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Deceased Infant Salvation
Publication:
Author: Michael Ivey
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“Deceased Infant Salvation”

 

 

 

Scriptural Evidence Examined & Objections Addressed

 

Plus

 

Historical Evidence of Baptist Support

 

 

 

Part 1 of 4

 

 

 

By

 

Elder Michael Ivey

 

 

 

The topic of the eternal destiny of deceased infants is always timely.  Despite advancements in medical care almost everyone is touched by infant mortality. Either we have suffered the tragedy of losing an infant ourselves, or we know someone who has.

 

 

 

19th Century English Baptist preacher, Charles Spurgeon lived in a day when infant death was a common occurrence.  In the opening remarks of a sermon on the subject of deceased infant salvation he states:

 

 

 

 “Perhaps the larger proportion of this audience have at some time or other had to shed the briny tear over the child's little coffin;—it may be that through this subject consolation may be afforded to them.” [i]   

 

 

 

I found Spurgeon's words tragically accurate while in Africa.  Sadly, high rates of infant mortality there mean nearly every family has lost one or more children.  With so many who personally have suffered the pain of losing a baby the message of deceased infant salvation was gladly received.  Grieving parents were comforted and rejoiced to hear the good news of the gospel that their babies are with the Lord. 

 

 

 

Scriptural understanding of this topic is important because it furnishes a rationale for hope for those who are concerned with the destiny of deceased infants.  Peter instructs we always be ready “to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.” [I Peter 3:15]  God's word provides a sensible, cogent explanation for parents and loved ones to understand their baby was born again before he/she died.  It supplies the why and how to hope for their child's salvation; which, by faith strengthens consolation and adds to assurance.

 

 

 

Knowing what the scriptures have to say about deceased infant salvation is particularly necessary because infants are incapable of providing outward evidences of gracious standing with God. This is not the case when born again adults die.  Loved ones can recall memories of the deceased's faith and godliness as evidence he is with the Lord.  But when babies die they leave behind no such memories.  Their short lives render them unable to make a profession of faith, or faithfully do good works by which others may reasonably conclude they are saved.  Were the Bible silent on this issue lingering doubt would likely add to the sorrow of grieving parents and loved ones.

 

 

 

David’s statement of hope regarding his deceased infant son, “I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me” [2 Samuel 12:23], is sometimes cited to assert direct revelation from God is the only method to inform grieving parents their baby is in heaven; and to also claim scripture is otherwise silent regarding the salvation of infants who die.[1]  It is certain, whatever comfort and assurance David received came from God.  But, his experience does not prove direct personal revelation is the sole method the Lord uses to assure grieving parents.  In fact, the record of David's experience is evidence God's word supplies scriptural explanations that give reason for hope. 

 

 

 

The Bible contains many other statements and examples indicating all who die in infancy are saved.  The narrative of Herod's murderous effort to kill the Savior includes statements that give reason for hope to those who grieve for deceased infants.  Matthew 2:16-18 indicates Herod's atrocity was prophesied in the Old Testament.  The prophecy includes an assurance all the children Herod murdered are included in the resurrection of the just.  “Thus saith the LORD; Refrain thy voice from weeping, and thine eyes from tears: for thy work shall be rewarded, saith the LORD; and they shall come again from the land of the enemy. And there is hope in thine end, saith the LORD, that thy children shall come again to their own border.” [Jeremiah 31:16-17]  This passage is especially significant because it provides an example of comprehensive deceased infant salvation: All the children Herod murdered are saved.  Jeremiah's prophecy and Matthew's confirmation it was fulfilled give credibility to the assertion that all infants who die in infancy are saved.  This is especially so, since there is no indication God invoked a special dispensation or made extraordinary provisions to give eternal salvation to the children Herod murdered.

 

 

 

It should be noted, the word infant is not limited to babies in this essay.  What is said about infants may also apply to those who are mentally incompetent.  Arguments asserting deceased infants are saved are intended to include any whose life experiences are significantly limited by short lifespan or mental incompetence.

 

 

 

Examination of God's word fails to reveal any special provisions in the covenant of grace by which deceased infant are saved from hell.   In contrast, the Bible contains significant evidence the wicked do not die at a young age or with only a very limited life experience.  An understanding of this point is important for two reasons.  First, God not permitting the wicked to die young pertains to His providence, and not to any principles of the covenant of grace.  This is why no special provisions are needed to save deceased infants.  Second, it removes age as a factor in God saving deceased infants. God does not save deceased infants based on their age.  Rather, God longsuffers the wicked by not permitting them to die as infants.

 

 

 

This work is an effort to address many of the questions sincere followers of Christ have raised regarding the doctrine of deceased infant salvation and how it harmonizes with the doctrines of grace.  It also examines objections that are sometimes raised.  In addition to scriptural arguments, historical references are supplied to assure readers the “old path” of the Baptist family embraced the biblical teaching that all who die in infancy are saved.  I offer it in the hope that scriptural explanations and the record of Baptist history will inform and be a source of comfort to those who read it.

 

 

 

 

 

Scriptural Evidence

 

 

 

The word of God specifically and without exception indicates grace alone is the sole means for saving sinners, including infants who die.  In doing so it reveals everyone who is saved has the same need for salvation; and that they all are saved in precisely the same manner.  No exceptions or special provisions are needed in the covenant of grace to save all deceased infants.  They are not saved based on infant purity, innocence, or because they suffer martyrdom.  They are not saved in consideration of believing parents. Neither does scripture teach baptism of infants assures their eternal happiness.  The salvation of infants who die occurs by the same provisions and application of God's grace by which all others are saved.

 

 

 

In the March 3, 1938 edition of the The Primitive Baptist, Elder C. H. Cayce cited Mark 10:15 to reject gospel means or agency in regeneration and affirm there is but one method for saving infants and adults alike.  In doing so, he also denied the charge that historically, Primitive Baptists believed in infant damnation.

 

 

 

“Those who argue that the Bible and preachers are necessary for the salvation of persons of Adam's race have, all along accused Old Baptists of preaching infant damnation -and the Old Baptists have always denied the charge.  But here is the doctrine that has the idea of infant damnation in it -no preaching, no people saved.  The infant is not in the reach of gospel preaching.  If there is no salvation for any only for those who are in reach of gospel preaching, then there is no salvation for any infant.  If the infant can be saved without gospel preaching, so can others be saved without it.  The infant is saved  without gospel preaching, and that is the way all other saved persons are saved.  Jesus said 'Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein.'  Mark x. 15.  The little child receives, enters into, the kingdom of God without the gospel, by being born into it.  And if the adult does not receive it that way, or enter into it that way -the same way the little child does- he does  not enter it at all.”[ii]

 

 

 

All of God’s saving grace is needed to save every sinner, whether they are young or old.  God’s election according to His loving foreknowledge, His predestination of the elect to be conformed to the image of Christ as God’s children through adoption to an eternal inheritance as joint heirs with Christ, His eternal justification of them by the shed blood of Christ Jesus, their regeneration by new birth to spiritual life by the effectual calling of the Spirit of God, and their resurrection in glory, all work together for undeniable goodness in all the objects of God’s love who are called according to His purpose and so also love the Lord.[2]  The working together of God’s decrees of grace is comprehensive and consistent: They all work together; and, they do so in the same way for all who are embraced in God’s covenant of grace. 

 

 

 

Whether a child of God dies as an infant or lives to old age, the covenant of grace works the same.  Election does not need special provisions to save all deceased infants.  Regeneration and justification need not be altered to account for infants’ inability to respond to the gospel.  Eternal judgment does not wink at the sin nature of deceased infants so they can go to heaven.   

 

 

 

 

 

Original Sin and Total Depravity

 

 

 

Sin is present in all humanity.  From the moment of conception everyone has a corrupt nature that permeates their whole body, soul and natural spirit.  All men are sinners by nature.  We all inherited our sin nature from Adam, humanity's seminal head.  “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” [Romans 5:12] (See 1 Corinthians 15:22)

 

 

 

The death Adam experienced because of his sin became part of his being.  Furthermore, as the father of all humanity the essence of his corrupt sin nature is passed down through all his descendants. “For as in Adam all die.” [1Corinthians 15:22]  Sin passes from parent to child.  This means infants possess a sin nature from the moment of conception because they are descendents of Adam.  In expressing the source of his corrupt nature, David confirmed the doctrine of original sin; showing sin is in man from the moment he is conceived: “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.” [Psalms 51:5]  By noting iniquity is present even before birth David's revelation repudiates a notion that babies are born innocent, or pure, and grow into sin.  In Psalms 58 David indicates the same thought by indicating the wicked are wicked from birth. “The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies.” [Psalms 58:3][3]

 

 

 

The effect of original sin is total depravity.[4]   Man is wholly polluted by sin.  Statements by David and Paul capture the essential nature of man's complete corruption in sin.  In Psalms chapters 14 and 53 David notes depraved man is wholly corrupt, does nothing that is good in God's sight, is filthy, and has no knowledge of God.  Using the sense of David's words, Paul similarly characterizes the total depravity of the wicked.  “There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: Their feet are swift to shed blood: Destruction and misery are in their ways: And the way of peace have they not known: There is no fear of God before their eyes.”  [Romans 3:10-15] 

 

 

 

Jesus' response to wicked men in John 8, indicates wholly depraved man does not love God.  Instead, the wicked by nature possess an unwavering propensity for sinning that is a core principle governing all their beliefs, motives and deeds. 

 

The Savior states wicked men do not understand God’s word because they lack the ability to discern spiritual things.  They reject the things of God, including Christ Jesus, the Savior of sinners.  “Jesus said unto them, If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me.  Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word.  Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it. And because I tell you the truth, ye believe me not.” [John 8:42-45]   

 

 

 

Infant death is further evidence man possesses an active sin nature from conception.  Paul's statement “The wages of sin is death.” [Romans 6:23], indicates death is sin’s toll on man.  Sin is the root cause of death.  Infant mortality tragically contradicts the notion of infant purity. It also disproves the theory sin is not counted to infants and children until they are able to choose between right and wrong, the so-called “age of accountability.”  Neither of these exceptions are able to stand in light of the facts that 1.)The wages of sin is death; and 2.) Infants die. 

 

 

 

Infants are essentially no different than adults with regards to the presence of a corrupt sin nature.  They may not knowingly and willingly commit sin, but this does not prove infants have any less sin nature than adults who willfully sin.   Neither did Paul exclude infants when he indicated the depravity of man is comprehensive; that, it applies to all humanity. “As it is written[5], There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.” [Romans 3:10-11]

 

 

 

 

 

Election

 

 

 

The doctrine of election teaches that before the world began God specifically loved and chose a number of people to be delivered from the condemnation He imposed because of sin.  “According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.” [Ephesians 1:4-6]   

 

 

 

In the Roman letter the Apostle Paul indicates God is sovereign, that is, self-governing and independent in the election of grace.  “For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.  So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.” [Romans 9:15-16]  The choice of who would be saved in particular was based wholly on God's own will, according to His purpose; so that nothing apart from God in any way influenced Him to choose one and pass by another.  The phrase, “not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth,” implies God's omniscience (all knowing) of particular individual's works or desires did not influence His choice of who would be saved. 

 

 

 

The Apostle Peter indicates the election of grace is according to God's foreknowledge.  Those He chose are “Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ.”[6] [1 Peter 1:2]  This statement indicates God foreknowing is the starting point and an operational principle for Him choosing those He would save.  It also infers that election is particular in that God foreknew each one He chose.   All the parameters by which God made chose in the election of grace reside with and proceed from Him alone.  He chose to make a choice from among the human race because He foreknew.  And because He foreknew, He specifically chose whom He would save. In this way, election is “according to the foreknowledge of God the Father.”

 

Peter’s use of foreknowledge conveys a more narrow meaning than omniscience.[7]  God’s foreknowing includes a principle of personal loveLove is God’s motive for setting apart those He would save. God ever loved some of Adam's race and therefore chose to save them.  In the Roman letter, Paul indicates God’s foreknowledge in election is designation of His love for a portion, but not all, of the human family.  “that the purpose of God according to election might stand”...... “As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.” [Roman’s 9:11, 13]

 

 

 

The intimacy of God’s foreknowledge is presented in connection to salvation in Jeremiah 1:5 where God indicates he knew and loved the prophet before Jeremiah was conceived; “Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee...;” and, “The LORD hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.” [Jeremiah 31:3]  The text also indicates God's foreknowing proceeds from eternity past and is without end.

 

 

 

God chose all He would save before the world began, before any he chose were born.  “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:  Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. [Ephesians 1:3-6]  Since God's choice in election occurred before the world or anyone in the world existed, all whom He chose begin life as infants.  This means infant who die can be included in the election of grace. 

 

 

 

Paul indicates election precedes natural birth in Romans 9 when noting God's sovereignty in choosing to love Jacob and hate Esau before before the twin brothers were born. “They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed. For this is the word of promise, At this time will I come, and Sara shall have a son.  And not only this; but when Rebecca also had conceived by one, even by our father Isaac;  (For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;) It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger.  As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.” [Romans 9:8-13]  Jacob was chosen and Esau passed by in the election before either was born.  Jacob was numbered among the elect before he was born, during infancy, and for the remainder of his life.

 

 

 

It is occasionally suggested Esau being passed by in election before he was born, having not yet done good or evil, is evidence not all infants are elect and therefore not all deceased infants are saved.  This line of reason takes the form of a conditional or if/then syllogism:  If A is true, Esau was passed over in election before he was born; then, B is also true, not all deceased infants are saved.  In this instance, according to scripture, the first assertion is correct.  However, B, the conclusion, not all deceased infants are saved, is logically invalid.  The premise does not prove the conclusion. Esau is proof the wicked are born and are infants for a time.  However, his case does not prove the wicked die in infancy because Esau was an adult when he died. 

 

 

 

We have already shown that God exercised mercy and compassion according to His sovereign will to save without consideration of the conditions, attitudes or behaviors of those chosen in election. This fact however, does not exclude a given group from being wholly numbered among the elect. (The salvation of all the infants Herod murdered proves this point.)  In the same way God is sovereign choosing to pass over some in election, He is sovereign to choose any others, regardless of what characteristics they may have in common.  As we have discussed in relation to Romans 9:15, all the criteria for election was self-imposed by God.  This means all deceased infants could have been included in election as long as they were chosen according to God's criteria of foreknowledge and willingness to be merciful and compassionate; and without regard to any meritorious characteristic that is known to Him through omniscience. 

 

 

 

According to His stated reason for choosing who would be saved God did not choose to save all deceased infants because he knew they would die in infancy.  Such a basis would make dying in infancy a characteristic that merited God's favor.  This would undermine the doctrines of election and original sin.  However, it is possible some other factor could have a foreseen consequence of all infants who die being elect.  But whatever the factor, it is must not alter the criteria God used for choosing in election   Providentially, God longsuffering the wicked (non-elect) so they do not die in infancy is such a factor.  The result of which is all who die in infancy are elect.     

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FOOTNOTES:

 

 

 

 

 

(1) Some commentaries suggest David’s statement indicates he merely expected one day to join his son in the grave.  However, the narrative indicates David made this statement to explain how he was consoled by the thought of reuniting one day with his son.  It seems unlikely he would draw comfort from simply joining his son in death.  A more plausible explanation is David was comforted by his hope and expectation to see the child again in the resurrection. M.I.   

 

 

 

(2) Romans 8:28-30 “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.  For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.  Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.” KJV

 

 

 

(3) Psalms 58:3-4 is sometimes used to assert the wicked die as infants.  However the text only addresses their condition at birth.  It says nothing about when the wicked die.  From David's statement we understand human depravity is present from conception.  But this fact alone fails to prove any of the wicked die in infancy.

 

 

 

(4) “Total depravity” is a term used to describe man’s condition before he is born again.  After the new birth, because of the washing of regeneration, renewing of the Holy Ghost and the indwelling of the Spirit of God, he is no longer totally depraved. He retains his sin nature, but not in his soul/spirit.  However, since the Spirit of God never quickens the wicked they are totally depraved and remain so throughout their lives.  MI

 

 

 

(5) Paul quotes the sense of David's words in Psalms 14:1-3 and 53:1-3

 

 

 

(6) “unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ” denotes Christ’s obedience to the Father in the atonement.  No harm is done to the passage by interpreting this phrase “unto obedience even the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ.” MI 

 

(7) Omniscience (also referred to as prescience) is God's attribute of knowing. It addresses the extent of His knowledge.  God is all knowing.  He knows all about all things both in the spiritual and natural realms, whether their existence be past, present or future.  God's omniscience is sometimes presented as foreknowledge, knowledge from eternity past of all things future.  However, scripture applies a narrower, more distinct meaning to foreknowledge in election.  It is applied only to those God foreloved.  The passage below explains the distinct application of God's foreknowledge in election.  MI

 

 

 

 “There is another sort of "prescience", or "foreknowledge", the Scriptures speak of; on which the election of persons to eternal life is founded, and according to which it is, (Rom. 8:30; 1 Peter 1:2) which is not a foreknowledge of faith, holiness, and good works, and perseverance therein, as causes of it; for these are effects and fruits of election, which flow from it; no bare foreknowledge of persons, but as joined with love and affection to the objects of it; and which is not general, but special; "The Lord knows them that are his", (2 Tim. 2:19) not in general, as he knows all men; but distinctly, and particularly, he loves them, approves of them, and delights in them, and takes a particular care of them; while of others he says, "I know you not", (Matthew 7:23) that is, as his beloved and chosen ones. But as this belongs to the doctrine of predestination, I shall defer it to its proper place.” 

 

 

 

Gill, John, Body of Divinity, Book 1, Ch.9,

 



larry heldman  

Elder James Compton (1905 - 2007)
Elder James Compton was the original founder of the 'Gospel of Grace Tape Supply.' His collection of tapes began as he traveled to Church meetings and Associations recording sermons on Reel to Reel. He has maintained this library of sermons faithfully over the years and are now the foundation of PB Sermons. org. This web site is dedicated to Elder James Compton (1905 - 2007)