Suffer Little Children to Come Unto Me

Mark 10:14
14 But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.

Under the influence of false doctrine, this passage has been used in the endeavour to prove that infants go to heaven at death. This abolishes "faith" as a condition of salvation, puts a premium on ignorance, and compels us to discount the value of the gospel. "The just shall live by faith" (Rom. 1:17; Gal. 3:11; Heb. 10:38). "But, without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him" (Heb. 11:6). "Alienated from the life of God through ignorance" (Eph. 4:18). "The gospel of Christ is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth" (Rom. 1:16). If infants are saved in ignorance and, "without faith," and go to heaven at death, then these things are not true, and it is a great pity we did not all die in infancy, and not grow up to maturity, perhaps to learn the gospel only to disobey and be lost! An interpretation that leads to such conclusions must be wrong. The root of the error is a wrong doctrine concerning human nature, which of necessity upsets Christ's doctrine of "the Kingdom of God" (verse 15) and the relation of children thereto.

Children considered merely as children are nothing in the sight of God; yea, "All nations before him are as nothing; and they are counted to him less than nothing and vanity" (Isa. 40:17). They are but the mortal descendants of our first parents, who were condemned to die because of sin (Gen. 2:17). "That which is born of the flesh is flesh," says the Lord Jesus (John 3:6). And "the flesh profiteth nothing" (John 6:63). Adam and Eve were expressly cut off from access to the tree of life, lest they should "eat and live for ever" (Gen. 3:22). "Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return" (verse 19) was the sentence. And since they did not live for ever, but returned to dust, their progeny could not and did not inherit immortality from them, but returned to dust likewise. As a matter of fact, the first baby turned out to be a murderer. "Cain was of that wicked one, and slew his brother" (1 John 3:12). In after times, God commanded the destruction of many "infants and sucklings." "Go and smite Amelek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass" (1 Sam. 15:3). And the sword of the Lord destroyed the sucklings of Israel also when they too transgressed (Deut. 32:25; Jer. 44:7). "Not because they were responsible transgressors, but on the same principle that men not only destroy all adult serpents that come in their way, but their thread-like progeny also." It is true that Paul speaks of "holy" children in 1 Cor. 7:14; but the word here simply means legitimate as against "unclean" or illegitimate: for the question under consideration was marriage with unbelievers, as forming part of the larger question of marriage in general. "By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin" (Rom. 5:12). "Death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression" (verse 14); that is, over the multitude of infants and sucklings that died before they had time to become actual transgressors. How many such would be swept away in the Deluge!

Jesus as a child — and afterwards.— Jesus was "holy in a special sense (Luke 1:35), because begotten by the Holy Spirit, and not by the will of man (John 1:13). He was the "seed of the woman" promised in Eden (Gen. 3:15). "God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16). He said this with reference to his being "lifted up" like the serpent in the wilderness (verse 14); that is, crucified. He himself was saved "through death" (Heb. 2:14; 5:7, 8). Of his infancy we hear very little — almost nothing; and not much more of his youth.

"Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man" (Luke 2:52). When he was but twelve years of age, the doctors in the temple "were astonished at his understanding and answers" (verse 47). Then he was "subject unto" his parents at Nazareth (verse 51) until his baptism in Jordan, when he was "about thirty years of age" (Luke 3:23). After this, he was tempted in the wilderness, and "returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee" (Luke 4:14); and thenceforward went forth preaching the gospel of "the Kingdom of God" (verse 43), and declaring those to be his friends who "continued in his word" (John 8:31), and did whatsoever he commanded (John 15:14). This is the way of salvation; and there is no other.

The destiny of infants. — "Death reigns" over those that die in infancy (Rom. 5:14). They lie still and are quiet. "Why died I not from the womb? Why did I not give up the spirit when I came out of the belly? ... For now should I have lain still and been quiet. I should have slept. Then had I been at rest" (Job 3:11,12). Thus, though infants cannot be glorified in heaven, they certainly are not tormented for ever in "hell." They "lie quiet" in the Bible hell, that is in the grave, unconscious of any loss, for there there is "no knowledge" (Eccl. 9:10); but "thoughts have perished" (Psa. 146:4). "If I make my bed in hell" (Psa. 139:8), this is my portion, though God can redeem me thence. David was sadly exercised over the destiny of an infant (2 Sam. 12:14). The Lord said: "The child shall surely die." (It was a punishment — not a blessing.) David prayed, saying, "Who can tell whether God will be gracious to me, that the child may live?" (verse 22). But God was not "gracious" to that extent, and the child died. Then David ceased mourning, and his servants were surprised, "But," said he, "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" (verse 23). It is not heaven (Acts 2:34), but hell, or the grave, that is in question. There David has "gone to him," for "all go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again" (Eccl. 3:20; see also Acts 2:29; 13:36). But David will "awake" from his "bed in hell" (Psa. 17:15).

"The Children of God" .— The gracious action of Jesus had reference to the fitting of children (and adults) to become "the children of God" in "the Kingdom of God." When he said, "Of such is the Kingdom of God," he did not mean that it was peopled by saved infants. He immediately added: "Whosoever shall not receive the Kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein" (verse 15). Perhaps Peter's words are the best illustration of his meaning here. "As new-born babes desire the sincere milk of the Word, that ye may grow thereby" (1 Pet. 2:2). Again, Paul says, "Brethren, be not children in understanding : howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men" (1 Cor. 14:20). And Christ says, "the good seed are the children of the kingdom" (Matt. 13:38); because they have heard "the word of the kingdom," understood it, and with simple child-like faith obeyed it. On another occasion, Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of his disciples, who had become exercised on the question, "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" And he said, "Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 18:3, 4). Christ's "gospel of the kingdom" is so simple and beautiful that children soon apprehend it, and thus "come unto him." In obeying the truth by being "baptized into Christ" (Gal. 3:27), they become "children of God by faith in Christ Jesus" (verse 26). When this is done in all humble sincerity, whether in youth or mature life, it is "receiving the Kingdom of God as a little child"; and if that frame of mind be faithfully and obediently maintained to the end, "an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our lord and saviour, Jesus Christ" (2 Pet. 1:11).

Reproduced from: The Christadelphian Shield: Papers Explanatory of Wrested Scriptures