I was prompted today to join a Facebook group (Young, Restless and Reformed) when I saw the question of infant salvation.
It is very important to note that I am no expert. These are my reflections on the subject as I reviewed it several times over the past couple years with friends in conversations and Bible studies. Please feel free to contribute to the conversation with a comment or blog response. I posted my response to the group here so that others may also benefit.
Infant salvation is a good question. I’ve only really heard one explanation, within orthodoxy (excluding baptism as a saving act), of whether or not infants are always saved when they die. It boils down to “yes, always”. There is one Scripture that references David’s prayer and conversation with his servants in 2 Samuel 12:22-23:
22He said, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept, for I said, ‘Who knows whether the LORD will be gracious to me, that the child may live?’ 23But now he is dead. Why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he will not return to me.”
The conclusion is that David, a prophet and king, gave us revelation that he would see his son again in heaven so all infants go to heaven.
A second argument is that there is an “age of reason” beyond which people are responsible for their sin. According to this view all infants are saved because they have not reached this age and are therefore not responsible for their sin, even original sin. I think it’s best to be clear about the whole “age of reason”. I have never found it in the Bible. If it were a solid doctrine then wouldn’t someone conclude that if their children don’t make it to this age of reason then they will go to heaven? In other words, why trust God to do according to His good purpose concerning the salvation of your children when you could just … and they’d go to heaven?
I think there is more though. Salvation is still all of God’s grace by faith, even for babies. Someone might say “So, babies just go to hell if they die because they don’t exercise faith?” Um… NO! That’s definitely refuted by the 2 Samuel passage above. We don’t know that all babies automatically go to heaven. And if Scripture is sufficient, we don’t need to know. One thing we know is that the elect of God cannot die before the Holy Spirit acts on them to regenerate them and they exercise faith. One thing we don’t know, consistently anyway, is what an infant’s faith would look like. But another thing we know is that there is a strong indication in Scripture that infants can show faith. Luke 1:15b reads, “[John the baptist] will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb”. Luke 1:41a and 1:44:
41And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb…. 44“For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.”
So I guess I haven’t fully answered the question. And I don’t think it can be answered until we reach heaven. Also, it is not necessary for our faith or practice to know if all infants go to heaven because Scripture is sufficient. In the end, we know God is gracious and merciful beyond our comprehension. We have to rest in this and the insights we have from Scripture, which are enough.