The Age of Accountability? (Part 2)By Pastor Boffey on Sunday, July 2, 2006.
THE AGE OF ACCOUNTABILITY?
Accountable: "Liable to be called to account, or to answer for responsibilities or conduct; answerable, responsible."
I. Some affirm a doctrine called the "age of accountability."
A. This doctrine is designed to give a comforting explanation about the final state of young children who die, particularly those who die without the gospel.
1. It is not based on Scripture, but the attitude of ISA 30:10.
2. Truth is hard and uncomfortable for most. JOH 6:65-66.
B. Those who affirm this doctrine are basically of two camps.
1. Camp 'A' believes the doctrine of original sin.
a. These hold that sin is an inherited trait.
b. These affirm that Adam's sin is imputed to all mankind without exception and all are held accountable to God because of that (whether they actually have committed sin or not).
c. These affirm that little children (even infants) are sinners, but that a merciful God will not hold them accountable until they reach a certain age.
2. Camp 'B' denies the doctrine of original sin.
a. These hold that man is born into this world in a pure and
b. These affirm that a person only becomes a condemned sinner by commission; Adam's sin is not imputed to him.
c. These affirm that all children prior to reaching the "age of accountability" are certainly eternally safe.
C. The "age of accountability" heresy was necessitated by the heresy that eternal
life is conditioned upon man's obedience of God's law. Error begets error.
II. Let us consider some of the implications of this doctrine. This study will largely be an exercise in the argument of reductio ad absurdum (reduction to the absurd), also known as proof by contradiction.
A. Both positions must conclude that there are multiple ways of getting to heaven.
1. Some go to heaven because they are deemed too young to go to
hell. They are not "sinners" in the sense of eternal accountability.
2. Older ones who go to heaven do so by virtue of a reward for something
they resolved or did.
3. The Bible, though, teaches only one way that anyone gets to heaven: by the grace and mercy of the Lord Jesus Christ who came to save the
UNGODLY and SINNERS. JOH 14:6; ROM 5:6; 1TI 1:15.
B. Both positions must concede that people can get to heaven without obedience to the gospel, a doctrine which they tend to despise in others; "....an heretick....is subverted....being condemned of himself" (TIT 3:10-11).
C. Both positions are forced to conclude that a child's best chance of obtaining eternal glory is by not making it to the "age of accountability."
1. Plainly, the risk of destruction because of disobedience would be of
force after passing the "age of accountability."
2. This heresy actually gives abortionists philosophical ammunition. D. Is this "age of accountability" universal, or does it vary with the individual and his circumstances? If it varies, how and why does it vary?
E. Where is the book, chapter and verse that proves this "age of accountability?" 1. There was a definite age of accountability established in Israel when they refused to enter Canaan.
2. Every male numbered for war over twenty years of age was held accountable and condemned to perish in the wilderness; every male under twenty was spared. NUM 1:45-47 c/w NUM 14:29.
3. It is unlikely that Camp 'A' or Camp 'B' would assume this to be a precedent and basis for their doctrine.
F. Consider Camp 'A.' All children, though born in sin, are not held accountable for their sins until a certain age and will certainly go to heaven if they die before then. Are such regenerate or not?
1. If such are not regenerate (born-again), then they cannot see or enter into the kingdom of God. JOH 3:3-5.
2. If such are regenerate, they have paradoxically already passed the "age of accountability," since regeneration is clearly a remedy for corruption and condemnation. TIT 3:3-5.
3. If such are regenerate, then why is it generally assumed that they must do something to obtain regeneration after passing the "age of accountability?"
4. If such are regenerate, Camp 'A' is obviously conceding that God can save people in their sins BY HIMSELF.
5. The Catholic Church is actually more consistent here. They believe in the imputation of original sin to infants, and so take their heresy of baptismal regeneration to its logical conclusion: sprinkling infants or even the unborn (in utero).
G. Consider Camp 'B." Infants are born in innocence and purity not bearing the penalty of the imputation of Adam's sin. They are all without exception heaven-bound if they should die.
1. If infants are born pure and innocent, do they remain sinless until the "age of accountability" arrives?
a. An "age of accountability" demands a prior "era of non- accountability" which is logically ridiculous if that era is marked by sinlessness anyway.
b. If they do commit sin before the arrival of the "age of accountability," then how can it possibly be said that all children before the "age of accountability" are sinLESS?
2. If infants have no sin then why do some die? Death is clearly the product of sin. ROM 6:23; ROM 5:12.
a. Death has no claim on someone who has no sin.
b. An objector might ask, "Well then, how could Christ die?"
c. Ans. The only way that death could affect Christ is by his voluntary submission to it on our behalf (just as Adam had to voluntarily yield himself before death could affect him). JOH 10:11, JOH 10:17-18.
3. If infants have no sin, then why are some born afflicted, even in otherwise healthy families?
a. Bodily afflictions are a lesser degree of physical death and are likewise the result of sin. The atonement of Christ is needed for their cure as well. MAT 9:2-6; MAT 8:16-17.
b. For a sinless child to be afflicted, God would have to deny Himself, "For he doth not afflict willingly nor grieve the children of men" (LAM 3:33).
4. If infants have no sin, but die and go to heaven, then how can Christ claim to be the only sinless human to have entered there? REV 5:4-5.
a. If other humans had no sin, why did not God simply accept one
of the many propitiatory sacrifices of infants upon heathen
altars to atone for our sins? DEU 12:31.
b. Only Christ was just and had no sin. ACT 7:52; 2CO 5:21.
5. If infants are without sin, they do not need a Savior to redeem them from their sins. In other words, Christ did not die for infants or small children.
a. This means that Camp 'B' must concede that Jesus did not die for everyone (a limited atonement).
b. This also must mean that the only ones who are certainly eternally secure are those for whom Jesus did not die!
c. This also implies that little children do not need to be born again with a new nature, since their nature is inherently pure. But remember JOH 3:3-5.
d. This also means that all under the "age of accountability" have no need of the blood of Christ. However, the only people that
Scripture depicts in glory are those who are JUSTIFIED (absolved, acquitted, exculpated; declared free from the penalty of sin on the basis of Christ's righteousness) and redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. ROM 8:29-30; REV 5:9.
6. If infants have no inherent sin, then how could God be just in his condemnation of Esau while still in the womb? ROM 9:11-13.
7. If infants have no inherent sin, why do their bodies corrupt upon death?
a. The sinless Christ is distinct in that His body did not corrupt. ACT 2:31.
b. Will the bodies of perished infants need to be changed at the
resurrection if they have no sin? 1CO 15:51-53.
III. The Bible does teach the doctrine of the imputation of original sin.
A. Adam sinned, and as a result, died. GEN 2:16-17 c/w GEN 3:22-24.
B. Adam acted as federal head and representative of all his posterity. All are deemed sinners in Adam. ROM 5:12-19; 1CO 15:22.
1. If the doctrine of infant purity is true, then men are only under condemnation after the "age of accountability" is attained and THEY then personally sin. But the offence and disobedience "of one" in
ROM 5:18-19 is NOT the individual, but Adam.
2. Scripture teaches that men are sinners under condemnation, firstly "by NATURE." EPH 2:3.
a. "...the tree is known by his fruit" (MAT 12:33).
b. A person does not do righteousness to become righteous. He
does righteousness because he is righteous, being made so in
Christ. 1JO 3:7; 2CO 5:21.
c. In like manner, a person is not born pure and innocent, then
sins to become a sinner. He is a sinner by nature, being made so in Adam. ROM 5:18-19.
d. If the doctrine of infant purity is true, then Cain was the Second Adam, not Jesus Christ (1CO 15:45-47)!
C. All men are under the condemnation of sin. They are sinners from:
1. youth. GEN 8:21; PRO 22:15; ISA 7:16.
2. birth. PSA 58:3; JOB 25:4-6; ISA 48:8.
3. conception. PSA 51:5; JOB 14:4.
a. Some have affirmed that PSA 51:5 is not teaching that David was conceived a sinner, but that his mother conceived him in a
b. David's mother is nowhere condemned as an adulteress, but
contrarily is called the handmaid of the Lord. PSA 86:16.
c. If David was an illegitimate child, how could he have become
king? DEU 23:2.
d. Again, at least the Catholics (though wrong) are consistent here. Recognizing that men cannot be born of women in purity and innocence, they invented the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of Mary to explain the sinless nature of Christ.
D. If infants have no sin, then how can God be just in ordering their slaughter since He condemns the shedding of innocent blood? 2KI 24:4 c/w 1SAM 15:3.
E. That men in sinning may act as a federal head for others (even their descendants) is seen also from these examples:
1. GEN 9:24-25. The descendants of Ham were put under a curse
because of HIS actions.
2. NUM 16:27, 30-33. The wickedness of Dathan and Abiram brought
judgment upon their little children.
3. EXO 17:8, 14 c/w 1SAM 15:2-3. The Amalekites, their infants and
sucklings were all judged for what their ancestors had done
hundreds of years previously.
F. Observe the principle of federal headship in the case of Abraham and his descendants of the tribe of Levi. HEB 7:8-10.
1. Levi was the great-grandson of Abraham.
2. Abraham paid a tithe to Melchisedec many years before Levi was
born. Abraham did not even have any children at the time.
3. The Levites did not PERSONALLY pay tithes to Melchisidec; they were judged as having done so in Abraham.
4. In like manner, though Adam's descendants did not personally
participate in his sin, they were judged as having done so.
Adam's sin was imputed unto all. ROM 5:14.
G. An objection to the doctrine of federal headship is sometimes attempted from EZE 18:20-21.
1. The context helps discover the proper meaning here.
2. The Jews were suffering the oppressions and deprivations of captivity.
3. Many Jews were outraged that such judgments should come upon
them for they deemed themselves righteous.
4. They were affirming that their troubles were not because of their own sins but their ancestors'. EZE 18:1-2, 19.
5. God was straightening out their thinking. Eze.18:3-4.
6. God was advising them that the judgments that were befalling them were altogether just.
a. Blaming the folks and charging God with injustice was only
exacerbating their problem.
b. They had eaten "sour grapes" too and were stinging for it.
c. Once the Jews learned their lesson, then they would concede
their proverb was an error. JER 31:29-30.
H. Another objection to the doctrine of federal headship/imputed sin is sometimes supposed from ROM 7:9.
1. Some affirm that Paul was teaching that he was pure, blameless and had eternal life until the law of God came to him and he subsequently broke it.
2. This position would have to conclude that the law of God which converts the soul (PSA 19:7) is the last thing that anyone should ever
be exposed to, since the conversion would be to damnation.
3. Sin did not in Paul take root by the commandment. Rather, it took "...occasion by the commandment..." (ROM 7:8, 11).
4. He said not, "...when the commandment came, sin entered..." but
that sin revived.
a. Revive: "Of feelings, dispositions, etc.: To become active or
operative again." (O.E.D. cites ROM 7:9 as an example here).
b. Sin was in Paul awaiting something to revive it. "...Without the law sin was dead..." (v.8), not non-existent.
5. Paul was "alive without the law once..." in the sense that he was ignorant of his own corruption until the law came which denounced him and exposed him as a sinner. By the law is the knowledge of sin.
ROM 3:20; 7:7.
a. The law brings death and immorality to light and to the surface.
b. The gospel brings life and immortality to light and into service. 2TI 1:10 c/w COL 1:5-6.
I. Consider that if men cannot be deemed accountable for Father Adam's sin,
then neither can men be deemed righteous for Father Christ's righteousness. The doctrine of imputation must work for both: one man's disobedience; one
IV. Again, the "age of accountability" is an attempt to mollify an uncomfortable issue: "What is the final state of infants and young children who die?"
A. The question itself is based upon a faulty understanding as to how one comes into the possession of eternal life.
1. It is falsely assumed that a person must become old enough to make a conscious exercise of faith and/or good works in order to "get saved."
2. The Bible teaches that eternal life is a free gift of grace and mercy from God distributed according to God's will, not man's obedience.
TIT 3:5; ROM 9:14-16.
a. Sin may run in the blood, but grace does not.
b. "The race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, for then the children that are well taught would do well, but God will let us know that his grace is his own and his Spirit a free- agent, and that though we are tied to give our children a good education he is not tied to bless it. In this, as much as any thing, appears the power of original sin and the necessity of special grace." (Matthew Henry, on Ezekiel 18:10-20)
B. Some have conjectured that all infants go to heaven upon death based on
1. It is only referring to David's son. It is not necessarily a universal pattern.
2. David may simply have been referring to the grave.
ECC 3:20; GEN 37:35.
C. We should be satisfied to know that:
1. Jesus is not without lovingkindness and mercy towards children, especially believing ones. MAT 18:6, 10 c/w HEB 1:13-14.
2. The Lord knoweth them that are His. 2TI 2:19.
3. God is just in all that He does. No charge can be laid against Him or unfounded assumptions made about the workings of the Spirit.
ROM 9:14; JOH 3:8; ISA 40:13.