In the Fulness of Time/Part 122

By: Dr. Thomas O. Figart; ©2009
In this passage parents brought their children to Jesus hoping for a blessing. Why would they have done that? What were they expecting from Jesus?

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Commending Little Children Matthew 19:13-15

Matthew 19:13-15 “Then there were brought unto him little children, that he should put his hands on them, and pray, and the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, Permit little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me, for of such is the kingdom of heaven. And he laid his hands on them, and departed from there.”

In 18:1-4 Jesus had called “a little child” unto Him and used the child as an illustration of faith and humility; faith, as a requirement for entrance into the kingdom and humility as a sign of greatness in the kingdom. Though He was still in Galilee at the time, no doubt His gentle demeanor with regard to children had preceded Him to Perea. The immediate connection with 19:1-12 could also reflect a reason for people bringing their children to Him, since He had discussed marriage and the permanence of such union. From the viewpoint of the parents, their desire was that He should put His hands on the children and pray. Mark 10:16 adds that: “he took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them.” As far back as the blessing of Jacob upon his grandsons in Genesis 28:14-18, this custom was practiced in Israel. A generation before that, in the case of Isaac’s blessing upon Jacob and then Jacob’s subsequent blessing upon Ephraim, there were prophetic overtones of their future, but nothing of this is said of the blessing of these children by Jesus. Just what it did include is not mentioned, so the Scripture must be allowed its silence on the matter.

Neither are the doctrines of salvation and baptism involved in this passage at all, but because there are those who do interpret it to include these things, it becomes necessary to consider these doctrines. The story occurs in the first three Gospels using the word paidion almost exclusively, except for Luke 18:15 which has brephon (infant) in the first part of the verse, then paidion later. Paidion can refer to children without regard to age, so that it could be used of children capable of exercising faith in the Savior, whereas brephon is restricted to infancy. Since Luke uses both words and quotes Jesus as saying: “Whoever shall not receive the kingdom of God like a little child (paidion) shall in no way enter in” (Luke 15:17), Jesus must be pointing out that real faith is possible to such little children. On the same occasion He also may have taken some infant in His arms.

According to Deuteronomy 1:39 there were little ones and children who: “had no knowledge between good and evil” and in Isaiah 7:16: “For before the child shall know to refuse the evil and choose the good;” thus there is a time in life before children come to that state of accountability. At precisely what age this happens differs with each child, but before it occurs, such children are incapable of belief. John 3:18 says that we are all condemned for unbelief; but if a child has not reached that state of accountability, he cannot be condemned for something he is incapable of doing! True, all are responsible for original sin, but final condemnation is because of unbelief. Christ is the propitiation for the sins of those who cannot believe (which, by the way, includes all those born with such mental deficiency that they never do reach the state of accountability in their lifetimes) as well for those who can believe: “And he is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2).

This leads to the question of infant baptism. As already observed, in none of the three accounts of this story is baptism mentioned or implied. Should an infant die unbaptized, he is in no danger. One example of this is found in 2 Samuel 12:18-23. The baby born to David and Bath-Sheba died “on the seventh day,” just one day before he would have been taken to the Tabernacle for circumcision. Yet, when “David perceived that the child was dead,” he surprised his servants by arising from his fast in sackcloth and ashes, washed himself and asked for food! When asked why he had done this, David answered: “While the child was yet alive, I fasted and wept; for I said, Who can tell whether God will be gracious to me, that the child may live? But now he is dead, why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.” Only someone with a very distorted concept of David’s character would imagine that he was brushing off the whole matter as incidental to his own life. No, David was a man after God’s own heart; he knew that the remaining years of his life to be lived before he went to be with the child were but as yesterday, in light of the eternal nature of the reunion with the child in heaven.

Those who point to circumcision in the Old Testament as a parallel for the necessity of infant baptism have no explanation for David’s expectation of being united with his uncircumcised son in glory. Further, they have no explanation why infant girls are baptized, if circumcision is the parallel. Finally, those who maintain that infants were baptized as part of a “household,” such as that of the Philippian jailer, have no real proof that any infants were there. Acts 16:32-34 definitely states three things about the members of that household: first, they all heard the message concerning Jesus Christ (verse 32); second, they were all baptized (verse 33); third they were all capable of believing and did believe (verse 34).

It is not stretching the point to say that Jesus commended these little ones to His Heavenly Father for His care as He prayed for each one. If the Father is concerned with each sparrow that falls to earth, He will certainly apply blessings to these little ones for whom Christ prayed. Only “in the fulness of time” will we know how many of those believed and will be in heaven.

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