I find that the doctrine of the “Age of Accountability” has two teachings. The first is that no one is held accountable for their sin until an appointed time when the Holy Spirit convicts them and secondly, no one is held accountable for the original sin of Adam. What this ultimately means is that if a child dies at a young age, not having been given an opportunity to choose between good and evil, are covered from the penalty of sin by the blood of Jesus Christ. This doctrine sounds nice, but is this sound doctrine. We know that God saves us by His grace, but does He actually give a “Grace Period”?
Many feel that the appropriate age is when a child first commits sin. They accept the fact that original sin is present, but that a child is born spiritually alive and not held accountable for the original sin of Adam. But sin is sin, and when they commit their first one, they are at that point, a lost sinner. Many will also hold to the belief that if someone is old enough to actually act on sin, they know what they are doing. No matter what the issue is, when you sin you are pronounced guilty and in danger of eternal separation from the Lord.
Isaiah 7:16 For before the child shall know to refuse the evil, and choose the good, the land that thou abhorrest shall be forsaken of both her kings.
This scripture shows us that children are unable to understand good and evil. This scripture teaches us that not only must we choose good, but we must resist evil. It is my belief, that children are not capable of making that decision. We must, not by our reasoning or desires but by solid Biblical proof, determine if the Word of God teaches us of a grace period? If so, when does it expire?
Many believe it is at age twelve. This is reasoned because Christ taught in the Temple at that age. He also said. “I must be about My Father’s business“ (Luke 12:9). This would indicate that this is the accepted age to begin working for the Lord. Others that believe this could be the age in which we become accountable, actually believe this is the youngest age that you can be saved. Simply because none of us could possibly be about our Father’s business at an age younger than Christ.
The Jewish custom is that when a child reaches the age of thirteen, they are considered an adult. No longer considered a child, this would seem to be the correct age to begin holding them accountable for their sin. Both of these seem logical, but doesn’t really prove anything. If God does not reveal that children are exempt from the penalty of sin, then we must consider this doctrine a theory of wishful thinking and dismiss it completely.
Numbers 14:29 Your carcasses shall fall in this wilderness; and all that were numbered of you, according to your whole number, from twenty years old and upward which have murmured against me..
Deuteronomy 1:39 Moreover your little ones, which ye said should be a prey, and your children, which in that day had no knowledge between good and evil, they shall go in thither, and unto them will I give it, and they shall possess it.
We now have some concrete evidence that God does bestow His sovereign mercy upon all children. In the first scripture, we see the Lord condemning all Israelites at age 20 and above to die in the wilderness. They are at the promised land, it is just across the river Jordan, but because Israel demonstrated lack of faith, God wasn’t going to allow them to have the land. Yet, all of them that were 19 years and younger, would get the inheritance. Are we to believe that no person under the age of twenty understood what was going on? Maybe every single Israelite under the age of twenty deserved to enter the promised land because every single one of them kept their faith? According to the Word of God, these children had no knowledge between good and evil, they played no part in the military (Num 1:3), yet they inherited the promised land.
Exodus 30:14-16 Every one that passeth among them that are numbered, from twenty years old and above, shall give an offering unto the LORD. The rich shall not give more, and the poor shall not give less than half a shekel, when they give an offering unto the LORD, to make an atonement for your souls. And thou shalt take the atonement money of the children of Israel, and shalt appoint it for the service of the tabernacle of the congregation; that it may be a memorial unto the children of Israel before the LORD, to make an atonement for your souls.
Here we clearly see God giving His grace to some because of their age. Israel was preparing to enter into the promised land and God required each person from age twenty and up to pay a ransom for their life. It didn’t matter how rich or poor they were, they were to pay the same amount. This was called atonement money and it was to be given as an offering unto the Lord to make an atonement for their lives. The rich couldn’t gain grace by paying extra and the poor couldn’t get in if they didn’t have it. Those under the age of twenty didn’t have to pay atonement for their souls, they were declared to have no knowledge between good and evil and even thou the people failed to trust in God, they were still able to inherit the promised land. So, does this mean the age of accountability ends at age 20?
Rom 7:9 For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.
Paul said that sin revived, and when it did, he died. This was a spiritual death, not a physical one. This means that sin was always present (Sin revived), he was alive (Born spiritually alive), but that he died (Spiritually). It even tells us when he died. He died when “The commandment came“. It was God that said all those under the age of twenty got to go into the promised land, He also said they didn’t have to pay atonement money and it was God who said they had no knowledge between good and evil. God spoke it, and it was so. When God spoke to Paul, He gave him a commandment, and he died spiritually. Paul died because he came to know between good and evil. We first find this in the garden, when Adam disobeyed the Lord. He ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and was found guilty because of his sin. I believe a child comes to the age of accountability when the child, like Adam and Paul, comes to know good and evil.
I believe the “Age of Accountability” is a very sound doctrine. Not because I like it or I think it is fair, I find it to be true because scripture teaches it. I am not bold enough to actually put an age on this doctrine, but I am willing to put a specific time to it. I believe one is held accountable for their own sin when the Holy Spirit convicts their soul. When the Lord speaks to a person, they know good and evil. They have the ability to choose good (Christ) and resist evil (the devil).
Mat 6:33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and all His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
This is why it is extremely important for us as parents and as Christians to teach our children about Christ. Those that learn of Jesus when they are young will be better prepared to answer the most important call they will ever receive.