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Accountability:  When does it begin?

Gary Googe Oct 19

I feel like I’ve heard and read things about this all my life, but what are we to believe? What conclusions should we have about it? The general principle of man’s accountability to God is stated clearly in the Bible.  This is one of the main reasons some people deny the existence of God.  They know well that if there is a God, they are fully accountable to Him.

Romans 14:11-12

11 For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.

12 So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God. [Emphasis added]

But is there an age at which this accountability begins? It is this that seems to be the main question that is asked and debated.  However, I find that no specific age is given for us anywhere in the Bible.  But it does tell us that when a person rejects true knowledge of God, people are then held fully accountable to Him for making that choice.

John 12:48

48 He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day. [Emphasis added]

Notice what our Lord said about this in the time of His earthly ministry.

John 15:22

22 If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloak [PROPHASIS = cover or excuse] for their sin. [Emphasis added]

This then tells us that people ARE accountable when the truth has been given to them.  If they understand it and reject it, they are completely accountable for that decision and what they came to know.

Romans 1:19-21

19 Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them.

20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:

21 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. [Emphasis added]

Only when they don’t know the truth are they not held accountable.

John 9:41

41 Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth. [Emphasis added]

The Mosaic Law and other Scriptures served to make people mindful of their sin, causing them to see their need for help, namely, a Savior.

Romans 7:9-10

For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.

This simply tells us that when the law came into place it made man all the more aware of his guilt.  He then fully realized that his violation of it condemned him.

10 And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death. [Emphasis added]

The story of King David and his illegitimate child by Bathsheba provides us with some more insight about all this.

II Samuel 12:22-23

22 And he said, While the child was yet alive, I fasted and wept: for I said, Who can tell whether God will be gracious to me, that the child may live?

23 But now he is dead, wherefore should I fast? can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me. [Emphasis added]

This tells us David knew he’d see that child alive again in his eternal state.  He knew for sure that their separation by physical death would be only temporary.  Anyone at any age that has not reached a point when they can decide on such things need not fear God’s wrath in eternity.  They will never experience it.  They will end up in God’s eternal kingdom prepared for them.

Luke 18:16

16 But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Suffer [APHIEMI = permit] little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. [Emphasis added]

This is telling us that only when there’s rejection of God and His will can there be or will there be divine condemnation and eternal punishment.  Children who’ve not reached that time and gained the ability to make that choice either way are not condemned of God.  It is only when they can “see” the truth and reject it that they need to fear God.

John 9:41

41 Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth. [Emphasis added]

Their “sin” is their rejection of the truth that’s been made known to them.  People often, at least initially, reject it, but may later change their mind, believe, and gain justification and salvation.  For God has certainly made that provision and that possibility of salvation for ALL people.

Romans 3:23-26

23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;

24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:

25 Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;

26 To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. [Emphasis added]

It is God’s desire that all would be saved. 

II Peter 3:9

The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing [BOULOMAI = wishing or desiring] that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. [Emphasis added]

God made provision for the possibility of salvation for all, not just some people.  What Christ did through His death, burial, and resurrection is what makes salvation available and a possibility for all.

I John 2:2

And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. [Emphasis added]

II Corinthians 5:18-19

18 And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation;

19 To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. [Emphasis added]

This means that instead of imputing sins to man, they were all imputed to Christ on the cross and there they were judged completely. 

When the people of Israel faced God’s judgment in the wilderness for their unbelief regarding their entrance into the promised Holy Land, their children were spared because they still didn’t know right from wrong.  They had not reached an “age of accountability” as the adults all had.  This next verse shows us another time when this principle was applied.

Deuteronomy 1:39

39 Moreover your little ones, which ye said should be a prey, and your children, which in that day had no knowledge between good and evil, they shall go in thither, and unto them will I give it, and they shall possess it. [Emphasis added]

There are multiple Scriptures that speak of a child’s time of innocence, not knowing how to discern good from evil.

Isaiah 7:16

16 For before the child shall know to refuse the evil, and choose the good, the land that thou abhorrest shall be forsaken of both her kings. [Emphasis added]

Clearly everyone will be judged based on their own ability to discern right from wrong.  We all stand or fall based on our own decisions and our own ability to make those decisions.

Ezekiel 18:20

20 The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him. [Emphasis added]

Isn’t it wonderful to know that we have a totally fair and just God.  None of us need to concern ourselves with justice being done by Him.  He will be absolutely fair in dealing with us all.  Our part in this is to fulfill our own responsibilities.  As Christ’s ambassadors we are His representatives.  Our job is to faithfully present the good news about that which Christ has done to provide a way of salvation for all.  His love is readily available to all.  That was proven by what He did to provide a Savior so that anyone can be saved if they’ll respond to that provision by faith.

Romans 5:8-10

But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.

10 For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son [at the time of the cross], much more, being reconciled [at the time we believe it], we shall be saved by his life. [Emphasis added]

What good news this is for all of us! God has done all the work and we get to gain and enjoy all the blessing.  When the time of accountability comes, it needs to be met with faith in what God has provided as the solution to one’s sin problem.  As ambassadors for Christ, we just need to do our part in trying to get the message of the cross and resurrection to these people so they can believe it and be saved forever.

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