Calvary Road Baptist Church

“ON THE SALVATION OF CHILDREN”

 

Having wrapped up our annual Vacation Bible School last night, I thought it appropriate for me to bring to you a message this morning titled “On The Salvation Of Children.” However, before doing anything it is important that we arrive at an understanding of concepts to avoid the possibility of meaning entirely different things when we use the same words.

First, of course, there is this word salvation. By salvation I refer to the all-encompassing work whereby the Triune God delivers a sinner from the just consequences of his sins. It is the gracious rescue by Jesus Christ the Son of God of someone from his sins who is both helpless and hopeless.[1],[2] Of course, such a rescue, such a salvation, becoming a real Christian, forever alters a person’s eternal destiny. And none of us wants to see any child grow up only to spend eternity in the lake of fire. This brings us to what is meant by children. Of course, we can agree on who a kid is. We can all point out a kid at a distance. On that there is no confusion. The confusion comes in when we begin to compare our understandings of precisely what that child is. And the differences are frequently illustrated at the grocery store. We have all seen the kid with his mom in the checkout line who wants candy and begins to throw a temper tantrum when mom says “No.” However, we pay little attention to the mom and her kid in the next line. That second kid wants candy just as badly as the first kid, but he would not dare throw a tantrum in the grocery store. How do you explain the differences between those two kids who are the same age? There is no difference with respect to their mother’s love. There is no difference with respect to their mother’s attentiveness. There are no other appreciable differences with the two children, meaning one of them is not a genius and the other is not intellectually limited. The difference lies solely (for the purposes of my illustration), in the mother’s perception and resulting treatment of her child. The two kids are not raised the same way by their two mothers. The second mom sees her child as a human being with a strong will that she must train in order for her child to have any hope of possessing enough self discipline as an adult to cope with the challenges of life. The first mom, however, sees her child in terms of freeing her child to say just about anything he wants to say, to do just about anything he wants to do without correction, because of her understanding that all but the most necessary restraints and restrictions imposed upon a child are harmful to his development.

Several weeks ago C. R. Rigali, Carlos Gonzalez, and Daniel Arnold accompanied me to a Monrovia Chamber of Commerce meeting in which one of the other attendees, a psychologist specializing in early childhood development, made an interesting remark about children who she described as being “potty learned.” She went on to point out that among professionals the notion of “potty training” is viewed as obsolete because children are not, as she carefully pointed out, animals in need of training but human beings in need of learning. Her stupid and ignorant comment was yet another illustration of the dramatic shift that has taken place with respect to understanding children, who used to be seen by their parents as human beings who needed to be trained to meet the coming challenges of adulthood, and whose training might be enhanced by such helpers to one parent as the other parent, pastors, grandparents, teachers, and others, but whose training in the final analysis was the mutual responsibility of both parents. Not so anymore.

Some years ago I attended city council meetings in three different municipalities in which police officers from three different jurisdictions conducted Power Point presentations in which each officer insisted that the rearing of all children was the combined responsibility of parents, school teachers, and police officers; each forming one side of a so-called triangle of success for raising children. Not one of the police officers attempted to justify the nonsense he spouted by referring to any source authorities. As recently as fifty years ago no police officer in the United States would have dreamed of such an absurd concept for fear of the massive blow back that would be generated by parents when they heard such ridiculous nonsense. Even so, the vast majority of parents these days no longer see their children as charges to be raised and prepared for adulthood, but as burdens to be endured. Used to be children were not even admitted to school until after their parents had first taught them to read. We were a better educated nation in those days. Now days teaching children is the last thing most parents think about, with most moms and dads content to conclude that they are accomplished as parents if they have provided television, video games, computers, and after school soccer, football, or baseball leagues for their kids to play in. Perish the thought of teaching the family’s history, our nation’s history, Christian history, or the principles of Americanism or religious liberty to your children. Then there is training kids how to work and how to handle money, how to open and maintain a savings and checking account. What parents these days even bother to teach their children right and wrong? Instead, most parents simply (and usually mindlessly) do little more than reinforce what their kids bring home from school. The teacher says your boy has ADHD? Well, that settles it then, doesn’t it? What your kids will soon be bringing home from school is same sex marriage, sexual identity confusion, and who knows what else? All of this because of the vacuum created by parents who no longer see their children as their responsibility. That is what produces such nonsense as the 22-year old college coed who blew the $90,000 her grandparents left her for her college tuition when they died and who now blames her parents for what she did because they supposedly did not teach her how to handle money while growing up. Check that story out on the Internet.[3]

The reason for this type of nonsense is that there has been a significant change in the thinking of parents over the years concerning what a child actually is. Used to be children were their parent’s kids. Now children belong to everyone, supposedly, meaning they belong to no one. As well, most people these days have uncritically adopted the notion that life consists of three phases. There is childhood, adolescence, and then adulthood. Really? Says who? As recently as the 20th century no one imagined anyone’s life to have any more than two phases, childhood and adulthood, with childhood very differently understood then than now. Adolescence, you see, is a recent invention of psychologists that pretends legitimacy because it rides piggy back on the visible biological changes associated with puberty. Adolescence is thought by secular humanists to be that time in a person’s life when he is granted adult privileges while having to deal with no adult responsibilities. Sex without marriage (everyone does it, right?), room and board without paying for it (what will you do, kick them out and make them homeless?), and the list goes on. I am sorry, but I think such an approach is insanity. Childhood, reaching into the teen years, is rightly that time in life when parents are supposed to train their children to handle adult responsibilities even when their kids do not want to be so trained.

Allow me to back that up with scripture:

 

Proverbs 22.6: “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”

 

Deuteronomy 6.4-7: 4    Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD:

5    And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.

6    And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart:

7    And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.

 

Thus, we now have a working knowledge of two things related to the title of my sermon “On The Salvation Of Children.” First, salvation has to do with Jesus Christ, the Son of God, rescuing a helpless sinner from his sins. Next, children are those not yet adults who the Bible indicates parents are commanded to train, with training understood to be very hard work and requiring diligence.

Where does the salvation of your child’s soul and your responsibility as a mother or as a father come together? Are the two in any way related? Will your approach to raising your child have any bearing on whether your youngster ends up in heaven or in Hell? Those are questions to address at another time. For the present please allow me to set before you who love your children and are concerned for their eternal and undying souls three important considerations to offset the bill of goods you have been sold:

 

First, CONSIDER THE REASONS YOUR CHILD NEEDS CHRIST

 

I submit to you that your precious little boy or girl, despite the fact that he or she is still a youngster, needs Jesus Christ. And when I say needs Jesus Christ, I mean your youngster needs to know Jesus Christ in a personal and soul saving way. There are two reasons for emphasizing this important reality:

First, every child needs Christ because of his position. What do I mean by that? I mean by that that you and I, and that man and this woman, and your son or daughter, are each a direct biological descendant of the first man, whose name was Adam. He was the head of our race, the human race, and when he sinned his problem with God became his children’s problem with God, and their children’s problem with God, and so on and so forth down to your child’s problem with God. Even more troublesome, however, is that God’s problem with Adam became God’s problem with his children, and God’s problem with their children, and so on and so forth down the line of human heredity to God’s problem with both you and your child. Quite apart from anything you have ever said or done, the fact that you and your child are descendants of Adam means God has a problem with you. And it’s a very serious problem. Explaining this problem to his Roman readers, the Apostle Paul wrote these words in Romans 5.12: “. . . by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men. . . .” In Romans 5.17 he goes on to write, “. . . by one man’s offence death reigned by one. . . .” Then, in Romans 5.19 we read, “. . . by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners. . . .” We can tell by the fact that every human being eventually dies that this problem God has with us is a universal problem that affects every member of the human race. You might not like this reality, but consider someone born in Russia. What did he do to be born in Russia? Nothing. However, the fact that he is Russian-born means he is an enemy of Ukraine, according to all Russians and also according to all Ukrainians. It was a situation he was born into. It is not a matter of fairness, but it is a matter of reality. In like manner, to be born of the race of Adam means you are born a sinner. The same is true of your child.

However, it is not position alone that is the problem. Every child needs Christ, as well, because of his disposition. We oftentimes describe children as sweet little innocents, but are they really? There is no doubt that they are cute, and precious, and lovable, and adorable. No one would deny that. However, what about when little ones are cranky, or tired, or don’t get their way? Can they not sometimes be angry, be furious, be demanding, and be indignant? Have we all not seen children who are outrageous? Consider God’s appraisal of children as the One who looks upon each person’s heart.[4] Psalm 58.3 informs us that children go spiritually astray as soon as they are born, speaking lies. Who has not picked up a baby who pretends to be hungry but in reality only wants to be held? No one taught that infant the art of deception. It is inborn. True, sometimes bad neighborhood children do influence a kid to do wrong in a way he never before imagined, but many childhood sins are committed without being taught by anyone. I am thinking now of the young girl I once knew who murdered her infant brother to see what it felt like. It is clear that while children are not equally sinful, God’s Word does reveal that even children are sinful by nature as well as by practice, and are sinners by position as well as by disposition. The tragedy of sinfulness, of course, is that the wages of sin is death, spiritual death, and eternal separation from God. Therefore, every child, including your child, needs to be rescued from, delivered from, forever saved from, his sins. And since no one can save himself from his sins or from his sinfulness, it is imperative your child be saved from his sins by Jesus Christ, the only Savior of sinful souls. Because your child is a human being descended from Adam your child is a sinner, by nature as well as by choice. And because your child is a sinner your child needs Jesus Christ. There are no two ways about it.

 

Next, THE REASONS YOUR CHILD CAN HAVE CHRIST

 

What parents think children really are is so important. Some parents think kids are innocent and not sinful at all, so they believe there is no need for their children to be in church, to be told about their sins, and to be told about the Savior. Other parents, even parents whose kids regularly attend church, for some reason think their kids are incapable of becoming Christians because it is something that only happens to adults. Granting that children are not adults, that they have limited information and experience, there are still certainties every mom and dad need to be aware of:

First, your child does possess the mental faculties required for saving faith in Christ. It is obvious that infants and toddlers do not comprehend much, but this is primarily because of their limited vocabulary rather than any limitation of their mental faculties or intelligence. The most important aspect of thinking is known to be vocabulary, which is why it is so important for mothers to almost continually talk to their children from the time they are born. Children whose mothers talk to them and read to them develop a large vocabulary and learn most things much earlier in life than children who sit in front of a television set. To be sure, maturity and the ability to understand is partly the result of how old a child is, but there are many examples of youngsters who were four and five years old when they understood the gospel well enough to recognize their own sinfulness and need of Christ, coming to the Savior by faith even at that young age.[5]

Next, your child does possess the spiritual faculties required for saving faith in Christ. What spiritual faculties are required for faith in Christ? Death, spiritual death. Sinners are born dead in trespasses and sins according to Ephesians 2.1. However, the Bible declares that faith comes by hearing the Word of God preached, Romans 10.17. Second Corinthians 4.13 shows the Spirit of God is the Author of faith. And Ephesians 2.8-9 shows that faith is a gift given by God so that sinners can be saved. Therefore, if your child comes under the preaching of the gospel of God’s grace in Christ it is clearly possible that your child will come to faith in Christ just as would any other sinner who sits under the gospel, since the new birth is a miracle be it the new birth of your child or the new birth of an adult.

Third, your child does possess the emotional faculties required for saving faith in Christ. To be sure, most unsaved children have no interest in the things of God or in the salvation of their own souls. However, that has little to do with anything since it is the parents to whom God has given the holy obligation and responsibility to tend to the spiritual needs of their children by praying for them, by teaching them Bible truths, and by bringing them to church with them to hear the gospel. One would expect that if the church is a gospel preaching church (and most are not) and the Spirit of God is at work the child will very much be initially opposed to going to church. This is because there is a natural animosity toward the things of God by any unsaved person, child or adult. This is understood. However, combined with the prayers and home instruction of godly parents, children are wooed by the Spirit of God under the teaching and preaching of the gospel. So long as the impact of the truth is not negated by the unbelief of parents at home, or by criticism of gospel truth by unsaved parents, there is every reason to expect children to become open and receptive to gospel truth. Such was the reaction to children in Mark 10.14 when the Savior said, “Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.” It is when parents and other adults embrace the crazy notion that children do not have sins they need to be convinced of by the Spirit of God, or that there is some remedy for sins (even for children) other than the forgiveness that only Christ provides, that children wrongly conclude they are somehow exempted from the demands of the gospel. God please deliver us from parents and other adults who respond to children’s fears for their sinfulness and their need to be saved by saying something like, “There, there. It will be okay. Nothing to worry your little heart about. Go back to bed like a good girl.” When troubled by the Spirit of God in the night like young Samuel was, godly parents would do well to gently lead their troubled child to a consideration of Jesus Christ.[6] “Pastor, I don’t know how to do that?” That is why we are here for you.

 

Finally, THE REASONS MANY CHILDREN DO NOT COME TO CHRIST

 

Allow me to focus on those issues that affect the proper use of means in bringing unsaved children to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, simple things to ponder so God can easily and effectively deal with your child about spiritually important matters:

First, many children are never exposed to the gospel of God’s grace in Christ. In a most important passage in Paul’s letter to the Romans concerning the things that simply must happen for a sinner to be saved from his sins, we read this challenging question in Romans 10.14: “. . . how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard?” Moms and dads? This is the question I would put to you. How will your precious child believe in Jesus Christ if that child has never heard of Him? And by heard of Him, I refer to more than just hearing Jesus Christ’s name or hearing about Him in passing. I refer to the presentation of Jesus Christ, the only Savior of a sinful person’s eternal and undying soul, to someone who is understood to be both immature and highly distractible; presenting Christ in such a way that your child hears, understands, grasps the importance of the issue he is being confronted with, and trusts Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of his sins. Children are so very distractible, so profoundly ignorant and lacking of experience, that they not only need repeated exposures to the gospel of Jesus Christ, but they are also greatly encouraged by the complete endorsement of the message of salvation they are told by those they love and trust, namely mom and dad and grandma, and so forth. Thus, when daddy is in favor, when mommy is in favor, when older brother is in favor, when grandmother is in favor, and when the beloved Sunday School teacher is in favor, then it is somewhat more likely that the admittedly sinful child will carefully consider the claims of Jesus Christ.

Next, many children are misled by people in the churches they grow up in. Read the Bible, especially the New Testament, and find for me an example of a sinner who comes to faith in Christ without experiencing some sort of personal crisis. This is because the Holy Spirit of God brings a sinful person he is dealing with to the conclusion that he is not only spiritually dead, but also guilty in the sight of God and deserving punishment for sins. In short, God brings a sinner to the end of himself to bring him to Christ. Of course, this is heart-rending and quite an emotional time. But you hardly ever see it anymore. It is not what is typically presented in most modern ministries or when dealing with most children these days. This is because of the influence of two 19th century figures, Charles G. Finney and Horace Bushnell, who did an incredible amount of damage while posing as spiritual leaders.[7] Finney forever changed the way evangelism is done in the United States, while Bushnell forever changed the way children are dealt with in Sunday School in the United States, both with catastrophic effects. Parents, beware of any ministry that convinces children they love Jesus before they are converted to Christ. The reality is that no one who is dead in trespasses and sins really and truly loves Jesus Christ, and any ministry that teaches unsaved children that they love God and that they love the Savior before they are saved from their sins is a ministry to run from as being dangerous to your child’s soul. Frequently, ministries affected by Finney and Bushnell are characterized by an approach to children that is perfunctory and does not seriously address each person’s sinfulness. This can be seen when children and parents are misled into thinking a child is typically converted apart from any serious conviction of sin and with little more than prompting him to close his eyes and repeat the words of a simple prayer as sufficient to be saved.[8]

Finally, many children are raised by Christian parents who neutralize the gospel message. Having been in the gospel ministry for almost forty years, allow me to offer personal opinions at this point regarding some of the things I have observed that I think even Christian parents and grandparents do that inadvertently diminish the impact of the gospel in the lives of their unsaved children: First, when parents badmouth or in some way denigrate the gospel minister. Keep in mind that the person who brings the saving message has to possess credibility with his audience. He has to be believable. Though no gospel preacher is without personal flaws and defects, he must be perceived by those he would reach with the gospel message as genuine, as sincere, and as something other than a religious hypocrite. What happens, then, when the gospel minister is criticized, when his wisdom is challenged, or when he is mocked and ridiculed by Christian parents or grandparents in front of children who depend on him for gospel truth? They have doubts. They have reservations. They may like the pastor, but they wonder about him and hold back. One unsaved father does more to consign his children to Hell than just about anything else, with a foolish Christian mom or dad coming in a close second for the damage that can be done. Second, when parents make and execute plans without consideration for God’s dealings in the life of one of their kids. I do not know how many times I have seen a youngster come under serious conviction of sin when school is out, only to have the parents take the whole family on vacation or lose the kid over the next weekend on a visit to the cousins. Then, when the kid comes back from vacation or from the weekend with granny she is as cold as ice and no longer interested in the gospel. My suggestion is that everything a family does when they have unsaved children should be subject to God’s dealings with that child. After all, salvation from sins is all about eternity, not just a week’s vacation. Is the kid under conviction? Cancel the getaway! Third, how parents prepare the entire family for worship on Sunday. You see, preparation actually begins on Saturday. So, what happens on Saturday? Is the last thing watched before bed some zombie film, or video games until 2:00 AM on Sunday morning? Do the kids get enough sleep Saturday night, or are they sleepy at church and fight to stay awake during the Sunday morning message? Do they get a good breakfast before church? Are church clothes set out Saturday night, or is there is last minute rush to get clothes Sunday morning? I think parents should be careful to establish a routine that is well-ordered and planned out without seeming to be like a military regimen. If you can get well-rested, properly fed, appropriately attired, and prayed for children to church without a fight you go a long way toward helping them spiritually. Just make sure that your after church time on Sunday afternoon does not lock your kid into something that completely eliminates any possibility he can reflect on the message from God’s Word and how it applies to him. Do you really need to watch a football game on Sunday afternoon? Really? Think about the effect of what you do on your child. Fourth, think about where you live. Do you really need to live as far from church as humanly possible? Does where you live take you out of the midweek service? Does where you live remove your youngster from interaction with other kids of Christians in your church? What about if you live this far away, and your child grows up and then lives this far away from you, placing him this far away from church? Should such things be a consideration? I think so. I have never in my Christian life lived farther than two miles from the church. And that was intentional. Think about it.

 

Moms and dads, your children are precious gifts from Almighty God. That said, they are still sinners in need of the Savior. Therefore, they need ongoing exposure to the saving gospel message and good reinforcement from you and the rest of the family. If the family is unaware of the need to reinforce what you are doing to see your child come to Christ, sit them down and tell them what you expect from them. Will there be some resistance? Possibly. Paul informs us in Romans 1.31 that there are some who are without natural affection, which is to say they are missing the deep love and concern they ought to have for children that causes them to go the extra mile for the sake of the children. However, your presence here today shows that is not you.

This morning’s message is all about the salvation of your child, dealing with some very practical issues. Your child’s sins being forgiven will not come about by accident. Neither is it automatic. It will be the result of a collaborative effort of dedicated moms and dads making use of others who are also committed to seeing their child come to Christ. That collaborative effort comes into sharp focus here in the church house on Sundays. Our commitment is to you and to your children. As the Savior said, “Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.”



[1] Romans 5.6; Ephesians 2.12

[2] Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology, Vol. VII, (Dallas, TX: Dallas Seminary Press, 1948), pages 273-274, summarizes salvation: The Greek for salvation, swteria, is used about fifty times in the New Testament. It refers to the estate of one who has been made whole.

1. SCOPE. The general doctrine of salvation includes the following lesser dogmas: substitution, redemption, reconciliation, propitiation, conviction, calling, election, predestination, sovereignty, free will, grace, repentance, faith, regeneration, forgiveness, justification, sanctification, preservation, and glorification.

2. THE WORK OF GOD. Two Old Testament passages indicate that “salvation belongeth unto the LORD” (Ps. 3:8), “salvation is of the LORD” ( Jonah 2 :9). Any system which tends to combine human responsibility with this divine undertaking is wrong. Ephesians 2:8-10 relates good works to salvation wrought by grace as an effect thereof, and not a cause.

3. THREE TENSES. Salvation has reference to the believer’s past, present, and future. (a) The past tense, which releases from the guilt and penalty of sin, is wholly accomplished for all who believe at the time when they believe (Luke 7:50; 1 Cor. 1:18; 2 Cor. 2:15; 2 Tim. 1:9). (b) The present tense, which releases from the power of sin, is being accomplished now in those who exercise faith for it (John 17:17; Rom. 6:14; 8:2; Gal. 5:16; Phil. 2:12-13). (c) The future tense releases from the very presence of sin (Rom. 13:11; Eph. 5: 2 5-2 7; Phil. 1:6; 1 Pet. 1:3-5; 1 John 3:1-2).

4. ONE CONDITION. About 115 passages condition salvation on believing alone, and about 35 simply on faith. There are certain things, however, often added by man to this one and only condition, like the following: believe and repent, believe and be baptized, believe and confess sin, believe and confess Christ publicly, believe and promise a better manner of life, believe and pray for salvation.

5. DISPENSATIONAL ASPECTS. A study of this division of the subject is best approached by considering the revealed purposes of God in each of the various dispensations. The present age-purpose as manifested in the heavenly people, for instance, calls forth an exalted, divine undertaking not seen before on the earth (Eph. 3:1-6) .

6. RELATIONSHIPS, FACTORS, AND FORCES. Note in particular: (a) the work of the Father in salvation, (b) the work of the Son in salvation, (c) the work of the Spirit in salvation, (d) salvation in its relation to sin, (e) Satan’s opposition to salvation, (f) salvation or deliverance out of the world, (g) salvation from the flesh, and (h) salvation in relation to heaven....

7. DURATION. There is no salvation offered under grace which stops short of being eternal in its character. This is due to the fact that it proves to be altogether a work of God, and His purpose and power never fail (Phil. 1:6).

[4] 1 Samuel 16.7

[5] James Janeway and Cotton Mather, A Token For Children + A Token For The Children Of New England, (Morgan, PA: Soli Deo Gloria Publications combined & revised, 1994), pages 10-13, 14-19, 20-21, 26-28, 104

[6] 1 Samuel 3.1-20

[7] Read Henry Christoph’s introduction in Janeway and Mather, pages viii-xvi.

[8] Sadly, many children are urged to ask Jesus into their hearts despite the following verses showing where the Savior is at present: Psalm 16.11; 110.1; Matthew 26.64; Mark 12.36; 14.62; 16.19; Luke 20.42; 22.69; John 3.13; 13.1; 14.2-4; Acts 2.33, 34-35; 7.56; Romans 8.34; Ephesians 1.20; 6.9; Colossians 3.1; Second Thessalonians 1.7; Hebrews 1.3, 13; 8.1; 9.24; 10.12-13; 12.2; 1 Peter 3.22; Revelation 19.11


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pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org