Dr. Chuck DeVane, Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
November 4, 2018
15 Now they were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them. And when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. 16 But Jesus called them to him, saying, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. 17 Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”
— Luke 18:15-17, ESV
This episode is brief and the saying of Christ is short. Take them together, however, and we are plunged into it some theological depth with issues fraught with controversy in our contemporary age. Yet at the end of our examination of the text, the lessons learned should be simple enough for a child to understand. After all, the kingdom of God is for kids.
The Inspiration of Scripture
This may not seem like the place to dive into a discussion regarding the verbal plenary inspiration of Scripture. But isn’t that where every Bible study or sermon starts? On this subject there are generally three schools of thought.
There are those who have no confidence in the Bible as the inspired word of God; therefore, their lives are not governed by it in any form or fashion. It is alarming that an ever-increasing number of professing Christians take this position. Secondly, there are those who affirm the inspiration of Scripture, but seldom or ever take the time to read, study, and apply it to their lives. Vast numbers of nominal Christians and inactive church members fit into this category. Then, like the parabolic seed falling on the proverbial good soil, there are those who believe the Bible and have the audacity to trust it, hear it, study it, and obey its precepts, or at least make every effort to do so.
Allow me to promote the last, most satisfying view. The Bible records true stories (historical narratives) and stories that teach truth (like a parable). This text is a little of both, for I have no doubt that Jesus blessed children during His ministry and I hear Him say metaphorically that all Christians must be children. But how did we get this story and statement?
It appears in Mark’s and Luke’s Gospels almost verbatim, almost. Yet neither Mark nor Luke were there. Mark got his account most likely from eye-witness Simon Peter, while Luke gathered his information from Mark, the Apostle Paul, and other well-researched sources. The way in which the words were written reflect each author’s personality, intellect, and style. At the same time, the Holy Spirit was at work in them to safeguard the integrity and consistency of every word, word for word, which is the doctrine we call the verbal plenary inspiration of Scripture.
To this truth most true Christians will say, Amen. So, let us reexamine every word of Luke’s passage, remembering that it is very similar to Mark’s, yet with one additional, important word. And remember, Mark was a common fellow whom the Lord used, but Luke was a learned physician. The doctor’s inclusion of a particular word on his part reveals something important about the sanctity of life and the kingdom of God.
The Sanctity of Life
While Mark chose to use only one word for “child” in his account, Dr. Luke uses two. The ESV renders them “infants” in verse 15 and “children/child” in verses 16 and 17. “Paidon” is a transliteration of the latter word in Greek, which speaks of the toddler to teenage stage of life. “Brephos” is the first word Luke used here, but not for the first time.
“And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb” (ref. Luke 1:41). “The baby,” or the “brephos,” was none other than John the Baptist, a very valuable person. Please note he was considered a person while “in her womb.” Jeremiah was commissioned a prophet by God while still in the womb (ref. Jeremiah 1:5). The fruit of Mary’s womb (ref. Luke 1:42) had a name, the name above every name, and of course the name of that person is the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Luke’s Gospel and other books in the Bible make plain the truth that life is sacred, life begins at conception, and the life of every unborn, newborn, and growing child is precious in the sight of God. Children were treated like burdens in Jesus’ day, and today we seem to have come full circle. But Luke lets us know that Jesus does indeed love the little children, all the children of the world, in more ways than one.
Therefore, to harm a child in the womb is a sin. To intentionally hurt a baby or small child in any way is a sin. And, to hinder a child from coming to Jesus, and all humans are children in God’s eyes, is a heinous sin.
Let me speak plainly. Abortion is a sin. Child abuse is a sin. Child neglect is a sin. And perhaps the worst sin a person can commit against a child is the one the Apostles were dangerously close to committing in this story. They were keeping children away from God, away from Jesus Christ, and in a sense away from the church of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Let me speak mercifully. None of these is the unpardonable sin. God’s grace is deep and wide enough to forgive an abortion or even child abuse. But keeping your child away from God, the word of God, and the church of God could keep them permanently out of the kingdom of God. This would be an eternal shame, for the kingdom of God is the ultimate place for kids.
The Kingdom of God
The kingdom of God is not only the ultimate place for kids, it is exclusively for kids, according to Jesus. Of course He meant this symbolically, for often believers come into the kingdom after their infant, toddler, and adolescent years. So let us unpack the metaphor and discover what it means, spiritually, to be “like a child” according to Jesus.
Spiritual life, like physical life, begins at conception. The Holy Spirit is the egg and the word of God is the seed. The result is a “born again” (literally “born from above”) child of God. Though physical conception occurs in the womb, spiritual conception occurs out of it (John the Baptist being a notable exception, as well as God in Christ). But Jesus makes it plain here and various authors of Scripture concur that it takes the Spirit of God and the word of God to make a child of God.
From start to finish, salvation is the work of our sovereign God, ordained by the Father, accomplished by the Son, applied by the Holy Spirit. But the Holy Spirit is carried in the human hearts of true believers, whose hands hold the word of God, and whose mouths should speak the gospel of Jesus Christ. God is sovereign but we are responsible to live, tell, and teach the gospel, especially to our children.
A healthy child of God has a Father and a mother. Our Father, of course, is our God and Father who rules Heaven and earth. Who is our mother? The great saint Augustine said, “No man can claim God as his father who does not embrace the church as his mother.” A church which plants another church is called the mother church, and for good reason. While God is always a perfect Father, churches have sadly been known to abuse or neglect her spiritual children, but a true spiritual child should never neglect her church.
Returning to the theme of responsibility, human fathers and mothers with children dare not neglect their spiritual responsibilities. Christ Himself asked the chilling question, “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul (ref. Mark 8:36)?” Fathers and mothers who give their children all the blessings of material comfort but neglect to seek their Christian conversion and active membership in the church will be held frighteningly accountable to God.
Children grow into adults and have children themselves, in the natural order of things. This should be true spiritually as well. When the good seed falls on good soil, it produces a crop. A spirit-filled, well-churched Christian usually leads his or her children to Christ. A committed Christian who worships and works for the Lord usually witnesses and influences other people to come to Christ, also. Such adult activity is carried out with child-like joy, especially when we see others born again into the kingdom of God.
Real Christians are conceived by God, nurtured by Christian parents and churches, and grow. Real Christians grow, but they never grow up. Salvation by grace is a gift that keeps on giving, Every day is like Christmas Day for kids of the kingdom. We are given child-like faith and unbending trust in God that we never lose, always depending on the Father for all things. We cry when we are hurt and have the remedy of running into our Father’s arms and being comforted by His words. We rejoice when we are blessed and thank Him for our blessings. We have a home away from home in our own homes and churches, and we are going home one day where we will live with Him, face to face, for all eternity, singing and playing like a bunch of kids in their Father’s house.
“Don’t you want to be there, don’t you want to know,
Where the grace and simple truth of childhood goes.
Don’t you want to be there, when the trumpet blows?”
— Jackson Browne
You want to be there. You want to be a kid in the kingdom of God, forever. For the kingdom is here and the kingdom is coming, and the kingdom of God is for kids.
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