“13 Then little children were brought to Him that He might put His hands on them and pray, but the disciples rebuked them. 14 But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” 15 And He laid His hands on them and departed from there.” – Matt. 19:13-15
It is interesting that Matthew and Mark (Mk. 10:13-16) call the children in these Scriptures “paidion” (young children) while Luke (Lk. 18:15-17) calls them “brephe” (a new born baby). There was probably quite a range of ages represented. The disciples thought it was beneath the dignity of Jesus to be distracted from His more important work by children, so they scolded the mothers who were pressing forward with their little ones.
Mark says that Jesus was indignant with this action of His disciples. Great emphasis is given throughout the Scriptures on the importance of the proper care and training of children, and yet many pastors, like the disciples of old, think it is below their dignity to minister to such. They always want to be delving into the “deep” things of God. Why waste their years of study and training on such simple folk? Relegate the children to those of lesser or no special training!
Both Mark and Luke record the further application which Christ made that unless one receives the Kingdom of God as a little child, he shall in no wise enter in. Because children are of such a trusting nature it is doubly important that they be given God’s truth to believe, and to be protected from false teaching which they would receive with equal readiness. Parents who take the attitude: “I am not going to force my beliefs on my children. I am going to let them grow up and choose what to believe for themselves,” are not only unwise but are definitely disobedient to the Scripture (Prov. 22:6).
There are certain Christian denominations which teach that the Church is spiritual Israel and therefore heir to Israel’s covenants. They believe that the children who are members of their church family are children of the covenant and therefore have a special relationship to God which other children do not enjoy. They believe baptism has taken the place of circumcision, so that at baptism the infant is regenerated as a child of the covenant. Some call this “presumptive regeneration,” that is, they presume the child is regenerate until later in life the contrary becomes evident. Thus, churches become filled with young people who presume they were regenerated at baptism but are in fact un-regenerated. Regeneration takes place only in association with personal faith in Jesus Christ.
The logical conclusion of infant baptismal regeneration is that unbaptized children are lost and if they die in an unbaptized state, they will be forever separated from God. Rome tries to mitigate this harsh doctrine by teaching that such infants do not actually go into the fires of hell but are confined to a place called “limbus infantium,” forever shut out from heaven.
Much confusion and harm has been done by a failure to distinguish between Israel and the Church of this dispensation, and the relation of people to the covenants of Israel. Baptism never took the place of circumcision in New Testament times. Both were practiced concurrently by the believing Jews. No child is regenerated by baptism. Children are born with a sinful nature and need to be saved as they become able to personally receive Christ as their Savior. They need the redemptive work of Christ the same as an adult. And on the basis of that redemptive work, God is now free in His elective purposes to apply that work to any and every infant that He chooses to remove from this life in infancy. But God has not set an age of accountability, so that we can say, the child is covered by the work of Christ until he is six or twelve years of age. That age may differ widely with different individuals. We cannot begin too early to tell our children the story of God’s great love and grace in giving the Lord Jesus to die for our sins.