Is My Child Saved?
Every Christian parent desperately wants their child to receive God’s grace and trust in Christ for salvation. But even after saying a prayer for forgiveness, there can be moments where we step back and ask, “Are they really saved? Or are they just going through the motions?” The younger the child, the harder it is to see whether or not they have truly passed from unbelief to belief; death to life.
There are no easy answers to these questions. The famous colonial preacher Jonathan Edwards came up with 5 simple questions to help others test spiritual fruit, and he would apply them to children just as he did to adults.
Here are some quick theological “guidelines” that inform these questions.
- Moralism is not salvation. There are many “good” and “innocent” children, but that is not enough to meet God’s holy standards.
- The Holy Spirit indwells all believers, including children, and they receive all the gifts he has to offer and don’t have to wait until they’re older.
- Sanctification is a process. Just as good plants grow and produce fruit, so faithful children will grow spiritually and produce fruit in their own time.
- A child can have true faith but be lazy in that faith. Just as there are spiritually lethargic adults, one may not see evidence of faith because the child has grown lazy.
1. Do they make much of Jesus?
The Pharisees couldn’t stand a temple full of children singing praises to God and making much of Jesus. A child with true faith is enamored with Jesus—wanting to be close to Him; even introducing Him to others. Without faith they will sooner or later grow disinterested, seeing little or no value in Him like the seeds sown among thorns.
2. Do they love the Bible?
Among other things, God’s word is compared to light, milk, and honey: beautiful to see, delicious to taste, and something to be craved. And in several passages you see children and youth alongside these illustrations (Ps. 119:9, 103-105; I Pt. 2:2). I cannot blame a child for their boredom when my storytelling is mediocre, the memory verses look more like grocery lists, and the applications are a mishmash of spiritual truth and moralism. But when a child “tastes of God’s good word” for themselves they should want more, and the Holy Spirit gives them the understand to gradually fulfill those desires.
3. Do they hate sin?
This next point is tricky in some ways, because even when we have a desire to please God we also act according to our fleshly desires. The answer depends upon the aftermath. Do we feel the need to make things right and ask forgiveness, or does the guilt drive us to hide, become indifferent, or try to forget our sinful acts? Judas and Peter both sinned against Christ. Judas was filled with worldly guilt turning him inward to despair, while Peter turned outward to Jesus for forgiveness.
Children have this propensity too, but a child with true faith (and help from other believers) will grow in this area. The Bible clearly teaches that parental disciple helps drive out sin that is “bound up” in a child’s heart. Thus God uses spiritual and familial means to help a child hate sin.
4. Do they love truth?
One way to see if children love and seek the truth is to notice whether or not they ask questions and therefore, seek the truth. Questions are signs of curiosity. A child who loves God’s truth in not content with borrowing their parents’ faith. Keep in mind, if a child doesn’t ask questions, he or she still may be thirsty for truth, but may not see a good, open opportunity to ask them. Having a time where children feel safe to ask any question may reveal where their heart is.
5. Do they love others?
A common theme throughout John’s gospel and epistles is love. The fifth and perhaps most prominent point asks whether or not children have a love for others, especially the church. As Jesus said, anyone can love their friends, but Christians must love their enemies and pray for those who hurt them. Does the child have a growing love and patience with those they don’t naturally want to be around, especially those Christ has loved and died for: the Church?
Responses to these evidences are as various and unique as every child is. There are no easy answers. Even the soil sown among the rocks looked great at first. Some children with strong wills, grow up to love and serve Christ devotedly later in life, while others grow up enthusiastic yet eventually wither away.
A sixth sign of salvation is also a prayer and encouragement for us and our children: perseverance. This cannot be truly seen until the end, but Jesus promises to seal God’s children with the Holy Spirit, keep them from stumbling, and see them through to the end (Eph. 1:13; Jude 1:24; Heb. 38-39). We have hope for our parenting and pray earnestly for our children. Whether or not we see these 5 signs above worked out in their lives, we trust that God is good and that they may believe, bear fruit, and persevere to the end.