The Salvation of Covenant Infants

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Justin linked on his blog to my post below regarding our recent loss of a baby.  A woman named Christie commented on her desire for biblical support for my confidence in the salvation of our lost child.  There must be others with the same question, so I thought I would post my answer here as well.

Christie,

The Bible does not address this issue directly, in Q&A form. So my belief on this issue is shaped by a cluster of biblical teachings that all point in this same direction, namely, that the children of believers who die in or before infancy are justified through the blood of Christ (for redemption from their native participation in Adam's sin, see Ps. 51:7) and immediately regenerated into glory. These teachings include the following:

1) Just as we teach our little children to call God "Father", we believe that our infant children belong to God by virtue of the covenant of grace, which says, "I will be your God and the God of your children." Likewise, Paul says that the children of believers are "holy" unto the Lord (1 Cor. 7:14). All this indicates that by virtue of our faith, we should understand that our children begin life in fellowship with our God. But what about covenant children who fall away from the faith? We understand that in that case (barring future conversion), these were non-elect children. But by turning from the Lord they are covenant-breakers and not mere unbelievers. I see nothing in the Bible to indicate that we should consider infant and pre-infant covenant children to be non-elect. After all, Jesus said (specifically of covenant children), "Let the little children come to me... for to such belongs the kingdom of God" (Lk. 18:16).

2) But how can infants who die be saved without personal faith? I agree with the Westminster Confession of Faith, which says, "Elect infants, dying in infancy, are regenerated, and saved by Christ, through the Spirit" (X.3). In other words, faith is for those in this life. But for those cases in which God has sovereigntly ordained that they will either never enter this life or never possess the faculties for faith, we should understand that upon their deaths elect children are immediately regenerated into glory. We know for a fact that at least some covenant infants who die are elect (see below, re: David's son), and the only way such a child could enter heaven is by immediate regeneration apart from faith. But I will happily go further and say again that I see no biblical reason to believe that any covenant children who die in infancy or before birth are not elect. The only thing Jesus ever says about them is "Let them come to me, for to such belongs the kingdom of God." Therefore, we should believe that our children who die in or before infancy are elect and were regenerated through the Spirit by our Savior into glory.

3) The only clear example we have in Scripture strongly points in this same direction, i.e. the infant death of David's son with Bathsheba. While the child was dying, David grieved and mourned. But when the child died, David got up, explaining, "I shall go to him" (2 Sam. 12:23). David trusted that he would see his son in heaven. So here we have a covenant baby going to heaven apart from personal faith, because of the special circumstances of the case. Again, I see no biblical reason to think that David was a special case or that his status as king was responsible for his child being accepted by God. God's promise that "I will be your God and the God of your children," supplies the rule, not the exception. And just as we trust this promise as we labor to bring our living children to faith and discipleship, we trust it all the more for our infants who have died. God has sovereignly seen fit to take them from this world before they have the capacity for faith, and all the biblical evidence points to us believing that he therefore saved them apart out of his covenant faithfulness to us, even though they never entered under the condition of faith as the instrument of salvation.

I have tried my best to be clear, although I know this is not easy, cut-and-dried, Bible verse quoting. Again, given the above, I see that all the biblical evidence points us to this conviction, and therefore I hold to this conviction firmly and with great hope.

I think it would grieve me just as much as losing this child to have one of my living children apostatize from the faith. But each of them must ultimately stand before the Lord in his or her own faith, no longer able to stand in my faith and the faith of their mother. But for this child whom God has taken from the womb, the faith of his parents has effected his salvation. Everything I read in the Bible tells me to believe this, and I do believe it, with thanks to my faithful Lord and Savior.

May the Lord bless you,

Rick Phillips

"Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears us up; God is our salvation. Our God is a God of salvation, and to God, the Lord, belong deliverances from death" (Ps. 68:19-20).

Posted January 4, 2008 @ 2:39 PM by Rick Phillips
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