Is It Well With the Child?
by Dennis Michelson
II Kings 4:26
Introduction: In this message we deal with the issue of the eternal destiny of those who cannot believe. It is clear from Scripture that those who will not believe suffer eternal separation from God and loved ones who are in heaven.
But what about those who cannot believe? Spurgeon said, "It has been wickedly, lyingly, and slanderously said of Calvinists, that we believe some little children perish. Their charge is false and they ignorantly misrepresent us. They wickedly repeat what has been denied a thousand times.
As for modern Calvinists, I know of no exception but we all hope and believe that all persons dying in infancy are elect . . .we have never imagined that infants, dying as infants, have perished, but we have believed that they enter the paradise of God."
I wish to deal with what we will call infants and the infantile. We know that Christ died for all who believe but did He also die for those who cannot believe? In order to answer this question, one must wrestle with three other crucial questions: the sin question, the sun question, and the Son question.
1. The Sin Question: Those Who Cannot Believe
"For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive" - I Corinthians 15:22
All of Adam's posterity, whether infant or adult, were represented by him - he stood for them all, he fell for them all, and when he fell the entire human race fell. There are no exceptions! In an effort to deal with this unpleasant truth some have resorted to less than biblcial notions to tackle the "sin question."
Some say that infants and the infantile are innocent. Since they have committed no personal acts of sin then the effect of Adam's fall is of no consequence to them personally. They deny the fallen nature of man. In this respect they join the ancient Pelagians, modern psychology, and liberal religion.
When David said "Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me", he was not saying that his mother had a problem - the problem was his! We are all by nature children of wrath.
Some say that infant baptism makes them children of God. This is sadly believed by many in the Roman Church as well as some Protestant groups. Baptism is for believers - not babies. A baby cannot believe and baptism only makes the child a wet sinner.
Some say that the infant children of the faithful are to be distinguished from the infant children of the unfaithful. This again is a sincere effort to avoid the consequences of the sin question. However, God does not bless sincerity - He blesses Truth.
A preacher was recently asked by Larry King about the eternal destiny of infants who were crushed beneath the rubble of the World Trade Center. The preacher's reply was "instant heaven." This is what we believe but on what ground do we believe that children can be saved, given their sin nature and inability to believe?
Please note these three important points:
(1) Just as we know all who believe are elect then all who cannot believe are elect (note: not those who will not believe but those who cannot believe).
(2) All who cannot believe are redeemed by the blood of Jesus.
(3) All who cannot believe are regenerated and instantly made fit for heaven upon their death.
Consider the case of King David as he stands over the body of his dead infant child -
"But now he is dead, wherefore should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me." (II Samuel 12:23) Where did David expect to go? Why is this scene different than when David stood over the body of his dead son Absalom. He did not say then "I will go to be with him" but rather, "O my son, would to God I had died for thee." The infant could not believe - Absalom did not believe.
Consider Ezekiel 16:21 -
"That thou hast slain my children, and delivered them to cause them to pass through the fire for them." God calls them "my children."
Deuteronomy 1:39 -
"Moreover your little ones, which ye said should be a prey, and your children, which in that day had no knowedge between good and evil, they shall go in thither, and unto them will I give it, and they shall possess it." Consider the implication between those who were held responsible and those who were not.
What about those who can discern between good and evil?
2. The Sun Question: Those Who Can Believe
"For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse." (Romans 1:20)
There is no age of accountability given in the Bible but there is a stage of accountability. This is when one looks at the creation and knows there is a Creator. Read Psalm 19:1-4.
Everyone - with the exception of the infantile - will come to a point where they have the capacity to believe. Jonah 4:11 identifies those who cannot believe even though they may not be infants. God wisely revealed a stage of accountabilty and just as wisely withheld an age of accountablity. When a person reaches this stage then he becomes accountable to God for the light of creation and conscience.
Editorial comment: After almost 40 years of struggling and studying on this subject I have an opinion as to when a child reaches a stage of accountability. When a child reaches the point where they sense some shame of being naked and begin to show a sense of natural modesty then they have reached (or are close to) the point where they can distinguish between right and wrong.
When a person reaches this stage (whenever it may be) then he must deal with the third and final question:
3. The Son Question: Those Who Must Believe
If you have understood what you have heard to this point then you bear more responsibility and accountability than those who have been mentioned. God has dealt with the "sin" question at the Cross and now you face a "Son question." What will you do with Jesus. This is more than creation. More than conscience. This is a question about Christ.
Conclusion: I want to offer three closing observations which are directly related to the subject of this message.
(1) This doctrine should be a great comfort for bereaved parents of small children. From a biblical perspective it is easier to carry a dead cross than a live one. An infant in the grave is better than a rebel at your table.
(2) We sorrow not as others which have no hope. You will never know what sorrows you and your little one escaped.
Short was my life, the longer is my rest
God takes those soonest, whom He loveth the best
Who's born today, and dies tomorrow
Loses some hours of joy, but years of sorrow
Other diseases often come to grieve us
Death strikes but once, and does relieve us.
(3) If you have children in heaven then you will never see them again unless YOU have answered the Son question.