Who Can Be Saved? Be Astonished!
When it comes to salvation the primary question isn’t, “How young?” or “How many?,” but, “If any?” “Who then can be saved?” asked Jesus’ disciples (Luke 18:26). His answer to this question is vital.
The twelve posed this question to Jesus because He asserted, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God” (Luke 18:25). Their reaction: “They were astonished” (v. 26).
The Lord’s statement jolted His closest followers to the core, instantly crushing all man-centered assumptions about salvation. At once they were reduced to total desperation. “Who then can be saved?” erupted as a very personal, painful and searching inquiry. Have you ever considered that question? If so, how would you answer: “Who can be saved?”
God does not need anyone, or anything. Sinners deserve hell (see Romans 1-3). God’s judgment on sinners is what’s fair. Salvation is God’s free gift to be distributed as He so pleases (see Romans 6; 9; Eph 1:3-14).
As if the disciples were not sufficiently astonished by the Lord’s illustration of a camel passing through a needle’s eye being easier than man’s salvation, Jesus added an even more astounding word. He said, “With people [salvation] is impossible” (v. 27). Swallow that! Do you believe this?
We have not even started to think biblically about “being saved” until we realize that every contribution we attempt to make toward our salvation only worsens our damnable predicament. Salvation is impossible with man.
Then, came Jesus’ main point: “…but all things are possible with God” (v. 27)! Check the context. Jesus meant, “With God even the salvation of sinners is possible!”
We won’t be appropriately stunned by this truth until we are brought to agree with God that salvation is a God-sized task. The oft-repeated phrase, “All things are possible with God,” is not about our having a convenient lifestyle. It is about God and His remarkable ability to rescue rebels from eternal condemnation through His Son’s cross-death. Even that is possible with God! Be astonished!
Dear reader, when a humble soul finally realizes that God can save any—and at such a cost—we will be reduced to the same God-honoring wonder as the disciples. Oh, look away from yourself and into God’s loving heart through Christ. And be amazed! With God, your salvation is possible!
Saved from What?
With so much talk about being “saved” we would do well to ask, “Saved from what?” The Biblical record would lead us to more precisely ask, “Saved from Whom?” Scripture is clear that a Christian has been saved from God.
The everlasting “wrath to come” is the “wrath of the Lamb” (Mt. 3:7; Rev. 6:16). And the Lamb, whose wrath is coming, is none other than the risen and reigning Lord Jesus (Rev. 5:11). Swallow that precious truth slowly.
Only when God is seen for Who He is, will His righteous wrath be appreciated for what it is. Upon a true sight of the Almighty God a quickened soul will joyfully flee to Christ for refuge (see John 3:16; Hebrews 6:18; 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10).
Wanting to escape judgment versus wanting to honor God are not identical. The former could be entirely man-centered, and doesn’t lead to true repentance. Escape from hell is certainly a reasonable motive for desiring salvation. But “asking Jesus into your heart” for fear of hell alone isn’t biblical repentance. Brokenness because you’ve offended God is an eternity away from being scared you’ve been caught. The former is the result of seeing God for the Holy King He is, and His Son’s sacrifice for what it is.
Anyone who realizes that his sin has offended God will utterly despair of saving himself. Instead of hoping in religious prayers, church attendance, baptism, or behavior modification, a convicted conscience will not seek safety in those rotten shelters. Instead of hiding under self-effort, an awakened soul will come into the light (see John 3:19-21).
In Christ’s light, you will readily agree with God that you are the problem, turn your back on self, and jump into the arms of Christ. The righteousness of Christ will be yours only by faith in the gospel (see Galatians 1:16; 20-21). There is no other way. Cry aloud to God for mercy.
Only the righteousness of Christ can shield you from the coming judgment (see 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10).
Childhood Conversion – Yes!
As we consider childhood conversion we will first want to know if the child knows the only way to be saved; namely, the Gospel—the good news of Who Christ is and why He died was buried and rose again, and what He accomplished in doing so. These truths must be known in some measure before they can be believed (see Romans 10:14-16).
Having affirmed that God (astonishingly!) saves sinners, let us turn our attention to our main theme: Can young people be saved? We believe the biblical answer is a resounding, “Yes!”
Well, then, how young? The Bible doesn’t say. But this much is certain: Any who are saved are saved through faith in Jesus Christ, and the atonement purchased by His death and resurrection. Through Jesus anyone can be saved, adult or child.
Uniting Good Parental Desires, Prayer & Godly Counsel
Faithful Christian parents will want nothing more for their children than true salvation. This is a good desire, and something for which every parent is commanded to pray and instruct (see Deut 6; Eph 6).
Parents ought to encourage every interest in Christ their child expresses, even from the earliest age. However, they ought not carelessly presume that every initial expression of interest in Christ always equals saving faith.
It will certainly upset some parents for anyone to suggest that their child’s sincere appeal for salvation doesn’t automatically indicate that the child has been saved. Even so, sincerity doesn’t save. Christ saves. The operative question isn’t, “Did you mean it?,” but, “Do you belong to Jesus?” Or, “Who owns you?” Even Jesus asserted, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will be saved” (see Matthew 7:21).
As parents, the counsel of other godly people (who are perhaps less emotionally invested in our own children than we are) who will help us observe our children’s spiritual condition is one of the wisest investments we can make. Such observation is ideal if the child doesn’t even know that “spiritual evaluation” is happening. Through normal church relationships, ask your godly friends to try to engage your children with the gospel, and help you seek to discern if they belong to Christ.
Without active church involvement, parents’ actions have (perhaps unintentionally) minimized God’s plan for their own spiritual development, as well as that of their children. Parents should carefully weigh this loving counsel received from their fellow church members (see Eph 4:15-16).
Marks of Saving Grace
While the gospel is the sole method of saving grace, the marks of saving grace are multitude. Meaning, anyone and everyone who has truly come to Christ will begin to yield fruits, or marks, consistent with salvation (see John 15; Galatians 5). As is expected, young believers will usually display evidences of God’s grace differently than older believers.
What are some of the distinguishing marks of any true Christian? Here are just a few of the biblical marks that would apply to a true convert, young or old:
Every Christian possesses a deep love for Jesus (John 8:42; John 14:15-23)
Every Christian wants to know God more fully, and thus have a desire to know His Word (see John 17:3; Phil. 3:7-10; Jer. 9:23; 15:16).
Every Christian possesses a God-given desire to want to please God in all of life (see Phil. 2:13; 2 Cor 5:8-9, 14-15; Romans 12:1-2).
In ever-increasing ways these marks, and plenty more, will emerge from the lives of all, including children, who have truly embraced Jesus as their greatest Treasure (see Mt. 13:44).
Tempted by Sin, the Flesh, and the Devil. Then Baptism
Temptation to sin is no respecter of persons or age. However the intensity and types of temptation differ in various stages of life. In 1 John 2:15 the Bible says, “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.” This verse summarizes three main stages of life: youth, middle-age, and older years.
As a developing young person, especially post-puberty, the inclinations of our sinful nature begin to be aroused in new ways (see James 1:14-15). While temptation always demands instant gratification, the pull of the flesh intensifies in teen years.
The verse before us condemns the “lust of the flesh.” That phrase doesn’t only refer to sexual lust, but certainly includes it. Pre-pubescent children do not experience that type of temptation. Until someone has consistently chosen Christ over sin (sexual immorality, for example), we believe it serves them well for a church to postpone the conversion-affirming steps of baptism and church membership.
Let the Little Children come to ME
A parent who doesn’t pursue Christ is not a faithful parent. A large part of teaching children to follow Christ is wrapped up in modeling for them what being a faithful disciple of Jesus looks like. Without a genuine interest in Christ, there is no Christianity for anyone—adult or child.
As Jesus taught, we should encourage children towards Him. “Permit the children to come to Me” are His words (Luke 18:16). If they have Him, they have all of God’s blessing (Ephesians 1:3). In time, it will be increasingly evident if Christ Himself is truly their Portion, not only a religious vestige of their parent’s joy (see Psalm 73:25-26).
As evidence increases that they are in Christ, any godly parent will leap with the joy of the Apostle John who said of his ‘spiritual children’, “I have no greater joy than to see my children walking in the truth” (3 John 4).
Baptism & Church Membership
A Christian ought to be baptized once, following conversion.
If you were "baptized" before your conversion you should humble yourself and be baptized in the biblical manner and mode—after conversion, by immersion. Waiting until one’s life authenticates his or her profession of faith will also deter the profoundly confusing and un-biblical modern trend of “re-baptism(s)” happening so prevalently in our day.
The way one becomes a member of the universal church (Meaning, all Christians in all places) is through faith in the Lord Jesus (see Romans 10:9-13). The way one becomes a member of a local church (which was true of every New Testament Christian) is through publicly professing faith in Jesus Christ as Lord through believer’s baptism (see Acts 2:41).
Grace Church stands in a long line of fellow-Christians throughout history affirming that baptism is an ordinance given to the local church by the Lord Jesus to administer upon those who give a credible profession of faith (see Matt. 28:18-20). Thus, a church, or at least some of her appointed representatives (Her pastors, for example), should examine and substantiate whether the baptismal candidate understands the gospel, and gives a credible profession of faith. Again, anyone involved in helping evaluate the child’s spiritual condition (or adult’s!) is to be extremely gentle and generous—as was Jesus with children—always encouraging the young person to continue to pursue Christ with all of his or her heart. Indeed, if they are His, they will!
Unfortunately, the meaning of baptism has been terribly diluted in our day. It is an indictment upon any church that will baptize someone—young or old—whether they have examined his or her profession, or not.
Admittedly, the biblical explanations of requirements for church members, which are incumbent upon all baptized Christians, also inform our conviction about when to baptize young people. Because the bible not only indicates a tie between baptism and professing one’s faith, but also between baptism and one’s church membership, we believe that a church ought to baptize a person who is ready for the biblical responsibilities of a church member (such as the “one another” commands; cf. Romans 12:10, 16; 1 Corinthians 12:25).
But Isn’t Baptism the Initial Act of Obedience?
Yes, baptism is displayed as the initial act of obedience for every convert in the New Testament. Let us remember, though, that of all the Scriptural examples, none of them were children. Let us also remember that Christian baptism in the first century was near equivalent to signing one’s own death warrant. Such is still the case in many countries where Christians are persecuted today.
Because Scripture doesn’t give examples of young children being baptized, and because the price for professing Christ publicly through baptism is not at all severe in our land, we find it wise to examine a person carefully before baptizing them. If, however, a child’s (or adult’s!) life were in jeapoardy for following Jesus and he or she still insisted on professing faith in Jesus publicly through baptism, we would be happy to baptize them as soon as the congregation could gather, as their loyalty to Christ would be crystal clear!
Grace Church’s Position & Practice
For at least the reasons stated in this brief pamphlet, the elders of Grace Church are happy to present those with credible professions of faith to the congregation as candidates for baptism and church membership. That is, those who have displayed a measure of Christian fruit and consistently demonstrated a pattern of choosing Christ over sin.
We admit that age is somewhat arbitrary to one’s spiritual condition. At the same time, we believe it serves young people well for them to be able to remember their baptism as a celebration that followed their own conscious choice to follow Christ over sin. Furthermore, we believe they will be well served to know and articulate the gospel in biblical terms before their baptism. That way, when (not, If!) the Enemy attacks them in later years, they will not wonder if they truly understood the gospel when they were baptized.
We also find it significant for this discussion that it wasn’t until the age of twelve that Scripture reveals Jesus spiritually standing on His own (Luke 2:49). Did He know God before then? Of course! Do some other children? Certainly the answer is “Yes!” But, do not overlook the fact that Jesus wasn't baptized until He was 30 years old (Luke 3:21-23)!
Will we do children harm by letting them develop “under the radar” for a season before baptizing them and welcoming them as church members? We believe it will have precisely the opposite effect.
God, help us!
“Jesus called for them, saying, 'Permit the children to come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.'” Luke 18:16-17