The Age of Accountability


      Introduction:  The scriptures definitely teach accountability (Acts 10: 34, 35). The Bible does not teach inherited sin; hence, the age of accountability does not occur at birth (Ezek. 18: 20).  The question is when does one become accountable.  Is there a certain chronological age?  If there is no certain age, how can one know when one is held responsibility for their sins?

I. Knowledge between good and evil

  A. Involved in spiritual accountability is a knowledge of good and evil.

  B. Relative to some of the children of the Israelites we read, "Moreover your little ones…which in that day had no knowledge between good and evil…" (Deut. 1: 39).

   a. There is a time in the absence of a certain level of development in a child’s life that they do not know to choose good and refuse evil (cf. Isa. 7: 16).

   b. It is obvious that Jesus had such children in mind when he said, "Except ye be converted and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 18: 3).

II. The age of accountability is when one understands, is capable of believing, repenting, confessing Jesus’ deity, and being baptized

  A. Sin is lawlessness (I Jn. 3: 4).

  B. Belief requires certain intellectual and volitional abilities (Jn. 8: 24).

  B. Repentance, confession, and baptism entail abilities which small children do not possess. (Demonstrate the essential nature and exercised requirements of repentance, confession, and baptism, Acts 2: 38; Rom. 10: 9, 10, Acts 2: 38.)

  C. Belief, repentance, confession, and baptism are all equally essential to initial salvation or, put another way, exercising accountability.

III. Men and women responded during the First Century

  A. "And believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women," Luke wrote (Acts 5: 14).

   a. Again, "…they were baptized, both men and woman" (Acts 8: 12).

IV. Some say when a child reaches twelve years of age, they are accountable

  A. This is an arbitrary age – some could be, some may not be. In view of the foregoing, I think it is apparent that individuals reach the age of accountability at different ages, as each mature differently. Remember, though, accountability always involves responsibility.

  B. If a young person can understand and explain I John 2: 15, 16, they may have reached a state where they are responsible to God.

     Conclusion:  Since there is no stated age when one becomes responsible, each case must be individually considered.   Parents can be of great help in arriving at such a judgment of their own children.