My youngest daughter Peace is participating in a missionary trip to Mexico next month with a local evangelical church. This is a basically good group, as far as I can tell, though I would, of course, disagree with some of their theological distinctives.
Yesterday she asked me, "Dad, before we go, we're required to give the group a public testimony of our salvation experience. I know I'm saved. What should I say? A lot of the other kids have really spectacular testimonies, but mine is so boring. I was trained in a Christian home and heard the gospel from an infant and trusted the Lord. I wish my testimony were more exciting!"
I smiled with gratification, and told her of the blessing of a boring testimony.
One of the great heresies (the word is not too strong) of the church today is the notion that one must fall into deep depravity in order to be "truly saved by grace," and that since this usually excludes small children, they need to "grow up" and "sin real good" before they can become real Christians. One is immediately reminded of Paul's dire comment to the Romans:
For if the truth of God hath more abounded through my lie unto his glory; why yet am I also judged as a sinner? And not rather, (as we be slanderously reported, and as some affirm that we say,) Let us do evil, that good may come? whose damnation is just. (Rom. 3:7-8)
God's grace is not glorified because of sin; it is glorified in spite of sin. Obedience is better than sacrifice (1 Sam. 15:22).
Many are ignorant of the vital truth that God's preventive grace is to be more highly prized than H is reclaiming grace. It is glorious grace in both cases, but God's grace is exalted more in what it prevents than in what it repairs.
The wise Solomon declared, "Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh (Ecc. 12:1).
We learn of Timothy, to whom Paul writes, "And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus" (2 Tim. 3:15).
My daughter's paternal grandmother was converted as a Sunday school child at nine years old. Her father himself was converted at two or three years old, and cannot even remember the glorious experience. Some overzealous but ignorant Christians have told me this is proof I'm not a Christian. I ask them, "Do you believe that salvation presupposes the new birth?"
"Yes, of course it does," they reply
I then pose: "Is physical birth a rather precise metaphor for the new birth."
"Well, yes, that's why God used it."
"Well, did you remember your physical birth?"
End of argument.
No one, of course, is born a Christian. From birth we are all the children of the first Adam and are headed to Hell (Rom. 5:12-21). No one is saved by anything other than the grace of God manifested in the death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. We are either saved or we are lost (Rom. 14:6). There is no third category.
But we can experience salvation from a very young age, in fact, from our youth. Little children who, as it were, bounced on Jesus' lap, believed on Him (Mt. 18:6). Indeed, while the modern evangelical message is generally that children must have an "adult" conversion experience, Jesus taught just the opposite: adults must have a child's conversion experience (Mt. 18:3).
May God give us a massive harvest of young people nourished in the gospel from their infancy! May we, by the grace of God, raise up an entire generation of warriors for the Faith, protected from many of the tragic consequences of sin into which those not blessed with a Christian upbringing have fallen.
One of the most moving statements I've ever read is that of the French Reformed baptismal liturgy, recorded in Philip J. Lee's masterful Against the Protestant Gnostics:
Little child, for you Jesus Christ has come, He has fought, He has suffered. For you he entered into the shadows of Gethsemane and the terror of Calvary; for you He uttered the cry "it is finished." For you He rose from the dead and ascended into heaven, and there for you He intercedes. For you, even though you do not know it, little child, but in this way the Word of the Gospel is made true, "We love Him because He first loved us."
Amen and Amen!
- P. Andrew Sandlin
P. Andrew Sandlin is a Christian minister, theologian, and author. He is the founder and president of the Center for Cultural Leadership in Coulterville, California. He was formerly president of the National Reform Association and executive vice president of the Chalcedon Foundation. He is a minister in the Fellowship of Mere Christianity.. He was formerly a pastor at Church of the Word in Painesville, Ohio (1984-1995) and Cornerstone Bible Church in Scotts Valley, California (2004-2014).