One of the unexpected consequences of our recent pandemic is the increase in the abuse of children. The Washington Post reported a significant rise in the number of child abuse cases that required a visit to the emergency room. Those interviewed in the article indicated that this increase was likely due to families being required to quarantine together during the COVID-19 crisis. Since many students had to shelter at home and could not go to school, many child abuse cases went unreported while at the same time, there was a sharp increase in child abuse cases at hospitals and clinics.
While there are evidently some in our culture who undervalue children, it is obvious that the Lord Jesus Christ placed a high value on children; even the youngest children. We must remember that infancy and childhood were God’s design for the human race and everyone, with the exception of Adam and Eve, had to be born, grow as toddlers and children, grow through the teenage years and then, finally grow into adult-hood. Each age level of life was intentionally designed by our loving Creator and He, therefore, places a high esteem on each of us as we grow through life’s various stages.
Moses was just a child when the Lord rescued him from Pharaoh’s deadly decree. Samuel served in God’s tabernacle at a very young age. Jeremiah was called into ministry as a young child. The Lord Jesus amazed the leaders of the temple when He was twelve years old. The apostle Paul noted that Timothy’s mother and grandmother, who from his childhood taught him “the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” (2 Timothy 3:15) It seems, then, that God can use people all across the age spectrum, including the very young.
Luke has written this gospel with the clearly stated purpose of teaching the “exact truth about the things [that] have been taught.” (Luke 1:4) He has placed this narrative in this context to reveal to us God’s perspective on salvation by grace. He started by showing us that in the end times there will be a judgment at which there will only be two outcomes. We find in Luke 17:22-37, Jesus stated that some people will be taken into eternal judgment and punishment while others will be welcomed into God’s eternal kingdom and live forever in God’s mercy and love. Then in Luke 18: 9-14, the Lord Jesus taught that salvation requires humility and that people who are self-righteous will not be justified. Once again, we find that there are only two outcomes. Self-righteous people who sanctimoniously invent their own way of salvation will remain unjustified and unsaved, while those who humble themselves and cry out for God’s mercy in repentance will be saved.
In these verses, the Lord adds to that idea that along with crying out for God’s mercy, we must also recognize our complete and total dependence on Him for our salvation. No man, woman, girl, or boy can do anything to merit or deserve God’s eternal salvation. All of us must depend entirely on Jesus Christ and His saving work through His death, burial, and resurrection.
DISCIPLES FORBID CHILDREN FROM COMING TO JESUS. Luke 18:15
Parents Bring Their Infants and Toddlers to See Jesus. God-fearing parents have always been concerned about the spiritual well-being of their children. Christian parents have always desired that their children receive Jesus Christ as Savior so that they would spend eternity in heaven. To that end they have prayed, taught them the Scriptures, and explained the grace of God in salvation.
By bringing their children to Jesus, these parents gave evidence of their faith in the person of Jesus Christ. To place one’s child in Jesus’ arms shows complete trust and acceptance. These parents were willing to publicly show others their faith in Jesus as the Son of God. The Bible directs parents to be active in training their children. Proverbs 22:6 tells us, “Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.
Parents Sought Jesus’ Blessing for Their Children. These parents brought their children directly to Jesus so that He could bless them. With love and mercy, Jesus, the Son of God, placed His hand of blessing on each one. Baby dedications in the local church are the modern-day equivalent of bringing a child to Jesus. We have celebrated many baby dedications as a congregation here at High Prairie Church. Jesus’ blessing and today’s baby dedications do not guarantee salvation or eternal life. Each child, then and now, must, like everyone else, receive the Lord Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Parents must continue to set a biblical example of Christian maturity and urge their children to receive Christ.
The New Testament directs parents; especially fathers, but also mothers, to “bring [children] up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4) In this the Lord shows His sovereign direction that the family be concerned with the spiritual growth of each child. Scripture tells us that “children are a gift of the Lord.” (Psalm 127:3) It is the Lord’s deepest desire that Christians raise their children to love and serve Him.
We see an example of this in the New Testament. We are told that Timothy’s sincere faith was a result of his grandmother, Lois’ faith, as well as his mother, Eunice’s faith. (2 Timothy 1:5) Timothy learned to trust in Jesus Christ by observing their Christ-honoring lives. Later, we are told one of the ways they did this. The Apostle Paul wrote, “from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” (2 Timothy 3:15) Timothy’s mother and grandmother literally read the Bible to Timothy as he was growing up and that brought him to faith in Jesus Christ.
Jesus’ Disciples Tried to Forbid Access to Jesus. Confronted by large crowds who had been following Jesus, the disciples attempted to block the parents and their children from an audience with Jesus. Perhaps they thought that such a request was inappropriate. It is also possible that the disciples thought that children were inconsequential, unimportant and an interruption, so they restricted access to Jesus. The word in the original for babies includes both infants and toddlers. The disciples may have considered these children too young to have any appreciation for being with Jesus–they thought the parents were only wasting Jesus’ time.
JESUS PERMITS THE CHILDREN TO COME TO HIM. Luke 18:16
Jesus Permitted the Children. Jesus overruled His disciples and called the parents to bring their children to Him. The Lord Jesus does not prevent anyone from having access to Him. Every person is significant in His eyes, even little children and infants. There are no unimportant people and He opens the door for anyone who desires to come to Him.
The Kingdom Belongs to Such as These. When Jesus said that “the Kingdom belongs to such as these,” He was giving an unqualified and unambiguous declaration allowing for no exceptions or limitations. By saying “such as these” the Lord was broadening the scope to include other besides those present on that day. “Children” in this verse is a different word in the original language from the word for “babies” in verse fifteen. It refers to young children who are unable to believe in Jesus Christ for salvation because they have not yet reached the condition of personal accountability (an age that varies from child to child). Until they reach the age of personal accountability, God’s law and the gospel can do their work because these children are under God’s special care.
This does not mean that children are not sinners–all people are born sinners. In Psalm 51:5, David declared, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me.” Here, God’s Word tells us clearly that all people are born with a sinful nature–an internal propensity to disobey God and sin. In Psalm 143:2 we read that “In Your sight no man living is righteous.” There are no people who have a righteous-ness or goodness to measure up to God’s standards–all are in sin.
The prophet Jeremiah added to this discussion. Speaking of every person he said, “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it.” (Jeremiah 17:9) There are no exclusions to this universal human sin nature.
About children specifically, Solomon wrote, “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child.” (Proverbs 22:15) Children, even young children, routinely put the reality of their sinful nature on display. Discipline and correction are required to give them a godly perspective. Only Jesus Christ can forgive their sin and grant the indwelling Holy Spirit to enable and empower their spiritual growth. Only through salvation in Jesus Christ can anyone be granted the gift of everlasting life.
THE REQUIREMENT OF A CHILD-LIKE ATTITUDE. Luke 18:17
Saving Grace Requires a Child-like Attitude. In this verse “entering the kingdom of God” is an expression of salvation. It is a partial explanation of the divine requirements of eternal salvation. Therefore, Jesus is saying a person cannot be saved if he or she does not receive God’s grace with a child-like attitude.
The children Jesus blessed offered a clear and concise illustration of how people are saved. But what is the picture? How do children illustrate how people are saved? In our world of the twenty-first century, we generally regard the qualities of childlikeness as innocence, trustfulness, and humility as inherently praiseworthy and therefore see children as somewhat virtuous. But that is not how that crowd in the first century would have interpreted Jesus’ words. In their world, adults did not regard children with any degree of respect at all. They were seen as unimportant until they became adults. In their case, Jesus was focusing on the reality that they were completely dependent upon others.
Children have no meritorious works at which to point. They have no religious pride through some kind of accomplishment. They have done nothing for which they can boast and do not even understand why they should be boasting in the first place. They have nothing of their own to which they can cling: they must de-pend on others.
Without a Child-like Attitude: No Salvation. To be saved, then, we must completely depend on Jesus Christ for salvation. In the previous parable, the tax-collector understood this and cried out to God saying, “God, be merciful to me the sinner.” Complete dependency on Christ brings humility and a profound understanding of personal inadequacy for salvation. We know we must come to Jesus for salvation because we can never do anything to merit or deserve His salvation.
This is exactly what the Bible tells us. “[Jesus] saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit.” Good works cannot save us. Doing good things cannot bring us eternal salvation. We are all entirely dependent upon God’s grace and mercy for our salvation. That is why we are saved by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
If this attitude of complete dependency on Christ for salvation is absent then there is no salvation. It is important for you and I to notice that Jesus said in verse seventeen that unless you meet His requirements that people “will not enter [God’s kingdom] at all.” The children came to Jesus that day realizing that they are not sufficient in themselves and that they depend totally on others. Unless these same attitudes are present in adults, they can never enter into God’s kingdom.
All who desire to enter God’s kingdom and truly know Him must enter with a child-like attitude of humble dependency and faith. Our Lord’s statement to His disciples also challenges us today. Do we share the attitudes of humility and dependency with these little children? From infancy to eternity, we were created for more than the paltry pleasures of this life. When our God made us and sent us into the world, He did not intend that we find satisfaction with the baubles and trinkets this world offers us. He certainly did not send us into this world that we might be satisfied with the thieving pleasures of sin. Our Heavenly Father did not intend that we would waste ourselves on things that break us and destroy us. He created us to be with Him and find our joy in Him. He calls us to come to Him and depend upon Him and only on Him for our salvation. If you and I depend on anything else but the Lord Jesus Christ, we cannot be saved. Place your faith and trust in Jesus Christ today.
I think this passage also reveals how important children were, and are, to the Lord Jesus Christ. There were undoubtedly multitudes of adults surrounding Jesus, asking Him questions and seeking His advice. But when these parents brought their young children to Him, He rejoiced to be able to spend time with them. He loved the children. He shows us that as His church, we must love and value children as well. We must continue to place children high on our list of priorities in ministry. In our Lord’s eyes, each one of them is important and significant. May I encourage you to pray for our children and our children’s ministry.
Updated by Pastor Vernon Welkner, 6/29/2021