Theology Corner

Addressing commonly asked questions about Christianity from the perspective of a non-theologian

94. CAN SALVATION BEFORE AGE OF ACCOUNTABILITY GIVE A PASS TO SIN?

 

God created the universe with such precision that the slightest change in any one of its properties would preclude our existence and God designed the earth as a home for man.  God placed certain powerful angels in charge of his creation and instructed them to be good stewards.  Some angels began to oppose God under the leadership of Satan, the most powerful and intelligent of all rebellious angels.  Satan exercises a pervasive, structural and diabolical influence, on whatever he touches, which caused all creation to be captured by the bondage of evil.  That which God created as good began to exhibit a pain-ridden, bloodthirsty, sinister and hostile demeanor.  “Mother Nature,” became an inherently violent and terrifying system dominated by disease, suffering and death – a system red in tooth and claw.  Man had not yet been created.

God set aside some real estate for the Garden of Eden and restored it to its condition prior to Satan’s diabolical influence.  He then created Adam and Eve to live in this Garden.  In full view of all the angels in Heaven, Satan demanded unrestricted access to Adam and Eve and, although they were created sinless, Satan won them over.  Evil had taken up residence in the soul of man, that particular evil called sin.  The will, intellect and heart of Adam and Eve had been possessed and permeated by sin.  But what about us, the descendants of Adam and Eve?

God is just.  God does not impute to us the individual sins of Adam and Eve.  But He knew it would be pointless to allow the offspring of Adam and Eve to be born sinless.  He knew they would follow exactly the same path as their created ancestors.  So He allowed the generations of Adam and Eve’s offspring to be born with a sin nature.  We are all born corrupt, averse to God and inclined to evil.  However, for this depraved nature we are not responsible and no guilt or demerit attaches to it.  We become responsible for this sin nature only after attaining the age of accountability and ratifying it as our own.  The age of accountability is not the same for all persons and, for many, the age at which sin can be recognized by the human heart, intellect and will may be very young indeed. 

Decades into ministry, many Baptist pastors are fond of re-telling the story of their own salvation experience, particularly if it happened at an early age, frequently ranging from 5 to 10.  This is meant to suggest that they were saved before the age of accountability and never ratified ownership of their own sin nature.  Could this circumstance raise them to a peerage above the rank and file Christian?  Unfortunately, failure to comprehend the depth of your own sin nature at salvation does not mean you are subsequently immune from sinful behavior!  Failure to comprehend your own sin nature, because you were saved before reaching the age of accountability, may give you a boost toward holiness but it does not insulate you from embracing the behavior of a sinner at any time later in life.

Those who accept the great gift of salvation are redeemed or set free from the bondage of sinSalvation causes us to be regenerated or born again from the death grip of sin to a life of pursuing righteousness.  However, salvation may set us free from the bondage of sin but it does not set us free from the influence of sin itself.  Satan knows that our concupiscence, bad judgement, inconsistent will and weariness can ensnare us in the vice-grip of evil even after salvationBut for the first time in our lives, we can, by the power of the Holy Spirit, say “no” to Satan and to our own sin nature.  We can be set free from the bondage of sin but not from its influence.  Accepting salvation prior to the age of accountability means that you will not automatically fall into the bondage of sin when that age is reached.  However, you will remain under the influence of sin for the rest of your life.

Dwelling on the idea that you are a special kind of Christian because you were saved at a young age is not a good idea.  In the words of Oswald Chambers:

 

Beware if in personal testimony you have to hark back and say – “Once, so many years ago, I was saved.”  If you are walking in the light, there is no harking back, the past is transfused into the present wonder of communion with God.  If you get out of the light you become a sentimental Christian and live on memories, your testimony has a hard, metallic note.

 

Another potential downside to juvenile salvation is even more perplexing.  Young men and women, saved at a young age and enrolled in Bible College in preparation for Christian service, occasionally develop certain characteristics of Antinomianism (Section 46 of Theology Corner under the title, “What is Antinomianism?”). 

Antinomianism, which means against the law, is a doctrine or belief that the teaching of the Bible frees Christians from required obedience to any law, whether scriptural, civil, or moral, and that salvation is attained solely through faith and the gift of divine grace.  In this context, the word faith is not necessarily belief preceded by repentance and followed by obedience.  It could represent merely an academic exercise or an emotional experience.

The antinomian believes that both justification and entire sanctification are what God does for you through His Son.  Justification removes condemnation and entire sanctification makes you holy.  You are no longer bound by Scriptural, civil or moral law.  You don’t need to seek a path of repentance, faith and obedience continually reaffirmed and renewed.  You are a perfect Christian.  This theology appeals to many because there is no need for a change in lifestyle.  You are perfect just the way you are!

In my own experience, young men and women, saved at a young age and enrolled in Bible College, frequently let down their guard and succumb to the power of sin.  Examples include:

 

  • Obsession with internet porn.

 

  • Spending the weekend at an empty house or apartment indulging in alcohol, drugs and sex.

 

  • Engaging in every act of sex except intercourse so they can claim virginity to their Ordination Council or during an interview for a church position.

 

Curiously, these same young people would show up for Chapel on Monday morning, raise their hands and cry, “Here I am Jesus; I know You will never forsake me.”  When pressed on these issues, many students would claim, “I am not in bondage to sin and I can stop at any time; in any case, I can never lose my salvation.”  In essence, they would say, “What’s the big deal; the blood of Christ covers everything?”

I spoke at a Chapel service one Monday morning and itemized the pall of sin covering the lives of many in the student body.  Within two weeks, my message disappeared from the Chapel archives.  If churches heard that message, fund raising might suffer!