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mother talking to her young daughter March 16 more page

Is there an age of accountability?

Many believe there is an age of accountability based on a murky interpretation of 2Samuel 12:23. Was King David speaking of his death when he would go to eternity where the child is, or just that he could walk to his dead child but that child could never return to him? We do not know.

Others believe that since Jewish boys are considered men at their Bar Mitzvah (when they are about thirteen years old); this might be the age of accountability. Again, we cannot be sure of this.

Still others use the verse 1Corinthians 7:14 to say that if a mother or father is a committed Christian then their children (and even an unbelieving spouse) will automatically go to heaven. This verse, however, is probably referring to the positive testimony of the believing parent in the home leading children and the unbelieving spouse to the Lord for salvation.

The only real place that an age of accountability is discussed is in Numbers 14:19-30 and Deuteronomy 1:39. God destroyed all the Israelites in the desert for their rebellion, except Joshua and Caleb, and those less than twenty years old. It is interesting that most societies consider people adults somewhere between eighteen and twenty-one years old, but that is not a Scriptural validation. The most common question following this assertion is: What about those children who have committed serious and sometimes violent crimes and are under twenty; won't they be held liable? There is no answer for that. Furthermore, just because Israelites under twenty were allowed into the Promised Land, does that mean God would do the same for us? We do not know. The Promised Land, however, seems to be a picture of heaven, so age twenty might be the age of accountability, but we should not count on it since this is only speculation.

In conclusion, there is no sure answer for the question “is there an age of accountability” (at least for today). We must trust our compassionate, merciful, just and holy God that he will do what is right (Genesis 18:25). We should therefore not take the grace of the LORD for granted. We should tell our children of the grace of God that brings them salvation at the earliest possible age, and keep telling them in hopes that they will repent and turn to the LORD.

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