“And they brought young children to him, that he should touch them: and his disciples rebuked those that brought them. But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein. And he took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them” (Mark 10:13-16).
It is interesting that Mark places this story about Jesus blessing the children after the Lord’s teaching regarding marriage and divorce. It is children who suffer the most when a family breaks up. Once again we see that the disciples had learned nothing from a previous encounter with a little child.
In this study we are going to find out why it is important for the church to reach out to children.
Children are precious to Christ
The disciples tried to shoo away the children that were being brought to the Lord for blessing. We would think that they would have been delighted to see a crowd of children around Jesus, but their own self-importance blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts. George MacDonald once said that he did not believe in a man’s Christianity if children were never found playing around his door. They rebuked the parents, but Jesus rebuked His disciples for keeping the children away from Him. Maybe they remembered the warning He gave about offending little ones, “And whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea” (Mark 9:42). He still reaches out to children today and expects His church to do the same. Every child is precious to the Lord.
Children are prospects for salvation in Christ
While the Scriptures do not teach that infants should be baptised, it does encourage parents to teach them about Christ at an early age. Infant baptism has been a tool in the hands of Satan in damning countless souls to Hell, for in later life they think they are already saved and members of Christ’s church. At what age can children accept Jesus as their Lord and Saviour? The answer is different for every child, but here are three guidelines to assist us:
1. When they realise their true condition, that is, they know that they are sinners in the eyes of God. Though the world thinks of children as being totally innocent, the Bible says the opposite, “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Psalm 51:5). Much harm is done by parents and relatives who persist in telling even the naughtiest of children that they are good.
2. When they recognise Christ’s work on Calvary was for their personal salvation. As soon as they have a good grasp of why Jesus needed to die on the cross there is no need to hesitate in bringing them to Him for the greatest blessing of all.
3. When they are able to rely upon Christ alone for salvation. If they truly know that the Saviour’s blood alone is the only means of salvation, then they can be saved. Throughout the generations godly parents have had to tell their young that the religions of the world are false and cannot lead a person to God or salvation. Children must understand what Jesus meant when He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). Children who wish to confess their faith in Christ should be encouraged, not held back from doing so.
Children are pliable in the hands of Christ
Children learn to sin very quickly, but they can learn to obey the Lord even quicker if they are given the chance. The admonition of Hebrews 3:13 can be used in this situation too, “But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.” Though children are sinners, they are not as hardened by continual sinning as adults can be. Children are remarkably open to the teachings of Scripture. What they first learn will stay with them throughout life. Many older people have fond memories of the good teaching they received in Sunday School when they were youngsters. “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6) … “Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth” (Ecclesiastes 12:1). We are given to believe that children are not able to understand the teachings of Christ, but many of their questions reveal that they understand all too well. We must not underestimate the minds of children, otherwise we may be found as guilty as the disciples in trying to keep them from Christ. Who are we to undervalue the usefulness of children in the work of God?
Children are potential servants of Christ
We see the usefulness of children to the work of the Lord in several places in Scripture, here are just two of them: “There is a lad here, which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes: but what are they among so many?” (John 6:9) … “But Samuel ministered before the LORD, being a child, girded with a linen ephod” (1 Samuel 2:18).
Let us not forget that God has a plan for each of their lives. There is power available to them too, for who knows if there is a giant slayer among those under our care? Who knows if the Lord will use them to bring about a great revival when they are older? Let us reach children for Christ. Somewhere there is a David, a Samuel, a Paul, a Timothy, a great evangelist or a pastor who is still a little child. God even uses a child in explaining what the Millennial Kingdom of Christ will be like, “The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them” (Isaiah 11:6).
It was not the disciples who received the blessing that day; instead once again Jesus gathered the children up in His arms and blessed them. The disciples could have been blessed in bringing the children to Christ, but they lost out through hardness of heart. W. Graham Scroggie said, “Be your best and give your best to children.”
Unless we become like little children, with childlike faith and humility, we will not enter Christ’s Kingdom. That is how serious a matter it is. Children do not need to become adults to be saved, but adults need to become as little children otherwise they cannot receive salvation.
“For this generation, brought up on movie thrillers and silly comics, I covet a childhood nurtured on the Word of God. It might seem the depth of boredom to modern youngsters fed on trash and jaded from worn-out excitements, but life was happier before the ‘Amen!’ age gave way to the era of ‘So what!’” (Vance Havner – slightly edited).