How Are Our Children Saved?
If my child is in Heaven, how is it that my child is there? In studying scripture, we find that our infant children are not saved because they are “innocent,” but are eternally saved by God’s grace through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Children are not saved because they are “innocent”
First, it is crucial to understand that infant children are not saved because they are “innocent” or because they otherwise “deserve” to go to Heaven.
The Bible clearly teaches that all of us, from the moment of our birth, behave in a manner that morally separates us from God. The Bible uses words like “sin” and “depravity” to describe our natural inclination to think and behave in ways that are displeasing to God. In the book of Psalms, King David writes, “Behold I was brought forth in iniquity and in sin did my mother conceive me.” Psalm 51:5. “In your sight no one living is righteous.”
According to Paul, our sinfulness is inherent because of what it means to be human.
Romans 5:12-21. Ever since the moment that Adam decided to disobey God, the natural inclination of every human is to be sinful—that is, to be separated from God in thought and action. Because of our connection with Adam as human beings, we are born into the world guilty. As a result, Paul writes, “We are,
by nature, children of wrath.” Ephesians 2:3. While our earthly decisions will help us increase or decrease that predilection towards behavior that displeases God, the Bible clearly states that this predilection causes us humans to separated from God because of our immoral impurities. “Who can say, “I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin?”
Proverbs 20:9. Regardless of whether you are 1 day old or 100 years old, our thoughts, desires, and actions separate us from God. According to the Bible, sin is not something that reared its ugly head in our lives only after we make bad decisions. Sin is in us from even our youngest days, are the result of a heart that is fundamentally sinful.
Jesus himself said that all of us must be “born again.” John 3:3. This presumes that something wrong happened from the very moment we were born. Jesus didn’t say, “We need to start over from our teenage years” or “We need to start over from the day we could walk.” Indeed, the very fact that children die at all is a demonstration that we have not been born innocent—that something has gone wrong from the moment of our birth. All of us, including our infant children, “have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” All of us, including our infant children, are in need of supernatural means to reestablish a relationship with God.
Children are saved by God’s Grace
Rather than saving children because of they are “innocent,” God saves children for the very same reason he saves some adults; by grace, through the blood of Jesus Christ. The central message of the Christian faith is that through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God has provided a means to an eternal relationship between Himself, an infinitely wise and Holy God, and us sinful humans. Because Jesus is both God and man, Jesus was able to pay the penalty that was due to us because of our sin. No matter how many good works we accomplish during our earthly lifetime, how many good deeds done or dollars spent on good charitable causes, we would not have sufficient moral standing in the sight of an infinitely wise and Holy God to enjoy an eternal relationship with us. In other words, the infinite gap between us and God caused by our sin was bridged by Jesus Christ. Jesus’ work accomplished what we could never accomplish on our own.
The salvation of an infant child is a perfect demonstration of what God means when He says that salvation is by His power, and not ours; for otherwise, some amount of “action” or “deeds” on our part would be required.
The Bible teaches that a relationship with God is possible not by a lifetime of good works but only if God’s free gift of salvation given to us through Jesus Christ. Paul writes that “we are justified [that is, made right with God] by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”
Romans 3:24. Only because of Christ’s sacrifice for us, and the grace given to us, and not because of anything we have done, do we have peace with God.
Adults can find just about anything to boast in. We can find reason to boast in our work, our income, significant others, homes, and children. But if you study the Holy Bible, you realize that none of these things that we boast in matter to God when it comes to salvation. In the book of Ephesians, Paul says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”
Ephesians 2:8-9. We have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ and not through any attempts at making it to him on our own. “But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.”
It is absolutely crucial for us adults to understand that being saved “by grace” means that no part of the “work” we are able to accomplish on this earth has anything to do with why we are saved.
If we, as adults, are saved by God’s grace and not because of our works, there is no reason to believe that our infant children are not similarly the beneficiaries of God’s grace. Pastor John MacArthur writes, “The saving grace given to an infant who has no part whatsoever in his salvation is a perfect example of salvation, which is always wrought sovereignly by God through grace.”
John MacArthur, Safe in the Arms of Jesus (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2003), 77.
Since all of us are saved by grace, parents of deceased infants can be grateful for salvation by grace, for it means that God’s saving power can extend to all of us, regardless of whether we have lived on this earth 100 years or 100 seconds. Infants are saved by God’s grace, and for that, we can be grateful.
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