Are Children of Accountable Age Amenable to Christ’s Teaching?

By R.J. Stevens

According to Ephesians 6:4 they are. “Fathers provoke not our children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (KJV). “But bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (NAS). “Children” doesn’t always mean preschoolers. It is obvious from these passages that the children under discussion are old enough to receive instructions from the Lord’s teachings. I believe we must conclude that parents have the responsibility of teaching sons and daughters principles of truth which come from the Lord, especially the things Paul mentions in Ephesians 5:22 through Ephesians 6:4 regarding the family relationships. This must be done whether the children are Christians or not Christians. The words spoken by Jesus will judge sons and daughters of accountable age as it will judge their fathers and mothers. John 12:48 says, “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.”

Not long ago my wife and I were guests of a fine family during a gospel meeting. One of their sons is a faithful child of God, but their other son is not. It appears that he has no intention of becoming one. I pray that he will have a change of heart some day. Both sons had the same father and mother and were brought up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. It seems to me that both of them were responsible to God’s teaching when they reached an accountable age.

What I am getting ready to point out happens many times. However, I hope this doesn’t happen to either of my friend’s sons. Suppose the faithful son who is married commits fornication and leaves his wife and marries another. He knows this is contrary to Christ’s teachings. Can he expect to have fellowship with God by walking in the darkness of an unlawful adulterous relationship? According to 1 John 1:6, 1 Corinthians 5:5, 1 Corinthians 5:8-11 he is to be withdrawn from and God’s people are not supposed to even eat a common meal with him. This was done in Corinth to keep the leaven of wickedness out of the church and cause the fornicator to repent of sin and save his soul. It is implied in 2 Corinthians 2:4-11 and 7:8-12 that the man who had his father’s wife repented and severed the unlawful relationship. Therefore if the once faithful son of my friend wants to come back into fellowship with God and his people, he would have to repent and sever his unlawful adulterous relationship.

Now let’s suppose that the other son who never obeyed the gospel while he was at home marries and later commits fornication and marries again. Having been brought up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord he also knows that what he has done is contrary to the Lord’s teaching on marriage, divorce and remarriage. Now let’s suppose he decides he wants to be baptized for the remission of his sins, especially the sins of fornication and adultery. He desires to have fellowship with God and God’s people. In order for the older son to have fellowship with God, he would have to repent and sever his relationship with his adulterous spouse. Thanks be to God for some who have severed relationships that were adulterous. According to some brethren, the second son could continue in his unlawful adulterous marriage because he never had been in covenant relationship with the Lord and was not accountable to Christ’s teaching on marriage, divorce and remarriage, even though he had the same dad and mother who taught him the same principles his older brother had been taught.

James says there is only one lawgiver (Jas. 4:12). It is hard for me to understand that there is more than one law given to govern the morals of these two sons we have talked about. If they both commit the same immoral acts of fornication and adultery, I believe they both must repent in the same way. Our problem is not so much which law they are under but what is involved in repentance. We seem to have a double standard for repentance, one for children of God and one for aliens.

Now, if an unbelieving son or daughter of parents who are faithful to God is amenable to Christ’s teaching on marriage, divorce and remarriage, wouldn’t their unbelieving neighbors be amenable to Christ’s teaching on marriage, divorce and remarriage? All unbelievers will answer to Christ in the day of judgment (Jn. 8:24; 12:48).

There are many good brethren who are just as conscientious as I am who hold a view different than what this article teaches. But one thing for sure we both can’t be right if we teach conflicting views. Let’s keep on studying because we love one another and want to be united here and in heaven. (Reprinted from Gospel Truths, June 1991.)

Guardian of Truth XXXV: 15, pp. 483-484
August 15, 1991