The Age of Accountability

The term “the age of accountability” is a man-made one that cannot be found in the Bible. Still, this doesn’t mean that such a concept isn’t taught in scripture. The fact is, the Bible does teach such a concept.

For those of you who don’t know what I mean by “the age of accountability,” I’m talking about the age where a child matures to the mental and spiritual ability to be able to understand the differences between salvation and damnation, sin and forgiveness, and heaven and hell. Obviously, you can talk all day to an infant about that child’s need to believe in Jesus as Savior, but you aren’t going to get anywhere in winning that child to Christ. Why not? It’s because the child hasn’t reached the so-called age of accountability yet.

If for no other reason, this subject is of vital importance because it applies directly to infants who are miscarried, aborted, or in some other way die in infancy. Do the souls of those children go to heaven? That’s a good question, and it’s one that gets into the realm of each child having a unique age of accountability.

So, here now is what the Bible teaches about the age of accountability. I’ll leave it with you to do the homework by actually taking the time to look up each reference and read it. By doing so, I trust that you will agree with me that there really is such a thing as an age of accountability, even though that age is surely different in each child.

  1. Every child is not just a born sinner but a conceived sinner who is born “dead in trespasses and sins.” (Psalm 51:1-5; Psalm 58:3; Job 14:1-4; Job 15:14; Proverbs 20:9; Ecclesiastes 7:20; 1 John 1:8-10; Romans 3:10; Romans 5:12; Ephesians 2:1,4-5; Colossians 2:13; Matthew 8:22)
  2. Even though infants and small children have the inborn nature of sin, they do not possess the ability to differentiate between good and evil (righteousness and sin). (Deuteronomy 1:39; Isaiah 7:16; Jonah 4:11 (refers to Nineveh’s small children)Romans 9:10-12)
  3. For anyone to have an actual knowledge of sin, he or she must first either feel the effects of a conscience or clearly understand some revelation of God’s moral law. Infants don’t fit into either category. (Romans 2:12-16; Romans 5:13)
  4. The people of Israel sacrificed their infants to the false gods Baal and Molech as a part of their despicable idolatry. And yet God described those infants as “the innocents.” (Jeremiah 19:4-5; Jeremiah 2:34; Jeremiah 32:35; Leviticus 18:21; Leviticus 20:1-5; 1 Kings 11:6-8; 2 Kings 16:2-4; 2 Chronicles 28:1-4; 2 Kings 21:1-6; 2 Kings 23:10; Jeremiah 7:30-31)  
  5. Jesus used small children as examples of those who are a part of the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 18:1-4; Matthew 19:13-15; Luke 18:15-17) 
  6. David planned to one day go to be with his deceased infant, and David certainly thought of himself as being forgiven, saved, and headed for an eternity with God. Furthermore, according to 2 Timothy 3:16 that entire story is written down for us as part of God’s inspired word. (2 Samuel 12:15-23; Psalm 23:6)
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