Children And Salvation
Children And Salvation
written by Bisi Adeyi
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Children have many great characteristics that enable them to readily gravitate towards God. Most important is their inclination to believe. When it comes to salvation, a child’s heart is a fertile field to believe in and receive Jesus as their Saviour. When we simplify the theology of salvation, even the littlest child will believe in Jesus. No wonder, Jesus said, “The truth is, you must change your thinking and become like little children. If you don’t do this, you will never enter God’s kingdom—Matthew 18:3 (ERV).”
When we think of it, belief is the only prerequisite to salvation. In Acts 16:31, we are told, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved (ERV).” The children may not fully grasp the concept of sin or the theology behind the sacrifice of Jesus to be saved, and they do not have to. There is nowhere it says in the Bible that we need to understand the gospel to be saved. Most adult who are new believers cannot articulate the gospel of Jesus because they do not fully understand it; so why do we expect that of children?
Because of erroneous assumption that one must understand the gospel to believe it, many children have been ignored in, and even discouraged from, taking the step of faith to be saved. And when we see the same children say the prayer of salvation repeatedly, we then conclude that children can’t be saved.
However, our duty is to share the good news about Jesus with everyone—adult and children. Age should not be a barrier. In sharing the gospel with children, we need to simplify it. The younger the children, the simpler it must be. We must base the gospel on God’s Word,1 and this must be seamlessly done. It is important that you pray and trust the Holy Spirit to guide you in sharing the good news with the children. The truth of the matter is, regardless of one’s age, it is the Holy Spirit who grants conviction to the heart.2
The Good News About Jesus
When you are sharing the good news about Jesus with the children, make sure to personalize it to them. The key points of the good news (stated in bold text) with the explanations are below:
You are a sinner and your sins have separated you from God.
We should not be afraid to state the truth of God’s Word no matter how unpleasant it sounds. The truth is that everyone is a sinner because God’s Word says that “all have sinned”3 and “no one is righteous.”4 We are sinners because we inherited the Adamic, sinful nature; and not because we do bad things. The right order is that we sin because we are sinner; not that we are sinners because we sin. God’s Word says that the wages of sin is death,5 (or spiritual separation from God). To children who do not have the baggage of sin most adults have, sin should be explained in terms of its effect—separation from God.6 Hence, their sins have separated them from God.
The good news is that God loves you and He sent Jesus to save you from your sins. 7
With the hopelessness of sin from the resultant separation from God, the love of God is indeed good news! And this love is expressed by God sending Jesus for us—to save us from our sins.
Everyone desires love. Children’s understanding of love is usually equated to what they are given. To the child: “My mummy loves me because she bought me a toy.” In telling children that God loves them, it should be tied to the fact that God sent Jesus for them—to save them from their sins. As Romans 4:2 states, it is God’s goodness that leads people to repentance.
Jesus died to save you from your sins8 and rose from the dead so that you can live for God.9
The death and resurrection of Jesus are the very essence of the gospel. And both must be presented jointly in sharing the good news about Jesus with the children.
Jesus had to die to take away their sins. Being saved from sin is not an end result in itself. That is why Jesus rose from the dead so that they can live for God.
God’s Word says: Believe in Jesus and you will be saved.10
While it is good for the children to know the above three points, they need to apply the knowledge. Tell them that God’s Word says: Believe in Jesus and you will be saved.10 (If possible, “read” from a Bible to give a visual.)
Using this Scripture verse serves three purposes:
1. It serves as a bridge: sin separates from God -> believe in Jesus -> saved from sin to live for God.
2. It demands a positive response
3. It grounds the response in God’s Word.
Soliciting an immediate response from the children is necessary. Unlike adults, most children are not thinkers, they are doers. Their attention span is limited. Most children will respond positively to the invitation. This should not be belittled or discouraged because it is the work of the Holy Spirit. However, there will be children who are hesitant or will not respond. That is okay as well, you should not force any child.
This is an appeal to the children to respond to the good news about Jesus by recapping the four points and extending an invitation to pray with them for salvation.
“You are a sinner and your sins have separated you from God; the good news is that God loves you and He sent Jesus to save you from your sins; Jesus died on the cross to save you from your sins and He rose from the dead so you can live for God; and God’s Word says: Believe in Jesus and you will be saved.
“Now would you like to believe in Jesus to be saved from your sins so you can live for God? If yes, say this prayer after me:”
This salvation prayer is the personalization of the good news points. If possible, lead the children to Christ one-to-one.
“Dear God, thank you for loving me and sending Jesus for me even though I am a sinner and my sins have separated me from You. I believe that Jesus died to save me from my sins and He rose from the dead so I can live for You. I turn away from my sins and receive Jesus into my heart to be in control of my life. God, as You say in Your Word: I believe in Jesus so I am saved. Thank You, God, that I am now a believer. Amen!”
Assurance of Salvation
After the prayer is a good time to ask the children to tell you what just happened to them. This is very important as the conclusion to sharing the good news about Jesus with children. Not every child will be able to articulate properly what just happened. Whatever answer a child gives you, make sure you repeat it before summarizing what just happened to them by saying, “Hurray, Jesus has saved you from your sins so you can now live for God.” Then add, “You are now a believer.” Explain to them that the term ‘believer’ refers to any person that believes in Jesus to be saved from sin to live for God.
After the children have received Jesus as Saviour, it is our responsibility to teach them God’s Word to ground them in their faith.
The following four points are helpful.
1. You are sure that you believe in Jesus and are saved because God says so in His Word. God’s Word says: As the Scripture says, "Anyone who calls on the Lord will be saved" – Romans 10:13 (NCV). And this was what you just did when you said that prayer.
2. You are a believer because Jesus changed your heart. God’s Word says: Through [Jesus], all people could change their hearts and lives and have their sins forgiven—Acts 5:31 (NCV). Anytime you sin, tell God you are sorry and ask Him to forgive you.
3. God made you a new person on the inside because you are a believer. God’s Word says: Anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!—2Corinthians 5:17 (NLT).
4. God is always with you because you are a believer. God’s Word says: The Lord has promised that he will not leave us or desert us—Hebrews 13:5 (CEV).
Note: Going over these four points to instil assurance of salvation in the children should not be a one-time thing. After all, faith comes by hearing (continuous tense), and hearing by the Word of God—Romans 10:17 (NKJV).
Let the children know that they can live for God everyday by doing these things: praying to God; listening to or reading and doing what God’s Word says; asking God to help them do good things for others; etc.
Encourage the children to tell their family and friends that they believe in Jesus and are saved from their sins, so they can now live for God. Keep praying for them.
1 - God’s Word is alive and working. It is sharper than the sharpest sword and cuts all the way into us. It cuts deep to the place where the soul and the spirit are joined. God’s word cuts to the center of our joints and our bones. It judges the thoughts and feelings in our hearts—Hebrews 4:12 (ERV).
2 - And when [the Holy Spirit] has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment—John 16:8 (NKJV).
3 - Romans 3:23
4 - Romans 3:10
5 - Romans 6:23 (NCV).
6 - It is your sins that separate you from your God—Isaiah 59:2 (ERV).
7 - For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life—John 3:16 (NIV).
8 - God sent him to die in our place to take away our sins... - Romans 3:25 (NCV).
9 - So, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the wonderful power of the Father, we also can live a new life—Romans 6:4 (NCV)
10 - Acts 16:31
Easy-to-Read Version (ERV)
Copyright © 2006 by World Bible Translation Center
New Century Version (NCV)
The Holy Bible, New Century Version®. Copyright © 2005 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.®
Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
New King James Version (NKJV)
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.