I stood by the bedside of the two month old infant girl in 1975. She was unconscious from the sedatives the doctors had prescribed to calm the seizures that were occurring from her encephalitis. Her mother was a lovely young Navy mother, but the strain of the last two days was evident in her unkempt hair and bags under her eyes from a sleepless night and hours of crying. The doctors were “realists” who did not mince words about the little girl’s risks. She could develop epilepsy or dysphagia if she survived the fevers that were wracking her tiny body with 105-107 temps (40-42C). If they could not get the fevers down, she might die.
The three of us standing around her were gowned and wore masks and gloves as the cause and contagiousness had not yet been assessed. The minister with us placed his hands on the febrile child and commented on how hot her body felt. He asked God very directly for a miracle in Jesus’ name; to heal this infant and remove the encephalitis; to allow this little girl to grow up with no side effects of having the disease; to comfort the mother that it was in no way her fault her daughter had become ill.
The minister and I left eventually as the mother sat by her daughter’s bedside for the evening, planning on sleeping by the child. The next morning the pastor called me to ask if I would go back to the hospital with him. He had received an excited call from the mother after the doctors’ rounds. The infant girl was well, feeding and showed no evidence of fever or the disease that had molested her the last two days! What a joyous celebration was going on when we arrived. One of the doctors seemed a little cross, looking for someone to blame for a misdiagnosis, but the techs and nurses, as well as other doctors were very clear. They had not erred. This was the same girl. Yes, the tests were on this patient. Somewhere in the night a Greater Physician, unseen, had visited the little girl and cured her. Someone once said, “Second-hand miracles make doubters of us all,” but for those of us who had prayed by her bedside the day before, this was no second-hand miracle. We had been given a front-row seat to our miracle-working Savior.
Fast forward three decades and a five month old boy was lying in a hospital NICU. Most of his family were believers; many friends were praying in homes and churches whenever they met; several pastors had visited the hospital and laid hands on the child and prayed for healing. But on May 5, 2005, this first-born little boy left his mother and father to weep and try to understand where God had gone; to wonder why Jesus had not healed their precious baby boy; to bury a child, which is perhaps a parent’s greatest grief. I wondered why would God heal the little girl so beautifully and allow this amazing little one to die?
We do not have all the answers to the problem of pain and the reason The God Who Is There sometimes responds with miraculous healing and sometimes not. But we have assurance of the Bible that babies who die will be reunited with believing parents when they meet again in Heaven.
Some argue about baptism of infants or salvation of pre-lingual children as though God would send an “innocent” to hell. First of all, the children are not innocent. Just babysit a one to two year old group of children and watch “original sin” in action! Infants and toddlers are self-centered, thoroughly selfish, completely oblivious to fairness or justice, greedy and merciless, have no regard for others and no respect for life. To say, “of course God will save children” will not suffice. Given the inherited sin nature there is no “of course” about it.
Others will note that the Scripture makes no reference to an “age of accountability” that evangelicals like to invoke when discussing the death of a child. It certainly does not teach the moral innocence of children, but demands training to lead a child into wise paths and righteousness. Charles Spurgeon said, “We believe that the infant fell in the first Adam, ‘for in Adam all died.’ If infants [are] saved it is not because of any natural innocence. They enter heaven by the very same way that we [adults] do: they are received in the name of Christ.” There is simply no other way to Heaven, but by the blood of Jesus, called the Christ (Acts 4:11-12; 1 Timothy 2:5).
So you may ask, from where does my confidence come that babies who die will be reunited with Christ-following parents? Spurgeon quoted the first half of 1 Corinthians 15:22. The whole sentence says, “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.” It is an unqualified claim that has no allowance for exception. It is categorical and absolute! Yet we understand clearly from the same Bible that not all are saved at the judgment (see Romans 2 and Revelation 20).
Therefore we must use the rational thought processes which God has given to understand this. Simply ask yourself, “How did I die in Adam?” We are found guilty before a perfect God for being born of someone who had sinned. The sin nature activated at our conception makes us guilty. It is a corporate guilt based on our genetic association and predisposition. And it is in this same way that we can be made alive! It is a corporate forgiveness based on Jesus’ position as the Second Adam (1 Corinthians 15:45-49). So Paul could tell the Romans, “Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.” (Romans 5:18)
This is why Paul became so excited as he went on to say, “but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 5:20-21) Where the corporate guilt of my involuntary participation in Adam’s sin is covered by the corporate forgiveness of my involuntary participation in Jesus’ resurrection, His grace and mercy extends past the corporate sin and guilt to my personal choices of sin that result in an even guiltier verdict.
Though there is no “age of accountability” mentioned it the Bible, the concept is clear in the Scripture to which we have been referred. All of us died because of Adam. All of us are saved from eternal death because of Jesus. But at the point I take initiative to disbelieve in Jesus, to choose my own way over what I have learned to be right and true, I am no longer saved under corporate salvation, but need my own salvation. I have to turn my life over to Jesus and make a conscious decision to trust Him for my salvation, and watch His grace abound even more! “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)