The “Age of Accountability”
It’s amazing to look back over our lives and consider how far we have traveled in our Christian walks, but we often forget that at one point in our lives we were saved before we ever obeyed the gospel plan of salvation. I’m talking about before we reached the age of accountability. I’m sure all of you remember some of that time of your life. Life seemed so much easier then. We did not yet truly understand the concept of sin, right and wrong, or good and evil. We simply did what our parents told us too, and if they said something was bad or wrong, we believed them.
There are many in the “Christian religious” community today that do not believe in the concept of the age of accountability. Instead, they choose to believe a doctrine that teaches that all people are lost at the very moment they are born into this world. The false teaching has grown from the teachings of the Catholic church, and the teaching of John Calvin who was the founder of the Presbyterian church. St. Augustine of the Catholic church had a theory that all people inherited the original sin of Adam, and the guilt of that sin, the moment they were born. John Calvin was a protestant reformer who left the Catholic faith, but continued to teach the idea of “original sin” which became commonly known as “total hereditary depravity”. These theories led to the reason that infant baptism became so popular in those churches. Since they believed the babies were spiritually lost, they would baptize them (by sprinkling) shortly after birth. Let’s see what the Bible teaches about the “age of accountability” and whether or not newborn babies are in danger of being spiritually lost.
We must first recognize that the whole concept of inheriting anyone else’s sin is totally foreign to the Bible. The Bible clearly teaches that God gave each of us free will in which we can decide whether or not we want to follow God’s will. Just like Adam and Eve had the choice of whether or not to eat of the tree, we too have the choice whether to be obedient or disobedient to God. Each individual person will be held accountable for his or her own sins, not the sins of others. God told the world this when He spoke it through the prophet Ezekiel. Ezekiel said, “The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself” (Eze. 18:20).
The Bible also teaches us about the “age of accountability”. The Bible does not refer to it as such, but it makes clear that at some point in our lives we will sin and become needful of salvation. The apostle Paul spoke of himself before he reached that age. He said, “I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died” (Rom. 7:9). When Paul said he was alive once without the law, he was referring to his early childhood when he did not comprehend or understand the ramifications of the law. Once he did understand, sin brought about spiritual death. Solomon said, “God had made man upright; but they have sought many inventions” (Eccl. 7:29). We start out good, but then fall, as we understand what the danger of sin is. God was talking about the king of Tyre when He said, “You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created, till iniquity was found in you” (Eze. 28:15). Remember that Jesus said, “Unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 18:3). -Ed