Reformed Baptist Fellowship

Letter to a friend about Matt 19.14 and infant salvation

In Reformed Baptist Fellowship on February 15, 2011 at 8:30 pm

Dear Friend,

Recently you cited Matthew 19.14, if I did not misunderstand you, as evidence that all infants who die in infancy go to heaven. I have written this letter to help you understand this verse more clearly. It reads,

But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.

This verse has been often misunderstood and misused. For example, those who argue for infant baptism appeal to it without any justification whatsoever. Spurgeon commented on it,

We know this text is constantly used as a proof of baptism, but in the first place, Christ did not baptize them, for “Jesus Christ baptized not;” in the second place, his disciples did not baptize them, for they withstood their coming, and would have driven them away. Then if Jesus did not, and his disciples did not, who did? It has no more to do with baptism than with circumcision. There is not the slightest allusion to baptism in the text, or in the context.

However, Spurgeon immediately falls into essentially the very same error when he went on to state his belief that this verse proves infant salvation.

However, it does prove this, that infants compose a great part of the family of Christ, and that Jesus Christ is known to have had a love and amiableness towards the little ones (both quotes from a sermon entitled, “Infant Salvation,” MTP #411).

I acknowledge Spurgeon’s greatness while denying his infallibility. To use Spurgeon’s language, “there is not the slightest allusion to infant baptism or infant salvation in the text, or in the context.” As an aside, if we Baptists believed that infants are all saved, then we can hardly object consistently to their baptism also, since that ordinance properly belongs to all whom we can reasonably believe are saved.

These interpretive mistakes greatly obscure the true and real meaning of what Jesus said on that occasion. Both paedobaptists and Spurgeon are guilty of “eisegesis,” of reading into a text of Scripture something that is not found in it, whereas we are called to “exegesis,” drawing out of a text what really and truly is there, refusing to corrupt it with our own ideas or to press it into the service of a doctrine which the Holy Spirit never intended it to teach.

Like Spurgeon, we are all naturally attracted to the idea of infant salvation. We would all like to think it could be known as true that all who die in infancy go to heaven. Spurgeon admits his predisposition for the idea in these words:

“Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings hath God ordained strength,” and does not that text seem to say that in heaven there shall be “perfect praise” rendered to God by multitudes of cherubs who were here on earth—your little ones fondled in your bosom—and then suddenly snatched away to heaven? I could not believe it of Jesus, that he would say to little children, “Depart, ye accursed, into everlasting fire in hell!”

To answer his first rhetorical question, “No.” Whatever that text may “seem to say” to Spurgeon, we know absolutely for sure that it does not say that “your little ones fondled in your bosom” and “suddenly snatched away” in their infancy will be “cherubs” (i.e., angels) in heaven rendering perfect praise to God. Spurgeon has made a great leap away from the text by saying so. He has leaped into the chasm of human speculation unwarranted by the Word of God. This is always dangerous, and explicitly forbidden by Scripture.

The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law (Deut 29.29).

Spurgeon used this very verse to rebuke those who imagined a “larger hope,” that is, a hope that more people will be saved than those who believe the gospel.

Brethren, the legatees in Christ’s will [those due an inheritance] are those who come and accept his atonement. There is nothing in Christ’s will for any person who will not trust his blood. I know of no mercy under heaven for any man who, knowing of the atoning sacrifice, willfully puts it away. Certain teachers talk about a “larger hope.” I read nothing of this fancy in the Scriptures, and I dare not go beyond the word of the Lord, and I am content to say with Moses, “The secret things belong unto the Lord our God; but those things which are revealed belong unto us, and to our children forever.” “Other foundation can no man lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” Other hope, large or small, I know not of from revelation, except this one,—“He that believeth in him is not condemned” (from a sermon entitled, “The Blood of the Testament,” MTP #1567).

Alas, Spurgeon is inconsistent with himself. The Bible promises salvation only to those who trust in Christ, whether they know of the atoning sacrifice or not, or whether they willfully put it away or not. Spurgeon’s doctrine of infant salvation clearly teaches that some who die without conscious faith in Christ (i.e., infants) go to heaven anyway, and this is at least to go beyond Scripture, if not against it.

As far as Spurgeon’s comment that he “could not believe it of Jesus, that he would say to little children, ‘Depart, ye accursed, into everlasting fire in hell!,’” this is nothing but an appeal to mere rationalism and sentimentality, most unreliable supports for any points of Christian theology. As one so thoroughly versed with our Lord’s life and ministry, Spurgeon should have considered that Jesus often said things that shocked all his hearers, including his disciples. We should admit that his thoughts are far above our thoughts, and his ways than our ways. Our knowledge of what Jesus will say in the future is limited to the biblical revelation. Speculation beyond Scripture about what he would and would not say is foolish.

So could Jesus say such a thing to little children? He could very justly, if it were his pleasure, because little children are not little innocents, but sinners with a bad record and a bad heart, both legally condemned by God’s imputation of Adam’s sin to them, and morally corrupted by the transmission of Adam’s sinfulness to them.

The 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith, which Spurgeon held and Reformed Baptists today hold, teaches these things very clearly:

Our first Parents by this [original] Sin, fell from their original righteousness and communion with God, and we in them, whereby death came upon all; all becoming dead in Sin, and wholly defiled, in all the faculties, and parts, of soul, and body [and infants are not exempt from these terrible realities].

They [our first Parents] being the root, and by God’s appointment, standing in the room, and stead of all mankind; the guilt of the Sin was imputed, and corrupted nature conveyed, to all their posterity descending from them by ordinary generation [Christ only is excepted here, since he did not descend “by ordinary generation,” but by miraculous conception in a virgin’s womb], being now conceived in Sin, and by nature children of wrath, the servants of Sin, the subjects of death and all other miseries, spiritual, temporal and eternal, unless the Lord Jesus set them free (1689 LBCF VI.2-3, bracketed text—DSM).

It may be hard to accept, but little children, even infants, are guilty under God’s sentence of death, and dead in sin. They are wholly defiled, with a corrupted nature, conceived in sin, servants of sin, subject to death, which is the wages of sin, and to and all other miseries. Note this well: they are subject to “spiritual and eternal” miseries, according to the teaching of our esteemed Confession, which is amply supported by the Scriptures. Of course “eternal miseries” could mean nothing else than everlasting torment under God’s just wrath.

Now the Confession would be misconstrued if one thought it means that infants who die in infancy actually do perish. Rather, it is zealous to imply that they deserve to perish, and that they are liable to perish. Only the grace of God, and not their supposed innocence, would account for saved infants, so that the God of grace will have the praise for it.

The Confession explicitly affirms infant salvation in these words, “Elect Infants dying in infancy, are regenerated and saved by Christ through the Spirit; who worketh when, and where, and how he pleaseth” (1689 LBCF 10.3), but it does not make a statement about the number or identification of such “elect infants.” Even this cautious statement goes beyond the Scriptural teaching, and it probably would have been better omitted from the Confession, since it is arguably dubious. Still, it asserts only the salvation of “elect infants dying in infancy,” not all infants dying in infancy. Spurgeon and many Christians today have exceeded both the biblical statement and the confessional statement in advocating the doctrine of universal, unconditional infant salvation. Surely all Calvinists can affirm that if there are any “elect infants,” they shall certainly be saved, along with all God’s elect.

Now, with this background, let us consider exactly just what Matthew 19.14 actually says, with a fair interpretation of it.

The key phrase is, “of such is the kingdom of heaven.” On this the controversy hangs.

First, “the kingdom of heaven” is shorthand for all the blessings of salvation (cf. Matt 5.3, 10, etc.). Plainly, Jesus is announcing who is in a state of grace and salvation. This presents a real problem for Spurgeon and other Calvinistic advocates of infant salvation who misuse this text, because if the meaning is that infants and young children are all actually saved just because of their youth, then maturity causes them to lose the salvation they once had. This overthrows the Calvinistic doctrine of “the perseverance of the saints,” not to mention also destroying Calvinistic doctrine of election. Are we elect in infancy only to become reprobates in adulthood, and finally to perish? That could never be! This salvation-by-youth gives rise to the popular notion of the “age of accountability,” also without scriptural support.

When Jesus says, “of such is the kingdom of heaven,” he means that the kingdom of heaven belongs to such and to no one else. He is drawing a line of demarcation between the saved and the lost. The only alternative to “the kingdom of heaven,” an Hebraistic euphemism for “the kingdom of God,” is the kingdom of darkness, that is, of the devil (Matt 12.25-28; cf. Col 1.13). Whoever is in view, all others are presently excluded from the kingdom of God and necessarily included in the kingdom of Satan.

The next most crucial question is, “Whom exactly does Jesus mean by the phrase, ‘of such?’” Does he intend people who are physically little children? Or, rather, those who are “like them,” i.e., these particular children in the story, in some particular way? Surely it is the latter. Jesus is teaching that the only saved people are those who are like these children in some respect. He cannot reasonably be understood as limiting the kingdom of heaven to literal little children, excluding all adults.

To penetrate into the most important spiritual truth of our Lord’s teaching, we must ask, “In what way must anyone be like these children to be saved?” Jesus may have in mind the spiritual trait of humility, only found in real Christians, for he said in another place,

Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven (Matt 18.4).

But this passage in Matthew 19 may be taken in another way, and to me it seems a preferable interpretation to the one just described.

These little children were being physically brought to Christ, and therefore had a public and visible association with Christ. It was probably common for the rabbis in that day to place their hands on little children, a gesture associated with prayer, and ask a blessing upon them. But these on this day were in Jesus’ arms. The spiritual parallel then would be a true association with Christ by faith in him, that is, discipleship to him.

If I am right about this, then the connection between Jesus’ rebuke and Jesus’ statement is more easily understood. Why was it so important to let people bring little children to Jesus for a blessing? Not only for their sake, but also because it affords a public illustration of the great spiritual truth that Jesus is the only Savior, and that only those who come to Jesus are in the kingdom of heaven, that is, in a state of grace, and saved. Of course it is not a physical approach to Jesus that is associated with salvation, but a spiritual approach by faith in him.

This exposes another problem with the “infant salvation” interpretation of this verse. Jesus is only pointing to these children in the story, not all children generally, in his remarks. He is pointing to these particular children as an illustration of a great spiritual truth. To widen his reference to all infants and children completely destroys the spiritual point of the account, since many other children were not brought to Christ.

Some modern translations bring out the sense of the phrase, “of such,” more clearly to a modern reader. For example, consider these several renderings:

People who are like these children belong to God’s kingdom (CEV).

The kingdom of heaven is made up of people like this (HCSB).

The kingdom of heaven belongs to people who are like these children (NCV).

Therefore, to assert with Spurgeon and many others that this text is teaching universal infant salvation is to twist it perversely, and to rob it of its true spiritual sense, namely, that salvation only comes through Jesus Christ. He is its central focus, not infants.

I do not say that all infants dying in infancy go to hell, nor that all infants dying in infancy go to heaven, but that we simply do not know what becomes of any particular infant dying in infancy. Certainly God does with each one whatever he pleases, and he leaves us without any definitive revelation in this particular matter.

For grieving parents, it should be enough to know that God is wise and just and good, and we can trust him with our little ones who have died at a very young age. The Lord does all things well. It is wholly wrong for us to fear that the Lord our God will do anything censurable. When all is said and done, there will be no doubt that God is glorious, that he has kept all his promises, and that he has lavished unspeakably great blessings upon all his chosen people, however long they lived and suffered in this world below. Everyone else will receive only what punishment justice requires, and no more.

May the Lord use this long letter to clarify his truth in your mind, to comfort your heart with the good news of salvation through Christ, and to bring you rest of soul in knowing that the destiny of deceased infants is among the secret things of a faithful God, where it belongs.

Yours in the gospel,
D. Scott Meadows, Pastor
  1. http://betweenthetimes.com/2008/06/24/why-we-believe-children-who-die-go-to-heaven/

    Is it reasonable to conclude that God will condemn infants for original sin even in the absence of actual sins?

    Though we cannot answer dogmatically, I think we can say that it is more than just a possibility but is a probability that infants dying in infancy are probably elect.

  2. On the other hand, Trevor, we might just as well assume no infants dying in infancy are elect, because if they were elect, God would have preserved their lives long enough for them to come to sufficient maturity to consciously exercise repentance and faith in Christ.

    Election is not salvation, but it does insures the implementation of all that is necessary to achieve salvation for the elect, and among other things, repentance and faith are necessary to salvation. We know of no other way of salvation, but by repentance and faith in Christ.

    Adam’s sin imputed to us and our possession of his corrupt nature is certainly enough for God to condemn us at any age, in fact, everybody from Adam to Moses was condemned on exactly that basis – see Romans 5:12-14.

    Excellent article, Pastor Meadows, though I think agnosticism about the destiny of infants dying in infancy is not a well founded position.

  3. Trevor,

    You ask, “Is it reasonable?,” but I ask, “Is it scriptural?” (Gal 4.30), which is an entirely different approach epistemologically. Theological truth is known by Scripture first, and while never irrational, it is sometimes suprarational. And sometimes we discover in studying the Bible that what we had considered reasonable is not so, and reason enjoys a major course correction by the absolute truth of God’s Word. Rationality is good; rationalism is evil. We are all limited in our ability to reason, and we all suffer the noetic effects of sin, including a sinful prejudice against truth. The Bible tells me so.

    The bottom line is that two parties are never going to agree on infant salvation if one of them looks to “reason” as the litmus test of truth while the other looks to God’s Word with reason in humble submission to that. Two parties must both be deeply committed to Scripture alone as the standard of truth before they could expect to reach the same conclusions because they are correct conclusions.

    I am still awaiting a convincing biblical demonstration that all infants who die in infancy go to heaven. I have read much on this topic and I have never seen one.

    Many unsound Bible teachers have denied the biblical doctrine of imputation altogether on the grounds of its supposedly being unreasonable (e.g., Finney, who was manifestly heretical), despite the pervasive and insistent biblical testimony to its reality. Three imputations are really indisputable from the biblical witness:

    1) The imputation of Adam’s sin to all his posterity.
    2) The imputation of the elect’s sin to Christ.
    3) The imputation of Christ’s righteousness to us.

    All these stand or fall together if “reason” is the determining factor. Is it reasonable, if God refuses to condemn infants on the grounds of Adam’s sin alone imputed to them through their substitute, for God to condemn the perfectly righteous Christ on the grounds of the elect’s sin alone, without his having committed any personal act of sin whatsoever? Is it reasonable that Christ would become a substitute sacrifice for his people? Many say no, but Scripture abundantly affirms the forensic and substitutionary nature of Christ’s death, “the just for the unjust” (1 Pet 3.18).

    Is it reasonable for God to justify all the elect on the grounds of Christ’s righteousness alone, without their personally having obeyed God’s will and moral law in any respect whatsoever, and in fact their having violated it countless times and ways? Many say no, and then proudly insist that there is something that the sinner must do at least to contribute to his justification, with the implication that Christ’s substitutionary obedience and substitutionary sacrifice are insufficient for the sinner’s forensic justification. But this is a corruption of the biblical gospel by rationalism. “By the obedience of one shall many be made righteous” (Rom 5.19b).

    Whether anyone finds these three imputations “reasonable” or not, the resounding biblical insistence favors all three. So many people need to sit and soak until thoroughly saturated in Romans 5.12-21. Read it again and again, with much prayer for illumination, and with diligent investigation into its words and phrases and logic, until it lives in your very bones. If people really understood and believed that passage, it would recover their reason from wandering in much error.

    Neither is there any refuge in lip service to the imputation of Adam’s sin to all his posterity, including infants, while proposing that it is likely that God would not actually punish them. Remember, these are people God really and legally counts guilty on the basis of Adam’s sin alone. The lip service approach is taking away with the right hand what was given by the left. Besides, it lacks scriptural support.

    The imputation of Adam’s sin to all his posterity means that Adam was a substitute in the trial of Paradise for all his posterity. Since he failed and actually became guilty, all his posterity in God’s court are counted as having sinned in Adam, and having become guilty in Adam–really guilty, not just theoretically guilty or conditionally guilty or hypothetically guilty. And guilty by definition means justly liable to punishment, legally deserving of punishment. “By one man’s disobedience many were made sinners” (Rom 5.19a).

    I know this runs up against our natural notions of “fairness,” but Adam’s sin and guilt were imputed by divine fiat, not human consensus, and God’s decree is a sufficient basis for the rightness of his imputation. The Puritans were correct, because they were scriptural, when they taught their little children from infancy that “in Adam’s fall we sinned all.”

    Further, it is evident that God counts infants as sinners from the fact that they frequently suffer the wages of sin (death; Rom 6.23), not to mention all the other miseries that come upon all people on account of Adam’s sin.

    When God had announced the curse upon all mankind in the antediluvian days (Gen 6.5) and then sent his just punishment for sin, were infants excluded? No, they all drowned just like the more mature sinners. Countless bloated infant carcasses floating upon those horrible waters of divine wrath. Where is evidence that God counted them innocents?

    It was likewise with Sodom and the cities of the plain. The question is not, “Is it reasonable that God would fling molten lava onto the tender pink skin of Sodomite babies when they had not committed any actual sin themselves? ” The question must be, “Nevertheless, what do the Scriptures say?”

    Clearly, the Scriptures bear witness that the wrath of God was liberally poured out upon ALL the antediluvian sinners, including infant sinners, except for sinful Noah and his sinful family who were spared by grace alone, and his wrath was liberally poured out upon all the sinners of the cities of the plain, including infant sinners, except for sinful Lot and his sinful family, who were also spared by grace alone.

    Some have concluded from the actual imputation of Adam’s sin, the clear instances we have in Scripture of infants suffering God’s wrath on account of that sin, and the necessity of faith in Christ for salvation, that all infants dying in infancy actually perish in hell. As I stated in the letter to a friend, I have reservations about this conclusion. It is one possible inference rather than an assured Bible doctrine. Historically, very few have theologians, including Calvinists, taken the position that we can know that all infants dying in infancy finally perish in hell. Our 1689 LBCF reflects the consensus of the Reformed tradition.

    I am content to consider this matter among the secret things of God. There is a prudence in hiding the truth from us who are clearly not infants if we are pondering these things. If we could know for sure that all infants who die in infancy go to heaven, many would find a strong temptation to kill infants, or at least to let them die when their lives could be saved. The abortion mills would be filling heaven faster than Billy Graham ever hoped to. I actually know of a family that let an infant son/grandson die when his life might have been saved by the aggressive use of medical means, all because of their belief that he would be going to heaven anyway. They told me so. This was tragic and horrible, the consequence of their supposed reason and their firm belief in universal infant salvation.

    I have long thought that the issue of infant salvation is not as important in itself as the ancillary theological issues it raises–particularly matters like imputation and God’s right to judge sinners. A refusal to admit that infants are legally guilty before God on the grounds of Adam’s sin alone, and that God would be perfectly just to punish them on that ground (whether he actually does or not it beside the point; God is sovereign), exposes serious theological error, in my estimation. We cannot consistently hold to the justice of our justification on the grounds of the imputation of Christ’s righteousness alone while we simultaneously deny the justice of our condemnation on the grounds of the imputation of Adam’s sin alone, even before we commit any actual sins.

    For the record, Finney also rejected the forensic justification of the elect on the sole grounds of Christ’s righteousness and atoning sacrifice in their place. He didn’t think it was “reasonable.” At least he was wrong consistently. But there is no other salvation than that which is found in Christ Jesus, and in him alone (Acts 4.12).

    May the Lord give us all greater understanding of his truth by his Word and Spirit, and lead us away from the folly and danger of rationalism.

  4. The article by Pastor Meadows as well as his follow-up comments are excellent as usual. However, I find one peccadillo in the following.

    Pastor Meadows writes:

    This presents a real problem for Spurgeon and other Calvinistic advocates of infant salvation who misuse this text, because if the meaning is that infants and young children are all actually saved just because of their youth, then maturity causes them to lose the salvation they once had. This overthrows the Calvinistic doctrine of “the perseverance of the saints,” not to mention also destroying Calvinistic doctrine of election. Are we elect in infancy only to become reprobates in adulthood, and finally to perish? That could never be! This salvation-by-youth gives rise to the popular notion of the “age of accountability,” also without scriptural support.

    I would argue that those who say this verse teaching infant salvation would say this is not teaching “salvation-by-youth” as such, but rather “salvation-by-the-innocence-of-youth.” I have never heard or read the argument as hanging on the age of the child per se, but rather the innocence that is attributed to those who have not reached the “age of accountability” which may be different with every child. Indeed, I have heard this same argument (i.e. “salvation-by-innocence” or perhaps “salvation-by-natural innocence” would be better)applied those who are afflicted with mental disabilities as well as to infants.

    While “salvation-by-innocence” is no less an error, I believe it more accurately reflects the argument of the contrary position.

  5. There are significant dangers to rationalism, none more compelling and un-rational than overwrought emotions. It often seems that being rational is a fig leaf used to cover over a broken heart, in a futile attempt to retain a semblance of order amid crushing disorder. It is a hollow retreat.
    The yawing chasm of raw emotion brought on by the utter offensiveness of a death, especially in infancy is God-like and, in a finite way, reflects God’s own horror of it. Living through the abortive distortion of ‘the way things are supposed to be’ is, simply put, both intellectually and emotionally repugnant both to God and man.
    We are just ‘supposed to outlive our children’. They are supposed to grieve our deaths, not we theirs. It is God-like to crave, even demand its remedy. But only our Infinite God, with the abundance of his divine attributes, is able to perfectly reconcile the horror of the death of an innocent with the overflowing abundance of life, and giving life. He made him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in him.
    Perhaps it is the utter destruction of hoped-for fellowship and intimate future communion that is so horrid. This grief is so unspeakable, and God’s love so unfathomable, that He purposed our redemption through the death of His only Son, so that we would not experience the death of deaths. The true hope of the gospel is that our rescue from that greater horror is nigh, to whoever shall call upon Him.
    Many of us must come to the point in submissive faith that the One who conceived so great a salvation for us, and the One who does all things well, will with all tenderness and compassion meet with Justice. And in so doing, justice having been satisfied will melt into a kiss with mercy. It is only amongst that company that the peace that passes understanding dwells and the tensions of this world resolve.

  6. The funniest thing to me about infant salvation, is how reformed baptist’s attempt to reason with it. Being calvinistic in soteriology would lead someone to believe that God condemns people who have no ability to believe in the Gospel, people that are dead in their sins. The Bible also clearly teaches that those who do not hear the Gospel go to hell, as Paul says, How shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And that the only way to heaven is through faith in Christ. So people who do not have food, clothing, shelter, the Gospel, etc. Go to hell? Then everyone gathers together and comes up with infant salvation??? Because while our doctrine of justification and sin condemns everyone who is not in Christ, and that we are by nature children of wrath, somehow, magically, children of the elect go to heaven? Is this not refuted in John 1 and the rest of the Bible? You become a child of God by being born of God, and what is the result of our birth, but faith in His son. All of you pharisees who care nothing about God’s scriptures and follow the traditions of the elders, should start reading the Bible, and realize that it says nothing about salvation for infants. The very text used in the 1689 LBCF to prove infant salvation is a rejection of it. You must be born again, which states that one must be physically born and spiritually born to enter the kingdom of heaven. It does not say that God works in infants to regenerate their hearts apart from the preaching of the Gospel and awareness of their wicked hearts. You cannot separate faith and regeneration. We need to be Spiritual children of Abraham. So, yes, anyone who is guilty in Adam, and is not in Christ goes to hell, that includes infants. I do not take pleasure in this, but it is the clear teaching of the scriptures. Every child that is aborted goes straight to hell, and we should despise abortion because of it. Don’t think for a second based on the scriptures that aborting children sends them straight to heaven, that is a lie from Satan. Our children need Christ, the Gospel and not the 1689 lbcf, infant baptism, or anything else, but Christ. That is who they need, Christ!

    The reasoning for the 1689 LBCF containing a section on infant salvation is because of the fear they had of saying that infants went to hell, which is why they just copied right over from the WCOF. Imagine the outburst that comes from saying infants go to hell, you can just read the posts that will follow this. The fear of man is what prevents most people on these 1689 reformed baptist celebration blogs from staying with the Scriptures. Presbyterians teach infant salvation because they think that every covenant has physical infants in it, so the “covenant of grace” must also. Their whole theology is based on assumptions, oh look a covenant here, a covenant there, all covenants have signs, that must be the sign of the covenant, all covenants have infants, lets throw our children in this covenant and read that in too, good times. The New Covenant has spiritual infants in it, not physical.

    If elect infant salvation is true, then hopefully all of our children never grow up, because once they hit the reformed baptist age of accountability (1689 version that is), they will be condemned. I am glad infant salvation is in the 1689 LBCF, cause it shows how man cannot make a perfect confession. For people to believe in a Sovereign God who is in control of all things and sent His Son to die on the cross to have His elect die in their infancy, need to think again. Romans 8 states clearly, ” And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. 29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30 Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.” These verses do not say, all things work out for those who have reformed baptist parents, or for those who die without Christ. The Bible teaches that those whom God has chosen in Christ come to faith in His son, they are the called, the justified, the glorified. Reformed Baptists are not free from errors, I am just sick of hearing all of you defend the confession as if it is. The Bible in no way teaches any form of infant salvation, except that there are spiritual children in the New Covenant, those who humble themselves in utter dependence upon Christ, the real children of Abraham, those who walk by faith, delight in God’s law, the real children of God.

    When was the last time you changed your mind on something biblical? Probably too long ago. Once you were handed the 1689 LBCF you stopped searching the scriptures like a Berean and began worshiping men like Spurgeon. It is time to repent and turn back to the days, when you came to God for truth and when truth was presented, you checked it with God’s word. Do not fall into the 1689 camp of people who think they have reached some biblical pinnacle of achievement, realize that everything you have is of Grace and turn to God. God what does your Word say? Remember those days? The 1689 LBCF is great and I do recommend it, but, it has errors, and this is one of them. We can’t write confessions based on world events like “the Pope is the anti-christ” etc. We must write confessions based off of truth, which never changes and endures forever.

  7. Please also note, who has killed more infants than anyone in the whole world? Have you ever read about the flood? Have you ever read about Sodom and Gomorrah? How many righteous and elect infants did God kill according to your doctrine of infant salvation? Does not Abraham plead with God for the righteous in Sodom? Where were they? I guess anyone who states that God elects infants, doesn’t believe He did in the OT, or that God prefers to wipe out His elect with floods and fires from Heaven.

  8. Adam,

    “The fear of man is what prevents most people on these 1689 reformed Baptist celebration blogs from staying with the Scriptures.”

    “Once you were handed the 1689 LBCF you stopped searching the scriptures like a Berean and began worshiping men like Spurgeon.”

    I have been a preacher of God’s free grace since my conversion (7yrs now formally as an elder). Many times people have said to me, It is not what you say but how that turns people off. I have never before thought that possible. Yet, the tone you write with (and I agree with your basic premise), turns me off. It is too strong. This doctrine (the salvation/damnation of infants) must be handled with more gentleness. Speak with tears.

    Mike Waters
    Heritage RBC

  9. I agree with Mike Waters.

  10. D. Scott Meadows:

    You target my use of the word “reason” – largely for rhetorical reasons I believe, in order to drive a false dichotomy between reason and Scripture.

    I think, however, we would all agree that our faith is not unreasonable and that the use of reasoning from Scriptural principles is a legitimate exercise. To use reason does not mean one has sold out to rationalism.

    Also, I find it a curious ploy to accuse those who believe in probable infant salvation of being sentimentalists or driven by emotion. This is precisely what many do when arguing against infant salvation. There are many of us who believe that all infants are probably saved, not due to mere sentimentality, but due to the biblical data, i.e., that we have examples of infants who are saved but not examples of infants dying and going to hell, etc.

    Below are some of those biblical reasons:

    –First, the fate of King David’s son lends probable support.
    –Second, John the Baptist in his mother’s womb might possibly be used as a support, though this is debatable.
    –Third, King David attests to a relationship with God from infancy in Psalm 22, “Yet you are he who took me from the womb; you made me trust you at my mother’s breasts. On you was I cast from my birth, and from my mother’s womb you have been my God.”
    –Fourth, Jesus speaks in the Gospels in this manner; “If you were blind you would have no sin, but you see, so your sin remains” and this shows a link between degree of ability to know and condemnation.
    –Fifth, Romans 1:20 links actually seeing and understanding the natural world with “having no excuse.” they were without excuse because they saw and understood the unseen things by means of the light of nature.
    –Sixth, we are told of a great multitude before the throne of God. We are also told that some from every tongue, tribe and nation will be before that throne. Countless races and tribes have now passed out of existence and will, therefore, not be represented before the throne if the fate of infants is one of damnation. It appears that God will have the victory and will redeem a great multitude and perhaps the majority of mankind will be saved and this great victory is more consistent with the redemption of infants.

    I also agree that we can only assert with certainty that elect infants dying in infancy are saved. We cannot dogmatically state that any others are, though I believe Scriptural principles may lead us to believe that they “possibly” or even “probably” are. This is not due to sentimental reasons, but is drawn from Scriptural principles.

    Trevor Johnson

  11. The Scriptures tell us what we need to know about God, Sin and Salvation. It is not surprising that it does not tell us what to expect in regards to infants who die or those who die in the womb. How can we be expected to minister the Word to them? So, we leave them in the hand of God knowing, as Abraham said, “Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?”

    However, our doctrine also teaches us that the age of accountability theory is definitely wrong. One can not be elect and then become non-elect. So we are left with 3 choices:
    1. Some infants who die are elect from before the foundation of the world (we could not know with certainty who they are)
    2. No infants who die are elect from before the foundation of the world (their non-election is proved their dying)
    3. All infants who die in infancy are elect (their election proved by their death).

    It has to be one of these three.

    While #1 seems most “reasonable” to me — it can not be proven from Scripture, so I am content to leave it in the hands of God — and I speak as one who had a newborn die 29 years ago.

    The very same God who elected us before the foundation of the world also has ordained the length of life and time of death of every individual human being, including infants. So, what to us is a “problem” is no problem to Him at all.

  12. Trevor,

    You wrote, “There are many of us who believe that all infants are probably saved.” Whether probable or not, you tacitly admit in this assertion it is not certain. Thus you have acceded to my main point: we cannot know for sure what happens to any infant who dies. I did not touch on the issue of probability, but on what we can know for sure. I have no idea how one could actually prove from Scripture what is probable and what is the degree of probability. Is it 51% probable, or 99% probable, or something in-between?

    And as a practical matter, do you try to comfort grieving parents by saying, “Your deceased infant is probably in heaven?” Is it not better to comfort them by saying what we do know for sure from Scripture–that God is good and wise and does all things well, and that we can trust him implicitly in everything, even in this most painful trial? That he is “too wise to be mistaken” and “too good to be unkind” (S. Medley, Gadsby’s Hymns)? I do believe these precious truths will be sufficient for the godly. Oh, that we were all more confident of the wisdom and power of God’s Word, and would resist the urge to indulge unscriptural speculation!

    Brother, thank you for stimulating my thinking further, not only in this probability issue, but in the other things you said upon which I have made no comment.

  13. Pastor Meadows:

    Yes, I think that we are about 99% in agreement and that dogmatic conclusions cannot be reached.

    I appreciated your article and look forward reading more things that you write, since you write with an obvious care for the Word.

    Trevor

  14. Thank you, Trevor. “Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend” (Prov 27.17).

  15. I am so impressed, with one exception, with the open debate over an issue that regardless of where one falls, is an emotional issue for many. Not needing to take a solid stand, as a layman, I tend to remain quiet as seldom is there anything to be gained by destroying people’s hope. A false hope which affects their salvation is a different matter all together. As for me, I have long wondered how those in foreign lands who never heard the gospel could be held much different from those who die in infancy. Yes, you can cite the adults clearly have actively sinned beyond original sin. But if this makes a difference, then I suspect our doctrine and understanding of the fall would need to be changed. Did not mankind die the very day Adam ate of the forbidden fruit? Are we not born spiritually dead? So while I pray I am wrong and that Pastor Meadows is correct in holding to his number 1 view, I quietly must hold to his number 2, that the death of the infant may be the indication they were not elect. Bottom line, we will all know for sure when we see Him face to face.

    I am grateful to see godly men sharpening one another through the appeal to hold fast to scripture.

    mark kramer

  16. Thank you Lord for such a wonderfully written article. This topic has come up twice – my first response was about Esau and Jacob and God hating the one and loving the other before they were born.

    My second response, as I pondered upon it, was that as humans we look at things in the natural. We see the hardware (infant/aged, husband/wife, bond/free), when God looks on the Spirit (operating system).

    I went looking for something which would substantiate that I was on the correct path and found this…truly a blessing from our Father. I will definitely browse this site further.

    Thank you for the well thought out BIBLICAL response. Thank you! ~ Jireh8

  17. […] friend, Scott Meadows, has also written on this topic, and his careful piece is here. Rate this:Share this:Like this:LikeBe the first to like […]

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