Who are the Children?

by Dr. Ken Matto


(Mat 19:13-15 KJV) Then were there brought unto him little children, that he should put his hands on them, and pray: and the disciples rebuked them. {14} But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. {15} And he laid his hands on them, and departed thence.

Jesus loves the little children
All the children of the world,
Red, and Yellow, Black and White,
They are precious in His sight,
Jesus loves the little children of the world.

Since I was a child I have heard the above song and even sung it myself. Today you hear this song in every church, whether liberal, conservative, or saved. Based upon this song many have built a theology on the subject of God’s love for all the children. When the Lord Jesus was on earth I do not doubt for a minute that he attracted many children who heard Him speak. To this day the teachings and sayings of the Lord Jesus attract many, both old and young, saved and unsaved. Unfortunately, the teachings of Jesus have been twisted to suit any type of bias a person has or make any case they want. Here is an example as I set the groundwork for this study:

Divorce is Acceptable by Jesus

(Mat 19:9 KJV) And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.

but they neglect

(Luke 16:18 KJV) Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery.

The teachings of Jesus from Scripture have been so distorted based on the bias of the interpreter. The church has become a haven for spiritual prostitution and this is greatly seen in the arena of marriage and divorce. The baneful clergy do not concern themselves with God’s spiritual laws on marriage and divorce, only the states position. The state wants to make sure that there is no polygamy involved so a divorce is enacted before the people marry again and since the state and church have thrown God’s laws out, the result is utter chaos. Well in God’s sight to divorce and remarry, you are a spiritual polygamist whether you want to believe it or not. Remember, emotional interpretation does not institute truth, the Bible does.

This same scenario has happened greatly in the subject of the status of children before God. There is one thing we must always keep in mind that Jesus is eternal God and never ceased to be God while He was on earth. This does not mean that just because God came to earth in the flesh in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ that God’s laws have been negated. Nothing could be further from the truth. (Heb 13:8 KJV) Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.

In this study I want to look at the subject of children and their standing before God and to see if the verses which are used to convey that God loves the little children are indeed speaking of little children. This study will definitely rub many the wrong way. It was Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels who said, "Tell a lie long enough and it becomes truth." (paraphrased) In the church the same scenario exists. Teach a false or palatable doctrine long enough and it becomes foundational doctrine of the church. Two quick examples: Have you ever read a church doctrinal statement and saw the following:

We believe in the pre-millennial return of Christ, or

We believe in the restoration of the Jews

I cannot find these doctrines in the Bible yet they are taught in 95% of the churches as biblical fact. I have previously written a paper on the Age of Accountability where pastors and theologians teach that children are under the blood of Christ until the time they can begin to understand good or evil. J. Vernon McGee believed the Age of Accountability may have been 20 years old in conjunction with the age temple service began. If that is the case, then the two teenage "drugged up by Psychiatric drugs" killers in Littleton, Colorado are saved and in heaven right now enjoying fellowship around the throne. Pathetic isn’t it? Let us begin to look very closely at some verses concerning children and see if we have been sold another bill of goods or the truth.


Matthew 18:1-6 (parallel passages - Mark 9:35-37; Luke 9:48-50)
{1}At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? {2} And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, {3} And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. {4} Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. {5} And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me. {6} But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.
"except ye be converted"
Matthew 18:1-6 gives us some very good initial insight into the subject at hand. Whenever we look at passages we must look closely at the wording within the passages which we will do during this time. When the Lord is commenting on the question of who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven, notice the first main issue He speaks of which is, "except ye be converted," which is the first requirement of salvation. Converted is the word "straphete" which means turn or change. Here it means a complete change. It comes from the root word "strepho" which means "turn." This is the only place in the New Testament this word is used. We see this word more clearly in 1 Thessalonians 1:9 where we read

(1 Th 1:9 KJV) For they themselves show of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God;

The word turned is "epistrepho" which means a turn or change of direction. This word is a cognate of "strepho." A cognate is a word which is connected to another word by means of descent from a common word. These two words show us that a person turns from the things of the world and the only way a person does that is through salvation.


"as little children" & "as this little child"
Notice the Lord did not say "these little children are saved" because He is using the small child as an example of how the believer is to act as a child of God. How do little children act? Let me give you 10 ways a child acts:


Characteristics of the childlike mind the believer needs to adopt:
1. Implicit trust
2. Teachable
3. No pre-programmed attitudes
4. Willing to pattern themselves after their superiors
5. Willing to be submissive
6. They feel safe in the family when facing adverse conditions
7. They are loyal
8. They befriend other children
9. They are inquisitive
10. They have the ability of unquestionable love


{5} And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me.

The Lord is also saying that if one of His saved children brings a person the gospel, and if that person is God’s elect, then they are not only receiving that child but are receiving the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. Remember what the Bible calls us no matter what our age: 2 Cor 5:20, "Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God."

We are the ambassadors of Christ and we represent Him on this earth but especially when we bring the gospel we are either delivering the message of eternal life to the elect or eternal death to the reprobate.


offend one of these little ones which believe in me

The word "offend" carries with it the meaning of "cause one to fall into sin" or to place a stumbling block in the path." The Lord is warning those who would hinder or who intentionally troubles one of the Lord’s children will face eternal damnation. (2 Thessalonians 1:7-10) Let me say at this juncture that God saves little children as well as adults and maybe the child which the Lord Jesus picked out of the crowd for that living parable was a believer. I am not saying that God does not save children, I am saying that children are not saved simply because they are children. The Bible does not teach the innocence of children. If we look at the following passages, we can safely conclude that children are included in this group since they are born into the human family.

(1 Ki 8:46 KJV) If they sin against thee, (for there is no man that sinneth not,) and thou be angry with them, and deliver them to the enemy, so that they carry them away captives unto the land of the enemy, far or near;

(Psa 58:3-4 KJV) The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies. {4} Their poison is like the poison of a serpent: they are like the deaf adder that stoppeth her ear;

(Rom 3:10 KJV) As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:


Matthew 19:13-15 (Parallel Passages - Mark 10:13-16; Luke 18:13-16)

(Mat 19:13-15 KJV) Then were there brought unto him little children, that he should put his hands on them, and pray: and the disciples rebuked them. {14} But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. {15} And he laid his hands on them, and departed thence.

Here is a situation in which the disciples rebuked the children yet the Lord wanted the little children to come to him. Why would the disciples rebuke the children and the Lord permitted them to come to Him? Within the group of children were no doubt some of His elect. Remember Matthew 22:14, "For many are called, but few are chosen." We have a parallel situation in our day when in church it comes time for the sermon we send the children to another place instead of letting them hear from the Bible which is the Word of God. It is like the elders or deacons in that church rebuking the children and forbidding them to come to the Lord. Sorry is the church who grows their children on pabulum and not meat. This may explain why each succeeding generation is weaker than their predecessors.

Let us look at this time at some of the verses which are used in the New Testament to show that when the Bible speaks of little children, it speaks to the believer. While there are passages which speaks of physical children, they must be viewed in the context of where the terms appear such as the following verses which speak specifically of physical children. Notice in these five verses there is nothing alluding to salvation or Children of God, just statements concerning physical children.

(Mat 19:29 KJV) And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name's sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life.

(Mat 22:24 KJV) Saying, Master, Moses said, If a man die, having no children, his brother shall marry his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother.

(Luke 7:32 KJV) They are like unto children sitting in the marketplace, and calling one to another, and saying, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned to you, and ye have not wept.

(Luke 11:13 KJV) If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?

(Acts 21:5 KJV) And when we had accomplished those days, we departed and went our way; and they all brought us on our way, with wives and children, till we were out of the city: and we kneeled down on the shore, and prayed.


Now let us look at some verses in the Scriptures which absolutely allude to being Children of God.

(Gal 4:19 KJV) My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you,

(1 John 2:1 KJV) My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous:

(1 John 2:12 KJV) I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name's sake.

(1 John 2:13 KJV) I write unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning. I write unto you, young men, because ye have overcome the wicked one. I write unto you, little children, because ye have known the Father.

(1 John 2:18 KJV) Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time.

(1 John 2:28 KJV) And now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming.

(1 John 3:7 KJV) Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous.

(1 John 4:4 KJV) Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.

(1 John 5:21 KJV) Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen.


Now we have seen that in the epistles the term ‘little children" which specifically allude to being Children of God. Let us look at a few times in which the Lord Jesus refers to His own as children.

(Mark 10:24 KJV) And the disciples were astonished at his words. But Jesus answereth again, and saith unto them, Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God!

(Luke 20:36 KJV) Neither can they die any more: for they are equal unto the angels; and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection.

(John 8:39 KJV) They answered and said unto him, Abraham is our father. Jesus saith unto them, If ye were Abraham's children, ye would do the works of Abraham.

(John 13:33 KJV) Little children, yet a little while I am with you. Ye shall seek me: and as I said unto the Jews, Whither I go, ye cannot come; so now I say to you.

(John 21:5 KJV) Then Jesus saith unto them, Children, have ye any meat? They answered him, No.



We have looked at some verses which teach that children have the same standing before God as every human being on earth. I do not doubt for a minute that the Lord spoke with many children while here on earth. The following passages confirm that many children were under His teaching.

(Mat 14:21 KJV) And they that had eaten were about five thousand men, beside women and children.

(Mat 15:38 KJV) And they that did eat were four thousand men, beside women and children.

However, a child who is under the teaching of Christ or of a certain age does not guarantee any type of standing salvation. When a person, whether child or adult, receives salvation from God, then they become a child of God. The Bible never endorses the idea that Jesus loves all the children of the world, since all the children of the world are not of His elect. In fact, Jesus being eternal God, gave the following Scriptures:

(Psa 5:4-6 KJV) For thou art not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness: neither shall evil dwell with thee. {5} The foolish shall not stand in thy sight: thou hatest all workers of iniquity. {6} Thou shalt destroy them that speak leasing: the LORD will abhor the bloody and deceitful man.

Sin is so abhorrent to a thrice Holy God that He not only hates the sin which is committed but he hates the actual person who is committing the sin. If a child is unsaved, they are at enmity with God just as an unsaved adult is. There is no such thing as an innocent child in God’s sight unless they are the elect. Adults view children as innocent based on the reasoning that they have not yet experienced the sins of the world. Many parents say the same thing. Now let us look at a reality about parenthood. How many little children are rebellious, self-centered, obstreperous, covetous (toy stores), liars (not me, I didn’t do it) etc. Guess where those things come from? The sin nature and that is evidence of sin at work even in the smallest child. Those five evidences of sin are just as abhorrent to a thrice holy God as is murder, theft, adultery, etc.

The availability of sin to an adult is as wide as to what the world offers. The availability of sin to a child is as wide as to what his/her small world offers. A child is as accountable to God for his or her actions as an adult is. Their sins may be of another type and severity but nevertheless it is sin. We cannot make a blanket statement that all children are loved by God since they are sinners too. There is no blanket statement in Scripture teaching the universal love of God for all children. The only little children that God loves are His elect. If an unsaved child dies, they go to a place of silence to await the judgment. If a saved child dies, they go right into the presence of Christ just like a saved adult who physically dies. I know parents do not like to read articles like this but it may be used as a cudgel to bring them up in the fear and nurture of the Lord and not in the teachings of TV. TV brings the "Wide World of Sin" right into your living room so if your child is immersed in it’s teachings, then how else would you expect them to act and creating a "God loves all the little children" doctrine does not negate the truth of their standing before God.

Let us take our theology from the Bible and not from a song someone made up. In fact, we can even correct that song and still sing it without compromising true biblical teaching.

Jesus loves the elect children
All the elect children of the world,
Red, and Yellow, Black and White,
They are precious in His sight,
Jesus loves the elect children of the world.