There is an age when a human being is held accountable to God for his actions. That is the age at which he or she has the ability to do certain things like understand right and wrong, and exercise self-determination. It is the age where you have the ability to understand God’s will and be held to account for your actions.

Adam and Eve, the first man and woman were at that age when they had the ability to understand God’s command and ate the forbidden fruit anyway. Notwithstanding Satan’s part in the drama, God held the man and woman accountable for their disobedience because they knew better.

In the book of Nehemiah, it says that the law was read to people who could understand it. It says, “Then Ezra the priest brought the law before the assembly of men, women and all who could listen with understanding, on the first day of the seventh month” (Neh. 8:2). Those who assembled were those who could listen with understanding. Who would not be present? Young children would not need to be included.

Some people, like mentally disabled and youths, do not have the ability to understand and they are not accountable. Nehemiah says Ezra read, “in the presence of men and women, those who could understand; and all the people were attentive to the book of the law” (Neh. 8:3). And verse 8 says, “They read from the book, from the law of God, translating to give the sense so that they understood the reading.” And at the end of the reading, the people went to eat and celebrate the day “because they understood the words which had been made known to them” (Neh. 8:12). These passages show us there is no accountability to be present when there is no ability to understand.

To be saved by Jesus Christ, a person must understand the Gospel and turn from sin. It’s not possible that babies and small children are accountable until they reach an age where they are able to do these things. Yes, we bring our children up to know and obey God. But it is grownups who have the ability to understand and are accountable for sin.

The Gospel is preached to men and women and those who can understand it. Acts 8:12 says that “men and women” were being baptized when they heard the Gospel. There is zero evidence that children were ever part of the households that obeyed the Gospel. To believe children were baptized with the “households” (see Acts 16:34) usually means they also believe that children are born with their parents sins. That’s impossible. “The wickedness of the wicked will be upon himself” (Ezek. 18:20). Instead of trying to save children who aren’t accountable, the church needs to focus on spreading the Gospel by preaching to adults who have the ability to understand and truly need salvation.

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Answering Pastor David Martin of the Baptist Church
EIS in Acts 2:38 and Matthew 12:41
Grace and Faith working together

Categories: ability, accountability, Children, understand

2 replies

  1. Very good!

    This ties in with Paul saying “And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?” Babies cannot hear and understand the gospel. Yet we know that they are exempt from the law of Sin and Death until they become able to tell right from wrong. God is fair, as Paul says “..where there is no law there is no transgression.” (Romans 4:15)and “for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law.” (Romans 5:13)


  2. Prodigalknot, Thanks for your insight.


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