Thank you so much for your very good question my dear friend! So, let’s look at the Scriptures you have cited: “But Jesus called them unto Him, and said, Suffer little children to come unto Me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein”.

What I believe this Scripture is telling us is that our Lord Jesus wants parents to bring their little children to learn about Him and be taught of Him at an early age, and that it is that humility of spirit and a childlike faith that is so valued by our Lord. If a small child wants to come to Jesus, they should definitely be encouraged in this, and never discouraged.

Now, we might get a bit more insight into the meaning of these verses if we consider the context of the verses directly preceding those you have cited. It seems to me that a certain humility of spirit in anyone is important to confessing one’s sins and looking to God for grace, and little children are generally very humble in spirit. In the parable just previous to this section on the little children, the Lord speaks about this humility of spirit in the example of the Pharisee and the publican. The Pharisee prayed, but his prayer revealed his pride in his own moral achievements, justifying that he was glad to be “better” than others. He did not recognize that he too was a sinner. But the publican, on the contrary, was humble in spirit and acknowledged himself as a sinner, and thus he prayed with much contrition and humility of spirit, and it was he who went down to his home justified rather than the self-important Pharisee. Little children are generally without guile and are open to what they are taught, and hence the admonition for all to come like a little child: ”… Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein”. But please understand that adults are not barred from salvation just because they are older and didn’t receive Christ when they were younger. Salvation is for anyone who will truly believe. It is just that adults often have become so “educated” or self-important or hardened of heart that they have difficulty believing the simplicity of the Gospel. We read in 1 Corinthians 1:18: “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God”. Thus, it is that child-like faith that is required for salvation, and not at all the actual age of a person that is being spoken of here. In the MacDonald Bible Commentary on these verses, we read: “Little children do not need to become adults in order to be saved, but adults do need the simple faith and humility of a little child in order to enter God’s kingdom”.

Now, I want to stress that the insistence of the Lord Jesus that little children be brought to Him is not an indication that infant baptism is any requirement for salvation. I tell you this because when I was growing up, I was in a church that taught infant baptism, which I have since come to understand was a false teaching. The teaching there was that a person needed to be baptized just after birth in order for that child to be saved if it should die. But this, I believe is a great error because it adds a human requirement to salvation. If a baby or a very young child dies before there could be any real understanding of salvation by grace alone and not works, then I believe that child goes immediately to heaven. One of my reasons for saying this comes from Luke 18:16 above where we read, “…Suffer little children to come unto Me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God”. This particular verse should be most comforting to anyone who has lost a baby or a young child, and I am one in that company.

But, as I have mentioned above, it is not only little children who make up the kingdom of God, but anyone who comes to the Lord in openness and humility of heart like one of these children. In order to demonstrate that salvation is for any who will believe, regardless of their age, I would direct you to John 5:24, Ephesians 2:8-9, John 3:16, Romans 10:9, and there are many other references.

I fervently pray that this response answers your questions and concerns regarding Luke 18:16-17. May the Lord bless His Word to your heart.  (SF)  (542.1)