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. But is “the concept” really absent “in any form” or does the Bible “never suggest that children are born without sin”?

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 covered1,2,3,4,5,7,8,10,11,12. There is only one place in Scripture where we know a specific age when one recognized their accountability before God7. There are many passages indicating that children are generally innocent or even unaware of evil1,2,4,8,12 (refuting the false doctrine of “original sin”). However, there is some point at which they are able to understand what is required of them3 after hearing God’s word3,9,10,11. At that point, they can choose evil or good5,12a choice for which all will be judged.

*Also noting two passages6,9 sometimes raised in this context but not applicable based on their context.

Answer built on scripture-blocks below

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, and have built the high places of Baal to burn their sons in the fire as burnt offerings to Baal, which I did not command or decree, nor did it come into my mind—

Because the people [of Judah] have rejected me [God] and profaned this place [Jerusalem] by sacrificing to foreign gods unknown by their forefathers and kings, filling it with the blood of children. Not only that, but they built the high places of Baal to sacrifice their sons which I never commanded and is so profane it never entered into my mind to command it.

Jeremiah is preaching the “word of the Lord” to the “kings of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem.” (vs 3) God has told Jeremiah to get a flask of pottery (vs 1) and break it before the people (vs 10) to demonstrate how God will break Judah/Jerusalem.

Scripture-block application to this question

God is acknowledging that children are innocent.

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.
He called a child to Him and said that unless people repent and become like children, they will not enter the kingdom of heaven.

Jesus’ response to the disciples after asking Him who was the greatest in the kingdom.  His point is that they become humble and innocent as children, going on to warn them not to cause “one of these little ones who believe in me to sin” (vs 6).

Scripture-block application to this question

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

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.

Scripture-block application to this question

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.

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.

Scripture-block application to this question

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

He shall eat curds and honey when he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good. For before the boy knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land whose two kings you dread will be deserted.

He [the boy] will eat curds and honey when he knows to distinguish between good and evil, and before that time/age, the two kings you fear will have deserted their land.

There was a crisis in the land of Judah because “Rezin the king of Syria and Pekah the son of Remaliah the king of Israel came up to Jerusalem to wage war against it.” (vs 1)

Scripture-block application to this question

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

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.

Also quoted by Paul in Romans 3:10-12 in making the point that no man (Jew or Gentile in his context) is worthy of the salvation that can only come through Christ Jesus.

Scripture-block application to this question

Based on the context, David is not saying that all humanity – particularly for this question the young – are sinners. Quite the opposite, therefore, it does not apply here.

!! scripture-block context extra important here !!

While the broader context of this single psalm makes David’s point clear, Paul also draws from this passage in Romans 3:10-12 making the same point here that David is making — emphasizing the unworthiness of man’s salvation that only comes through God and not on the merit of any individual.

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 (vs 1). 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.

Scripture-block application to this question

Provides an example (Josiah at age 16) of one individual’s decision to seek after God at a particular age.

And when the LORD smelled the pleasing aroma, the LORD said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done. While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.”
When God smelled the pleasing aroma, He said in His heart that He would never again curse the ground and destroy all the living because of man since he was inclined to do evil from his youth.  Instead, while the earth existed, its normal cycles of crops, seasons, and days would not cease.
During the first 2,000 years of the world’s existence (Genesis 1-11), God has just destroyed all of mankind due to their wickedness and saved Noah and his family through the flood.
Scripture-block application to this question

At some point in one’s youth, God says we are inclined to do evil (therefore, we would be accountable to Him).

Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, Brothers, what shall we do? And Peter said to them, Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.

When they heard the preaching of Peter and the rest of the apostles, they were convicted by them and asked what they should do [to be saved].  Peter told them that they each should repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ so that they could receive the remission of their sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit.  This “gift” was the promise made for all Jews, but also all Gentiles — everyone whom God calls to himself.

Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost where he recalled several prophetic statements from Joel and David (vss 16-36). By divine inspiration, Peter interpreted these statements to apply their fulfillment to Jesus and the ushering in of the “last days”.

He also specifically refers to the “promise of the Holy Spirit” earlier – given by the Father to the Son (vs 33). More were continuing to be saved and they began meeting together as the Lord’s church (vss 41-47).

Scripture-block application to this question

Peter is not saying that salvation is for infants/children, but rather that salvation is for them and their future generations. This is in keeping with the rest of his statement (e.g. “all who are far off”, etc.) as well as other Scripture.

!! scripture-block context extra important here !!

What is seen are people, at an age where they can be “cut to the heart” based on the message that Peter just gave (the gospel of Christ and His death, burial, and resurrection). They are at an age where they can recognized their accountability and respond accordingly.

Then he brought them out and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household. And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family.
Answering a direct question about what he [the jailor] must do to be saved, the answer is to believe in Jesus.  They then spoke the word of the Lord [the Gospel] to them and in the same hour they were baptized.

Paul and Silas are in prison and miraculously set free, but after witnessing their praise and confidence in God the jailor is convicted to obey the Gospel.

Scripture-block application to this question

When Paul baptized the Phillipian jailer and “all his family,” they had first been taught “the word of the Lord.” Therefore, they had to be old enough to be taught.

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
Go out and make followers of all the people, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit and teach them to abide by all that I [Jesus] have commanded.  Behold, I will remain with you to the end of this age.
The very close of Matthew’s account of Jesus’ life on earth.  This address was made to the eleven apostles (vs 16) and similar accounts are given at the end Mark (
Mk 16:15-16
) and Luke (
Lk 24:45-47
).
Scripture-block application to this question

Jesus’ instructions to the apostles are to go out and baptize and teach individuals. The need for baptism (forgiveness of sins) was from individuals old enough to be taught obedience to God’s law.

You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created, till unrighteousness was found in you.
You were innocent in your actions from birth until you began to walk in unrighteousness.
God, through Ezekiel, is pronouncing judgment upon the leader of Tyre.
Scripture-block application to this question

We are innocent at birth, until at some point, we learn to practice sinning.

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