Jesus said to let the little children come to Him without hindrance (Mt. 19:14). He wanted to bless children, and was not too busy, too tired or too uninterested to see them. In Matthew 18 the child did not hesitate to go to Jesus. On the other hand, Proverbs 22:6 says that if you leave a child to his own way, you will not be able to get him to depart from it later. That is a warning to heed, not a promise of good results as is often taught. Children need training and usually have lots of questions.
As parents we should communicate to children who God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit are. Children cannot learn everything all at once, but they can learn these truths one at time as caring parents and others communicate these truths carefully on the child's level and with the Holy Spirit's preparation of the child's heart.
What is salvation?
Children can be helped to understand sin, its penalty and the need for the payment of salvation? that penalty (Ps. 1:5; Rm. 3:10, 23). They should know that Jesus Christ, God's only Son, (Jn. 1:1-3, 14; Col. 2:9; Heb. 4:15) became man (Phil. 2:6-7), died to pay for our sin (Rm. 4:25; 2 Cor. 5:21), now lives victorious (1 Cor. 15:3-4) over sin and death (Rm. 6:23) and is preparing a place for us in heaven (Jn. 14:2-3). Sin has separated us from our holy and just God (Lv. 11:44-45; 1 Sm. 2:2; 1 Pt. 1:16), and each person must, by faith and repentance, accept the free gift of salvation (Acts 3:19, 17:30, 26:20; Rm. 10:10; Eph. 2:8-9). Salvation is turning from sin and self-rule and submitting to Christ through faith in Him.
Pray fervently. It is our responsibility to pray fervently and expect God to work. hat the & expectantly children will hear the Word of God (Rm. 10:17); that God will open their eyes and that they will turn from darkness to light (Acts 26:18); and that their hearts will believe, resulting in justification, and their mouths confess, resulting in salvation (Rm. 10:10).
Pray that God will break the tyranny of Satan over their minds (understanding); the tyranny of affection for the world over the emotions; and the tyranny of the pride of life over the will. When praying like this, we should also ask for protection by God from the enemy for our own souls, because Jesus paid the price for us with His blood, and we belong to Him.
Parents and teachers need not and should not urge young children to "ask Jesus into respond their hearts" through an external response such as a prayer. Children want to please those who care for them. It is unlikely that we or a child would know when a proper response is made if the child senses that we want them to do something in a certain way. Parents should urge children to repent of their sins and trust Christ for salvation. At some point in their lives, children must individually respond from the heart to God. We must trust the Holy Spirit to use the Word of God to cause them to make a real decision (Jn. 3:6).
Primary children also want to please adults. Juniors are beginning to develop some independent thinking, but they still want to please. We must be good examples and treat children respectfully. Teens need to consider their position before God carefully. We must teach children that they must turn to follow God. They cannot please God on their own.
How can we teach about salvation?
It will usually be evident when God is working in a student's heart. The student will talk about salvation, ask questions repeatedly to clarify issues, and watch the lives of those communicating these truths (thus the responsibility to not hinder or forbid, Mt. 19:14). We must teach the truths of salvation consistently and encourage each step of faith as the children grow.
We should plant and water seeds of salvation and not be a hindrance; God brings the we teach? Below are some questions to discuss with children from time to time. Primaries can begin to understand the references more fully and should be helped to look up the verses and learn the truths in them. This is neither an exhaustive nor an exclusive list.
Do not try to cover this whole list at one sitting. Choose one or two questions at appropriate times, and make it an enjoyable experience for both you and your student. Be sure to stop when your student stops. Be ready to talk when your student brings up these subjects. The day will come when there is enough understanding, and it is time for a decision. May the angels in heaven rejoice together with you.
When our own son was five years old, a special opportunity came one Sunday morning at home. All four of our family were sitting at the table talking about the facts of salvation which our son seemed to understand completely. While we as parents were trying to decide whether or not to encourage him to commit his life to Jesus, he hopped off his seat and curled up on his knees on the floor silently. In a moment he jumped back on his seat and said, "Jesus is in my heart now." I asked him how he knew, and he said, "Because I asked him to come in, and He did." Further evidence as he has matured indicates this was a good birth.
At the same time our two-year-old daughter seemed to understand, and she wanted to ask Jesus into her heart. However, thinking she just wanted to do what her brother had done, we would not let her, at which she burst into tears. Unhappy with the situation, I looked for another opportunity to talk with her, which came a month later. Again she cried, and this time I helped her pray. Then she was happy and content that Jesus was in her heart.
At age four she was unsure of her salvation. Again we talked, and she prayed. Now she tells people she made her decision twice, once when she was two years of age and once when she was four because she could not remember her two-year-old decision. Once at age eight she wept over a friend who was agreeing to pray for Jesus to come into her heart, but as a ritual rather than from repentance. Our daughter wanted to explain to her friend that you have to mean it. She seems to have had a good birth, also.
One student had been dropped off at Sunday School on a regular basis for a number of years while the parents went to an adult class a few blocks away. The parents were looking for a way to hear the Bible being taught. The student heard good stories in the Sunday School and learned about consistently going to church. One day the student was invited to attend a Bible-centered camp. There she heard the salvation message for the first time. She immediately recognized her sin and desired to have that sin paid for. She responded in trust and repentance and experienced a wonderful sense of freedom and comfort, knowing that her sins were paid for and that God loved her unconditionally. This twelve-year-old only needed to hear the gospel; sadly, weekly stories had never included the truths of salvation.
Our prayer for you
May God give you wisdom in explaining salvation to your children; and may they have open hearts to hear the Word of God, believe in their hearts, confess with their mouths and be saved.