All that the Father giveth me shall come to me, and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out (John 6.37).
Many texts might be used to precede this subject. The above, from John 6, directs us to precisely the same thing all the others would; all children of God have a relationship with Jesus which results from the Father giving them to His Son. John 6.37 shows us there is an order in the deliverance of the elect. The Father gives, those given come to Jesus, and Jesus receives those that come. This, and all other texts relating to deliverance, by the absence of anything to the contrary, must include infants as well as adults if infants are to be saved.
Let it be positively noted, nowhere in Scripture can a text be found that associates any entire group or particular subjects of Adam's family with the election of grace.
We ask at the outset: does the deliverance of infants, assuming infants are delivered, differ in any respect from the deliverance of any others of the family of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost? Put plainly, can it be hoped infants will be delivered, or saved, simply because they are infants? Do they constitute a special class of the family of man considered worthy of redemption only by reason of their infancy or lack of physical maturity? These and many other questions we hope to answer in this article, should the Lord be pleased.
We are sure it would be rare to find anyone so void of feelings or compassion that they would be indifferent to the destiny of infants and little children who die at that early moment in their brief life. By early we suggest a time before they are capable of mature thinking and decision making. Who can know precisely where infancy ends and adulthood begins? Certainly we cannot, and furthermore, we care not to presume. For the purposes of this study only, we consider infants and little children as those little ones yet dependent on the care of others to sustain their lives. We aim only to ascertain the truth. There are no doctrinal axes we desire to grind. If the Lord enables, we shall cautiously be very mindful of many who have lost a dear child in the sunrise of their lives, for assuredly, it is a tragedy known fully only by those that experience such grief and loss.
There are several divergent opinions relative to the salvation of infants. We mention the four most prominent ones of which we are aware. 1. There are those who believe all infants will be saved. 2. There are those who believe some infants will be saved and others lost. 3. There are those religious deviants so fanatical for their Arminian creeds they would argue that all infants are lost (or at least the vast majority) because they cannot adhere to the rites prescribed to them (for example, infant baptism). To be assured of a home in heaven, all, regardless of age, must meet these rites. 4. There are some who say they simply do not know, that the Bible does not give them enough information to establish a view on the subject of infant salvation worthy of their faith.
Of the four positions given above we shall give no attention to Number 3. Arminians are never at a loss for sudden alterations of views if confronted by common sense, truth, or the exposure of their errors. Thus we leave them and their works theories so we may pursue better purposes.
Position 4 shall be discussed at the conclusion of this article. It is appropriate to question the basis of both positions 1 and 2, to ascertain whether their proponents believe their position is established by Scriptures or if they simply believe it from the tenderness of their heart. However, if they believe their position based on the Scriptures, what Scriptures are they? We have never seen anything that could be any support at all to position 1 and little to prop up position 2. If any believe their views simply from tenderness, or wishful thinking, they really belong with position 4. It would be far more honorable and consistent with Christian decorum to simply say "I don't know" than to be without a "Thus saith the Lord" when asked. And, by God's grace, we are going to ask.
The arguments for the universal salvation of infants abound, and we have read and heard them-for many years. Nothing, however, we read or heard came close to convincing us the theory was anywhere near scriptural. If fact, substantial material that has come our way actually reinforced our opinion that there is a complete absence of proof to convince a believer that infants will be saved on the basis of infancy. We have also heard and read considerable in favor of the salvation of some of those infants dying in infancy. As yet, not a single case has been presented to satisfy us the salvation of all infants dying in infancy is a factual Bible doctrine. We shall in due time examine several of the favorite arguments offered us.
Does an infant need salvation? A better question to be asked is this; are infants sinners? The majority of our readers are well aware, from both the Bible and experience, that total depravity knows no exceptions, so we shall not weary them with proof texts. It is sufficient to reiterate what the Word of God says. "All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God." The word, "all" embraces humans. It embraces all humans. Infants, born or unborn, are humans. The Old Order of Baptists firmly believes "all" sinned in Adam. Adam was the federal head of all his race. Humanity, all of it, had their standing in him. Consequently, they all fell when he fell. The Word affirms "For as in Adam all die." However, if it is contended that infants are not sinners, then the discussion of infant salvation is moot. Infants would stand in no need of salvation. Jesus did not die for them if they are not sinners. He came to seek and to save that which was lost. If infants are innocent and sinless, they are not, and never have been, lost. Infants would not be sheep, for Jesus laid down His life for the sheep. They would not be bought with a price for they stood in no need of redemption, not being sinners. The benefits of the cross would not apply to infants. The cross was the means to take away the curse, under which infants never fell if not sinners. If infants are sinless beings they shall never join the heavenly chorus and sing "...a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation (Revelation 5.9)."
If infants are not sinners, we ask, what are they? Are they somehow free of the sin that Adam passed on to all mankind in the garden? If free of sin, what has Jesus done for them? If free of sin then how can they die? The wages of sin is death. If any infant dies in infancy then of what did it die if it was not a sinner?
But, infants are sinners and do stand in need of salvation just like any other sinner.
What is salvation? It is deliverance. Who delivers? Who but Jesus can? And then, we ask, how does Jesus deliver? "And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2.1)." If it should be conjectured that Paul was speaking about adult sinners and not infants, we counter, what then did Paul mean in verse three of the same context where he said "...and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others (Ephesians 2.3)." These were not just practicing sinners; they were natural born sinners. It was their inherent nature to sin. Thus, as soon as they had a nature, they were sinners. We leave it to our objectors to inform us when humans get their nature.
Briefly, what is the method of salvation for all that will be saved? First, they are chosen of the Father, in Christ, before the world was shaped. Second, Christ purchased them on the cross. Third, they are born again by the Spirit. Fourth, they shall be delivered up to heaven with Christ at the last day. We shall direct our attention only to point three.
"Ye must be born again (John 3.7)." Must be! It cannot be escaped. Those that will forever enjoy the blissful world beyond this veil of tears must be born again. About now our wise opponents are saying to themselves, "The hardshells are sure ignorant. They do not know that Jesus was not speaking to an infant. He was speaking to Nicodemus, a full grown, full blown Pharisee." Yes, humbly, we confess Jesus was speaking to an adult. Our response is, So what? We had just as well clear this hurdle now and move to other matters.
What has age to do with salvation? Wherein does the smallest infant differ from a wrinkled old person of many years? Are they not alike clay in the Potter's hand? Are old folks more in need of salvation than middle-aged folks? Are middle-aged folks more in need of salvation than infants? If one sin will damn a sinner (James 2.10), no matter what their age, we may dismiss age as a factor in the salvation of any or all that will rejoice finally in heaven. There can be no deviation from the fact that salvation is rooted in election and there is positively no indication in Scriptures that election derives from distinctions among the family of man. The only distinction must come from God's eternal purpose to save. There is nothing we know of that would indicate God chose any or all infants solely because they were infants.
If salvation was determined by election (a truth we firmly hold) then were the elect, or at least some of them, chosen on the basis of age? Did God choose His family in Christ or out of Adam's fallen race? The answer here reveals much of what one believes about God and His sovereignty. If God chose them in Christ then eternal union, not age, was the determining factor. If He chose them out of Adam's fallen race then they are in the same fix as everyone else regardless of age, and age then cannot be a factor, one way or the other. No matter how one dresses it up, if God chose some on the basis of anything other than His own sovereign will, then He did in some manner show respect to persons. In this case He showed respect to infants. If infants, why not cripples? Why not the blind? Why not the rich? Why not those that try their best? Is God somehow obligated to save little children or infants? Our personal desire would be that all who die in infancy be saved but it is not for us to determine. If God is obligated to save infants what is it that brings on the obligation? Would not any obligation outside of Himself render the sovereignty of God imperfect?
If God saves all little children simply because He wills to, I shall personally rejoice with others concerned for the precious little ones, But, what does the word of God say about it? Is there evidence in the Bible that God will save all infants? Is there evidence in the Bible that God will save some infants based on their infancy?
Is there one method of salvation provided for adults and another provided for infants? Would both methods be found in Christ? If so, what then could be the difference? If there is no difference then there is only one salvation and all, infants and adults, are alike on the same standing, to be delivered on the basis of election, not age. What does the Word of God say about salvation for infants simply because they are infants? We respond firmly, nothing is said about it.
"Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved (Acts 4.12)." From this we conclude, if one is saved, whether young or old, they must be saved by Jesus. Thus they must all be sinners, young and old, and they must be saved or there is no hope. The infant's only hope is Jesus, not its infancy. The adult's only hope is Jesus, not its length of years.
JOHN THE BAPTIST AND SIMEON
It is suggested that John the Baptist is an example of God saving infants. The notion must be rejected! It certainly is an example of salvation but John did not die in infancy. All that may be proved in John's case is that God was pleased to reveal Himself to him at a very early age. He may do so in the case of others if it so please Him, but neither will that prove all infants will be saved. The salvation of John the Baptist no more proves God saves all (or some) infants dying in infancy than Simeon proves that God saves all (or some) old folks dying in advanced years (Luke 2.25-35). What they both prove is that God is sovereign in relation to when He reveals Himself to His elect. Age with God is nothing. Age has nothing to do with election or at least if it does the Bible is silent about it.
David's son by Bath-sheba is a rare example being offered as proof God saves infants dying in infancy. "And he said, While the child was yet alive, I fasted and wept: for I said, Who can tell whether God will be gracious to me, that the child may live? But now he is dead, wherefore should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me (II Samuel 12.22, 23)." Certainly there can be conjectures and speculation drawn from these tender words. It is very possible that David believed the child was in heaven. But David did not say that, nor did he even imply such. What he said was that the child was dead, and he could not be brought back. Even so, David found comfort that he could go where the child was. He might as well spoken of the slumber in the grave, "sleeping with his fathers," an expression which was very common among the Israelites. We may be totally wrong. So may be our detractors.
If, for the sake of common ground and congeniality, we agree David's son was indeed in heaven, that David hoped to join him there, does that by any stretch prove all other infants dying in infancy will be there also? As well might we prove that everyone that robbed and stole, as did Judas, will be a devil doomed to hell. The case of Judas will not settle the issue for all robbers, for Jesus promised at least one robber he would be with Him in paradise on that day. Neither will the case of David's son prove there is salvation for all infants dying in infancy.
Before anyone adopts a theory it should be tested to its extreme. Never more so than here is this a useful practice. For instance, we know that many Conditional Primitive Baptists believe all infants dying in infancy will be in heaven. Those same folks believe there is no ordained time for, anyone to die. They contend one may die at any moment and God definitely has not predestinated the death of any. Some of them are quite vociferus about it, too. However, it is a fact beyond dispute, if all infants that die in infancy are secure in the Father's love and ordaining decrees then all reprobates must have a time not to die. That time is infancy. Conversely, they have a time that they will die. That time is somewhere beyond infancy. It matters not that we do not know exactly when it is. A reprobate cannot and will not die in infancy if the salvation of all infants, dying in infancy, be true. Otherwise, the reprobate would suddenly be changed into an elect vessel of mercy upon dying in infancy. What could that be other than the results of a changing God?
A question worth much consideration regarding reprobates is, at what time does the reprobate become eligible to die? Since he cannot die in infancy - an impossibility if all infants go to heaven when dying - when can his time to die come? At age six? At age twelve? Would it not be a matter of great relief for parents to know where the deadline is? For instance, if God-fearing parents had a child that was about five years old and the child showed signs, however minimal, of maturity, then would they not have reason to dread the development of that child? Why so? Simply this: the doctrine of infant salvation for all dying in infancy offers the parents a hope (other than Christ), however slim or remote, that the child is sure of heaven should it die before maturity. The closer the child comes to adulthood the odds drop off. When first born there could be no danger of damnation, but now, with advancing development the lingering fear appears that suggests the child may be a reprobate. Absurd you say? Not at all if you recognize the frailties of human reasoning.
As well it is worth mention that those holding to infant salvation must believe that all infants dying in infancy have been born again prior to their death. We are well satisfied that we are not to do evil that good may come, but what parent could avoid thinking of these matters should their little infant become seriously ill? Should they pray for its recovery, or should they pray for its death? If the child dies, the parents can live out life with the assurance the child is in heaven. It must have been born again. If the child survives then it may be a reprobate.
And too, if infants' dying in infancy assures them of heaven, how can we avoid the fact that abortionists are sending millions to heaven with their wicked practice? Each time they slaughter an unborn we may safely say, another elect vessel of mercy went to be with Jesus. Had it lived, had the abortionist not murdered the child, we must ever entertain the awful dread the poor thing might live out a normal life and yet perish in the burning fires of hell, where the worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. Only death in infancy can assure us our children will pass safely to the portals of glory if infant salvation be so.
Contrary to what Conditional Primitive Baptists and assorted other semi-universalists maintain, there will be no unbelievers in heaven. No goats, no tares, no false disciples; only believers will gather around the throne of God to worship the Lamb. Be sure of this: anyone leaving this world in unbelief will remain that way. There is a great gulf fixed. This would pose a problem for Conditionalists and Missionary Baptists as well. With Conditionalists the problem does not exist in their mind, for anyone can go to heaven that dies with a grin on their face or is buried with a lily in their hand. But the problem does exist. Infants all go to heaven, and belief is not necessary, as they see it. But Jesus said, "I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine (John 10.14)." Conditionalists can create new moons as quickly as they can prove the sheep can know Jesus and not believe on Him. What does this text say then if it does not say that there is an interrelation between Jesus and all His sheep? Are infants elect? If the answer is yes then they must be sheep. If infants are not elect can we dare presume they, as non-elect, will be in heaven? This all is reduced to the simple fact that infants as well as adults must be believers to enjoy eternal rest with the Lord in glory. Just about here some may think they have us cornered.
Belief is a product of grace. Belief is begotten of faith. Faith is the gift of God. The elect believe because they are born again. They believe because they are alive. They believe because Christ is in them the hope of glory. They believe as a result of what Christ has done for them and not what they have done to get that way. What is it that causes someone 80 years old to believe? The voice of the Son of God. What causes someone to believe that is 40 years of age? The voice of the Son of God. What then causes a youth to believe? The voice of the Son of God. Lastly, what could cause an infant to believe? "Why, they cannot. They are too young to believe," the carnal minded complain. Friend, are you saying the same grace of God in the voice of His Son that stirs the mature to believe, cannot stir the infant to believe? Is this something impossible with God or only impossible in your mind? When one is blessed to see that this is a work in the inward man and not a work in the outward man all the difficulties vanish away. If belief was a requirement of the Adamic or natural man then none could believe. The natural mind is enmity with God.
What we have said above serves a fit answer to the missionary minded as well. The infant need not hear the voice of a preacher, a soul winner, or a Sunday school teacher to live. All that is needed is the voice of Jesus. The same voice that told Lazarus to rise from the tomb is sufficient to raise the infant or the ancient from their death in sin. However, we pause to say here with emphasis, all this does not prove that God does save all, or any, infants. It only proves lie can, and that without the hindrance of Arminian or Conditionalist theology.
But we must now come to terms. Humbly, we say that the Bible offers absolutely no proof that God does save all or some infants dying in infancy. He can, and with some uncertainty we say He probably does, save some infants dying in infancy. This no one can prove and certainly we dare not try. If brethren feel, through grief or a sense of great loss, their beloved infant that God took is in heaven, so be it. We cannot think their hope for the infant harms anyone. However, we cannot and must not attempt to make a doctrine solely from our feelings. In the absence of Scriptural support we personally feel much more comfortable asserting we do not know how the matter will fall. We are positive that if God takes all or none of the infants dying in infancy He has done according to His good and perfect will. It is not the business of His creation to require of God a reason. The Lord's arm is not shortened that He cannot save. The question is, will He?
May the Lord give each of us sufficient grace to find consolation and peace in all our losses. We dare not presume but trust solely to what He has revealed in His Word, and that alone.
Elder J. F. Poole
Volume 12, No. 6 - November-December, 1998