Does the Bible have anything to say about an individual’s age of accountability to God? Does a person reach a point in their lifetime when they are responsible for their sin and require reconciliation to God?

Some might say, “No.” In fact, this answer was given to a similar question on another website:

“The Bible never teaches that there is an ‘age of accountability.’ The term never appears in the Bible nor does the concept in any form. Furthermore, scripture never suggests that children are born without sin or that they cannot be held accountable for sin because they don’t understand or recognize it. Ironically, the Bible teaches exactly the opposite idea: every person is accountable to God for their sin at every age.”

It is true that the term never appears in Scripture. It’s easy enough to do a search to determine that fact. Of course, there are also many other commonly used terms like “dispensation” or “Holy trinity” or “Godhead” that don’t actually appear in the Bible but are nonetheless valid concepts taught in Scripture.

Let’s consider what Scripture does have to say on the subject.

how Scripture answers "Is there a specific age of accountability?"

While the term “age of accountability” never appears in Scripture, the concept is most definitely covered.1,2,3,4,5,7 There is only one place in Scripture where we know a specific age at which one became accountable to God7, but there are many passages indicating that children are generally innocent or even unaware of evil1,2,4 until some point at which they are able to understand what is required of them3 and ultimately choose evil or good.5

the answer above is based on and footnoted with the following Scripture Blocks
1

Because the people have forsaken me and have profaned this place by making offerings in it to other gods whom neither they nor their fathers nor the kings of Judah have known; and because they have filled this place with the blood of innocents,

Jeremiah informs the people about their sin, specifically citing their sacrificing children (“blood if innocents”) to foreign gods/idols.

Jeremiah is preaching the “word of the Lord” to the “kings of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem.” (vs 3)

How does it inform?

God is acknowledging that children are innocent.

Does it apply? Yes

2

And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Jesus uses a child to make a point that unless an adult becomes like a child he will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

After arguing about who might be the greatest in the kingdom, Jesus instructs them to be like children. Specifically he goes on to point out a child’s humility (and the disciples lack of it).

How does it inform?

Jesus, much like God’s words from Jeremiah1, acknowledges the innocence of children as a general truth.

Does it apply? Yes

3

So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, both men and women and all who could understand what they heard, on the first day of the seventh month.

Ezra gathers all people that could understand to hear the reading of the law.

The people have returned to the land after seventy years of captivity in Babylon. Ezra the Priest is presenting (reading) and teaching (with other men) in the town square.

How does it inform?

There is obviously an age (not stated specifically) where someone can understand what is being read. The law was being read and the clear intent of the people was that they wanted to hear it and understand it better in order to be accountable to it.

Does it apply? Yes

4

And as for your little ones, who you said would become a prey, and your children, who today have no knowledge of good or evil, they shall go in there. And to them I will give it, and they shall possess it.

The little ones/children have no knowledge of good or evil.

Moses is conveying God’s instruction that the people will wander in the desert for forty years instead of entering the Promised Land. Their generation will die there. However, their children (the next generation) are innocent and will inherit the Land.

How does it inform?

A generational divide is made between those that bear guilt (are accountable) and those that are innocent (are not accountable).

Does it apply? Yes

5

He shall eat curds and honey when he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good.

A boy will eat curds and honey until some point he can refuse evil and choose good.

God (through Isaiah) is telling King Ahaz the fate of his son.

How does it inform?

The boy will reach a point where he refuses evil and chooses good (free will).

Does it apply? Yes

6

The fool says in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, doing abominable iniquity; there is none who does good. God looks down from heaven on the children of man to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. They have all fallen away; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.

A fool is one that doesn’t acknowledge God’s existence. They are corrupt and don’t do good. God sees them and cannot account for any that understand and seek after Him.

A psalm of David lamenting fools and their folly. He concludes the psalm by proclaiming their ultimate rejection by God and God’s salvation toward “his people” or implication, those that are not fools and do acknowledge God and His ways.

How does it inform?

Based on the context, David is not saying that all humanity – young and old – are sinners. Quite the opposite. The broader context of this single psalm makes that very clear, but we could also point to numerous other psalms of David making the same lament and contrast between the unrighteous and the righteous.

Does it apply? No

7

For in the eighth year of his reign, while he was yet a boy, he began to seek the God of David his father, and in the twelfth year he began to purge Judah and Jerusalem of the high places, the Asherim, and the carved and the metal images.

At age 16, King Josiah began to seek God and four years later began to purge Judah/Jerusalem of idolatrous worship.

Josiah (great grandson to Hezekiah) became king at eight years old. After choosing to obey God, he established many religious reforms and led the people to worship God, something they had not been doing for some time.

How does it inform?

Provides an example of one individual’s decision to seek after God at a particular age.

Does it apply? Yes

Do you agree? If so, share this question and the Bible Study Framework with others.

If you know of some other verses or you have something to add to the verses already listed for this question please leave a comment below! We welcome the public discussion and will incorporate your input into the Framework above. We have nothing to hide and invite your help in considering all that God’s word has to say.

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