Contend Earnestly: How Do I Know If My Child is Saved?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

How Do I Know If My Child is Saved?

Because of the discussion of communion, many usually start asking, "if we don't allow people to come to the table unless they are saved, how do we know if they are saved?" Usually this has more to do with our children than adults, even though I do not believe there to be much difference in repentance and faith. Do they look different? Sometimes, but the same ideals should be seen and put forth. This isn't a dumb question and one that should be asked by parents and sought to be answered. The problem with the answer, like many things in practical Christianity is there is no hard and fast rule. If you would like to read my thoughts on infants and heaven, you can read that here: Where do babies go when they die?

But, for those God has allowed to grace us with their presence, even though we as parents don't always see it that way, how do we know when they are saved and ready to be baptized and partake in communion? I am more liberal than some on this thought and desire that my sons be included into the New Covenant sooner upon profession than a continual questioning of their salvation. I just want to share how I am going to "test" whether or not my children are saved.

Confession and Repentance

When looking throughout Acts and the Gospels two things are clear: a disciple of Christ is a person who confesses Christ and repents of sins.

Martin Luther's first of his 95 theses states:

Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ, when He said Poenitentiam agite (or "repent ye"), willed that the whole life of believers should be repentance.

Both of these terms, confession and repentance, are in the present tense. Meaning, just as Luther points out, we should continually confess and repent as Christians. This does not mean that your child needs to then say a prayer of confession and repentance, fill out a card, check a box and walk down the aisle and consider himself saved from that nasty place called hell with that ugly beast called Satan. This isn't what the New Testament is trying to get across, although we will be saved from hell and the wrath of God.

Confession of Christ means just what the Bible continually points to. Confession, or faith in Christ, means that you believe that you are a grave sinner in need of a Saviour to save you. One must believe that their Saviour is found in Christ Jesus alone, on his works alone and that he rose from death, conquering our sin altogether. Can a child understand this fully? I would rather beg the question, "Can ANYONE understand this fully?" The depths of the cross and resurrection are so overwhelming that if anyone says they understand it, they are deceiving themselves. I would rather give the cross and resurrection liberally to the lost, including my children.

As they start to show this understanding as they continually seek its power, I will quickly affirm their belief, not belittle them.

Repentance is something that we as parents like to forget about. It really comes in the understanding of life change as well. Being that we are new creatures in Christ, we have to remember that this does not mean that we made ourselves new creatures because of our works, neither will we work out our sanctification solely on our works either. We must see this with our children.

Too many parents hold the sins over the heads of their children. Saying that they do not see the life change expected from a Christian, all while denying their own struggles with sin. Acting as if their life is holy and undefiled because they read and pray every morning before going to work while their child plays with Legos.

If we really want to get to the crux of the life of the Christian it is one where we desire Christ and his cross so much more because we see how clearly we, in our flesh, continually sin. We seek to understand how a God, infinite and holy, can love and die for a wretched sinner as I.

We don't then try and understand this and hold it over our child's head on why their life doesn't look "Christian". This sounds a lot like the unmerciful servant in Matthew 18, whose debt was paid and then strangled someone who owed him so much less. Do our children sin? Yes. Will they continue to sin and disappoint us? Yes. Do we forgive them for this? Yes. But we must remember that they didn't sin against us, but against God. We have to remember that we don't sin against others, but against God. If God can forgive us for sinning against a holy and infinite One, why can he not forgive our children of the same thing?

So, How Do I Know if My Child Is Saved?

I will seek to see when my child is repentant and loves the cross more than his sin. My sons currently, at the ages of 6 and 3, know the facts of the cross, but are showing little signs of repentance. Although I see other signs in my kids that make my heart cry out in joy, I don't see sons that desire forgiveness through the cross. They do not need to know all the facts of the Bible, they don't need to know how to debate the substitutionary theory of the atonement or prove that Christ was born of a virgin. What they need to know though is that Christ died for them (which is in fact substitutionary) and that they will continually sin in this life, but forgiveness waits for those who are repentant. This doesn't mean that they will desire to sin, but will desire to live for Jesus. This doesn't mean that they will be sinless, but will know who to go to for forgiveness when they don't share, fight, lie or call their siblings dumb.

As soon as I see this in my child's life, I will baptize them and allow them to partake of the table. I pray that this life starts sooner than later, but I will not wait for my child to be close to sinless for this to happen, but will seek out sons who love Jesus and love that he did all the work and they are helpless without him.

Parents, be careful that you don't become a heretic in waiting for a sinless child to kill themselves on the altar. Christ paid for their sins, just as he paid for yours. Don't be the unmerciful servant, but be the servant that tells the wonders of the great and merciful one who waits and desires for your child to be welcomed into the family of God.

Then some children were brought to Him so that He might lay His hands on them and pray; and the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, “Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
Matthew 19:13-14

The principal difficulty of children in coming to Christ frequently lies in their friends. Their parents or their other relatives think they are too young, and discourage them. Oh, that we all had a right idea of the possibility of the conversion of little children; nay, not only of the possibility, but that we looked for it, watched for it, and encouraged young children to come to Christ! You know that, in the parable I am going to read presently, we are told that the householder “went out early in the morning to hire laborers into his vineyard.” What a privilege it is to be Brought to Christ early in the morning,—that is, while we are yet children.

Spurgeon, Charles H.: Spurgeon's Sermons: Volume 43. electronic ed. Albany, OR : Ages Software, 1998 (Logos Library System; Spurgeon's Sermons 43)


michael said...

Good stuff bro! As a future father, this reminds me to always share Christ and what it means to die to ourselves daily. While reading this, the story that came to mind was the story of the prodigal son. This confirms for me that we should never give up on our children, no matter the cost.

Joe said...

I triple-suck as a dad.

It is ONLY by the grace and power of God that I was able to share and teach and live the gospel of Christ with my son.

I know that I know my son is saved. Now we work on raising him up as a disciple.

God have mercy on me!

Dwayne Forehand said...

Yeah that's basically what I'm looking for as well. Thanks for putting into words man.

sleary6279 said...

Thanks Seth, appreciate your strong words on the repentance of us parents. We aren't perfect role models all the time.

Bob Hayton said...

Great thoughts, Seth. Have you read Vern Poythress on the faith of children? I give links to a couple articles by him in this post: Baptism and Young Children.

He argues that children show faith at a younger age than we often give credit to them for. I think he has some good points, although I still haven't had my kids baptized yet.

Oh for more grace as we work out this area (with fear and trembling). Coming from a sinner's prayer overemphasis in my past, I'm very cautious in dealing with my kids. Thanks for the encouragement.

Anonymous said...

Great thoughts! As the father of 3 boys and 1 girl, I often struggle with how to tell when my child is truly a believer. I too rejoice when my eldest asks questions like "Why does everything have to be about God?" or "I know I need to obey, but I just can't! It's too hard for me!" I very much appreciate this article. You've given me much to think about.

Anonymous said...

My wife was just talking about this concerning our oldest daughter, 5 years old, on the last communion Sunday. Our daughter knows all the facts about Jesus being God, coming as man and choosing to die on the cross to pay for our sins, His resurrection of where He is now. She says she loves Him and believes what He did. There are times that she even will pray for someone that is sick or having a difficult time with something even if we don't ask her to pray.
We keep seeing our little girl, but should we also be seeing a "sister" in her?
Philip Kledzik
"An Issue of the Heart"
"Painted Rooms"

Darlene said...

You begin by quoting Luther, why not continue to do so? IOW, if God used him to reform the church, is it possible his teachings on baptism and the Lord's Supper are scriptural?


Seth McBee said...


It's possible...but he also had a lot of terrible things to say about Jews, so he was a sinner and infallible.

Not sure I want to follow everything he has to say...

Darlene said...


Your article came to mind today while pondering the spiritual state of my son.

You ask, "How Do I Know if My Child is Saved?" Such a question, I am sure, has entered many parents' hearts. I've a friend who is a Calvinist, and she is concerned for her daughter who is now 22 yrs. I, too, pray for my son, that the Lord will have mercy on him. My job of child rearing is done, but pray I must and will.

However, he approached my husband and me at the age of ten wanting to accept Christ. We prayed w. him and tears of joy streamed down our faces as we sang "Amazing Grace." Four yrs. later he was baptized. During his teen yrs. he struggled w. depression, but he also exhibited genuine faith. He expressed a desire for the thgs. of God.

Throughout his twenties, he grew in his understanding of the Christian faith (as in Calvinist Christian), strenuously defending the TULIP and Reformed gospel. However, there came a time when doubts emerged. How this transpired is a LONG story, but eventually he turned away from Christ with a FULL knowledge of what he was doing. He informed us that he had "deconverted" and was happy and relieved to be an atheist.

This was a child who lived in a Christian home where we prayed regularly, worshipped w. other Christians, daily spoke of our faith and love for Christ, and proclaimed the gospel to others.

I would now say my son had received the life of Christ, but he chose to turn away in rebellion. As to whether or not he will be saved, I cannot presume or assume anything.

My theology/soteriology has changed since those days, nonetheless, we raised our children according to the light that had been given us. "To whom little is given, little is required." From what I've come to know and understand, I would raise my children differently.

May Christ be praised & glorified in all we do!

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