Sermon #2021[i] Miscellaneous Sermons
Title: Infants in
the Kingdom of God
Text: Luke 18:15-17
Subject: Receiving the Kingdom
Of God As A Little Child
Open your Bible to the 18th chapter of Luke’s Gospel. And let me give you a brief summary of the chapter.
· Verses 1-8 — The Parable of the Unjust Judge teaches us that God hears and answers prayer, that He will avenge His own elect, that He will save all who call upon Him, trusting the Lord Jesus.
· Verses 9-14 — The Parable of the Pharisee and the Publican warns us against self-righteousness and assures us that none are beyond the reach of God’s saving mercy and grace in Christ.
· Verses 15-17 — Our Lord receiving the little children coming to Him teaches us that we must come to Christ in simple, childlike faith.
· Verses 18-27 — The Story of the Rich Young Ruler teaches us that salvation is God’s work and God’s work alone.
· Verses 28-30 — Our Savior tells us that none shall ever suffer loss by following Him.
· Verses 31-34 — Our dear Savior told His disciples again that He must suffer and die at Jerusalem, be put to death upon the cursed tree as our Substitute, and rise again the third day. — But they understood not His words, because they were hidden from them.
· Verses 35-43 — The healing of the blind man in Jericho tells us that all light, knowledge, and understanding is the gift of God to poor sinners. — This story also shows us that nothing is so important to the Son of God as the salvation of poor, needy sinners. The Lord Jesus Christ was stopped dead in His tracks at the cry of a sinner in need of mercy!
Now, let’s go back to verses 15-17 My subject is Babies in the Church, — or Infants in the Kingdom of God. My text is found in Luke 18:15-17. — Infants in the Kingdom of God — That’s my subject (Luke 18:15-17)
“And they brought unto Him also infants, that He would touch them: but when [His] disciples saw [it], they rebuked them. But Jesus called them [unto Him], and said, Suffer little children to come unto Me, and forbid them not: for of such is the Kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the Kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein.” (Luke 18:15-17)
This short passage of Holy Scripture sets before us one of our Master’s most important lessons. Here our Savior teaches us that all who enter into the Kingdom of God, all who are saved by the grace of God must come to Christ in simple faith, as little children. The only way anyone can enter the Kingdom of God, the only way anyone can be saved is as a little child.
(Isaiah 65:20) “There shall be no more thence an infant of days, nor an old man that hath not filled his days: for the child shall die an hundred years old; but the sinner [being] an hundred years old shall be accursed.”
Blessed and instructive as our text (Luke 18:15-17) is, very few passages in the New Testament have been so perversely twisted to teach false doctrine as these three verses. For that reason, I must, at least briefly, address two of the perverse things men most commonly use these verses to teach.
Infant Sprinkling — Papists and those who continue to practice the Romish ritual of infant baptism commonly refer to these verses as a defense of sprinkling water on babies, that which is commonly referred to as “infant baptism.”
If there were any place in the Bible where we might expect to find some mention or example of “infant sprinkling” this would be the place; but that is not the case. This practice of what is called “infant baptism” is totally without foundation in Holy Scripture. There is not so much as one word in the Bible that teaches, or even implies it. And there is not a single example of it in the entire Word of God. It is a practice of purely Roman Catholic origin. It is vainly hoped, by those who practice infant sprinkling, that the baby sprinkled with a little water is thereby regenerated, or at least given one foot up toward God. The practice is, of course, totally contrary to the plainest declaration of Holy Scripture, both with regard to salvation and baptism.
It is a complete contradiction of the Gospel of God’s free and sovereign grace in Christ. Salvation does not come by water, be it much or little, but by grace. It is not the result of some man’s priestly pretense, but of God’s sovereign operation.
Infant sprinkling is also totally contrary to the teaching of Holy Scripture about baptism. Baptism is immersion, picturing the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, and our death, burial, and resurrection with Him (Romans 6:3-6). It is called “believer’s baptism”, because only believers are to be baptized. Baptism is the believer’s public, symbolic confession of faith in Christ, symbolizing fulfillment of all righteousness by the obedience of our Lord Jesus Christ unto death as our Substitute and Surety (Matthew 3:15).
Decisionism — These verses are also used by many to defend the practice of talking little children into making a “decision for Jesus” and calling it salvation. I do not think, or suggest, that the Bible teaches what men call an “age of accountability”. That is not the issue. The issue is faith in Christ. No one born of God (man, woman, or child), needs to be manipulated into professing faith in Christ. Indeed, if someone talked you into a profession of faith, you know that it was no more than that. You may hold onto it until you go to hell; but what you have is not salvation, but just a religious profession. When God the Holy Ghost saves sinners, giving them faith in Christ, they are made willing disciples of the Son of God.
Having said that, I will say no more, though much more needs to be said, said boldly, and said often about such perverse religious practices. Let me give you a brief exposition of these three verses. Then I will give you the Master’s message in them.
“And they brought unto Him also infants.” — The word translated “infants” is used with regard to unborn children, little babies, and young children (Luke 1:41, 44; 2:12, 16; 18:15; Acts 7:19; 2 Timothy 3:15; 1 Peter 2:2). On this occasion, people brought these infants to the Savior, just as others brought adults to Him who were sick, that they might be healed by His touch, as we see in the next words.
“That He would touch them.” — They brought these children to the Master that He might, as was His custom, heal them of their diseases by touching them.
“But when His disciples saw it, they rebuked them.” — The disciples rebuked those who brought these sick children to the Master. We are not told why the disciples’ rebuked them. They may very well have had what they thought were good reasons for doing so. In fact, that appears to have been the case, because the Lord Jesus did not in any way scold them for their action. But this much is certain. — They did not bring the children to the Savior to be baptized by Him. John Gill explained…
“From this rebuke and prohibition of the disciples, it looks plainly as if it had never been the practice of the Jews, nor of John the Baptist, nor of Christ and His disciples, to baptize infants. Had this been then in use, they would scarcely have forbidden and rebuked those that brought them, since they might have thought they brought them to be baptized. But knowing of no such usage that ever obtained in that nation, neither among those that did, or did not believe in Christ, they forbad them.”
“But Jesus called them unto Him.” — The Lord Jesus called for these children who were brought to come to Him. That fact is sufficient to tell us that these “infants” were not infants in the way we commonly speak of infants. They were obviously young children, probably less than twelve years old, but not new-born babies, or nursing babies. They were at least old enough to be capable of coming to the Master on their own.
When He called the children to Himself, stretching out His arms to receive them, the Master said, to His disciples, “suffer little children to come unto Me, and forbid them not.” Our Lord Jesus was such a gracious, humble, accommodating Man that He readily seized the opportunity to tenderly embrace young children, take them on His lap, and minister to them. He was so gracious, gentle, and kind that young children were perfectly comfortable in approaching Him.
“For of such is the Kingdom of God.” — It is as if our Lord said, “Don’t drive these children away from Me. Let them come, and I will teach you something. These children are a good picture of what I require all My children to be: trusting and dependent, harmless and inoffensive, free from bitterness and malice, meek, modest, and humble, without pride, arrogance, and ambition, having no desire for greatness, just children.”
“Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the Kingdom of God” — That is receive Christ as his King, believing His doctrine, bowing to His authority, obeying His will. — “As a little child” — In simple faith, meekly, humbly, trusting Him as Lord and Savior — “Shall in no wise enter therein.” — In a word, our Savior here tells us that…
Proposition: There is no true faith except that faith that is exemplified in childlike qualities.
What a profound, needful, vital message this is! May God give us grace to receive it. — “Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the Kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein.”
There are four things in our Lord’s message that must not go unnoticed.
First, we must understand that when the Lord Jesus comes in saving power and grace into the lives of chosen sinners, He comes as a King to set up His Kingdom. He does not come begging for admission. He comes into the hearts of chosen sinners in sovereign, omnipotent mercy. He binds Satan, spoils him of his goods, casts him out, and takes possession of his house.
Second, if we are to come into this Kingdom, we must be brought to Christ the King, and brought into the Kingdom as little children. Our Master says, “Of such is the Kingdom of Heaven” (v. 17). Mark those words. There are children in every kingdom, and there are children in our Lord’s Kingdom. John Newton once said, “The majority of persons who are now in the Kingdom of God are children.” I would not argue the point. When I think of all the multitudes of babies who have died in infancy, of all the innocents slaughtered from the womb and in the womb, who are now swarming in the streets of glory, I rejoice in God’s great wisdom and goodness. Though adults, generation after generation, die in rebellion and unbelief, countless multitudes of infant children have entered into the Kingdom of Heaven, saved by the grace of God, through the death of Christ, and forever sing the high praises of their great Redeemer and Friend before the eternal throne of His glory. — “Of such is the Kingdom of Heaven.”
I have no hesitancy in asserting that infants dying in infancy (That includes the infants murdered in abortion clinics, burned upon heathen altars, the infants of Papists, Mohammedans, and Buddhists.) enter the Kingdom God. I am fully convinced that all of our race who die in infancy are the objects of God’s eternal love, redeemed by the blood of Christ, and born again by God the Holy Spirit. Let others object, if they please. For my part, I am delighted with this. Everything I read in the Book of God convinces me of it. All who leave this world as babies are saved.
· David's Son
A few years ago, I received a lengthy, sad letter from a dear friend of mine in another state. She and her husband married fairly late in life, just two or three years earlier. They had been trying to have a child. You can imagine their elation when they learned that she was pregnant. Then, my dear friend miscarried. You can imagine their disappointment. She wrote to ask, “Was my unborn child a human being? At what point is an unborn child a living person? Is my child in heaven?” You can imagine my elation as I wrote back and said, “Yes, your baby is one of Christ’s jewels, taken from your womb into His everlasting arms and into His glory.
How are they saved? How do they enter the Kingdom? — By works? — By the exercise of their will? Of course not! They enter the Kingdom of God by the mighty operations of God’s free grace. And if we enter the Kingdom of God that is exactly the way we will enter it.
How do they receive the Kingdom? Our Lord Jesus tells us that however they receive it, so we must receive it. Certainly, children do not receive it by birth or blood, for we are expressly told in John’s Gospel that the children of God are born not of blood nor of the will of the flesh, but of God. All privilege of descent is now abolished, and no baby enters into heaven because it was born of godly parents, neither shall any be shut out because his parents are atheists, or idolaters, or ungodly. If saved, as we assuredly believe they are, infants must be saved simply according to the will and good pleasure of God, because He has made them His own...
· by election,
· by redemption, and
· by regeneration.
Notice this, too. — “They brought unto Him infants.” These young children were brought to Christ. The word means “brought and presented.” So sinners, if ever they enter into the Kingdom of God, must be brought by God the Holy Ghost, brought by omnipotent, irresistible grace and power, and presented to Christ, presented to Him as the reward of His soul’s travail. Thus, “He shall see of the travail of His soul, and shall be satisfied.”
Third, our Lord Jesus is a King and His Kingdom is a Kingdom that must be received by faith. All Christ’s subjects want to be His subjects. All His servants are willing, voluntary, bondservants. We serve Him because we want to serve Him. All that is done in the service of Christ is done because of love and gratitude to Him, freely and voluntarily. And, if ever you are saved, if ever you enter into the Kingdom of God, you must come to Christ yourself, and receive Christ yourself. And His promise is, — “Him that cometh unto Me I will in no wise cast out.”
Fourth, the primary thing in this short message is this: — All who receive this King and Kingdom, all who enter into the Church and Kingdom of God must do so as little children. Let me show you what that means.
A little child is completely and utterly dependent. That is as good and clear a picture of faith in Christ as I can imagine. Saving faith is complete, utter dependence upon Christ…
· dependence upon Him alone as our Savior (1 Corinthians 1:30-31),
· dependence upon Him Alone as our Lord (Proverbs 3:5-6),
· dependence upon Him alone as our Advocate and Intercessor.
A little child is humble, modest, unassuming. He knows that he is just a child. Being just a child, he owns nothing. Faith comes to Christ as absolute Lord and King, giving up all things to Him, willingly acknowledging that all things are His.
Possessing nothing, faith looks to Christ for everything, offering Him nothing.
· We trust His expiation, not our experience.
· We trust His mediation, not our morality.
· We trust His work, not our works.
· We trust His sanctification, not our sanctity.
· We trust His Priesthood, not our piety.
· We trust His sacrifice, not our service.
A little child is tender and loving. The younger the child, the more this is true. A young child is crushed by a loving father’s disapproval, or a loving mother’s frown. He loves mom and dad. He craves nothing more than to do for them, honor them, and enjoy their approval and delight.
So it is with God’s saints. I am not saying this is the way it is with religious people, or even with very devoted religious people. But this is the way it is with God’s people. Believers love Christ and want to serve and honor Him (2 Corinthians 5:14-15; 1 John 4:19).
When my daughter, Faith, was just four or five years old, she did something that illustrates this love-inspired service to Christ. I had been away for sometime preaching. As I neared home, I called to tell my wife when I would arrive. As I drove up to the house, I saw that beautiful little girl sitting on the front steps, waiting for her daddy. When I opened the door, before I could get out of my truck, she came running to greet me. As she ran, she pulled her hand from behind her back. She had picked a handful of dandelions for her daddy. As she ran, the wind started to blow. It blew all the fuzzy tops off those weeds. When Faith handed them to me, she started to cry, because her flowers were just ugly stems. I started to cry, too, — because they were the most beautiful flowers I had ever seen. How so? She had picked those dandelions just for me, just because of her love for me, just because she wanted to do something to please me. That made those ugly dandelion weeds, that no one wants, more beautiful to me than any flower on earth. That is just the way God’s people serve Him; and that is just the way He receives our wretched attempts at honoring Him for Christ’s sake (1 Peter 2:5).
A little child is an open book, honest, sincere, and without guile. Pretense, hypocrisy, and show are things a little child plays. He doesn’t try to live them. Did you ever listen to a little child pray? He does not try to frame his words in impressive sentences, or attempt to show what he knows. The little child simply tells the Lord God what he wants, what he wants to know, and gives thanks.
Children are teachable. They are not just teachable. They are anxious to learn. Little children do not have to be convinced of anything by argument and reason, science and logic. They simply embrace the things plainly revealed to them. That is why they learn so much so quickly. They never debate the obvious. They do not try to make simple things complex.
Will and the Door
When our grandson, Will, was five or six years old, he and his dad were walking around in a store chatting. Doug had been talking to him about God creating all things. As Doug was looking at some doors, Will said, “God made that door.” Doug smiled, and began to explain the process of the door being manufactured by men, who got the wood from trees God had made, with the skills God had given them. When his dad finished explaining the details, Will responded, “That’s what I said, God made the door.” He had learned what his father taught him about God making everything. The detailed explanation was not needed.
A little child is relatively free of envy and ambition. Those things they learn by observing us. Two children who are friends do not even think about what the other is wearing, how big or little their houses are, what kind of car their parents drive, how much money their parents have in the bank, or what their family heritage is. And they pay no attention to the color of their skin.
One more thing you cannot help observing about children. They are quick to forgive. God give us grace ever to come to Him, as little children, trusting the Lord Jesus Christ, forgiving as we have been forgiven (Ephesians 4:32-5:2).
“And they brought unto Him also infants, that He would touch them: but when [his] disciples saw [it], they rebuked them. But Jesus called them [unto Him], and said, Suffer little children to come unto Me, and forbid them not: for of such is the Kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the Kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein.”
In the Kingdom of God there are infants a hundred years old, and a good many nearly a hundred!
(Isaiah 65:20) “There shall be no more thence an infant of days, nor an old man that hath not filled his days: for the child shall die an hundred years old; but the sinner [being] an hundred years old shall be accursed.”
What grace, what mercy! A newborn child, taken to Glory from its mother’s womb, is as mature in grace and as ripe for Glory as those who live to be old men in the Kingdom of God. — There are no “untimely deaths” in this world. Especially in reference to God’s elect, the Lord God promises they shall all fill their days!
Infants and Salvation
Let me back up now and say a little more about the matter of infants and salvation. Do those babies who die in infancy go to heaven? As a pastor this question is much more than an idle curiosity or a point of theological speculation to me. I have been called upon, on many occasions, to minister to mothers who had lost their babies and to preach the funerals of infants and toddlers. At such times, I want to do what I can to comfort the mourning parents, and yet be thoroughly honest regarding the teachings of Holy Scripture.
There are many who say that, “The baptized babies of believing parents go to heaven.” But the Word of God nowhere places any saving efficacy in the ordinance of baptism. And the Bible plainly forbids the practice of baptizing babies. Only those who are themselves believers are to be admitted to the ordinance of baptism; and then it is to be performed only by immersion (Acts 8:36-39).
Some people, out of mere sentimentalism, say that, “Infants who die become the angels of heaven.” But those who read the Bible know that the heavenly angels were all created before man. Angels are spirit beings created by God to minister to his elect people (Hebrews 1:13-14).
A few people even say that, “Those babies who die in infancy are lost.” The Bible certainly does not teach that. When David’s servants told him that his baby boy had died, David went into the house of the Lord and worshipped God, and said, “He is dead, wherefore should I fast? Can I bring hm back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.” David’s clear implication was that he hoped to meet his son again in heaven.
And our forefathers used to say, “Elect infants go to heaven when they die.” But we still want something more personally satisfying when we take the tiny coffin of an infant to the grave. I want to show you some things that have helped me to answer this question from the Scriptures. — Do those babies who die in infancy go to heaven?
WE KNOW THAT ALL MEN ARE BORN WITH DEPRAVED, SINFUL HEARTS. Sin is not something boys learn at school. Sin is the inbred disease of the human race. All are born in sin. David said, “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Psalm 51:5). He tells us that all men “are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they are born speaking lies” (Psaalm 58:3). Through the sin and fall of our father Adam, we all became sinners. We are all born, spiritually dead sinners. Paul said, “By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” (Romans 5:12).
EVERY BABY BORN INTO THE WORLD IS BORN A SINNER, GUILTY OF ADAM’S TRANSGRESSION, DESERVING ETERNAL PUNISHMENT. Even that baby who dies in infancy must have an atonement for sin through the blood of Christ, and must have a new nature by Divine regeneration, or it cannot go to heaven.
YET THE BIBLE NEVER TEACHES US THAT ANYONE IS EVER SENT TO HELL BECAUSE OF ADAM’S SIN. The Bible addresses men and deals with them as responsible, reasonable, and accountable beings. Every warning and every promise is addressed to people who are morally responsible to God for their own actions. While all are deserving of God’s wrath because all are sinners by nature, none are ever said to be judged guilty by God except those who wilfully transgress His law, which infants cannot be said to do. In fact, the Bible seems to imply that God will not eternally condemn anyone solely upon the basis of Adam’s transgression. The Lord Himself declares, “The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, neither shall the children be put to death for the fathers: EVERY MAN SHALL BE PUT TO DEATH FOR HIS OWN SIN” (Deuteronomy 24:16).
Knowing our heavenly Father’s character, that He is just, righteous, and good, when I read statements such as David made about his son, and consider the whole Revelation of God in Scripture, I can, with confidence and joy say, YES, THOSE BABIES WHO DIE IN INFANCY DO GO TO HEAVEN. They are chosen of God, redeemed by Christ, and regenerated by the Holy Spirit. Like all of God’s elect, they are saved by the pure, free, sovereign grace of God.
· Oh, may God the Holy Spirit now graciously cause you to enter into the Kingdom of God by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ!
· Oh, may God make you as a little child of grace in His family!
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[i] Danville — Sunday AM — October 28, 2012
East Hendersonville Baptist Church
Hendersonville, NC — (10/31/12)
Reading: Isaiah 65:1-25