• Jerry Starling

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QUESTIONS – CHILDREN & THE NEW BIRTH


Question: If I ask my 5 year old to repeat the sinner’s prayer and then I pray for her. Would that make her born again? Is there anything wrong with making a young child to repent even though she may not understand exactly what she is doing or entering into?

It is good that you are concerned about leading your young daughter into a relationship with Jesus. Jesus is very interested in children. In Matthew 19:14, when His disciples wanted to brush the children away from Him, He said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.

The chapter just before this begins with His disciples arguing about which of them was the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Verses 2-4 say, “He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said, ‘I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.‘”

The kingdom of heaven already belongs to little children. In fact, the rest of us must become like little children to enter the kingdom.

You cannot manipulate your daughter into being born again by asking her to repeat the sinners’ prayer, by urging her to be baptized, or even by having her baptized as an infant. Jesus said the children must be permitted to come to Him – and this will be in their own good time. You cannot come to Jesus without some understanding of what you are doing.

Karl Barth, one of the most highly respected theologians of the 20th century, once described infant baptism as “a scandal.” He was looking at the established churches (state churches) of Europe where almost all people had been baptized as babies. He observed that this did not bring any noticeable difference in their lives. In fact, the people lived very secular lives, even though they nominally thought of themselves as “Christian.” He attributed this to the fact that they did not come to Christ through a conscious decision as responsible and responsive believers.

Much of what he said about infant baptism would apply to what you are asking about as well. You could do what you suggest – only to have your daughter grow up believing she is already a Christian. As a result, she might never give serious consideration to what a relationship with Jesus is all about.

In the Scriptures, people  were taught to repent, which literally means to change the mind. This demands a consciousness of sin and of their need for forgiveness that they believe is found only in Jesus. No one can “make” you repent; it must come from within yourself. She cannot possibly repent without being aware of what sin is and having a desire to leave sinfulness to walk with God. Then, as she learns to trust Jesus to forgive her, she will be able to come to him in the way the Scriptures show. (You may not realize that urging people to “pray the sinners’ prayer” to be born again is a modern development. There is nothing like this in the preaching of the apostles in the Book of Acts.)

What can you do to be leading your daughter to know Jesus? Teach her about Him. Read Bible stories to her. Pray with her in prayers that she can comprehend. Teach her how she should live and set the right example for her. Let her see that Jesus has an important place in your life and heart. As she grows in her knowledge of Jesus and in her trust in Him, she will be able to make a mature decision that will be more meaningful for her and will endure through her life.

I would like to encourage you to ask for our Bible Correspondence Course offered (at no charge) at www.Plymouth-church.com. One major section of this course talks about the new birth. A clearer understanding of the new birth on your part will help you lead her to a more mature understanding as she increases in her discernment of the things of God.

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