The Age of Accountability RECOGNITION

In the Bible, there is no “age of accountability.” There is no description of there being a time in one’s life when one is suddenly accountable to God, just because one has gotten older. In other words, in scripture you will not find that the gaining of such culpability is due to age. No, according to scripture we are all born in sin, held accountable to God from conception, whether we recognize it or not. Age is not an excuse…

Psalms 51:5 (HCSB)
“Indeed, I was guilty when I was born;
I was sinful when my mother conceived me.”

That quote was written by David. God considered David to be a man after His own heart (1 Samuel 13:14, Acts 13:22), even though David was a sinner.

Why?

Because, David did not shy away from recognizing who he was in comparison to God. David embraced his culpability. He acknowledged that he was corrupt from the moment that he was conceived. David already knew the truth about himself as being a fallen image bearer of God, approximately 1,100 years prior to Paul writing about this same condition which we all share as descendants of Adam…

Romans 5:18a (HCSB)
“So then, as through one trespass there is condemnation for everyone…”

Romans 5:19a (HCSB)
“For just as through one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners…”

1 Corinthians 15:21a (HCSB)
“For since death came through a man…”

1 Corinthians 15:22a (HCSB)
“For as in Adam all die…”

Paul reiterated our default condition (as result of Adam’s sin) in his letters to the church, reminding them of their accountability to God. Nowhere in scripture will you find excuses for those who are not yet adults. In fact, Paul encourages children directly to “obey your parents as you would the Lord” (Ephesians 6:1), because children are automatically sinners from conception. If children were actually innocent, then they would not need to be told to obey. But because they are not innocent, children need to be warned of their condition. They need to be warned about the difference between who they are and who Christ is, and who they are in comparison to Him. They also need to be exposed to what He did on the cross 2,000 years ago in Palestine. Our children need the Gospel, because there will come a time in their lives when they will reach what I call…

“The Age of Accountability RECOGNITION”

This is the moment when one becomes aware of one’s lack of goodness. When does such occur for each person? It’s impossible to tell. But, regardless of when this happens for a person… without ever being evangelized, reconciliation with Christ is not possible for them. It’s why Paul rhetorically asked in Romans 10:14, “…how can they (the unevangelized) believe without hearing about Him?” It’s why Moses encouraged Israelite parents to teach their children about God and what He requires of them…

Deuteronomy 6:4-9 (HCSB)
“Listen, Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is One. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. These words that I am giving you today are to be in your heart. Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Bind them as a sign on your hand and let them be a symbol on your forehead. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”

Even though an infant, a toddler, or a really young child is a sinner, such do not yet know that they are. They are not yet old enough nor are they yet developed enough, cognitively, to consciously acknowledge their bend towards evil. They have not yet reached a level of maturity where they can realize their culpability before God. They have not yet reached the age of accountability recognition.

But, does the lack of an ability of a young child or infant to recognize their condition make them innocent before God according to scripture?

Hardly…

Here is a sobering example of judgement regarding the rebellious people of Samaria, which included the youngest of them…

Hosea 13:16 (HCSB)
“Samaria will bear her guilt
because she has rebelled against her God.
They will fall by the sword;
their little ones will be dashed to pieces,
and their pregnant women ripped open.”

The thing to realize here is that God does not mess around regarding those who are in Adam, and this even goes for the youngest among us who don’t yet recognize their sin. Unless God has predestined a child to be in Christ, such a child will remain in Adam forever. We are not born in Christ and then switch to being in Adam. As David said…

“Indeed, I was guilty when I was born;
I was sinful when my mother conceived me.”

It’s vital that we (Christians) do not blindly assume that our young children are innocent in the eyes of God just because they are young. We cannot be careless here. In other words, without Christ… age is irrelevant.

Does this mean that all babies who die are going to hell?

No… it doesn’t mean that at all. However, the Bible is silent here (to definitively conclude either way), and when scripture is silent we should be as well, leaving such things in the hands of God, trusting Him to do as is according to His good will and purpose.

So, this raises another question…

Does the Bible at all address or even hint at “The Age of Accountability RECOGNITION”?

Yes…

Deuteronomy 1:39 (HCSB)
Your little children, whom you said would be plunder, your sons who don’t know good from evil, will enter there. I will give them the land, and they will take possession of it.”

Isaiah 7:15-16 (HCSB)
By the time he learns to reject what is bad and choose what is good, he will be eating butter and honey. For before the boy knows to reject what is bad and choose what is good, the land of the two kings you dread will be abandoned.”

Both of these examples express the notion that there is a line of demarcation between our unawareness and our awareness of our knowledge of the difference between good and evil due to age. However, being on the unawareness side of the demarcation, as we saw earlier, does not offer excuse. It’s a blessing just to be given the opportunity by God to be able to see that we need Him. Not everyone gets that blessing. Israel, however, was granted such a favor. Look at what Hosea reveals to Israel, in the very next verse, after revealing the rebellious nature and judgement to come regarding Samaria and her little ones…

Hosea 14:1-2 (HCSB)
“Israel, return to Yahweh your God,
for you have stumbled in your sin.
Take words of repentance with you
and return to the Lord.
Say to Him: “Forgive all our sin
and accept what is good,
so that we may repay You
with praise from our lips.”

As I referenced above, Paul wrote about how Adam had brought death to us all, but he didn’t stop there. In every instance that Paul described why we are fallen, he then also provided the remedy…

Romans 5:18 (HCSB)
“So then, as through one trespass there is condemnation for everyone, so also through one righteous act there is life-giving justification for everyone.

Romans 5:19 (HCSB)
“For just as through one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so also through the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.

1 Corinthians 15:21 (HCSB)
“For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead also comes through a man.

1 Corinthians 15:22 (HCSB)
“For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.

We (Christians) cannot ignore our children’s condition, wrongfully assuming that their lack of understanding due to their age makes them innocent in God’s eyes. We must be diligent to make them aware of who they are in comparison to Christ. And, we must also make them aware of what Christ accomplished on the cross exclusively for those who recognize their sinful condition, and who also trust in Christ as their Lord and Savior. Such ignoring on our part, according to scripture, says something about what we become when we do…

Proverbs 19:18 (HCSB)
“Discipline your son while there is hope;
don’t be intent on killing him.”

Godspeed, to the brethren!

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5 thoughts on “The Age of Accountability RECOGNITION”

  1. To the idol babbler, from a father of four: two definitely fallen image bearers of God, one falling image bearer, and one unborn unfallen image bearer:

    “If children were actually innocent, then they would not need to be told to obey.” Adam and Eve were innocent before the fall. Yet God still defined what behavior was forbidden, and warned of the consequences of disobedience. Likewise, a child’s need to have right and wrong defined for them, does not prove them guilty of sin.

    A more literal translation of Ps 51:5 is “Behold, I was shaped in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me.” Therefore, it is no indictment against every unborn baby, proving them guilty of sin.

    You seem to omit a key passage: Rom 5:12 “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned.” Death is the result of sin. As God said, “The day you eat of it you will die.” However, each person dies for their own sin, not their ancestors’. (Deut 24:16, Jer 31:30) God does not hold every new born baby guilty for Adam’s sin. That would obviously be unjust.

    The verses you claim support the existence of an age of accountability recognition seem to support more the existence of an age of accountability. Deuteronomy 1:39 “Your little children, whom you said would be plunder, your sons who don’t know good from evil, will enter there. I will give them the land, and they will take possession of it.” This verse shows that God did not hold the children accountable for the rebellion of their parents because they knew not yet right from wrong. This should make you reconsider your apparent view that Hosea 14:1-2 proves that God sees even little children as rebellious and deserving of being dashed to pieces.

    Jesus also treated little children as innocent when he said the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Why? Because of the ‘child-like’ innocent trust they had in God. Mat 18:3 “And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Mat 19:14 “Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”” Jesus showed that God sees little children as innocent.

    Rom 9:11 “Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad…” This verse implies the existence of a period early in life, during which a child can not do anything good or bad. If they have not done anything bad, then they are innocent of sin.

    I agree with you that children need to be taught God’s ways. I also agree that we need to help them understand God’s truth (summarized e.g. by the four spiritual laws). I also do not consider myself an authority on this topic. I have a lot to learn and would examine any rebuttal to my arguments diligently. However, the purpose you state for your blog is to encourage your brethren. I was not encouraged by this blog of yours.

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    1. The encouragement intended is to motivate parents to evangelize their children. I also stated that scripture is silent in terms of definitively knowing how God handles the young. Such is in His hands, and we must trust Him. Is it possible that all such are “in Christ”? Sure, and the blog does not leave that possibility off the table. I too understand the concerns. I have three children, and my wife miscarried three as well. I also have a handicapped brother who has been institutionalized since six months of age. He is now in his mid-forties and is COMPLETELY incapable of understanding good and evil nor is he even capable of being evangelized in any capacity. I must trust in the Lord, who is worthy to be trusted here. Blessings to you and your family.

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  2. I usually ask people who believe in age of accountability this question: does every elect will be called by the gospel and be justified by faith? And then point them to Romans 8:28-30 (NASB)

    28 And we know that [a]God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. 29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; 30 and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.

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