Sermon #132 Luke Sermons
Title: A Short, But Vital Sermon
Text: Luke 18:15-17
Subject: Receiving the Kingdom of God
As A Little Child
Date: Sunday Evening—October 31, 2004
Tape # Y-48
Readings: Rex Bartley and Ron Wood
Our text tonight is very brief. It contains just three verses. Yet, in these three verses, we have recorded one of our Master’s most important messages. The title of my message tonight is — A Short, but Vital Sermon. Our text will be Luke 18:15-17.
(Luke 18:15-17) “And they brought unto him also infants, that he would touch them: but when his disciples saw it, they rebuked them. (16) 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. (17) Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein.”
Very few passages in the New Testament have been so perversely twisted to teach false doctrine as these three verses. For that reason, I must, at least briefly, address two of the perverse things men most commonly use these verses to teach.
1. Infant Baptism — Papists and those who continue to practice the Romish ritual, commonly refer to these verses as a defense of sprinkling water on babies.
If there were any place in the Bible where we might expect to find some mention or example of “infant sprinkling” this would be the place; but that is not the case. This practice of what is called “infant baptism” is totally without foundation in Holy Scripture. There is not so much as one word in the Bible that teaches, or even implies it. And there is not a single example of it in the entire Bible. It is a practice purely of Roman Catholic origin. It is vainly hoped, by those who practice infant sprinkling that the baby sprinkled with a little water is thereby regenerated, or at least given one foot up toward God. The practice is, of course, totally contrary to the plainest declaration of Holy Scripture, both with regard to salvation and baptism.
· It is a complete contradiction of the gospel of God free and sovereign grace in Christ. Salvation does not come by water, be it much or little, but by grace. It is not the result of some man’s priestly pretense, but of God’s sovereign operation.
· Infant sprinkling is also totally contrary to the teaching of Holy Scripture about baptism. Baptism is immersion, picturing the death, burial and resurrection of Christ and our death, burial and resurrection with him (Rom. 6:3-6). It is called “believer’s baptism” because only believers are to be baptized. Baptism is the believer’s symbolic confession of faith in Christ.
2. Decisionism — These verses are also used by many to defend the practice of talking little children into making a “decision for Jesus” and calling it salvation.
I do not think, or suggest, that the Bible teaches what men call an age of accountability. That is not the issue. The issue is faith in Christ. Neither men and women, nor children, who are born of God need to be manipulated into professing faith in Christ. Indeed, if someone talked you into a profession of faith, you know that it was no more than that. You may hold onto it until you go to hell, but what you have is not salvation, just a religious profession. When God the Holy Spirit saves sinners, giving them faith in Christ, they are made willing disciples of the Son of God.
Having said that, I will say no more, though much more needs to be said, said boldly and said often about such perverse religious practices. Let me give you a brief exposition of these three verses. Then I will give you the Master’s message in them.
Verse 15 — “And they brought unto him also infants.” — The word translated “infants” is used with regard to unborn children, little babies, and young children. On this occasion, people brought these infants to the Savior, just as others brought adults to him who were sick, that they might be healed by his touch, as we see in the next words.
“That he would touch them.” —They brought these children to the Master that he might, as was his custom, heal them of their diseases by touching them.
“But when his disciples saw it, they rebuked them.” — The disciples rebuked those who brought these sick children to the Master. We are not told why the disciples’ rebuked those who brought these children. They may, very well have had what they thought were good reasons for doing so. In fact, that appears to have been the case, because the Lord Jesus did not, in any way scold them for their action. But this much is certain. — They did not bring the children to the Savior to be baptized by him. As John Gill observes…
“From this rebuke and prohibition of the disciples, it looks plainly as if it had never been the practice of the Jews, nor of John the Baptist, nor of Christ and his disciples, to baptize infants. Had this been then in use, they would scarcely have forbidden and rebuked those that brought them, since they might have thought they brought them to be baptized. But knowing of no such usage that ever obtained in that nation, neither among those that did, or did not believe in Christ, they forbad them.”
Verse 16 — “But Jesus called them unto him.” — The Lord Jesus called for these children who were brought to come to him. That fact is sufficient to tell us that these “infants” were not infants in the way we commonly speak of infants. They were obviously young children, probably less than twelve years old, but not new-born babies, or nursing babies. They were at least old enough to be capable of coming to the Master on their own.
When he called the children to himself, stretching out his arms to receive them, the Master said, to his disciples, — “suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not.” — Our Lord Jesus was such a gracious, humble, accommodating man that he readily seized the opportunity to tenderly embrace young children, take them on his lap, and minister to them. He was so gracious, gentle and kind, that young children were perfectly comfortable in approaching him.
“For of such is the kingdom of God”. — It is as if our Lord said, “Don’t drive these children away from me. Let them come, and I will teach you something. These children are a good picture of what I require all my children to be: trusting and dependent, harmless and inoffensive, free from bitterness and malice, meek, modest and humble, without pride, arrogance and ambition, having no desire for greatness, just children.”
Verse 17 — “Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God” — That is receive Christ as his King, believing his doctrine, bowing to his authority, obeying his will. — “As a little child” — In simple faith, meekly, humbly, trusting him as Lord and Savior. — “Shall in no wise enter therein.”
Proposition: In a word, our Savior here tells us that there is no true faith except that faith that is exemplified in childlike qualities.
What a profound, needful, vital message this is! May God give us grace to receive it. — “Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein.”
There are several things in this short sermon that must not go unnoticed.
1. When the Lord Jesus comes in saving power and grace into the lives of chosen sinners, he comes as a King to set up his Kingdom.
He does not come begging for admission. He comes into the hearts of chosen sinners in sovereign, omnipotent mercy. He binds Satan, spoils him of his goods, casts him out, and takes possession of his house.
2. If we are to come into this Kingdom, we must be brought to Christ the King and brought into the Kingdom as little children.
Our Master says, “Of such is the kingdom of heaven” (v. 17). — Mark those words. There are children in every kingdom, and there are children in our Lord’s kingdom. John Newton once said, “the majority of persons who are now in the kingdom of God are children.” I would not argue the point. When I think of all the multitudes of babies who have died in infancy, who are now swarming in the streets of glory, I rejoice in God’s great wisdom and goodness. Though adults, generation after generation, die in rebellion and unbelief, countless multitudes of infant children have entered into the kingdom of heaven, saved by the grace of God, through the death of Christ, and forever sing the high praises of their great Redeemer and Friend before the eternal throne of his glory. — “Of such is the kingdom of heaven.”
I have no hesitancy in asserting that infants dying in infancy (That includes the infants slaughtered in abortion, burned upon heathen altars, the infants of Papists, Mohammedans, and Buddhists.) enter the kingdom God. I am fully convinced that all of our race who die in infancy are the objects of God’s eternal love, redeemed by the blood of Christ, and born again by God the Holy Spirit. Let others object, if they please. For my part, I am delighted with this. Everything I read in the Book of God convinces me of it. All who leave this world as babies are saved.
Illustration: After I had begun preparing this message, I received a lengthy, sad letter from a dear friend of mine in another state. She and her husband married fairly late in life, just two or three years ago. They have been trying to have a child. You can imagine their elation when they learned that she was pregnant. Then, my dear friend miscarried. You can imagine their disappointment. She wrote to ask me two things.
1. Was my unborn child a human being? At what point is an unborn child a living person?
2. Is my child in heaven?
You can imagine my elation as I wrote back and said, “Yes, your baby is one of Christ’s jewels, taken from your womb into his everlasting arms and into his glory.
How are they saved? How do they enter the kingdom? — By works? — By the exercise of their will? Of course not! They enter the kingdom by the mighty operations of God’s free grace. And if we enter the kingdom of God, that is exactly the way we will enter it.
Now, how do they receive the kingdom, for in the same way must we receive it! Certainly children do not receive it by birth or blood, for we are expressly told in John’s gospel that the children of God are born not of blood nor of the will of the flesh. All privilege of descent is now abolished, and no baby enters into heaven because it was born of godly parents, neither shall any be shut out because his parents are atheists, or idolaters, or ungodly. If saved, as we assuredly believe they are, infants must be saved simply according to the will and good pleasure of God, because he has made them his own by election, redemption, and regeneration.
Notice this, too. “They brought unto him infants.” These young children were brought to Christ. The word means, “brought and presented.” So sinners, if ever they enter into the kingdom of God, must be brought by God the Holy Spirit, brought by omnipotent, irresistible grace and power, and presented to Christ, presented to him as the reward of his soul’s travail. Thus, “He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied.”
3. Yet, our Lord Jesus is a King and his Kingdom a Kingdom that must be received by faith.
All Christ’s subjects want to be his subjects. All his servants are willing, voluntary, bondservants. We serve him because we want to serve him. All that is done in the service of Christ is done because of love and gratitude to him, freely and voluntarily.
And, if ever you are saved, if ever you enter into the kingdom of God, you must come to Christ yourself, and receive Christ yourself. And his promise is, “Him that cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out.”
4. But the primary thing in this short, one verse sermon, is this. — All who receive this King and Kingdom, all who enter into the church and kingdom of God must do so as little children. Let me show you what that means.
I. A little child is completely and utterly dependent.
That is as good and clear a picture of faith in Christ as I can imagine — Total Dependence. Faith is complete dependence upon Christ.
· Dependence upon Him Alone as Our Savior (1 Cor. 1:30-31).
· Dependence upon Him Alone as Our Lord (Pro. 3:5-6).
· Dependence upon Him Alone as our Advocate and Intercessor.
II. A little child is humble, modest, unassuming. He knows that he is just a child.
Being just a child, he owns nothing. Faith comes to Christ as absolute Lord and King, giving up all things to him, willingly, acknowledging that all things are his.
But there is another lesson here. Faith looks to Christ for everything, offering him nothing.
· We trust his expiation, not our experience.
· We trust his mediation, not our morality.
· We trust his work, not our works.
· We trust his sanctification, not our sanctity.
· We trust his Priesthood, not our piety.
· We trust his sacrifice, not our service.
III. A little child is tender and loving.
The younger the child, the more this is true. A young child is crushed by a loving father’s disapproval, or a loving mother’s frown. He loves mom and dad. He craves nothing more than to do for them, honor them, and enjoy their approval and delight.
So it is with God’s saints. I am not saying this is the way it is with religious people, or even with very devoted religious people. But this is the way it is with God’s people. Believers love Christ and want to serve and honor him.
(2 Corinthians 5:14-15) “For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: (15) And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.”
(1 John 4:19) “We love him, because he first loved us.”
Illustration: Faith’s Dandelions
IV. A little child is an open book, honest, sincere, and without guile.
Pretense, hypocrisy and show are things a little child plays. He doesn’t try to live them.
Illustration: A Child’s Prayer
V. Children are teachable.
They are not just teachable. They are anxious to learn. Little children do not have to be convinced of anything by argument and reason, science and logic. They simply embrace the things plainly revealed to them. That is why they learn so much so quickly.
· The never debate the obvious.
· They do not try to make simple things complex.
Illustration: “God made everything, didn’t he.” — “God made that door, didn’t he?”
VI. A little child is relatively free of envy and ambition.
Those things they learn by observing us. Two children who are friends do not even think about what the other is wearing, how big or little their houses are or where, what kind of car their parents drive, how much money their parents have in the bank, or what their family heritage is. And they pay no attention to the color of their skin.
VII. One more thing you cannot help observing about children. They are quick to forgive.
(Ephesians 4:30-32) “And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. (31) Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: (32) And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”
(Ephesians 5:1-2) “Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; (2) And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour.”
(Luke 18:15-17) "And they brought unto him also infants, that he would touch them: but when his disciples saw it, they rebuked them. (16) 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. (17) Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein."