Truth Taught- Children are always welcome to come to Jesus
The disciples were still learning. I pray you are a disciple of Jesus and that you are still learning from the Master Teacher.
Throughout the Gospels we do see many times when the disciples were confused and even shocked at something Jesus had said or done. Most often their Jewish education from childhood was threatened when Jesus would give them the real truth from God’s Word and that would greatly shake their foundations. Jesus is seeking to bring them back to God’s Word and away from their current belief system, trust in traditions and the teachings of men.
Here’s an example…
Matthew 16:6–12 (ESV)
6 Jesus said to them, “Watch and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” 7 And they began discussing it among themselves, saying, “We brought no bread.” 8 But Jesus, aware of this, said, “O you of little faith, why are you discussing among yourselves the fact that you have no bread? 9 Do you not yet perceive? Do you not remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? 10 Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? 11 How is it that you fail to understand that I did not speak about bread? Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” 12 Then they understood that he did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.
Just last week we saw after Jesus’ teaching on marriage, the disciples being confused and shocked that a man can’t, in fact, divorce his wife for any reason and asked then would it be best not to get married at all?
Our passage today shows us another time when Jesus has to show and teach His followers that much of Rabbinic tradition is not biblical. The tradition was that the Rabbis and others who were considered the teachers and theologians of Judaism were somewhat off limits. In other words, they were too important, too great to be bothered with everyday people and especially with children.
Those Jewish teachers had man’s version of greatness not God’s version. This takes back to Chapter 18 where we saw Jesus’ teaching about greatness and He actually uses a child as the perfect illustration as to what greatness in the Kingdom of God looks like.
Matthew 18:1–6 (ESV)
18 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.
Kingdom greatness is humility and childlike trust in God. To become as a child is how one enters into God’s Kingdom.
Here in our text for today, Jesus shows how important children are to the Kingdom of God and how important children are to Him. This vital significance of children must also be shown by all who belong to Christ and His Kingdom. We too must value others especially children.
Here, we’ll see the character of Jesus. He’s not like the other Rabbis. He’s not too busy and children are not a bother.
By God’s providence we have this specific passage for today. Father change us into the image of Christ by Your Word. Amen
Matthew 19:13–15 (ESV)
13 Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, 14 but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” 15 And he laid his hands on them and went away.
1. The Children Are Brought to Jesus
13 Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people,
Here’s a few things we can deduct from this verse… these were small children. The Greek word used here is paidion which simply means a child. It doesn’t specify the age of the children it simply means child. However, we also see that these children were brought to Jesus. Whether by carrying them or by holding their hands they were brought to Jesus.
Reporting this same incident, Mark tells us that Jesus took them in His arms.
Mark 10:13–16 (ESV)
13 And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. 14 But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. 15 Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” 16 And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them.
This leads us to the logical assumption that these were smaller children perhaps even infants and toddlers.
Those who brought them are not identified but we can also assume that for the most part these were their parents.
So, the scene is that Jesus has just finished teaching and healing the people and at that point the parents begin bringing their children to Jesus. Naturally, parents are concerned about their children. In the day, especially when infant and toddler mortality rate was high there was great anxiety for the parents.
One Jewish Scholar upon reminiscing about the Jewish practice of bringing children to the elders for a blessing after the Day of Atonement remarks concerning this event…
We can understand how, when one who so spake and wrought, rested in the house, Jewish parents should have brought their little children and some of their babies to Him, that He might touch and put His hands on them and pray. What power of holiness must these parents have believed to be in His touch of prayer? What life to be in and to come from Him? What gentleness and tenderness must His love have been, when they dared so to bring these little ones to Him?
What holiness and love these parents saw in Jesus. When He spoke to them and then healed them, they saw the Son of God who cared and who was not bothered to go out of His way to be with them.
The disciples wrongly assumed that children have no claim to Jesus’ attention. However, they are just as important to Jesus and, in fact, may exhibit more Kingdom qualities than some of their parents. Children are humble and trusting. Jesus teaches that’s how we must be to even see the Kingdom.
2. Let the Little Children Come to Me
14 but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” 15 And he laid his hands on them and went away.
Children matter to God. The Kingdom of Heaven is made up of those who approach God as a child. Those with the lowest worldly status, namely children, are the great ones in the Kingdom.
As Christians we must be cultivating humility and dependence on God. The things we learn about Christ and the Kingdom must not puff us up but drive us to worship and dependence.
Mark tells us a little more than Matthew does here. Mark’s Gospel records the fact that Jesus was angry with the disciples. He uses the word indignant in the Authorized. He was furious with them. Only two or three times He really got mad at them. Frustrated with them – a lot, disappointed – a lot, but really angry – just a few times. This is one of them, and the only time that particular word of indignation is used of Jesus in reference to them. He was very angry with them for trying to stop these parents from bringing their children, and it is expressed as to why He was angry with them, if you just think about the scene.
Why was Jesus so angry?
There were those who wanted to come to Him and the disciples were blocking the way. The parents were wanting to come to Jesus with their little ones for a blessing and a prayer. Jesus was not saving these children. He was not entering them into the Kingdom of God through salvation. He was not instituting infant baptism as some of our Presbyterian friends might argue. He was welcoming them, praying for them and sending them away with a blessing. From their Jewish education, the disciples thought Jesus was too busy to be bothered with children.
Interesting that He uses two verbs, and there’s a reason. The first one is in the aorist tense: point action, permit right now, this moment, let them come; and then “forbid them not” is present tense. And what He’s saying is, “Right now, let these come, and from now on, don’t ever make it a practice to stop them from coming.” So, He takes care of the present and the future, and by the way, He doesn’t rebuke the parents at all, so it indicates to me that their motive was pure.
Why was it so important that Jesus teach His disciples to not hinder children in their coming? He tells us, because this is a great picture of the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God will be made up of adults and children. Adults need to seek to believe like a child and to trust God like a child.
3. Thinking Theologically, Little Children are Brought to Jesus
While this scene is a wonderful picture of the Kingdom of God as we are commanded to be like one of these little ones in trust and humility.
Infant mortality rate was very high in the ancient world. Scholars believe this was the motivation for parents bringing their infants to Jesus. They just saw Jesus heal and so they wanted Him to pray for their children and bless them.
I’d like to transition here from the physical temporary blessing to the eternal state of an infant should the child die. In an amazing way they are eternally brought to Jesus
So, what happens to infants should they die? Here we stand on the shoulders of Scripture and of solid theologians throughout Church History.
Here’s what the Bible teaches. All babies who die in infancy are brought by Sovereign Grace into the presence of God. They are all among the elect. They are all brought safely into God’s Kingdom. All babies who are aborted are elect. All children who die without the ability to understand sin and evil will wake up in the arms of Jesus.
I do not believe this from sentiment. I hate it when pastors tell people sentimental garbage that has no basis in solid truth found in Scripture. I am concerned about this first because when we needed comfort, we were just given fluff and second, truth is there if we search for it. We had better have some answers grounded in God’s Word. How do you comfort parents who have just suffered a miscarriage? What do you tell parents whose son has died moments after childbirth?
I remember standing in the hospital room with a family who had just experienced this firsthand. What do you say? What do you tell a grandfather who is rocking his dead grandson just moments old and sobbing and wailing uncontrollably? What do you say to the mother sitting in the bed in shock? Or the dad whose dreams have just passed away? What do you say days later when the father is the only pallbearer and the casket is closer to the size of a shoe box than a coffin? People do not need fluff and sentiment they need truth and they need love and care. Reality is not fluff and sentiment. Reality is hard and difficult at times. In those moments, we need to experience the true God. They need something to grab a hold of when their foundation has just been shattered. We need to be able to throw them a lifeline of God’s truth.
What does the Bible teach? What have solid theologians believed down through the ages?
2 Samuel 12:19–23 (ESV)
19 But when David saw that his servants were whispering together, David understood that the child was dead. And David said to his servants, “Is the child dead?” They said, “He is dead.” 20 Then David arose from the earth and washed and anointed himself and changed his clothes. And he went into the house of the Lord and worshiped. He then went to his own house. And when he asked, they set food before him, and he ate. 21 Then his servants said to him, “What is this thing that you have done? You fasted and wept for the child while he was alive; but when the child died, you arose and ate food.” 22 He said, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept, for I said, ‘Who knows whether the Lord will be gracious to me, that the child may live?’ 23 But now he is dead. Why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he will not return to me.”
I thank God that when I was searching for truth to share with those who had lost children that He led me to Calvin, and other Reformed Theologians and to John MacArthur’s book called, Safe in the Arms of God
A. All People are Born with a Sin Nature
Babies and infants are born with the bent toward sin and as soon as a child reaches an age of moral understanding, the child will choose sin. The Scriptures speak in multiple places that we are born into sin.
Psalm 51:5 (ESV)
5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
and in sin did my mother conceive me.
Isaiah 48:8 (ESV)
8 You have never heard, you have never known,
from of old your ear has not been opened.
For I knew that you would surely deal treacherously,
and that from before birth you were called a rebel.
Genesis 8:21 (ESV)
21 And when the Lord smelled the pleasing aroma, the Lord said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done.
What we cannot say is that babies go to heaven when they die because they are innocent but that babies die and go to heaven because God is gracious.
B. Salvation is a Matter of God’s Grace Not Man’s Works
Listen to what Charles Spurgeon once wrote… We hold that all infants who die are elect of God and are therefore saved, and we look to this as being the means by which Christ shall see the travail of His soul to a great degree.
Charles Hodge agreed. He wrote, “All who die in infancy are doubtless saved, but they are saved by grace” (Systematic Theology, ii, 11).
John MacArthur writes, There is no clearer manifestation of this truth (speaking that salvation is by God’s grace) that the gift of eternal life is given to a helpless infant. The saving grace given to an infant who has no part whatsoever in his salvation is a perfect example of salvation, which is always wrought sovereignly by God through grace.
The Westminster Catechism argues that infants who die are in glory (ch. 10, sec. 3 says those “dying in infancy are regenerated and saved by Christ”).
Loraine Boettner explained why the doctrine of infant salvation must be uniquely Calvinistic:
“The doctrine of infant salvation finds a logical place in the Calvinistic system; for the redemption of the soul is thus infallibly determined irrespective of any faith, repentance, or good works, whether actual or foreseen.
C. We are Saved by the Sacrificial Work of Jesus Christ on the Cross
Salvation comes by the atonement of the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ on behalf of His elect. His blood was shed for His own whether they die at 110 years old or in the womb, His blood has washed them clean. God chooses those who will be saved and those who will die as an infant.
The great reformed theologian
BB Warfield wrote speaking of infants who die, Their salvation is wrought by an unconditional application of the grace of Christ to their souls, through the immediate and irresistible operation of the Holy Spirit prior to and apart from any action on their own proper wills…That is but to say that they are unconditionally predestined to salvation from the foundation of the world.
John Calvin condemned Servetus’ theology. He said that Servetus’ theology was so twisted that it stressed free will to the point that if you followed him, you would be forced to conclude that even infants who died were damned to hell because they were not able to exercise their will to believe in saving faith (Institutes IV, 16, p 31). In that same section, Calvin addresses John 3:36, and argues that it points to infant salvation, as infants were not able to exercise willing unbelief, so they do could not possibly stand condemned.
D. We are Saved by Grace but Dammed by Works
Revelation 20:11–15 (ESV)
11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. 13 And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. 14 Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
Scripture teaches eternal punishment is the wage due those who have willfully sinned. The inhabitants of hell are those who willfully sin against God.
Galatians 5:18–21 (ESV)
18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Infants who die have no willful sin against God to pay for. They have no rebellion or unbelief, no works of the flesh to pay for.
Jonah 4:10–11 (ESV)
10 And the Lord said, “You pity the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night and perished in a night. 11 And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?”
Infants have not suppressed God’s truth through disobedience…
Romans 1:18 (ESV)
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.
Infants cannot nor have they been given the opportunity to believe. They are not intellectually capable of saving faith nor are they intellectually capable of unbelief.
Salvation is entirely by grace apart from works. Damnation is completely by works, apart from grace.
So, children need a Savior
God has provided a Savior, Jesus Christ for them
All children who die before understanding sin and corruption so that their sins are deliberate are graciously saved by God through Jesus Christ.
Every baby who has died in the womb whether from miscarriage or from abortion and every infant that has died after birth has been immediately brought to the Father through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.
Calvin, the Westminster divines, Hodge, Spurgeon, Warfield, and Boettner. In our own life time, it has been ably defended by John MacArthur and John Piper. I want to give you confidence in God’s goodness, and assure you that your confidence is not false and not coming from sentiment, but rather it has its foundation in the deep and saving nature of God.
So, Jesus tells His disciples and us do not hinder but let the children come to Me for such is the Kingdom of God.
Safe in the Arms of God by John MacArthur
Matthew by R T France
Matthew by Leon Morris
Matthew by Doriani
The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah by Edersheim