Baptism: How young is too young?

youthbaptismIn the comments at the Regarding the Proper Role for the Pulpit Minister post, a discussion has broken out regarding how old someone must be to have an understanding sufficient for the baptism to be effective.

This is not about infant baptism per se, but whether we should baptize a very young child who requests baptism.

For what it’s worth, I myself was baptized at eight. I knew the Five Steps of Salvation. The preacher insisted that I must recite this to prove my understanding. I knew what all the words meant. I knew I supposed to be good afterwards. Oh, and I believed in Jesus.

I should also add that I don’t believe that the “age of accountability” has to be the same as the age at which a child can have saving faith. There is no obvious reason that the age at which God holds you accountable for sin is also the age at which you may come to faith. I suppose you might argue that there’s no need for forgiveness in the absence of being accountable for sin, but being baptized is about more than forgiveness — and as important as it is, we manage to over-emphasize the forgiveness element in our preaching due to our Frontier Revivalism roots. 

That is, baptism brings possession of the Spirit, regeneration, adoption by God as sons and daughters, among other things. It’s about much more than forgiveness.

Under the Torah, the age of accountability was 20. And yet sonship and covenant relationship with God began at birth.

(Num. 14:28-30 ESV)  28 Say to them, ‘As I live, declares the LORD, what you have said in my hearing I will do to you:  29 your dead bodies shall fall in this wilderness, and of all your number, listed in the census from twenty years old and upward, who have grumbled against me,  30 not one shall come into the land where I swore that I would make you dwell, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun. 

(Deut. 1:39 ESV)  39 And as for your little ones, who you said would become a prey, and your children, who today have no knowledge of good or evil, they shall go in there. And to them I will give it, and they shall possess it. 

There are other relevant verses, but these should suffice. God said that those too young to have “knowledge of good or evil” (plainly alluding to the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil in Genesis 2 and 3) would not die in the desert despite their parents’ lack of faith to enter the Promised Land. God also said that those under 20 would not die in the desert. The language is similar and parallel. That is, the Torah treated 20 as the age of accountability but not the age of covenant relationship with God.

This is surprising to those of us raised in the Church of Christ/Arminian concept of “age of accountability,” because we’ve treated this as also the age of eligibility for baptism — and we’re inclined to see this as being around 12 for most kids, although there’s no obvious reason to pick this age.

In fact, in the law, we treat those under 19 as unable to make contracts of any kind and hold them to far lower penalties for crimes. And they can’t buy cigarettes until they turn 19. They can’t buy alcohol until age 21. And they can’t be drafted until 19 — much as the Israelites treated age 20 as the age for military service.

Recent research demonstrates that our brains don’t fully develop until about age 20. Before then, we don’t have the brain-hardware to fully understand the consequences of our decisions. Those who’ve raised teens know what I mean.

So I offer these thoughts for your reflection.

And, no, I don’t know when a child is too young to have the faith required for baptism. But I do know that our treatment of the age for faith as the same as the age of accountability has left many parents of a deceased child needlessly agonizing over their dead child’s salvation.

Profile photo of Jay Guin

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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99 Responses to Baptism: How young is too young?

  1. Price Futrell says:

    Weren’t the children circumcised on day 8 ? Wasn’t that the sign of the covenant ? Did they understand the Law at 8 days ? Of course we aren’t told to dunk our kids on the 8th day but it seems God, under the most rigid of covenants, had the children initiated before they were aware of anything at all…

  2. Mark says:

    Price, Circumcision was commanded on the 8th day because on that day clotting factor levels in the blood rise to normal from low.

  3. Price Futrell says:

    @ Mark.. So, you believe that God was going to kill Moses because his son’s clotting factor was at optimum and he hadn’t circumcised him yet ? I don’t think so.

  4. Mark says:

    No. I’m saying that is why it was not to be done before day 8.

  5. Bob Brandon says:

    One thing that we often lose sight of in our churches is the appreciation that, at least by the second century, new believers were expected to be mature in their understanding of the doctrines of that time, as memorialized in the Didache and preserved in the concept of catechism. We do a rather poor job of catechizing anyone, leaving that project to the youth minister if the congregation has one. Too often, it’s left to the young (regardless of age) believer to fend for themselves. For the most part, our sermons and sunday/wednesday classes are exceedingly inadequate for that task as well.

    I was baptized at age ten, about a month after startling my dad one evening over some questions I had about being qualified to be baptized. Even so, in my understanding of the gospel, frankly, I was scarcely more aware of the gospel had I been baptized as an infant. As a practical matter, our form of baptism is more akin to adult infant baptism, and both find confirmation only after a long time of study, maturity, and discernment.

    And assessing an appropriate age for baptism by civil legal standards of capacity or even criminal legal standards of culpability seem to me to demonstrate the problem instead of gaining insight into it.

  6. Alabama John says:

    Consider the wording we have used for years.

    “I baptize you in the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Ghost for the remission of your sins.”

    With a child not being held accountable for any wrong doings, surely not sinning, do we leave off the last part?

    That is why many get rebaptized at an older age, some even in their 60-80’s.

  7. John F says:

    There is no “magic formula” to “insure” that the baptism is efficacious any more than the idea of a “special” person to do the immersing. As I have stated in previous posts, the great commission says (participle) “going. make disciples (create / preach / proclaim), baptize, then teach to keep all commanded.
    When someone is old enough to desire relationship (discipleship) and forgiveness of sin, they are old enough.

  8. Dwight says:

    I would argue that if a child recognizes that they have sins that only Jesus can save them from and they want to be in Jesus and under Jesus, then this is worthy of baptism.

  9. John F says:

    I had intended to add this comment, but my fingers don’t always work as well as I would like.

    The blacksmith says, “Strike while the iron is hot!” the corollary is, “Baptize while the heart is soft (not in the sense of weak, but sensitive to spiritual things)!” Who can say that there will be another time (later) of responsiveness?

  10. laymond says:

    Gen 17:13 He that is born in thy house, and he that is bought with thy money, must needs be circumcised: and my covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant.
    Gen 17:14 And the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant.

    (it seems to me that the child’s soul depends upon the faith of the head of the household, actually this is an example of the child paying for the sins of the father)

    Jer 31:31 Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah:
    Jer 31:32 Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD:
    Jer 31:33 But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.
    ( it seems to me the new covenant, places the care of the soul on the individual. and their faith, only being held responsible for one’s own sins. unless a child is born with their own sins, children have no need of baptism, unless of course they are again paying for the sins of their father. The sin’s of the father in this case, is what the father teaches the child. a child should not be held accountable for the sins of others. )

    (I don’t know that the baptism of a child, don’t depend more on what the parent wants, than what the child knows, one thing the child does know is, they want to please their parents.)

    (I have heard the phrase “we did it” comming from mouths that did not belong to the child.and watched children looking dumbfounded as to why everyone was cheering)

  11. Alabama John says:

    As I said earlier many parents push their children to be baptized as it puts them in the COC where they can pray for forgiveness and have their unforgiven sins forgiven at a moments notice.
    If not in the COC, their prayers will not be heard as they are not in that relationship and God would say to their prayer ‘Who are you? I do not know you.”
    So, as a parent push to eliminate that terrible risk.

  12. When we take a modern idea such as “the age of accountability”, declare it a universal truth, and then try to support it by traveling backward to one verse regarding a singular one-time event in Jewish history, we are leaning upon a very thin reed. We depend entirely on the idea of eternal legal precedent, without demonstrating that legal precedent is even a a valid approach to understanding spiritual reality in this present case. I note that in all the other references to sin and forgiveness and atonement in scripture, (whether in the Law or otherwise) the idea of such an ongoing legal exemption never appears. I would note that if there is any precedent to be found in Exodus 30:14, it applied only to those who crossed the Red Sea on one particular occasion. It is never mentioned outside that context.

    Frankly, the more I read about the “age of accountability”, the less scripture I find. Generic (and unsupported) references to “the Jewish Law” and bar mizvah (where the age is either 12 or 13) abound, but corroboration is in short supply. I find many conclusions stated as fact. But what I find upon examination is a theory created from a felt need to reconcile our views of childish innocence and Adamic sin, between original sin and individual sin, often offered to prove that our manner of baptism is more appropriate than the other denomination’s manner of baptism. The “age of accountability” is a theory so rife with exceptions and caveats and “we can’t say exactly”, that it really does not merit discussion. Now, the underlying dilemmas may well be worthy of extended study. But as an idea that God has for us, there is simply no compelling biblical evidence to support our consideration of the idea that we become accountable for our sins at some particular time in our lives, much less the idea that we can discern an approximate age… for anyone.

  13. Dwight says:

    Charles, I was watching a person speaking on marriage and how men and women (but mostly men) are stunted in their maturity as opposed to fifty to a hundred years ago. Today men and women get married around 20-30, but about fifty years ago they got married around 18-25 and then fifty years before that around 14-21. People matured faster and had to because they had to start early in their contribution to society. Now days they are not expected to mature until they are out of college and some don’t even then. Maturity has a lot to do with how they are groomed for it. If we don’t expect much, we won’t get much.
    Now having said that everyone is different, and a cookie cutter approach to salvation doesn’t apply to everyone. People will come to God when they come and if we push them, then they might go, but not go willingly. Reflecting that life is short is not bad, as we see that in the scriptures.
    So on one level we are telling our children to wait to grow up and then on another telling them to commit early on to something they might not be ready for.
    And if we talk God at assembly, but not at home, then we are only adding to the confusion.

  14. laymond says:

    Exo 30:11 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
    Exo 30:12 When thou takest the sum of the children of Israel after their number, then shall they give every man a ransom for his soul unto the LORD, when thou numberest them; that there be no plague among them, when thou numberest them.
    Exo 30:13 This they shall give, every one that passeth among them that are numbered, half a shekel after the shekel of the sanctuary: (a shekel is twenty gerahs:) an half shekel shall be the offering of the LORD.
    Exo 30:14 Every one that passeth among them that are numbered, from twenty years old and above, shall give an offering unto the LORD.
    Exo 30:15 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.
    Exo 30:16 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.

    Can anyone here show me in scripture where God lowered the age of accountability from twenty, to twelve.
    Charles if people were held “accountably” for sins under twenty, why would they not be accountable for the atonement sacrifice.

  15. Dwight says:

    Laymond, this probably had to do more with who had a family and who didn’t. In this account they were taking a census of the people and those could give money. Even the women don’t seem to be mentioned here.
    Now there is evidence that 13 was when male children were considered old enough to have the law applied to them as they were often called “sons of the Law” at that age in Jewish tradition and they have the Bar Mitzvah to celebrate this coming of age.
    A girl would be of age at age 12 in her Bat Mitzvah.
    Bar (son), Bat (daughter), Mitzvah (commandment or law).
    Jesus went into the Temple at about that age. If he was too young or too immature in actions they probably wouldn’t have allowed him in.
    But the reality is that God never said this is the age in which one becomes accountable to the Law (no laws for the Bar or Bat Mitzvah) or gospel, so it was up to man to set the age, if even they had to.
    The gospel was never about ushering people into the Kingdom, but about people coming to Christ, which would mean they would have to at least understand who Jesus was and why He came and what He did as noted in Acts 2.

  16. Royce says:

    Jay, you speak of baptism being “effective” as if there is some mysterious time when the water is different than some other time. God saves those who have faith in Jesus, as you have many times stated. And, as you also have said numerous times, that faith is expressed, or declared in baptism.

    Baptism is never effective or not effective. The faith of the one being baptized makes the difference.

  17. Dwight says:

    Yes I don’t understand how it can be effective, which implies it can be non-effective, or can be done in error as Jay has stated in the past.
    People believe, they are baptized, they live in Christ.
    Or they don’t.
    Either Abraham went to sacrifice his son or he didn’t, but of course he did. The only error he could have done was not doing it at all.
    We understand that the thousands of people that were saved were saved in the way that Peter stated, “Repent and be baptized”.
    It is really fool proof in thought and execution. But leave it up to us to question and worry about its simplistic nature.

  18. Price Futrell says:

    @ Royce.. Agreed… Thank goodness that our salvation isn’t dependent on how perfect we do what we feel lead to do in obedience.

  19. Alabama John says:

    We in the COC have required baptism to be correctly done for those baptized to join some denominational church and the wording “For remission of your sins” left out when they were baptized. Until that has been accepted and done those in our midst baptized wrong are simply visitors. Father Son and Holy Ghost has to of been properly named also.
    Have seen many in the past rebaptized correctly to be added to the church and accepted as fellow members.

  20. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:


    I think you make a good point. Israelites under age 20 were exempt from the atonement sacrifice.

    (Exod. 30:11-16 ESV) 11 The LORD said to Moses, 12 “When you take the census of the people of Israel, then each shall give a ransom for his life to the LORD when you number them, that there be no plague among them when you number them. 13 Each one who is numbered in the census shall give this: half a shekel according to the shekel of the sanctuary (the shekel is twenty gerahs), half a shekel as an offering to the LORD. 14 Everyone who is numbered in the census, from twenty years old and upward, shall give the LORD’s offering. 15 The rich shall not give more, and the poor shall not give less, than the half shekel, when you give the LORD’s offering to make atonement for your lives. 16 You shall take the atonement money from the people of Israel and shall give it for the service of the tent of meeting, that it may bring the people of Israel to remembrance before the LORD, so as to make atonement for your lives.”

    (Num. 32:10-13 ESV) 10 And the LORD’s anger was kindled on that day, and he swore, saying, 11 ‘Surely none of the men who came up out of Egypt, from twenty years old and upward, shall see the land that I swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, because they have not wholly followed me, 12 none except Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite and Joshua the son of Nun, for they have wholly followed the LORD.’ 13 And the LORD’s anger was kindled against Israel, and he made them wander in the wilderness forty years, until all the generation that had done evil in the sight of the LORD was gone.

    (Deut. 1:34-39 ESV) 34 “And the LORD heard your words and was angered, and he swore, 35 ‘Not one of these men of this evil generation shall see the good land that I swore to give to your fathers, 36 except Caleb the son of Jephunneh. He shall see it, and to him and to his children I will give the land on which he has trodden, because he has wholly followed the LORD!’ 37 Even with me the LORD was angry on your account and said, ‘You also shall not go in there. 38 Joshua the son of Nun, who stands before you, he shall enter. Encourage him, for he shall cause Israel to inherit it. 39 And as for your little ones, who you said would become a prey, and your children, who today have no knowledge of good or evil, they shall go in there. And to them I will give it, and they shall possess it.

    Now it’s easy to dismiss this as civil law until God says in Deu that those under 20 “have no knowledge of good or evil,” which seems to speak to the reason he drew the line at age 20.

    Laymond’s point regarding the atonement tax is to the same effect. Why exempt those under 20? Well, because they didn’t need atonement would seem the obvious answer.

    The contribution of the half-shekel has two purposes: to support the work of the Tabernacle and to effect expiation for each individual. The Tabernacle belongs equally to every Israelite, irrespective of one’s social status or wealth. As all human beings are equal before God, there is to be one standard contribution from all, to be neither exceeded nor reduced.

    Nahum M. Sarna, Exodus, The JPS Torah Commentary, (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1991), 196.

    Among the Jews of biblical times, men did not marry until age 20, I’m sure because they were not considered adults and competent to be husbands until then. That is, the Jews seem to have read these texts and applied them more broadly than just the wandering in the wilderness.

    2 Chr 34:1 records Josiah, who became king at age 8, beginning his pro-YHWH campaign at age 20 — likely when he was no longer under the guardianship of an adult.

    The Bar Mitzveh is not found in the Torah but evolved many years after biblical times. “Talmudic times” would be around 500 AD.

  21. Don Edmonds says:

    Does belief in Jesus as the son of God require that one understand that Jesus was THE SON OF GOD, meaning the actual, physical son of God? If so, then a person would have to know the so called “facts of life” to understand that Jesus is God’s son. If that is the case then some 6,7,8,or 9 year olds who do not know the facts of life may not be able to believe in the sonship of Jesus.

    but maybe knowledge of the biological facts of life is not necessary to believe in the sonship of Jesus. What do others think?

  22. Price Futrell says:

    And yet the sign of the covenant was administered at 8 days……. odd don’t you think ?

  23. Price Futrell says:

    Is it likely that some 17 or 18 year old might have sided with the 10 that advised against crossing over into the promised land.. Surely. Is it likely that a 10 or 15 year old might have been taught the law from an early age and knew right from wrong ? Surely. Yet, God did not hold them responsible… If God wasn’t all that concerned about some half brained teenager then why should we be ? That’s probably a radical over simplification but I think the example paints a pretty clear picture of the maturity God expected one to have before He began to hold them responsible for their actions. The rush to dunk our children seems to be placing more faith in the water than in the grace of God.. But what do I know.

  24. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:


    See my earlier comment to Laymond. The history I can find supports the Jews treating 20 as the age of adulthood throughout biblical times. There’s no reason to doubt it. It’s similar to American practice (age 19 to 21) for nearly all purposes — other than baptism. I grant that US civil law is hardly controlling, but there’s a reason we don’t let people under age 19 buy cigarettes or make contracts. We consider them too young to make sound decisions about such things.

    The Torah plainly declares those under age 20 to not know good or evil — which is not a civil law declaration, but a declaration of actual incompetence — so much so that those under 20 were not penalized for their parents’ decisions not to enter the Promised Land. When a child turned 20, he had to pay the atonement tax for his atonement. None was required before then.

    So there may be very good reasons not to apply the same rule to Christian accountability, but it’s an easy, out-of-hand rejection. I mean, we have no trouble applying many other Torah principles today, and it’s hardly obvious that children mature faster now than they did in the desert!

    Why would we doubt that the tabernacle tax only charged once? The Torah seems to plainly anticipate a continuing levy and collection — and surely the tabernacle needed money for its operations. The OT scholars agree that the tax was recurring — not a one-time thing:

    The Lord instituted a tabernacle census tax for two purposes. First, it was to be yet another reminder that God, as Creator, was the source of their individual lives. Their lives, purchased out of slavery, belonged to God. They were to recognize this reality each time a census was taken.

    James K. Bruckner, Exodus, eds. W. Ward Gasque, Robert L. Hubbard Jr., and Robert K. Johnston, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2012), 269–270.

    It should be here observed that in this section there is no reference to the temporary work of building the tabernacle, but to those things which enter into the regular ritual service which is to continue through future time. It is therefore certainly an error when Keil and Knobel start out with the notion that the shekel or half-shekel of the sanctuary is to be expended once for all on the erection of the tabernacle. The tabernacle itself was to be built from voluntary contributions (35:5), not from legally imposed taxes, and in this voluntary way more was given than was needed (36:5 sqq.). Moreover, the designation of the use of the money, עַל־עֲבֹדַת אֹהֶל מוֹעֵד [“for the service of the tent of meeting,” ver. 16], does not mean: for the work of the building, but: for the perpetual service of God in the building.

    John Peter Lange, Philip Schaff, and Charles M. Mead, A Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Exodus, (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2008), 2:126.

    In addition to my comment to Laymond, there’s this —

    (Isa. 7:15-16 ESV) 15 He shall eat curds and honey when he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good. 16 For before the boy knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land whose two kings you dread will be deserted.

    “Knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good” sounds idiomatic for “becomes an adult.” But this is the same concept found in Deu 1 for age 20 — and the language in Deu 1 is very close to Gen 2 —

    (Deut. 1:39 ESV) 39 And as for your little ones, who you said would become a prey, and your children, who today have no knowledge of good or evil, they shall go in there. And to them I will give it, and they shall possess it.

    I’m be perfectly happy to have this theory disproved.

    Now, I agree that the AOA as conventionally taught (going back to Arminius) is really vague, confuses accountability with capable of faith in Jesus (two very different things), and finds support only in the Torah, Isaiah, and 2 Chr. But it does find pretty plain support there — and the support is in terms of innocence from accountability (allusion to Gen 2) and atonement (the tabernacle tax). So that’s pretty close to what we’d be looking for if we were looking for biblical support for the AOA.

    The problem is that we don’t like the answer. It seems to us that teenagers should sin at risk of damnation. Interesting that we consider them too young to be trusted to buy cigarettes or a beer because these are very unhealthy, dangerous things, but old enough to subject themselves to eternal damnation — which is far more dangerous. Nearly all crimes committed by someone under age 20 are expunged from their record by civil law — and punished much less severely. Odd that our civil law is more gracious than our understanding of God Almighty.

    So I’m kind of liking the age 20 theory. I’ve not heard anything that tells me it’s a bad idea, bad policy, or bad for children.

    But — to be clear — I believe someone can come to saving faith at a much younger age. The age of faith, I believe, is not the same at the AOA — which takes me far out of the mainstream, but I’m good with that.

  25. Alabama John says:

    I agree with Jay that about 20 is far more reasonable.
    But, I do from experience and observation and hearing believe parents still want their children to be baptized young while they have great influence on them to get them in the “security blanket” position so their quick prayers. heck, all prayers, forgiveness or otherwise will be answered as they will be in that special covenant relationship with God.
    Then when they get older if they go off in a wrong direction or join another denomination, they will be an erring child instead of an outside of God child who is lost.

  26. Dustin says:

    I think that it all depends on how well a person’s elders/mentors have helped them with the inner work necessary to die to the old/false self and be born again. In the typical American setting, 20+ would seem like a better age to be baptized.

  27. Dwight says:

    While 20 might be a cut off point in some regards it might not be another. The point about the Bar Mitzvah and Bat Mitzvah was that the Jews recognized that their children could understand the Law from an earlier age than 20. The problem with setting an age in regards to knowing what is right and what is wrong is that God didn’t directly argue for this as a cut off point.
    In regards to our laws on minors and a cut off at age 20, this hasn’t always been the case. In the early days and up to about a 100 years ago in America and even in the Middle East marriage could and did happen around age 15.
    There is a difference at age 20 when people were supposed to become self-sufficient as opposed to knowing right from wrong. Up until the point in which you leave you are under the control of the parent. This is probably the parents of Israel were allowed to die in the wilderness, and the children of them were allowed to enter as they really had no say beyond their parents.
    And yet Jesus was allowed access to the Temple at age 12 or 13. This is important in that they would have allowed him access if they didn’t believe that he was able to understand or was too immature at that age.

  28. laymond says:

    Jay said; “But — to be clear — I believe someone can come to saving faith at a much younger age. The age of faith, I believe, is not the same at the AOA”

    I agree with what Jay said, faith comes slowly, very few people can tell you the very moment they became a faithful believer in Jesus Christ. some claim they can, but if they look back they will see it came over time.
    Accountability comes on us in a hurry, all at once, at a certain time. since we (Americans) use the “law of God” on which to base our laws (and we do) even the recent laws which most Christians see as wrong, are based upon the rule of freedom, which only God could give. Unless you wish to argue, man does not have “free will” I don’t see how you can argue against this .
    Age of faith depends on the ability to understand. And the age of accountability depends on the same thing understanding. We don’t all have the same “IQ” some never reach the age of accountability, by God’s law, or man’s law. I don’t believe these souls depend on baptism any more than a child does.

    rambling a little but understandable, I think 🙂

  29. laymond says:

    Dwight, if we use the example of Jesus, maybe we should wait until thirty, after all he did say ‘follow me’

  30. Dwight says:

    Laymond, I would argue that faith comes very early. We learn faith, like we learn hope, like we learn love from our parents initially (hopefully) and these are imbued in our parents and then maybe in God if we have parents that believe in God. Now faith, love of, hope in Jesus requires a shift to the one who can save us.
    Faith takes time to re-establish as it has a sense of trust within it, but if we are to believe Acts 2 faith can come quickly, at least enough faith, because even faith is supposed grow and mature.

  31. Mark says:

    Picked Avot 5:22 says translated: Five years is the age for the study of Scripture. Ten, for the study of Mishnah. Thirteen, for the obligation to observe the mitzvot. Fifteen, for the study of Talmud. Eighteen, for marriage. Twenty, to pursue [a livelihood].

    Mitzvot are commandments.

  32. Mark says:

    Pirkei not picked

  33. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Babylonian Talmud, Bavi Batra, chapter 9

    MISHNA VIII. If in the deed it was not mentioned that he was sick, and he claims that he was sick at the time of writing and had a right to retract. What kind of evidence is required, etc. It happened in the city of Bene Brack, that one sold the estate of his father and died; and his relatives complained that he was not of age when he died. What must be the age of one who has the right to sell the estates left him by his father? How is he to be considered during the nineteenth year–nineteen, which is still not of age, or twenty? There was one lad less than twenty, who had sold the estate of his father. If a lad of thirteen years and one day presented a gift to some one, his act is valid. If one divides his estates verbally, no matter if he was in good health or dangerously sick, according to R. Elazar to real estate title is given by money, etc. It happened with an inhabitant of the city of Mruni, who was in Jerusalem, that he possessed much valuable property which he desired to present to different persons, etc. If it happens that a sick person divides his estates verbally on the Sabbath, etc. Suppose a house falls upon A and his father or on any persons, that one of them has to be bequeather and the other inheritor, and it is not known who dies first. If a son has sold his share of the inheritance of his father to some one, and dies while the father was still alive, and thereafter his father died, the son of the seller has a right to take away the goods from the buyer. And this is a complicated case in the law of money matters. A son inherits from his mother when he is already in the grave, so that his brothers from his father’s side should inherit from him, 345-357

    Seems to assume 20 as age of legal competence.

    Chapter 8

    Bba 8:3 MISHNA III.: The daughters of Z’lophchod have inherited three shares from the inheritance of their father, his share as one of the ascendants from Egypt, his share in the division of Chipher his father (who was also among the ascendants from Egypt), and because he was a first-born he inherited a double share.

    GEMARA: Our Mishna is in accordance with him who said that the land was divided among the ascendants from Egypt, and not to their children (i.e., the person who entered the land of Israel, if he was among the ascendants of Egypt, took his share, and divided it among his children; and if an ascendant had died and his children entered the land, the share of their deceased father was given to them and they divided it among themselves), as we have learned in the following Boraitha: R. Iashiah said: The land was divided to the ascendants of Egypt, as it is written [Numb. 26.55], “According to the names of the tribes of their fathers.” But how does this correspond with [ibid. 53], “unto these shall the land be divided,” which means to those who entered the land? Those are meant who are of sufficient age (twenty years), excluding the minors. R. Jonathan, however, said that to those who entered the land it was apportioned, not to their fathers, as it is written in the verse just cited. But how would this correspond with verse 55? This inheritance is different from all other inheritances, as in all others the living inherit from the dead, and here the dead inherit from the living, and to illustrate this, said Rabbi, I shall give you a parable. It is similar to the case of two priests in one city, one of whom has one son, while the other has two;

    Further from chapter VII

    It was taught: What must be the age of one who has the right to sell the estates left him by his father? Rabha in the name of R. Na’hman said: Eighteen. And R. Huna b. Hinna in the name of the same authority said: Twenty. R. Zera objected from the above case which happened in the city of Bene Brack, to whom R. Aqiba said: The signs of maturity are subject to change after death. And this can be correct in him who said eighteen, as then his relatives questioned the law if the corpse might be examined. But according to him who said twenty, of what use could the examination be? At that time the signs of maturity are already unrecognizable, as we have learned in a Mishna: If one gets to the age of twenty,


    and the signs of maturity are not visible, they have to bring evidence that he has reached the age of twenty; and he, the castrate, is a legal “saris,” who does not perform the ceremony of Halitzah and also cannot marry his brother’s wife. Hence we see that after twenty the symptoms of maturity are already unrecognizable. The answer was: Was it not taught in addition to the Mishna by R. Samuel b. R. Itz’hak in the name of Rabh: Provided the symptoms of a “saris” were visible. Said Rabha: It seems that this explanation is right, as the Mishna states: “He, the castrate, . . . ‘saris,'” from which it is to be understood that such signs were visible on the body; as if not, why should he be named “castrate”? But how is it if neither the signs of maturity nor of a “saris” were visible? How many years are needed, that he should be considered of age? Taught R. Hyya: After he reaches the majority of life (i.e., thirty-six years, as life is considered seventy). It happened that such cases were brought before R. Hyya by the mothers, questioning him: What must be done, that the signs of age should appear? And he used to answer: If the lad was thin, see he should become fat; and if he was fat, he would advise that they should make him thin, as sometimes the signs came earlier because of thinness, and sometimes because of fatness.

    The schoolmen propounded a question: How is he to be considered during the nineteenth year–nineteen, which is still not of age, or twenty? Rabha in the name of R. Na’hman said: The whole twentieth year, is he considered nineteen? And Rabba b. R. Shila in the name of the same authority said: As twenty. The statement of Rabha, however, was not heard from him plainly; but it was so judged from the following act: There was a lad who was between nineteen and twenty, who used to sell his father’s estate, and Rabha had annulled all his acts. People who saw this thought that it was because he considered him not of age. In reality, however, Rabha did so because signs of foolishness were seen in him, as he used to free all his slaves.1

    Giddle b. Menarshia sent a message to Rabha: Let the master


    1 At that time it was prohibited to free a bondsman without a good reason, according to Roman and Persian, as well as to Jewish laws.


    teach us! How should a girl of fourteen years and one day who has a knowledge of business be considered? And he answered: If she has a knowledge of business, then her sale is valid, but not otherwise. Why was the question for a female and not for a male child? Because so was the case.

    There was one lad, less than twenty, who had sold the estate of his father, and his relatives instructed him that when he should be at the court of Rabha he should eat dates and throw the pits at Rabha’s person (for the purpose that Rabha should see he was a fool, and so annul his sales). He did so, and Rabha did indeed annul the sales. When the judgment was written, the buyers instructed him to go into court and say: The Book of Esther can be bought for one zuz, and the same is the price for Rabha’s judgment. And he did so. Rabha then decided: His sales are valid. And when his relatives told him he was so instructed by the buyers, Rabha answered: He understands business if it is explained to him, and in such a case his acts are valid; and his previous act, that he threw the pits at me, was because he is too much of a scamp.

    Said R. Huna b. R. Jehoshua: Concerning witnesses–his testimony may be considered at such an age (between nineteen and twenty). Said Mar Zutra: But only concerning movable property, and not real estate. Said R. Ashi to him: What is the reason that he is fit to be a witness for movable property–because his sales are valid? If so, let children of six and seven years be fit for this, as there is a Mishna: The purchase or sale of movable property by minors is valid. And he answered: Witnesses must be men, as it is writen[sic written] [Deut. 19.17]: “Then shall both the men who have the controversy stand before the Lord,” etc., which cannot be applied to children.

    Said Amimar: If a lad of thirteen years and one day presented a gift to some one, his act is valid. Said R. Ashi to him: Why? Even concerning a sale where he should receive money, the rabbis enacted that it should be annulled, because he might sell too low. Shall we say, if he presents a thing without any money his act is valid? (Said Amimar to him:) And according to your theory, if such a lad bought a thing which is worth six zuz for five, should this be considered? This is certainly not so, because there is no difference whether it was worth more or less, as the rabbis annulled all sales made by such a lad who


    does not understand business. And the reason is that the rabbis were aware that lads at such an age have an inclination for money; and if you should allow one to sell, he would sell all the estates of his father for a small amount. But concerning a gift it is different, as if he would not have any benefit from it, he would not do so; and therefore the rabbis enacted that his gift should be considered, so that others should also please him. R. Na’hman in the name of Samuel said: A young man before twenty may be examined for the signs of maturity concerning betrothals, divorces, the ceremony of Halitzah, and protesting against marriage, and as to selling the estates left him by his father. The Halakha, however, prevails, that between nineteen and twenty he is considered as before nineteen; and it prevails also in accordance with Giddle b. Menarshia, with Mar Zutra, and also with Amimar, and with all the laws which are stated by R. Na’hman in the name of Samuel.

    The above discussion (rather tedious) is about when someone turns 20 so as to become legally competent. Is it the day after he turns 19, so that he is in his 20th year? Or his 20th birthday? The rabbis differ. They also debate whether someone under 20 is legally competent if of good judgment even though not yet an adult.

    So 20 as the age of majority seems to have continued to the time of the Talmud (around 500 AD).

  34. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Regarding the age of marriage, I remember Ray Vander Laan teaching 20 as the age for marriage. So I went to the Jewish Encyclopedia —

    The first positive commandment of the Bible, according to rabbinic interpretation (Maimonides, “Minyan ha-Miẓwot,” 212), is that concerning the propagation of the human species (Gen. i. 28). It is thus considered the duty of every Israelite to marry as early in life as possible. Eighteen years is the age set by the Rabbis (Ab. v. 24); and any one remaining unmarried after his twentieth year is said to be cursed by God Himself (Ḳid. 29b).

    So the minimum age was 18 but marriage was insisted on by age 20.

    I found this research paper “The Age of Legal Maturity in Biblical Law.” Short answer: 20 but some restrictions lifted upon reaching puberty, typically around age 12 1/2.

  35. Alabama John says:

    All you are saying about the right age is correct, I’m not disagreeing.
    In the real world we are living in, most churches of Christ and others are losing their young people above age14 or so at an alarming rate. The Church is getting older fast. Its been a while since I have seen a baptism above the age of 12, most 8 or so. The parents are pushing gently to have them added to the church before they get to the age most are leaving.
    Talmud or any other correct reasoning will not change the truth no matter how we want it to be 20 or so.
    We as Christians are losing our young people.

  36. Dwight says:

    Mark, I think what you stated deserves it again: “Pirkei Avot 5:22 says translated: Five years is the age for the study of Scripture. Ten, for the study of Mishnah. Thirteen, for the obligation to observe the mitzvot. Fifteen, for the study of Talmud. Eighteen, for marriage. Twenty, to pursue [a livelihood].” Mitzvot are commandments.
    This discussion seems to be gravitating to points that don’t disagree, but however are misaligned.
    The be an adult it seems that 18-20 was considered a reasonable age to socially responsible, but this doesn’t argue for a realization of guilt, faith, understanding of scriptures and following of scriptures, etc., which seems to be much earlier. After all Jesus was allowed into the Temple to learn and allowed to speak at age thirteen.
    There is a difference between the two concepts.

  37. Mark says:

    This is the rest of 5:22
    Thirty, for strength, Forty, for understanding. Fifty, for counsel. Sixty, for sagacity. Seventy, for elderliness. Eighty, for power. Ninety, to stoop. A hundred-year-old is as one who has died and passed away and has been negated from the world.

  38. Dwight says:

    Wow, I have just the age at which I can counsel others. It is therefore ironic that the age that we would most align with wisdom never came to Jesus. He was wise beyond His years at age 30, but then again he was God too.

  39. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    It is to Luke that we owe the information that Jesus was about thirty years of age at the beginning of his ministry. This was the age when the Levites began their service (Num. 4:47) and was evidently regarded as the age at which a man was fully mature.

    Leon Morris, Luke: An Introduction and Commentary (Tyndale NTC 3; IVP/Accordance electronic ed. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1988), 120.

    First, however, he mentions that Jesus was “about thirty years old,” thus indicating in a circuitous way that Jesus had attained the age of public service.

    Joel B. Green, The Gospel of Luke, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1997), 188.

    Green notes that Joseph and David began public service at 30 and that Levites could not serve in the Temple until 30. Of course, NT Wright and others would argue that this makes sense in that Jesus would replace the Temple itself, and so it makes sense that he’d need to be old enough for Temple service in the minds of Jews. And if Jesus was to reign as the “David” of prophecy (such as Eze 37:24), being the same age as David when David ascended to the throne, would fit the Jewish mode of thought very well, also.

  40. Monty says:

    There is a problem(I think) if a child is not held accountable til the age of 20(before they know right and wrong) then how can a child of any age below that, “repent” of sin as we teach? If all that is necessary is to believe in Jesus (Messiah-Son of God, died for our sins) then surely a 12-13 year old normally intelligent child can understand that. Whether they are able to understand the depth of their lostness(which they aren’t really lost (as of yet) is another story. In other words(you aren’t lost but when you hit 20 you will be, but right now there’s nothing you can do about it because your too young to understand what’s right and wrong. Pretty confusing stuff.

  41. laymond says:

    Dwight says:
    ” It is therefore ironic that the age that we would most align with wisdom never came to Jesus. He was wise beyond His years at age 30, but then again he was God too.’
    (but then again he was God too) too, meaning also.

    So Dwight is that what the following says to you?

    Jhn 3:34 For he whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God: for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him.
    Jhn 12:49 For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak.
    Jhn 12:50 And I know that his commandment is life everlasting: whatsoever I speak therefore, even as the Father said unto me, so I speak.
    Jhn 14:10 Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works.
    Jhn 17:8 For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me.
    Dwight I believe one of us does not understand what John said here ? tell me why it is I .

  42. laymond says:

    Monty, if a man is falling from a ninety story building , he is not dead, but he will be as soon as he hits the ground.

    I don’t believe children are forbidden to know the truth, and act upon it I believe they are forgiven for not knowing the truth until a certain age, but there has to be a cut off point for all ignorance.
    Some people never reach that point no matter the age. I don’t think they will pay the price of hell either.

  43. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:


    The sinlessness of the youth is not real sinlessness. It’s innocence due to a lack of accountability for sin — but children do indeed sin — even in diapers. They just aren’t accountable for their sins. And so they have real sins to repent of.

  44. Alabama John says:

    Jay, they are not accountable for their sins but they have sins to repent of? WOW

  45. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Alabama John,

    This should be a familiar concept. Remember: “Repent” doesn’t mean “ask for forgiveness.” “Repent” means to change to go in a new direction.

    Example 1

    Because I’m in grace, walking in the light, my sins are continuously forgiven. I am not accountable for my sins while I’m in grace. And yet I should still repent of my sins because I don’t want to sin and I want to become more and more like Jesus. I am forgiven long before I repent — and yet I repent — not to earn forgiveness but because I love Jesus and want to maintain a good relationship with him.

    Example 2

    A child has to change behavior in order to grow up into maturity. I would accept certain behaviors from a 3-year old that I’d never tolerate in a teenager. My granddaughter does not yet know how to say “please,” but she’s not yet two. She is not accountable for that. But in not too many years, she needs to know to say “please” when she asks for something. She needs to turn from her old, immature behavior and grow into maturity.

    My grandson had more than one accident when he was potty training. But he learned to do better. He changed his behavior even though he was by no means accountable for his immaturity. When he was two, he acted like a two-year old, but his parents taught him to do better, and now that he’s three, he’s put his two-year old behaviors behind him.

    We expect teenagers to mature into adults by leaving their immaturity behind and learning new, better behaviors, even though it’s perfectly normal for teenagers to act as teenagers act. They have to change. They have to turn toward maturity. And childish behaviors we’d accept in a 12-year old need to be gone before they leave home. An adult who acts 12 is an object of pity. Regardless of accountability, 12 year old kids need to turn from their immaturity to grow up.

    Example 3

    As I said recently somewhere or other, we in the Churches of Christ make baptism too much about forgiveness. It IS about forgiveness, but far more. It’s also about repentance — committing to mature. We mature by repenting of our immaturity (perfectly normal for a new Christian) and taking on more mature behaviors. The goal is maturity in Christ — as taught in Eph 4 — not JUST forgiveness. And baptism sets us on the path toward maturity by, among other things, being the moment when we receive the Spirit and regeneration through the Spirit’s work in our hearts and minds.

    Therefore, a person who sins but isn’t accountable for those sins profits from baptism immensely, because baptism puts her on the road toward Christlikeness by the power of the Spirit, as well as putting that person in Christian community so that she may be instructed by those more mature and see Christlike examples to follow.

    Example 3

    We don’t repent purely to obtain forgiveness. That would be a childish, immature attitude. My parents are in their 90s. I obey them because they are my parents and I love them, not because I fear their punishment. When I do something that hurts their feelings, I apologize, not because I fear their wrath, but because I want to be in right relationship. It’s been many decades since our relationship was built on rewards and punishment. It’s now stronger and more important to me because we have transcended that — many years ago.

    Just so, my children, even as teenagers, were far more likely to obey me and change bad behaviors out of love for me and desire to be in good relationship than fear of punishment. I did indeed sometimes punish them, but it was unusual and rarely needed because they valued maintaining right relationship and even because sometimes they knew I was right to insist that they change (repent).

    They’re all grown up now, and punishment no longer applies — and yet they are good sons and obedient — and when they mess up, they repent — even though I will no longer punish them. Because our relationship has never, not ever, been just about rewards and punishment. And they want to gain greater maturity and become more and more like Jesus — which is done by repenting of those parts of our behaviors that aren’t so Christlike.

    In short, if you think relationally and not legalistically, it would make perfect sense that a child should repent of sins even if too young to be accountable for sins. This is why we discipline, train, and instruct children too young to be baptized. They may not be accountable for their sins, but they still need to grow toward maturity by becoming more like Jesus. If I’m wrong, we should shut down the Bible classes for our children younger than 12 since they aren’t accountable and so don’t need to turn away from old behaviors in order to turn toward becoming more and more toward Jesus.

  46. Alabama John says:


    The difference in our thinking is I don’t see anything young children doing as sin. I see it instead as mistakes, accidents, ignorance, that they are not accountable for. They are simply a part of growing up.

    Conversely, I would see an old person well educated, mature, pooping in their diaper as a mistake, accident, rather than a sin they need to repent (change) from.

    Thank you for the explanation and I see where you are coming from much clearer. We must continue the childrens classes at church to help guide them in their growing up, not just at church but far more at home.

    We need folks like you for the grown ups!!!

  47. Dwight says:

    Laymond, again? Really? You are trying to make a point that is built upon being vague. In John although Jesus says that He is speaking the will and word of God Jesus never says that He is not God or the Son of God and in fact the fact he says, “I am in the Father and the Father in me” relates this concept.

  48. Stephen says:

    Why in the CoC, ministers refers to Bar Mitzvah in correlation with Luke 2:42 “And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom.” and the age of accountability for baptism when the term is not found in the entire Bible and cannot be clearly traced earlier than around 500 AD?

    If we allow ourselves to support a pretended New Convenant practice (baptizing children) by referring to the Torah (unsuccessfully, regarding the Bar Mitzvah), shouldn’t we therefore also refer to any Bible references (the one that really exist in the Scriptures) on this topic like here?

    – Numbers 14:28-29
    “Say to them, ‘As I live,’ says the Lord, ‘just as you have spoken in My hearing, so I will surely do to you; 29 your corpses will fall in this wilderness, even all your numbered men, according to your complete number from twenty years old and upward, who have grumbled against Me.”
    – Deuteronomy 1:39
    “Moreover your little ones and your children, who you say will be victims, who today have no knowledge of good and evil, they shall go in there; to them I will give it, and they shall possess it.”

  49. Stephen says:

    Is it true that nowhere in the Bible the words Adolescence nor Teenager appear anywhere?

    Should we conclude that these words have been recently invented by our modern society (with ungodly intentions)?

    Should we conclude that in the time of the Bible, populations were divided into two unique groups: adulthood and childhood?

    In the CoC we keep saying to let children come to Jesus (and not hinder them) in correlation with baptism.

    But how did Jesus treated the cases of children presented to Him?

    Matthew 19:13-15
    13 Then some children were brought to Him so that He might lay His hands on them and pray; and the disciples rebuked them.
    14 But Jesus said, “Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
    15 After laying His hands on them, He departed from there.

    Matthew 18:1-6
    1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus and said, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
    2 And He called a child to Himself and set him before them,
    3 and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.
    4 “Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
    5 “And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me;
    6 but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.

    Jesus did not forgave theirs sins nor baptize them but set them as an example of innocence and a way to the Kingdom… to the adults. Am I mistaken?

  50. Stephen says:

    In our churches, we teaches that as soon as one lie, he is condemned for hell fire but also qualified to for the remission of his sins.

    I read an article ( that states that lie can be manifested as early as three years old.

    Do you believe that a toddler will be paying for his sins in Hell since he lied?

    If not because he is too young, and not because he sinned, than how do we know if God would not apply the same rule for a ten or twelve year old boy?

    So if there is no such an age of accountability to become a Christian, there is however a level of maturity as Paul said:
    – 1 Corinthians 13:11
    “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.”

  51. Dwight says:

    Stephen, the point of the Bar Mitzvah wasn’t to show a scriptural age for baptism, but to show that the Jews at least had a basic understanding of when their children started to learn and come under the law. In regards to age 20, just because a man was able to be a part of society at 20 and have a vote or be counted, which the scriptures you gave indicate, it doesn’t mean that this was the age of accountability in regards to sin and knowing good and evil.
    David kept the sheep as a youth as he was the youngest, so a boy could do this and he killed Goliath as a youth.
    If age 20 is the magic age, then we better start teaching that they must wait until twenty to be baptized no matter what they understand about Jesus as the savior. This somehow seems the wrong direction to go considering that this was based on faith. We must therefore argue that a person under 20 cannot have faith and you must be over 20 to have it. I suppose at the strike of twelve on your birthday.

  52. Stephen says:

    Absolutely, and this is the direction I would like to head now.

    In fact, the issue is not more about the young age than the level of maturity and the spiritual fruits of the tree produced after baptism.

    Some questions I would like to address:
    – Is repentance required for baptism?
    – Is conversion a born again experience?
    – Should this experience perceived as radical from the world perspective?
    – Should changes in a 12 years old candidate be obvious to everyone starting by his parents?
    – Should God expect transformation and commitment as a testimony of the renewing of the mind?

    If after a youth baptism, everything is “back to normal” and on a regular basis…
    … at home:
    – fighting with siblings
    – selfies
    – video gaming
    – arguing parents authority
    – not waking up on his own for church
    – no personal Bible reading
    – grounded from iPhone

    … at church during service:
    – texting friends
    – not introspecting during Lord’s supper
    – caressing mummy’s hair during sermon
    – bending on the pew for a little nap
    – chatting with their friend
    – doctrine is boring: they don’t or hardly understand what doctrine is about and the very big deal out of it
    and not able understand it too nor its importance by the way
    – laying his head on daddy’s shoulder
    – unable to keep on track a 30 minutes sermon in a row

    … what would you think about his or her conversion? We say we baptize only adults, would you consider them as kids reached to adulthood?

    Now, some parents might say: “well, they are still learning…”.
    – Well, they are not willing to learn, that is the problem. They are not striving to look like Jesus and please God on a daily basis. You can’t learn something if you are not willing nor capable to do so.

    Now, some parents might say: “well they are kids…”.
    – Well, the problem is that they are not told to stop because they are kids, it is normal for kids to be kids. We trapped Christian kids in a paradoxical situation.

    Now, some parents might say: “well they are not responsible…”.
    – Wait a minute. Did you just say they are not responsible? If they are not accountable for their daily evidences of immaturity and childish behavior then they are not qualified for discipleship. If they are not 100% responsible for their sins then there are still kids. If there is nothing to repent from then there is nothing to forgive also. God cannot save a child that is not lost.

    Ask yourself this: if your wife, your husband, or an adult member of the church were displaying these exact same behaviors on a regular basis, would you be worry? Would that be acceptable?
    Would you be concerned instead of considering that he or she is not responsible of his or her behavior? Or could you safely conclude that based upon the fruits of the tree, conversion did not occur (yet)? But could conversion be retroactive? Can it occur years after baptism?

    Then we are then preaching two gospels: The Gospel (for adults) and a gospel for kids.

    Two standards, two definitions, two expectations, two rules…

    Our traditional early youth baptisms are closer to Catholic pedobaptisms than the 1st Century Church ones, I am telling you.

    I call this tragic phenomenon: “Unborn Christians”.

  53. Dwight says:

    Stephen, to answer all of your questions…Simon the sorcerer. He was converted, supposedly in repentance and faith, was considered a saint and then what did he do…he tried to buy the gifts of the HS and was condemned. Repentance…faith…baptism, etc. doesn’t secure one from your inclinations. There isn’t some magical change, although there should be an alteration in life priorities from the world to God. At least Simon was willing to see his mistake and move out of it. So adults aren’t immune to being wrong or totally changed.
    I grew up in the coC and my father was a preacher, so when I was baptized at age 18 I didn’t make an obvious change in my life, but I did take on Jesus as my savior. After that I did some not so nice things, but I never committed adultery or killed anyone, but my struggle still continue in patience with my kids, etc. I am still learning and I am 50.
    Expectations should be high, but they shouldn’t be unrealistic.
    We are all under grace and we all sin, but do we come to God for forgiveness?
    It appears you are asking and require of young adults what adults might not be able to bear up under.

  54. Alabama John says:


    What would prevent a child, person, to be baptized several times during their lifetime for forgiveness of their sins?

    Why must it be only once so choose the age properly or WHAT will happen????

    I’ve seen many old folks that were baptized as a child be baptized, or as we say, re-baptized, before their death so they will die sinless.

    We teach it is not necessary as after baptism, prayer is all that is needed for forgiveness of sins, but if a person wanted to be re-baptized, why not do it?

    Why is that option not preached?

  55. Dwight says:

    AJ, Rebaptism is not preached as an option because there is an assumption that the bond to Jesus doesn’t need to be rebonded or the covenant established doesn’t need to be reestablished, all that is required is repentance.
    In fact in some ways rebaptism again in Christ almost makes it seem as though you could conceivably be in Christ, then not be in Christ so that you need to be in Christ later, which makes it more like our salvation is indeed built on and based on baptism and not faith in Christ power to see past our mistakes while on the road to Him.
    One interesting thing in saying yay or nay was in the expression and then in the ability to follow through, even though the yay or nay might have been done in initial foolishness. This can be seen in the scriptures where people made oaths that they would later regret because they made them in hast, but were still required to fulfill them. They couldn’t take back their commitment, nor were asked to recommit. It could be argued that Israel was under a mass hysteria when they were asked to commit to God and they all yelled “yes”, and although they failed spectacurally they were held to it.
    But I do understand that on an emotional basis one might want to make sure their salvation is secured and might need that extra bit of comfort. So it is a purely personal decision of safety and security.

  56. Alabama John says:

    Dwight, you’re right, its a personal thing to make one feel closer and more secure in their own mind.
    Forget water, the baptism fluid we go down in is the blood of Jesus and we as Christians all believe “The blood of Jesus can make the vilest sinner clean”. That would make a good song don’t you think?
    Jay might just add it to this. I for one really like the songs he is adding and my bride and I have been listening and enjoying all morning to those he’s posted.

  57. laymond says:

    These people who write songs, evidently don’t read the bible. I don’t see anywhere we are washed in the blood of Jesus when we are baptized. As a matter of fact Baptism was for forgiveness of sins before Jesus shed a drop of his blood.

    Jhn 6:53 Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.

    I can just imagine having a baptistery full of blood and telling someone to jump in, I doubt there would be many takers.
    I don’t think there were many takers of literally eating his flesh, and drinking his blood .

  58. Dwight says:

    So Laymond, hmmm. eating human flesh and drinking blood which was condemned, is so much more thinkable in the Jewish mind than being washed in blood. Actually if you read back through the OT you will find in the sacrifices the concept of being sprinkled in blood as a method of being cleansed or made holy. So the concept of being cleansed in blood is valid when the concept of cleansing is invoked.
    James makes the point of being saved through water so it must be valid, even when drawing on the story of Noah.
    Water washes clean…this is why I take a bath once a month.

  59. Johnny says:

    1Jo 1:7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.

  60. Shawnele says:

    I enjoyed reading this! Two of our three youngest children were baptized two-and-a-half years ago at a bit over 5 and 7. They understood the purpose of baptism and believed they were in need. My husband and I had been taught, of course, that they were much too young to be baptized but, believe it or not, it was a Calvinist was who (inadvertently) convinced me otherwise. I had long explained to this Calvinist friend that children are not accountable when they “do not know enough to refuse evil and choose good” and one day she asked, “aren’t “K” and “M” old enough to know choose good and reject evil?” Indeed they were – and they wanted to be baptized. Their father and I decided that we not only believed they understood the purpose of baptism and desired it for the right reasons, but – just as importantly – we would never oppose a person who wished to obey the Gospel. (By the way, we absolutely see much fruit from these two as they have grown in the Lord – and believe that their response to the Gospel was, in fact, “real.” Also interesting to note, their 3 older siblings were all baptized in the “recommended” age range of several years older than these two and their nearly-6yo sister is truly not ready or in need from what we can see.)

  61. Larry Cheek says:

    i would suggest that John had that concept in mind as he stated.
    1Jn 5:6-8 ESV This is he who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ; not by the water only but by the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. (7) For there are three that testify: (8) the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree.

    He seemed very intent upon identifying that water was equally as important as the Blood or The Spirit. So must we have to ask how or where would water be utilized in the testimony it is supposed to convey. Is an individual supposed to touch it? Swim in it, look at it, use it as a mirror. Is another supposed to drench the individual with it? Or should we drown in it? Or should it be used as was taught by examples in The Gospel?

    If its testimony is as important as the other two of the three, what do we do to Gods Word if we refuse to allow it to testify?

  62. Alabama John says:

    Another thought on children being baptized.

    When the boys are baptized they are then men in the churchs minds and as such cannot forever more attend a class taught by a woman who is under them. She on the other hand can attend a class taught by the new man in Christ. This will cause conflict in a family if the young man has an older sister.

    Makes for interesting conversations and discipline in regards to their mothers and school teachers that must submit to them.

  63. Alabama John says:

    We sing ‘What can wash away my sins? Nothing but the blood of Jesus!” If only we preached as clear as the thoughts are in the songs we sing.

  64. Mark says:

    What Alabama John said about conflict in a family has caused a lot of people with young children in the cofC to leave. Some churches allow the young boys to give 5 minute talks periodically. The daughter could write the talk for her brother to give in mixed company but she could only read the talk only to other females.

  65. Christopher says:

    Great discussion, people. I agree with Jay almost fully on this matter. Respecting the faith and AoA distinction, it might be useful to bear in mind the conversion of the Phillipian jailer’s entire household. And for some to recall that Jesus refuted an entire doctrinal belief (that there is no resurrection) by citing a single verse and reasoning from a verb tense.

    Now if we can only figure out how to discover God’s power so that our preaching and people’s faith, like Paul’s, rest not on man’s words but on His power. THAT is what is missing in our rationalistic CoC lives.

  66. laymond says:

    Children should not be teaching in church or any place else, Children should be learning. We will just skip over the fact that God saw children as not responsible until the age of twenty, and go right to the fact that God saw his own Son as one who was not ready until the age of thirty . Why was this so ? because out of respect for the Jewish belief that rabbis/teachers, needed time to not only be accountable (at twenty) but to mature in the teachings for at least ten years after adulthood.

    I think when a church allows a child to go before a congregation to supposedly edify, it only shows disrespect for the congregation. I know it is said “a little child shall lead them” but teaching them with words is not what that means. And yes I know the story of Jesus speaking in the temple. But evidently God saw it my way, or I see it God’s way. because it was eighteen years later that God gave him the Job, and even then God held his hand. (told him what to say).

  67. laymond says:

    AJ said “We sing ‘What can wash away my sins? Nothing but the blood of Jesus!”

    John, is this song praising God or Jesus.? Do you really think that was the only way, or was it just the way God chose to do it.?

  68. laymond says:

    Jay said; “For what it’s worth, I myself was baptized at eight. I knew the Five Steps of Salvation. The preacher insisted that I must recite this to prove my understanding. I knew what all the words meant. I knew I supposed to be good afterwards. Oh, and I believed in Jesus.”

    Jay, do you think now, that maybe this only showed your ability to memorize at the young age of eight. Instead of showing your ability to understand. Reading what you believe now, we all know your belief, memorized or not, has drastically changed. What you teach now was absolutely not taught in churches of Christ when you were eight. So what were you baptized into, the church then, or the church now.? was that the true church, or is the one you teach now better.? Yes Jesus has not changed, but the Christian has. so did you really know as much as you thought you did at age eight?

  69. Alabama John says:



    God can forgive any way He chooses as He is God. I’ll not try to argue with Him and just know
    He’ll be right and fair in His judgment.

    Jesus blood cleanses in the going under and coming up in baptism and also considering available light, that same shed blood for us, cleanses in different circumstances also. I always think of Lydia and her purple.

    Same with the cracker and grape juice we take as the blood and body of Jesus. It taste like a cracker, not meat and the juice taste like a grape, doesn’t taste like blood. Its what’s in in our mind.

  70. Mark says:

    Laymond wrote “Children should not be teaching in church or any place else, Children should be learning…it only shows disrespect for the congregation” I have heard really good 5 minute talks delivered by children. They can explain what the Bible means to them from their perspective. I get your point that children should just be lectured to and told to sit and hear sermon after sermon by no one other than grown and older people who likely forgot what it was like to be a child. This method has not helped Christianity except to run people out of it at an accelerating rate.

  71. Dwight says:

    Laymond, socially responsible is not the same as being responsible for understanding the law or feeling guilt or being able to teach, which Jesus did at age twelve. The rabbis allowed Jesus in and allowed him to sit down and learn and then even teach. Your argument says they should have stifled Jesus at the moment he began to tell them things.

    In this I would argue that learning from a child is sometimes the best way to learn, because they are not as fettered with “doctrine or creeds” and sometimes have more of a simpler view. we are told to be like children who have a sense of innocence and willingness to be led and often we don’t approach the scriptures like this. We want to use our judgments and interject them in.

    Often though what is true for the child is often true for the adult in that they will mimic what they have learned, but the adult should know better. Often kids will talk a scripture over, while adults challenge and confront one another, the adult should know better. A child will often accept scripture as it is, while the adult will dissect it and/or ignore it, the adult should no better.
    It is therefore unfair to compare the child to the adult as the adult will loose due to their pride and “understanding” and self-righteousness.

  72. Mark says:

    The rabbis let people sit and discuss the scriptures with them. That was how people learned and how the rabbis taught. They were also accustomed to various opinions on the Torah with no one being 100% right or 100% wrong. The rabbis discussed and allowed for open discussion and still do. IMHO very little discussion of the scriptures occurred in parts of Christianity because of a need to be 100% right.

  73. laymond says:

    Dwight, are you saying all we need to do to be qualified to teach the bible , is to attend “Sunday School” ? at eight years old I doubt there had been much serious discussion. At eight years, I didn’t know much about church, except I didn’t want to go. we didn’t have a Sunday school, but our church was right across the street from our school, and I didn’t want to go there either. at eight years old I wanted to do fun things. fishing, swimming, playing ball, wasn’t worried about hell.

    If kids were worried about their eternity at eight, I didn’t know any. I feel for you kids that grew up in Alabama, sorry you had that experience.

    I feel sorry for the person who told my mama, her children were going to hell. you talk about women talking in church 🙂

  74. Dwight says:

    Laymond, if you read my post I never went back past twelve or thirteen…did you miss this?
    I would agree 8 or 9 is very young in understanding things, but 12-13 is usually not.
    You obviously aren’t Jewish are you? In the Jewish world, past as in present, (at least in the orthodox) you start learning law at an early age 12-13 and it is applicable to you.
    I live in Texas. We grow up quicker here as you have to maintain the ranch and tend to the oil wells.

  75. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:


    It’s amazing how many of our preachers think the Bar Mitzvah is found in the Torah! And the age of adulthood is 13, not 12. It’s a late creation of Judaism. — no earlier than the 14th Century — the Renaissance.

    As you correctly note, the Torah describes those below age 20 as having “no knowledge of good and evil” — which is exactly the reason Adam and Eve were unaccountable before they ate the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. This is hardly the language of mere civil law. But neither does it say that you cannot be saved at an earlier age.

    So I can’t abide declarations that the Bible nowhere gives an age of accountability. It does. We just don’t like the answer. Some of this is residual legalism, because we see no need to do right except for fear of hell — which is why grace so scares us. We are afraid our children might be bad but for the fear of hell — which says more about us than our kids. I mean, there are lots of well-behaved children who’ve never heard of God. So maybe it’s possible to motivate children to live as good people without teaching them to be terrified of God.

    So maybe 20 isn’t the AOA. I’m open to hearing the counter-arguments. But I’m not really very open to the idea that children can only be taught to behave by fear of hell. There might be a better way.

  76. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:


    Matt 18 and 19 use a word that refers to a prepubescent child — typically under 12 — paidion. Luk 9 is the same.

    While I’ve never heard this argument made re AOA, it carries more weight than most. On the other hand, I’m not sure Jesus was speaking of accountability. He wasn’t urging us to become as unaware of right and wrong as children are. Rather, he was speaking of humility (Mat 18:4; Compare Luke 9:46-48).

    Here’s my chance to use a newly acquired commentary —

    And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

    Knowing human nature as I hope we do, the disciples’ question shouldn’t surprise us. However, Jesus’ answer is almost as surprising today as it was then! First, it’s surprising that he answers their question about elevation (whose the greatest?) with a comment about entrance (who says you’re even in?).
    They assumed they were in “the kingdom” (i.e., the saved community under Christ’s kingship), and thus their only concern was greatness—how many diadems will be on my crown compared to his and his and his and his? But Jesus turns the tables on them. He says in essence, “What you should be worried about—with such an attitude as expressed in your question—is whether you are in the kingdom or not. Big-headed people can’t fit through the narrow gate. Fat camels can’t squeeze through the eye of the needle.” To quote him exactly, “Truly, I say to you” (v. 3)—when Jesus uses that language you better listen up—“unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Never mind whose first among the Twelve; make sure you are one of the Twelve. “Forget greatness; get in!”3 That’s the first surprise.
    The second surprise is that Jesus calls for a re-conversion to childlikeness. In John 3:3 he says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God,” and here in 18:3 he says similarly, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Where we might expect Jesus to say, as would be typical of a rabbi of his day, “If you want to get in you must have an Olympic-sized righteousness—abounding in good works, martyr-like in self-sacrifice, skilled in reading and teaching the Torah,” he says nearly the opposite: “You must become like a child.”
    What is so surprising or shocking about that is that children were the lowest of the low in the ancient world. That might be hard for us to imagine since children today have TV shows and movies and video games and amusement parks and toys and cell phones and even restaurants designed for their pleasure and in their honor. That is the world we live in, but that was not the world in which Jesus lived. Some scholars are convinced that this is the first and only time in ancient Jewish literature (perhaps all ancient literature) where a child is used as a positive example. What Jesus does here is original and radical. And did you know that in Koine Greek the word for “child” is neither masculine nor feminine? It’s neuter. Here is a wooden translation of the Greek of verse 2: “And having called a child he [Jesus] set it in [the] midst of them.” It?
    So, what’s surprising here—our second surprise—is that “It is in, and it is up.” If you want to get in the kingdom you must be like it, and if you to move up in the kingdom you must move down like it. It is in, and it is up. And it is everything in the Christian life. There is no stage before it and none after it. It is a constant state of being. It is a rule of life. It is being re-converted each and every day after the day of your conversion.4 It is being born again and again and again.5
    With a lot hanging on what it is, let me define it (i.e., what it means to be “like children”). My definition comes solely from our text. In this text being “like children” does not mean being innocent, simple-minded, easily amused, or possessing the uncanny ability to throw temper tantrums. Rather, it means humility—“whoever humbles himself like this child” (v. 4).
    But humility then is defined by “this” particular child’s attitude and action toward Jesus. Jesus calls this child to himself, and she (let’s make “it” a “she” to be even more radical for Jesus’ day) comes to Jesus (a) because she must trust (cf. “believe in [him],” v. 6) that he’s okay to come to,6 and (b) because she listens to him, like a child is supposed to listen to an adult, but also like all believers are supposed to—remember the transfiguration?—“listen to him” (17:5).7 So she is humble, and that humility expresses itself as mustard-seed faith expressed itself in 17:14, 15 by trusting in Jesus and listening to (i.e., obeying) him. That’s what it means to “turn and become like children.”
    We didn’t literally see this visual parable (a little girl [or boy] coming to Jesus) as the disciples did, but hopefully we can see it. Hopefully we can get at what Jesus is getting at—to get in the kingdom and to move up in it (so to speak) requires humility. “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you” (James 4:10).

    Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Matthew: All Authority in Heaven and on Earth (Preaching the Word; ed. R. Kent Hughes; Accordance electronic ed. Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2013), 500-502.

    (You can buy the entire 36-vol set for $99 at Accordance.)

  77. Dwight says:

    Part of our problem as in many things is trying to make what they did as a matter of law. Only that which God stated in the books of the law was law and could be used as law, everything else was culture and not law. This is what gets us into problems in the NT when we see something and then try to make it a command, when it was just something they did as their culture as not everything in their culture was done by command. They often prayed towards Jerusalem three times a day, not by command, but by self regulation.
    It is entirely possible the reason a twenty year old person paid money for the census was because at age twenty they usually were supporting a family, which means they had employment. It may or may not go any deeper than that. Unless I read a direct statement where God specifically stated that 20 was the age at which one knew sin, then I could preach it, but without it, there is only speculation fueled by circumstantial evidence that points to something possibly related…the age at which one paid in to the census or the possible age at which those of the next generation were able to go into the wilderness.
    But let’s think about that wilderness thing, if people were generally married by 20, then had children, maybe by thirty, then the people that died off that had them in the wilderness would all had to have died in their forties or fifties to be one generation apart from the next one who didn’t have the ability to weigh in on going into Canaan, so the next wave of 20 year olds would be able to go in. If they died off in their 70s, then even the next following generation and even the one after that would have been able to weigh in on the Canaan entrance.
    More questions than answers.
    We are trying to nail down a board on a boat that might not even exist.

  78. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Dwight wrote,

    If age 20 is the magic age, then we better start teaching that they must wait until twenty to be baptized no matter what they understand about Jesus as the savior.

    So if someone is baptized pre-AOA the baptism doesn’t take?

    I think Arminius got it wrong when he assumed that the AOA is the same as the age at which someone may commit to Jesus in baptism. There is no reason that these have to be the same. Those in Israel under 20 were not accountable for their sins, but they were part of the covenant community and were “baptized” in the Red Sea along with their parents. In fact, we learn in Joshua that circumcision of newborns had been neglected during the 40 years in the desert, and yet the youth of Israel remained a part of the ekklesia of God.

    Hard to say exactly how far we can press the analogy, but in the OT there was no correlation between AOA and being a son of God, a member of the ekklesia, being under God’s saving protection, etc. We just assume that the time for baptism is the AOA because we see baptism as solely about forgiveness of sin, when it’s really about much, much more. If we define baptism’s purpose in terms of biblical faith, then it’s not only a declaration of what we believe about Jesus but also a commitment to be faithful to him and to trust him — all of which a child can do well before age 20. That is, if a child can have faith in Jesus, a child can be baptized. The requirement for baptism is not that you’re damned but that you have faith.

  79. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Ala. John,

    The reason I dislike re-baptism is that we treat it as though it’s a more powerful form of forgiveness than being in Christ. It’s not.

    (Rom. 5:6-10 ESV) 6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person– though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die– 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.

    TWICE Paul says that now that we’re God’s justified, God will MUCH MORE save us. He initially saved us while we were ungodly, sinners, and enemies of God. Now that we’ve been reconciled (brought into right relationship), God now MUCH MORE saves us.

    Quite literally, Paul says the forgiveness we receive after baptism is much more powerful than what we received AT baptism — but we are such sacramentalists (although we deny it), we see more power in the water than in being an adopted child of God himself.

  80. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:


    Glad you enjoyed the post. I know countless adults who were baptized well before age 12 and for whom the baptism seems to have “taken.” They live transformed lives. And I know countless adults baptized as teens who only got wet. And vice versa.

    Our AOA doctrine requires some serious rethinking. We take it from the work of Jacob Arminius, a 16th century objector to the Calvinism of his day — but our thinking seems to have been frozen 500 years ago.

  81. Alabama John says:

    Most of the re-baptisms I have seen were done because the folks didn’t feel as young children they were baptized properly.
    Instead of understanding, believing and having faith, they were simply following their parents or some other grown ups wishes.
    That was a very popular and understandable happening among the young children of the 40-60’s.
    Tremendous pressure was put on them to GET baptized and BE SAVED before you die from some accident and live forever in terrible pain forever in the burning hell.

  82. Christopher says:


    To buttress your argument, and since you already referenced Matthew 18, in verse 6 Jesus acknowledges that “prepubescent” children can believe in Him (and issues a scary warning to anyone who might cause one to stumble or fall away). And the 12 year old girl He raises from the dead is called a “little girl” in the NIV translation. The evidence seems pretty strong for your contentions.

  83. Alabama John says:

    Remember the two boards, one on each side of the baptistery wall facing the members that had on them:
    The number of baptisms this month________
    The number of baptisms for the year_______
    The number asking forgiveness this month________
    The number asking forgiveness this year_________
    Contribution this month_______
    Contribution this year_________
    Attendance this Sunday (Morning)______ (Night) ___
    Attendance this Month (Morning)______ (Night) ___
    Attendance for the year__________

    Telling children about persons they knew in the community that died of another denomination that they were in hell was a terribly scary thing to put on them.

    If a preacher did that to my grandchildren today, he would be getting an ass whopping like he’s never had and I hope I could lay him out cold in front of the table where it is written DO THIS IN REMEMBRANCE OF ME as that is exactly what I would think I just did!

  84. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:


    Much appreciated. Not really contending for the position. Just hypothesizing — to see what the bright people who comment here might say in response. And so far, the hypothesis is holding its own — a little to my surprise, really. I thought someone would blow it out of the water with something I’d not thought of. But so far …

    (Matt. 18:5-6 ESV) 5 “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, 6 but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.”

    You are quite right that v. 6 credits faith in Jesus — not just some generic “faith” — to a prepubescent child. “Little ones” translates mikros — small thing. It’s an obvious reference to “child” in v. 5, which is a reference to a young child, not a teen but a prepubescent — 12 or younger.

    Case made. You can have faith in Jesus before age 12; therefore, you are a candidate for baptism if you have such faith. The traditional age 12 barrier is without scriptural warrant.

    And yet the AOA sure looks to be 20 (ish?). Hence, the theory has a bit more heft than that I thought might be true.

    This bears some serious thought …

  85. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:


    I’ve seen the same thing, although around here, the revival pitch was whether the believer understood the “Lordship” of Jesus. Did you really understand the level of commitment you were being called to? And, of course, a college student would understand that much better at that age than at age 12. But who in a Church of Christ was baptized without some rudimentary understanding of repentance? That Jesus is Lord? Now … really?? I think many were caused to doubt their salvation due to the imperfection of their knowledge of Jesus when saved — but who EVER understands these things perfectly?

    Fortunately, we are not saved by the depth of our understanding or even the depth of our faith but by the perfection of Jesus’ sacrifice. We need only have faith as a mustard seed — enough to grow into a large plant in which birds may one day nest. But not yet that big — just a seed gets it done.

  86. Dwight says:

    Jay, I think you are correct. The fact that the gospel is built around faith makes the understanding of Jesus as the savior the crux and it is a simple thing, but it takes a belief that many grown up have a hard time with. The great thing is that it requires enough faith to believe in Jesus and then the faith is expected to grow.
    We are all children to God, thus called the children of God. Compared to God we are all juvenile in thinking and acting.

  87. Jay,

    You wrote: “I should also add that I don’t believe that the “age of accountability” has to be the same as the age at which a child can have saving faith”.

    It should not be a matter of a personal feeling, belief or opinion.

    If what you are stating is that one can be saved just because of his faith (which has to be defined) in Jesus although not being considered a sinner yet, deserving hell, in the sight of God, then please provide Biblical references: direct commands, inferences or examples.

    Matthew 18:11
    11 For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost.

    Jesus came to save the lost not the saved ones.

    This is a very important issue and, if not demonstrated scripturally, can lead unqualified candidates to baptism and therefore make that baptism null.

    Thank you.


  88. Alabama John says:

    What you said is why we see many being rebaptized at an older age. It has been done at age 60 and above for many who believed they were too young when baptized.

    Where is it limited to only once anyhow? The Bible tells of some doing it again.

    Twice might not be necessary as prayer serves that purpose but whether to be baptized again or not is in the heart of the believer, between them and God, not us.

  89. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:


    In the context of the discussion you’re just now joining, the point is made that one can only be eligible for baptism if one has saving faith. I think we likely agree.

    A two-year old can believe in Jesus — and Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. When is a child old enough to have the faith that saves as opposed to the “faith” of mere naivete from being so very young?

    Ever since Jacob Arminius posited an “age of accountability” in contradistinction to Calvin’s theology, the answer has been “don’t know but it’s something like 12 — more or less — depending on the child.” We just made that up. There is zero biblical support for the theory. It still might be right. But it’s purely experiential in terms of evidence.

    Now, the Torah is clear that the age of accountability is 20 — the age of knowing good and evil. This is covered in the main post, and I’ll not repeat the arguments. The language plainly echoes Gen 2 and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. And those under age 20 were not punished for the refusal of Israel to enter the Promised Land based on the reports of the 10 spies.

    So this is the age at which a child becomes accountable for sin — including the sin of lack of faith. After all, the sin Israel committed was faithlessness. See Heb 3 and related passages.

    One could argue that the Torah’s rule no longer applies — but one would struggle to defend that view. Might be right, but it just happens that American legislatures apply age 19 or age 21 as the age of adulthood for most purposes. Anyone younger cannot enter into a binding contract. If they commit a crime, the punishment will be much lighter — maybe none at all — and easily expunged from the child’s record. American law agrees with Torah when it comes to crime and contracts and smoking and drinking. As do modern brain physiology studies — which show our brains don’t mature until about 20 or 21, and until then, most of us can’t see the consequences of our own decisions very well. Hence — no accountability.

    But being accountable and having faith are two entirely different things. By what logic do we equate “accountable for sins” with “capable of faith”? Now, we hope that we can come to faith and be efficaciously baptized BEFORE we become accountable. We ASSUME these things happen simultaneously, which the Bible neither says nor implies — that I can find. We just ASSUME because the blessed Arminius said so. I guess. I can’t think of another reason.

    Now, you assume that only the damned can come to faith, be baptized, and be saved. I see the logic, but I still disagree. Were the apostles damned when they were saved? Was Jesus damned when he was baptized? Seems more of a generality than a law or rule.

    Worse yet, if you’re right, then someone has to become accountable and be damned to be effectively baptized. That seems a really dangerous way to go. I mean, if my precocious 8-year old daughter wants to confess and be baptized, must I conclude to a theological certainty that she is presently damned in her sins? How do I reach that conclusion? How do I KNOW?

    I mean, your theory is not just a problem for the age-20 theory, it’s a huge problem for the traditional theory. How on earth do I overrule the plain teachings of the Law and declare that in the Christian dispensation I know for a fact that my son or daughter is old enough to be damned — and therefore old enough to be saved?? I have no idea.

    So I think you’re creating a problem that doesn’t really exist.

    Let’s take a fresh look at Matt 18:11. Here’s the ESV version —

    — that’s it. There’s NOTHING there! It’s not even in the best manuscripts, and modern translations omit it because the evidence shows it wasn’t in Matthew’s original gospel. (The KJV and NKJV use manuscripts known to be unreliable — solely for the purpose of making money selling translations known to be wrong. It’s dreadful scholarship. Please use a better version. I use ESV because it was recommended to me by Gregory Alan Tidwell, editor of the Gospel Advocate. I wanted to be sure to use a version that the most conservative readers would respect — and that wasn’t filled with second-rate-manuscript error. There are other good choices, but I do like my ESV.)

    It is, however, in Luke —

    (Lk. 19:8-10 ESV) 8 And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” 9 And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

    Jesus is referring to Eze 34:4 — which is prophecy condemning the shepherds (rulers/leaders) of Israel in those days.

    (Ezek. 34:2-6 ESV) 2 “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy, and say to them, even to the shepherds, Thus says the Lord GOD: Ah, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep? 3 You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat ones, but you do not feed the sheep. 4 The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them. 5 So they were scattered, because there was no shepherd, and they became food for all the wild beasts. 6 My sheep were scattered; they wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. My sheep were scattered over all the face of the earth, with none to search or seek for them.”

    Read the whole chapter — it’s a particularly beautiful piece of Hebrew poetry and is the root of many NT passages.

    When Jesus says this, he is comparing the Jewish leaders of the day to the lost sheep in Ezekiel’s prophecy. The “lost” are the lost sheep of Israel — the Jewish people who’d been ignored and even taken advantage of by their leaders.

    So “lost” doesn’t mean “damned” but “lost” like a lost sheep is lost — in great danger and needing rescue. And obviously damned people can fit the analogy, but not just damned people.

    First, Jesus is indirectly claiming to be God.

    Thus his mission ‘to seek and to save the lost’ (Lk. 19:10) echoes Ezekiel’s prophecy about God himself as the shepherd (Ezk. 34, esp. vv. 16, 22), while his defence of the children’s praise of him is based on a psalm about how God is praised (Mt. 21:16; cf. Ps. 8:2)

    R. T. France, “Development in New Testament Christology,” Themelios: Volume 18, No. 1, October 1992 (1992), 6.

    Second, Jesus is coming to save all of Israel — saved and damned. He saves all who come to him — and doesn’t cast out those who were saved under the Mosaic standards. That is, the “lost sheep” of Israel is everyone led astray by broken and corrupt leadership — even if not led into damnation — because in Ezekiel “lost” doesn’t mean “damned” but “in need of God’s help,” and God’s help is far more than salvation from sin. It’s that! But it’s more.

    So the passage doesn’t mean that Jesus only saves the damned. Rather, it means that he’s come to save all who need him.

    (Ezek. 34:11-16 ESV) 11 “For thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out. 12 As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out my sheep, and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. 13 And I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land. And I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the ravines, and in all the inhabited places of the country. 14 I will feed them with good pasture, and on the mountain heights of Israel shall be their grazing land. There they shall lie down in good grazing land, and on rich pasture they shall feed on the mountains of Israel. 15 I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord GOD. 16 I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, and the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them in justice.”

    Read Eze 34 slowly. Savor it. Imagine what it meant at the time Ezekiel lived (before and during the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar.) And then see how Jesus uses it in many parables — including all those “lost sheep” parables. It’s not just about damnation — although it surely includes that. It’s more because Israel was broken in far more ways than that. And Jesus came to heal Israel of sin — but not just sin. Salvation is bigger than getting out of hell.

  90. Alabama,

    Thank you for your response.

    “What you said is why we see many being rebaptized at an older age”

    Yes, I am aware about this since I have been observing the rebaptism practice/phenomenon.

    Sometimes, concerns rise not only when a new problem appears but because a frequency of occurrence abnormally higher than it should be.

    For example, if divorce rate is 5% per year for the last 1000 years and then increases to 50% for the last 100 years, I would investigate the problem and conclude that society went through deep changes.

    I have no problem when a brother exceptionally reconsiders his baptism because he did not take seriously the repentance of his sins for example.
    I do have a problem when I see rebaptism phenomenon accepted as normal and rate incomparably greater among the first ones performed among kids than adults reaching 30% for example and not questioning anything. This problem must be addressed.

    “Where is it limited to only once anyhow? The Bible tells of some doing it again.”

    First, I will ask you to provide me with Bible references…
    … about baptism not meant to be applied just once. I am not saying you can’t be (re)baptized but this ceremony/divine institution is not originally meant to be performed several times.
    … about people being rebaptized for the forgiveness of sins. Acts 19 does not apply.

    Second, saying such a thing devalues and diminishes the importance of baptism.
    It’s the old “try it and see if you like it” behavior that devalues the importance of the decision.
    I am afraid Christian parents who make such an argument and baptize based on this untold principal are falling for the same sad mentality in our society that says, “Go ahead, get married, you can always divorce and remarry if it doesn’t work out.”
    That is shameful and wrong in marriage and even more so in being married to Christ in baptism.

    Third, if performed in order to enter the church through socialization rather than through persuasion, baptism will give you a feeling of salvation security where there is actually not, or you will eventually fall away while in fact you just never had any personal faith and convictions about your baptism.
    If you practice self examination (2 Corinthians 13:5 Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!), that could lead you to (re)baptism.

    “whether to be baptized again or not is in the heart of the believer, between them and God, not us.”

    Again, I am not saying someone must not or can’t be rebaptism. I am saying there is a serious issue regarding the high frequency of rebaptism when the first once has been performed as a child. What is wrong and not acceptable is to not search for the cause that is sinful and could be removed: pears and youth minister pressure, preacher numbers, parents peace of mind, never say no…

    At this point, I am not even willing to address the issue of the young age/lack of maturity issue, but the wrong motivations and responsibility of church ministers on this.

    In Him,


    PS: Whatever I wrote, there is no anger, no hate but love for the recipients and passion for the Truth. Please, keep this in mind.

  91. Stephen says:


    I will need probably couple of days before digesting your soteriology.

    I just never heard any churches of Christ minister or Bible study teaching about repenting but not being accountable yet. It is just a none sense, a paradox.

    I do not think I said faith and being accountable is the same thing but rather having a saving faith and being a sinner has an obvious connection in the Scriptures that is irrefutable.

    However, I will examine carefully what you wrote.

    I appreciate greatly your knowledge of the Bible and external references and your generosity by sharing them as well as your humility in your communication.

    God bless,


  92. Hi Jay, How can you be sure that “paidion” refers only to a prepubescent child — typically under 12? Thank you. Stephen

  93. Hi Jay, How can you be sure that Paidíon refers to a prepubescent child under twelve years old? Thanks, Stephen

  94. Joe B says:

    Being a church of Christ kid this thing of getting kids baptized so young drives a guilt complex that there is essentially something wrong with me. This guilt complex and the feeling that the Lord is somehow disappointed with us from get go is a self-defeating relationship. I think we should do more teaching our kids what God is like. The fact we the even have to ask ourselves this question of how young it to young shows that we have a serious problem. The most fascinating thing would be to ask how many are re-immersed in early adulthood to quarter life. This tells that average is probably too young from a mathematical stand point if we wanted to keep from re-immersing people.
    Theologically we hold kids accountable for stuff way to young as we don’t hold them accountable for most legal things until they are 18.
    I am appalled that we even have to ask this question.

  95. Joe,

    I entirely agree with you.

    I have been studying youth immersion for several years now.

    Children do not meet the preconditions nor the postconditions of baptism.

    I came to the conclusion that children where never candidates for Christianity because they are not fit for discipleship until they become adults.

    All identified conversions in the NT are adult conversion only.


  96. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:


    BDAG (the premier NT Greek/English lexicon) defines paidion as “1. a child, normally below the age of puberty, child.”

    Louw-Nida lexicon says, “a child, normally below the age of puberty.”

    Danker defines it “age range from a new-born to time of youth] child – a. within a broad range of age, but normally pre-puberty “

  97. Didn’t puberty occur much later in ancient times than today?

    Jesus was twelve and was a boy: paîs – #3816, from paidíon – #3813

    Jesus said: kingdom of heaven belongs to “paidíon” (children) and “such as these” (adults willing to humble themselves to look like paidíon)

    Aren’t “paidíon” safe? If so, why would they need to be baptized?

    “paidíon” had angels. God does not assign angels to sinners, does He?

  98. Mark 5:41-42
    41 Taking the child by the hand, He said to her, “Talitha kum!” (which translated means, “Little girl, I say to you, get up!”).
    42 Immediately the girl got up and began to walk, for she was twelve years old. And immediately they were completely astounded.

    The synagogue official daughter was 12 years old, was a “paidíon” and a “Little girl” in Aramic.

  99. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:


    1. For those new to the discussion, I’m not arguing that young children need baptism.
    2. Consider this passage —

    (Matt. 18:1-10 ESV) At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2 And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them 3 and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

    5 “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, 6 but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.

    7 “Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes! 8 And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire. 9 And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire.

    10 “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.”

    To enter the Kingdom requires that adults become like children, but it seem hyper-literal to say that therefore children are part of the Kingdom and, I suppose, leave the Kingdom and fall away when they reach the age of accountability (AOA).

    Jesus’ declaration that each child has an angel in heaven present with the Father is intriguing and comforting, but doesn’t mean the child is part of the Kingdom necessarily.

    You see, many commentators read this passage taking a turn at verse 5 —

    We should notice that Jesus does not here speak of children generally, but of one little one who believes in me. The question arises whether he is still speaking of children or whether the “little ones” are now the unimportant people who believe in him. Most commentators agree that the “little ones” include not only small children but all lowly believers (Johnson holds the “little ones” to be “not merely children but the ‘weaker brethren’ who did not understand the implications of their faith,” but there seems to be no reason for limiting the expression in this way). The word little is sometimes used of importance in this world rather than age, for example, in the expression “both great and small” (cf. Acts 8:10). This view is assisted by the fact that the little one in question is said to believe in Jesus. The addition in me makes it clear that it is faith in Christ that is in question, faith that trusts in him alone, centers its trust in him.19 We should understand Jesus to be referring to lowly disciples, those who claim nothing great for themselves but trust him for all things; they are God’s little people.

    Leon Morris, The Gospel According to Matthew, Pillar NTC; Accordance electronic ed. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1992), 462.

    In short, by v. 5, Jesus seems to be speaking of humble believers, a group that includes children. But he is explicit that he is speaking of believers, and hence not infants (but see the counter-argument below).

    And that suggests that v. 10 is also speaking of humble believers (which includes but is not limited to children) when he speaks of there being angels for each “little one.”

    Jesus returns to the subject of the little ones, first calling on his hearers to See, where his verb calls for concentrated effort. People are not to despise even one of these little ones (France reminds us that “one individual can conveniently be ignored in one’s care for ‘the church’”). Here again it is uncertain whether the little ones are children or lowly disciples (his “common people”). Either makes good sense, and the following reference to angels does not clear it up. Perhaps we should understand Jesus to be speaking first of the children that started him on this section of teaching, but now to be using words that have relevance to all his lowly followers. For introduces the reason. Angels (see on 1:20) are heavenly beings, but their poses a problem. Jacob referred to an angel who had had concern for him (Gen. 48:16), while in the book of Daniel it seems that each nation has its angel (Dan. 10:13) and in Revelation we are introduced to the angels of churches (Rev. 1:20). Perhaps we should notice further that angels are said to have carried Lazarus to Abraham’s bosom (Luke 16:22) and to rejoice over one sinner who repents (Luke 15:10). Angels are apparently active in and about the affairs of people. It is possible that here guardian angels are meant (NEB translates “guardian angels”), with a particular angel watching over each little one. But if this were meant, it would point to something so significant that we would expect references to guardian angels elsewhere, and we do not find them. Calvin regards the suggestion that guardian angels are in mind as “weak” and prefers the idea that “to the angels is committed the care of the whole Church and that they succour individual members so far as their necessity and situation demands” (II, p. 218). We can say no more than that the passage looks like a reference to guardian angels but comes short of proof, and in any case we have no further information on who such angels are or what they do.

    Leon Morris, The Gospel According to Matthew, PNTC; Accordance electronic ed. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1992), 464-465.

    In short, it seems clear enough that Jesus shifts from children in general to believers who are child-like (which would include believing children, of course). Hence, to draw a conclusion that children are necessarily in the Kingdom is not easily supported by this passage. After all, Jesus himself limits his promises to those who believe — leaving unanswered the question about children too young to believe.

    This probably won’t help, but here are the possibilities that ought to be considered in light of this and other passages —

    1. Children are born damned. The Calvinists believe this as to the unelect, and I find it unthinkable.

    2. Children are born neither saved nor damned but mortal. When they die, they aren’t resurrected to punishment or reward unless they’ve heard the gospel and are old enough to have responded to the gospel. That is, a child that dies without hearing the gospel simply dies and has no eternal punishment or reward.

    3. The children of the covenant — the children of people of faith — are saved because they are raised to always have faith in Jesus at the level they are capable of. Hence, they are regarded as “holy” in 1 Cor 7 and believers in Matt 18. The children born outside the covenant are under 2. The church is faithful Israel with the faithful Gentiles grafted in per Rom 11. Therefore, just as Jewish children were born into the covenant, the same is true of Christian children. Matt 18 speaks particularly of “little ones” who believe, which would include children of the covenant community.

    4. All children are born saved and part of the Kingdom. When they reach the AOA, they are immediately damned as soon as they commit their first sin, no matter how slight. If they hear and believe the gospel, they return to their original saved state due to faith.

    (I don’t speak of baptism to keep the list simple but obviously a complete theology of the salvation of children would have to deal with baptism as well.)

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