is from the Lord and is a doing of the Lord. The verse above plainly states that a humans decision has nothing to do with salvation. It is not a result of a person or child chosing to grasp theological reasoning. God will accomplish His purposes, and He has long worked out our salvation long before we even thought of Him.

The Apostle Paul said it like this. When he wrote his letter to the Galatians, he reminded them of his former life in which he hated Christians and even killed them. Now we all know Pauls story beginning in Acts chapter 9. Paul didnt reach an age where it all made sense to him. And right in line with the verse above from John, Paul didnt all the sudden decide to follow Jesus. He was in the mind set to kill Christs followers. And what happened? Christ simply revealed himself.

When we point to scriptures that allude to Gods sovereign choice, those that oppose this doctrine have been known to say, “Well if salvation is Gods doing alone and not our choice, then are we not as robots controlled by God?” And the answer is no. You see, God doesnt flip a switch in those whom he wants saved and make them love him with some spell. All God has to do to save a lost man is to simply reveal himself. The revelation of Jesus Christ and who He is to man….when man first gazes upon His beauty and majesty and is pierced by what was done for him on Calvary, God is simply irresistable.

But Paul also said this to the Galatians…..

“But when God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles,” Galatians 1:15-16.

Did you catch that? Gods plan for Paul’s salvation wasnt tied to an age of accountability, but rather…..was sealed into Paul within his mother’s womb. What a testimony to the patience and mercy of God, that he would let us run from Him in rebellion, patiently waiting until the moment He would choose to reveal Himself….and call us by His grace. God had a plan for the life of Paul before he was even born! So do you think that Paul, once blinded by Jesus could have continued to deny Christ? No he couldnt. And here are two reasons why.

First of all, as already stated, God revealed Himself to Paul on the road to Damascus, and the beauty of the Lord Jesus was irresistible. Secondly, if you continue reading Paul’s salvation account in Acts 9, God calls to a Christian man named Ananias to go and pray over Paul. Ananias feared doing this because he had only know Paul as a killer of Christians, but here is what God said of Paul to ease the mind of Ananias…..

“But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel.” Acts 9:15.

The Lord called Paul his “chosen instrument.” Pauls salvation played into the plan of carrying salvation to the Gentiles. And God had this plan worked out from before creation! How sad would it be if God were at the mercy of man’s decision in order for His plans to succeed! God is not at our mercy, he is sovereign, and he is righteous in everything that he does!

The age of accountability did not play into the salvation of John the Baptist. Go read the account. John was actually saved in the womb of his mother Elizabeth!

“When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.” Luke 1:41.

Obviously, no matter if you believe in the sovereignty of God in salvation or not, it is pretty clear that John the Baptist had no power to deny the call of God in the womb!

Another example of this is found in Romans when Paul writes about the birth of Issac’s twins sons Jacob and Esau. As the story goes, Jacob grew up to be a man of God while Esau rebelled from God all of his days. Was this due to the boys making a choice at a young age?

“Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad—in order that God’s purpose in election might stand: not by works but by him who calls—she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” Just as it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” Romans 9:11-13.

Note that Paul writes that even before the twins were born, before they had done anything good or bad, God had deemed salvation to one, Jacob and not the other. It was not the boys who grew up to choose or deny God, but rather the scripture point out that it was the sovereign choice of God that had been determined in the womb!

I once heard a man who didnt believe in God’s sovereignty in salvation say, “If you believe in God’s sovereignty in salvation, then why do you pray for God to save people, because according to you he will save them with or without your prayers!”

But this mans motives for praying for the lost could be challenged as well. If you are a person who doesnt believe in the sovereignty of God and believe that God has given man the freedom to chose or deny him, then in praying for God to save a person, you are actually praying for God to override the free will you defend and take on the sovereign nature in salvation that you say God doesnt possess!

God speaks in the scriptures very much on human responsiblity. We have the freedom of choice in working out our salvation. But not in salvation itself.

“God is calling His people unto Himself.” Micah 3:6-7.

Look at how Jesus describes the salvation process….

“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” John 10:27.

Who are His sheep?

“All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.” John 6:37.

The sheep are all of those since the beginning of time until the end that the Father has given to the Son. The verse doesnt say that “…those the Father gives me MIGHT come if they decide to.” It states an absolute….that they WILL come, and they will NEVER be driven away! Once salvation has come, regardless of our occasional stumbles, a Christian will persevere until the end in Christ. Why?

Because Phillipians 1:6 says that He (that is Jesus) who began a good work in you will finish it!! Once the Father has revealed Himself, you will NEVER be cast away. Salvation cannot be lost, it can only be given from through Jesus as a gift from the Father.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—” Ephesians 2:8.

Again, there is an age of reason in a child wherein the become able to decifer the things of God from those of the world. But salvation is not in their choice. It is a gift from God the Father that is sealed in His adopted children from within the womb. We dont pray to God to get things from Him. We pray to God to commune with Him. We dont preach the Gospel to others in order that we might save them. We preach the Gospel to participate in the great honour of working side by side with our Father.

Missions is not the mindset of, “We need to go preach to these people or they may never get saved!” Rather, mission is God the Father looking at His redeemed children and saying, “Hey, Im going over to this part of the world, and Im going to bring people to salvation. You wanna come to work with your Father today?” And in God being seen as sovereign over salvation, we can rest in knowing that He will accomplish His plans of salvation, and we can do nothing in our own power without our Father. As a child of God, this reality of the grandeur of God should fill our hearts with a comfort and safety of how big our God is. And although at times we may not understand His ways, we do not add or take away from them, because there is no doubt that His ways are greater and more righteous than ours! Praise Him!

Parents, lead your children. Cover them in the knowledge of the Lord. And pray for them each night. Pray over them no matter how old they may be. And commit them to the Lord, and ask Him reveal His irresistible beauty to them in His perfect timing. Ask God to save them, and to begin a good work in them that He promises to carry to completion.

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” Psalm 139:13.

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