Revised 04/2004             .
A Prayer of Jesus
I thank thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes; yea, Father, for such was thy gracious will.
Salvation History
Part III
 The Salvation of the Infants

By Edgar Jones
Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Jesus, Matthew 18:3
The New Testament Greek (for children) in this utterance is paidia.  It is the same word used to designate the infant Jesus while he was yet with his mother in Bethelehem (See Matthew 2:11, 13, 14, 20). Therefore what we speak of here is the salvation of infants, of those who have turned, been converted and have become the infants of God.  Jesus also utilized this word in addressing his disciples (John 21:5).  It follows that he considers his disciples to be the infants of God and therefore it is fitting that we think of Jesus' disciples in this world (that is, of ourselves) as not just children but as little children, or infants, of God the Father.  To acquire this status one must be begotten from above, or regenerated, of the Spirit.  It is this word, regenerates, that was used to designate the third tier of salvation in the previous papers in this series.  I now see that infants is a more appropriate term to describe this third tier.  The three tiers then become:
  • The salvation of the innocents
  • The salvation of the penitents
  • The salvation of the infants
Here we briefly review and summarize the significance of the first two tiers as set forth in the first two parts of this series. (See Part 1 and Part 2.)

The first tier, the salvation of the innocents, is the eternal redemption of all those humans who depart this world in the state of innocents before the Father.  This includes all little children and others who, for any reason (such as mental retardation) have no sin and no need of repentance toward God. Jesus tells us concerning them:

[10] See that you do not despise one of these little ones; for I tell you that in heaven their angels always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven.
Because God is eternally merciful and just, this salvation of the innocents holds true in every clime, time and tint of humanity and history.

The second tier, the salvation of the penitents, holds for all humans who, by the fact of their mental and spiritual maturity have become knowledgeable as to sin and guilt before God, and therefore accountable before God for their actions and attitudes.  God is most merciful and forgiving toward all mankind for all eternity, and requires, for their salvation, only that humans of any clime, time and tint repent of their sins and, in justice, forgive those who have offended them and who have repented.  These penitents include the patriarchs and prophets of ancient Israel that did not know the Truth that we have in Jesus, but that neverless were good servants of God and repentant of their sins:

Matt. 8[11] I tell you, many will come from east and west and sit at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven . . .

They continue to serve in heaven as the "hired servants" of the Father.  Whenever such penitents, that have never heard the Word of Jesus, exhibit the qualities designated by Jesus in the Beatitudes, they confirm their fitness for posts as hired servants in the Father's house and attain to salvation.

The Purpose of Jesus

Now we turn to the third tier of salvation, that of the infants, and about this time you are asking, "What did Jesus accomplish by coming into the world?"

If people were saved before him, and I take it that Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, all the prophets and "many . . . from east and west (who, according to Jesus, are or will be in the kingdom and therefore are saved before him), what purpose did Jesus serve in his life and crucifixion?  If his contemporaries and subsequent generations throughout history require only repentance for forgiveness, why did Jesus come and suffer?

A. The Revelation of Truth

We would not know the things that I am outlining here apart from the teaching that Jesus brought into the world.  Don't you notice that I am establishing everything by reference to his words?  Therefore, we could have no basis for confidence in the efficacy of repentance and forgiveness of sins apart from his teaching.  This is only the beginning.

B. The Status of the Ancient Saints -- Servants!

Now we set forth the larger purpose served by Jesus in his coming to earth by first examining the status, before God, of all those patriarchs and prophets who came before him, who never heard Jesus speak, yet who enter the kingdom of God.  I showed above that they are servants.  Now let us briefly examine the status of each individual singled out by Jesus as entering the kingdom.

First, there is Abraham.  Now what was, and is, the status of Abraham before God?

[24] And the LORD appeared to him the same night and said, "I am the God of Abraham your father; fear not, for I am with you and will bless you and multiply your descendants for my servant Abraham's sake."
Abraham was, and is, a servant of God.  He is also a friend of God, but there is no other designation applied to him in scripture.

Next we have Isaac and Jacob.  What was, and is, their status before God?

Deut.9[27] Remember thy servants, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob . . ..
They were only servants like their progenitor, Abraham -- no less and no more.

And all those prophets?  They are but servants also, according to the scriptures:

[7] Not so with my servant Moses; he is entrusted with all my house.
[8] With him I speak mouth to mouth, clearly, and not in dark speech; and he beholds the form of the LORD. Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?"

[36] When they came back and told him, he said, "This is the word of the LORD, which he spoke by his servant Eli'jah the Tishbite, `In the territory of Jezreel the dogs shall eat the flesh of Jez'ebel;

Search and you will find that the prophets are, at best, only servants of the Lord.  A close examination of the gospels shows that Jesus provides for a place in heaven for servants.  This is most clearly seen in the Parable of the Prodligal Son.  Told to illustrate the Truth that there is joy in heaven over one sinner who repents, this story describes a father's house and fields where the great joy was expressed, which must therefore represent heaven.  But the Prodigal was earnestly pleading to be made a hired servant in his father's house.  We read:
17] But when he came to himself he said, `How many of my father's hired servants have bread enough and to spare, but I perish here with hunger.
[18] I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you;

[19] I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me as one of your hired servants.'  
[21] And the son said to him, `Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.'
[22] But the father said to his servants, `Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet;
In the above we have seen two things: Jesus specifies that certain servants enter into the kingdom of heaven, and that there are in heaven those who are identified as servants.  These servants find their way into the kingdom, from every clime and time and tint,  by repentance, forgiveness and the exercise of mercy.  They require no knowledge of Jesus or his good news to be thus admitted because God is merciful, and he will be merciful to all who are merciful, repent of their sins and show the same mercy to those who have offended them and repented..

We must conclude, therefore, that Jesus did not come into the world to suffer for and call servants to repentance.  That is a process that has always been active for the salvation of human beings.  And he said, in the story of Lazarus and the Rich Man,

If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced if some one should rise from the dead.'
There is no reason to believe other than that this process continues to this day, and will continue until the end, for so long as the world remains inhabited by humans.  God's mercy and righteousness, like God, is infinite and eternal.  These characteristics -- his love, mercy and justice -- have always ruled his actions towards all men, and so it will continue forever -- this salvation of the penitents who have never heard the Word of Jesus.

No, Jesus came into the world, taught and then suffered crucifixion for some other reason.

C. Why, Then, did Jesus Come?

The author of the Fourth Gospel has the best expression of this purpose:

John 1
[11] He came to his own home, and his own people received him not.
[12] But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God;
[13] who were begotten, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
Jesus came to call children to the Father, not servants!

Jesus came to sow the world with the seed of God, which is the word of God that produces children of God.  This is the wonderful lesson of the Parable of the Sower:

[20] But those that were sown upon the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold."
It is only in Jesus that we have the high right, privilege and duty of calling God, "My Father."  This requires that humans be begotten from above, of the Spirit of God, just as Jesus explained to Nicodemus.  Apart from this new birth,
[3] Jesus answered him, Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is begotten from above, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
The New Revelation of Jesus

I stated earlier that Jesus added something new to salvation history.  This is essentially a third and new tier of salvation.  That is the new conception that, by means of the gospel, humans could become children of God.  We have shown elsewhere that this is the unique contribution of Jesus to salvation history, and will not expand on its uniquness here, with one exception.  That is to point to the fact that, in the Old Testament, God as a father to individual humans was unknown.  The closest the prophets came to this conception was in their prophecies (fulfilled in Jesus) of a coming day when humans would become the children of the Father.  They also sometimes perceived God as being the father of their nation, much as Americans think of George Washington as being the father of their country.  But it ends there.  No prophet or patriarch ever said to God, "My Father."

But when we come to Jesus, one of the first things he proclaimed in the gospels is this:

[21] Not every one who says to me, `Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.
This conception, that God is the Father of the man, Jesus, was not only new to the Jewish faith of the First Century but devout Jews, when it arose in Jesus, were maximally offended and considered such a claim of sonship to God by a human as blasphemus and worthy of death.  So we see this conviction at work in the following:
[18] This was why the Jews sought all the more to kill him, because he not only broke the sabbath but also called God his Father, making himself equal with God.
The New Qualification

With this new and glorious privilige by which humans can become children of God, there comes an additional qualification, never before voiced in the world.  This is the Great Principle about which I have written so much on this site.  Therefore, I will not expand on it here.   This principle, as expressed in the Fourth Gospel, is:

[25] He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.
Nor is there any slackening in the qualifications of the penitents who are to be servants of God.  The children of God, his infants, must comply with them all for they also are penitents.  Then they must comply with the Great Principle so as to become children of the Father in heaven and heritors of his kingdom.  All of this is evident as we ponder the utterances of Jesus.

A New Accountability

John 15
[22] If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin.
The hearing of the Gospel According to Jesus introduces a new accountability to every one who hears it.  It was an accountability that did not exist in prior ages when people could be saved only as penitents and innocents, because the Word of Truth had not been introduced and they therefore had no knowledge of it.  It does not exist even today among those who have not heard the Word of Jesus, wherever they are in the world, although they may continue to be saved as penitents.

What I am asserting here is not hard to grasp, but it may require a metaphor to clarify it.  Let us imagine a child such as each of us has been and such as we see repeatedly in the world, one who plays "Cops and Robbers" or "Cowboys and Indians" armed only with a cap pistol.  Such a child points and shoots in every direction harmlessy and without concern for consequences.  But let him mature a little and proceed to become a soldier or policeman.  With this new power comes new accountability -- his gun now has bullets!

So it is when we hear the Gospel of Jesus.  Until that time, life was much like a game that children play, but Jesus' Word is bullets in the gun and everyone who hears is strictly accountable to God for one's response.  This means that no longer can one who has heard the Word be saved as a mere penetent, for one that has heard the Word of Truth must now go all the way by becoming a child (infant) of God through repentance, and in addition through conforming to the Great Principle.  Here is Jesus' most relevant utterance in context:

John 15
[22] If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin.
[23] He who hates me hates my Father also.
[24] If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would not have sin; but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father.
[25] It is to fulfil the word that is written in their law, `They hated me without a cause.'
[26] But when the Counselor comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness to me;
[27] and you also are witnesses, because you have been with me from the beginning.
Hearing the Word of Jesus changes everything!  Then, either one of two things occurs: one accepts the Word that includes the Great Principle and becomes one of the infants of God, or one does not accept it.  In the latter case, which is exemplified by those of whom Jesus spoke in the verses above,
. . . but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father.
The rejection of the Word is the hatred of both God and Jesus.  But now, in our time, it is also the hatred of the Counselor, the Spirit of Truth, for as Jesus explained above:
But when the Counselor comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness to me;
The Counselor, the Holy Spirit of Truth, is the one who bears witness to Jesus and his Word in the world today, so that to reject that Word -- having heard it -- is to hate Jesus; it is to hate the Father and . . .  it is to hate the Holy Spirit!  This is that of which Jesus spoke when he said,

Matt. 12 [31] Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.

If we can return for a moment to the metaphor of the child with the toy gun, those who reject the Word of Jesus on hearing it are like that child who, now having a gun with bullets, shows his contempt for it by putting it to his own head and pulling the trigger!

Such a one, having heard the Word of Jesus and rejected it, can never be saved as a mere penitent so as to become a servant in heaven.  That is because he has spurned the Word, the Holy Spirit, the Son and the Father whose word it is and held all in contempt.  Others who have never heard the Word continue to be saved as penitents, but not so those who have heard but rejected it. 

The Words of Jesus presume only one mode of salvation for those to whom he speaks, because those hearing him have heard his Word and for them there is indeed but one salvation, that as infants.  When we are exposed to his Word through reading the gospels, or having them read to us, we hear of only one salvation -- that of infants -- because we have heard the Word!  Jesus briefly affirms the other two tiers, but does not detail them because they were amply extolled through the Law and the Prophets.  It is furthermore clear that he operates on the assumptions that the infants of God must also be penitents.

To exemplify this, let us take a brief look at one utterance:

Matt. 18 [3] Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

These words, applied to those who were hearing, mandates that the only way for them to enter the kingdom is to convert and become as infants.  This does not eliminate the salvation of penitents who have never heard him. Hearing the Word disqualifies men from salvation as penitents only, but offers them the even more wonderful prospect of becoming the infants of God by receiving and abiding by the Word.

Note:John 3:3 and 3:7 are the author's translations.  These differ from the RSV only in the expression "begotten from above" that replaces "born anew' in the RSV.  "Born anew" does not represent the fullness of what Jesus is stating here, and does not correspond to the literatal translation of the Greek, anothen (a()nwqen).  
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