2 Corinthians 5:17
Dr. Alan Redpath (1907-1989) asked and answers the following, “Can a child know salvation at an early age? Yes, for many Christians can testify to real faith in Christ when only 4 or 5. They will grow in maturity as they grow in understanding as the years go by, but the seed is received at whatever age the Lord reveals Himself.”
Dr. Adrian Rogers (1931-2005) affirmed, “God does business with those who mean business.”
Paul wrotes, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (
Dr. Philip Doddridge (1702-1751) began the third stanza of his hymn “O Happy Day!”: “”Tis done: the great transaction’s done! I am the Lord’s and He is mine.” The term transaction means “something that is transacted, esp. a business deal or negotiation.” Allow me to point out three elements of the great transaction.
I. First there is the generous transition.
We read in
Paul also wrote in
I am thankful that God allows U-Turns. Don’t you hate to be on a turnpike, toll road or Interstate highway and read a sign that says, “Next Exit 20 Miles”? Billions of people are on the road that leads to hell and unless they repent they will go there forever and ever. That is the essence of repentance a U-Turn or an about face. Luke records our Lord’s warning: “I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish” (
Repentance is God’s generous transition. Genuine believers go from guilt to grace to glory. Allow me to add that repentance and faith are inseparable. Dr. Adrian Rogers said, “Salvation is not a reward for the righteous; it is a gift to the guilty. Salvation is not a goal to be achieved; it is a gift to be received.”
Genuine repentance is essential to making the great transaction. True repentance is a change of mind and heart that leads to a change in direction.
One caterpillar to another, as they see a beautiful Monarch butterfly floating around, “They will never get me up in one of those.”
II. Furthermore there is the gracious transformation.
Paul in our text, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (
This gracious transformation is a metamorphosis even more spectacular than that of a caterpillar to a butterfly. Genuine believers experience a miraculous transformation as we go from death to life, from darkness to light, from depravity to liberty. In the words of Rufus H. McDaniel, “What a wonderful change in my life has been wrought since Jesus came into my heart.”
Paul writes in
Robert Murray McCheyne (1813-1843) prayed, “Oh God, make me as holy as a saved sinner can be.” Rev. David W. Kuykendall, former pastor of the First Baptist Church of Searles Valley in Trona, Calif., shares about Robert Murray McCheyne in an article titled: “Live So as to Be Missed.” Rev. Kuykendall states, “Among the most striking examples of those whose lives have counted for God, are those whose ministries have been comparatively short. Thousands of Christians have been inspired by the example of David Brainerd (1718-1747), missionary to the American Indians, who died at the age of 32. Likewise, many have been challenged by the life of Henry Martyn (1781-1812), who also died at the age of 32. The testimonies of these two men played a part in inspiring Robert Murray McCheyne to live his life for God, but there was another lesser-known man who inspired him also.
When Robert McCheyne passed away at the age of 30, the Christian world mourned his loss. In his short ministry, he had become the most popular preacher in Scotland. Some 7,000 people attended his funeral, shutting down business in the city of Dundee. McCheyne had been known for his holiness and his challenge to others to live a life devoted to God. Jesus Christ had forgiven him for his sin, and he had never gotten over it. He wrote to a friend: “I feel there are two things it is impossible to desire with sufficient ardour — personal holiness, and the honour of Christ in the salvation of souls.”
Robert McCheyne was known for his carefully prepared and earnest Bible messages, but he felt that a Christian’s life needed to be rooted in a consistent devotional life. He always read at least three chapters of the Bible before breakfast, as well as sang hymns and prayed. A saying of Jeremy Taylor (1613-1667) had inspired him: “If thou meanest to enlarge thy religion, do it rather by enlarging thine ordinary devotions than thy extraordinary.” This man of God struggled with health problems during much of his seven-year ministry. He often had to lie still for hours to still his palpitating heart and eventually succumbed to a consumptive lung condition.
During his ministry, he was referred to as the holiest man in Scotland; but it was not always so. When Andrew Bonar (1810-1892) gathered material to write his biography, he found that the biggest human influence in Robert’s life had been his older brother David. David was a quiet lad who himself had poor health, but also an intense devotion to the Lord. While Robert was attending university, David became so burdened for his brother’s salvation that he would weep for hours for him. Robert tried to put David off by telling him not to pray so hard for him. Robert felt that with his natural talents, he did not have a need for salvation and the power of God in his life. Still, David continued to claim Robert for God.
At last, something came to stop Robert in his tracks and cause him to consider the Saviour. When Robert was 18, his brother David died. With lips stilled in death, memories of David’s life now spoke volumes. A man who had a simple, sincere faith in a God who never will fail truly had the answer to life. Through David’s death and hope of life in heaven, Robert was pointed to Christ’s death and gift of eternal life. In a moment of sincere repentance and faith, Robert received forgiveness of sin and eternal, abundant new life. Yes, David was missed; but his life went on speaking!”
III. Finally there is the glorious translation.
Remember, we are not home yet. When people live in a land far away from their homeland they have a tendency from time to time to get homesick. They have a strong desire to return to their motherland or their homeland. May we truthfully sing, “This world is not my home / I’m just passing through / my treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue / the angels beckon me from Heaven’s open door / and I can’t feel at home in this world anymore / O Lord, You know I have no friend like You / if Heaven’s not my home, then Lord, what will I do? / The angels beckon me from Heaven’s open door / and I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.”
Enoch prefigures the glorious translation of believers alive at the time of our Lord’s return, as we read in
In a similar way we read in
Luke records in
Paul wrote in
We find the plight of man in
Well-known for his sermon titled “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” the Rev. Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) also played a critical role in the First Great Awakening. He was a preacher, theologian, missionary to Native Americans and president of the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University). Rev. Edwards shared the following account of the conversion of a 4-year-old girl in A Faithful Narrative of the Surprising Work of God in the Conversion of Many Hundred Souls in Northampton: “But I now proceed to the other instance, that of the little child before mentioned. Her name is Phebe Bartlet* [here the editor adds a footnote which states, “She was living in March 1789 and maintained the character of a true convert.”] daughter of William Bartlet. I shall give the account as I took it from the mouth of her parents, whose veracity none who know them doubt of.
“She was born in March 1731. About the latter end of April or beginning of May 1735, she was greatly affected by the talk of her brother, who had been hopefully converted a little before, at about 11 years of age, and then seriously talked to her about the great things of religion. Her parents did not know of it at that time, and were not wont, in the counsels they gave to their children, particularly to direct themselves to her, being so young, and, as they supposed, not capable of understanding. But after her brother had talked to her, they observed her very earnestly listen to the advice they gave to the other children; and she was observed very constantly to retire, several times in a day, as was concluded, for secret prayer. She grew more and more engaged in religion, and was more frequent in her closet; till at last she was wont to visit it five or six times a day: and was so engaged in it, that nothing would at any time divert her from her stated closet exercises. Her mother often observed and watched her, when such things occurred as she thought most likely to divert her, either by putting it out of her thoughts, or otherwise engaging her inclinations; but never could observe her to fail. She mentioned some very remarkable instances.
“She once of her own accord spake of her unsuccessfulness, in that she could not find God, or to that purpose. But on Thursday, the last day of July, about the middle of the day, the child being in the closet, where it used to retire, its mother heard it speaking aloud; which was unusual, and never had been observed before. And her voice seemed to be as of one exceedingly importunate and engaged; but her mother could distinctly hear only these words, spoken in a childish manner, but with extraordinary earnestness, and out of distress of soul, ‘PRAY, BLESSED LORD, give me salvation! I PRAY, BEG, pardon all my sins!’ When the child had done prayer, she came out of the closet, sat down by her mother, and cried out aloud. Her mother very earnestly asked her several times what the matter was, before she would make any answer; but she continued crying, and writhing her body to and fro, like one in anguish of spirit. Her mother then asked her, whether she was afraid that God would not give her salvation. She then answered, ‘Yes, I am afraid I shall go to hell! Her mother then endeavoured to quiet her, and told her she would not have her cry, she must be a good girl, and pray every day, and she hoped God would give her salvation. But this did not quiet her at all; she continued thus earnestly crying, and taking on for some time, till at length she suddenly ceased crying, and began to smile, and presently said with a smiling countenance, ‘Mother, the kingdom of heaven is come to me!’ Her mother was surprised at the sudden alteration, and at the speech; and knew not what to make of it; but at first said nothing to her. The child presently spake again, and said, ‘There is another come to me, and there is another, there is three’; and being asked what she meant, she answered, One is, ‘Thy will be done; and there is another; Enjoy him for ever’; by which it seems, that when the child said, ‘There is three come to me; she meant three passages of her catechism that came to her mind.
“After the child had said this, she retired again into her closet, and her mother went over to her brother’s, who was next neighbour; and when she came back, the child, being come out of the closet, meets her mother with this cheerful speech; ‘I can find God now!’ referring to what she had before complained of, that she could not find God. Then the child spoke again and said, ‘I love God!’ Her mother asked her, how well she loved God, whether she loved God better than her father and mother. She said, ‘Yes.’ Then she asked her, whether she loved God better than her little sister Rachel. She answered, ‘Yes, better than any thing!’ Then her elder sister, referring to her saying she could find God now, asked her, where she could find God. She answered, ‘In heaven.’ ‘Why,’ said she, ‘Have you been in heaven?’ ‘No,’ said the child. By this it seems not to have been any imagination of any thing seen with bodily eyes, that she called God, when she said, ‘I can find God now.’ Her mother asked her, whether she was afraid of going to hell, and if that had made her cry. She answered, ‘Yes, I was; but now I shan’t.’ Her mother asked her whether she thought God had given her salvation: she answered, ‘Yes.’ Her mother asked her, ‘When?’ She answered, ‘Today.’ She appeared all that afternoon exceedingly cheerful and joyful. One of the neighbours asked her how she felt herself. She answered, ‘I feel better than I did.’ The neighbour asked her what made her feel better. She answered, ‘God makes me.’ That evening, as she lay a-bed, she called one of her little cousins to her, who was present in the room, as having something to say to him; and when he came, she told him that Heaven was better than earth. The next day, her mother asked her what God made her for. She answered, ‘To serve Him; and added, ‘Everybody should serve God, and get an interest in Christ.’
“The same day the elder children, when they came home from school, seemed much affected with the extraordinary change that seemed to be made in Phebe. And her sister Abigail standing by, her mother took occasion to counsel her, now to improve her time, to prepare for another world. On which Phebe burst out in tears, and cried out, ‘Poor Nabby!’ Her mother told her, she would not have to cry; she hoped God would give Nabby salvation; but that did not quiet her, she continued earnestly crying for some time. When she had in a measure ceased, her sister Eunice being by her, she burst out again, and cried, ‘Poor Eunice!’ and cried exceedingly; and when she had almost done, she went into another room, and there looked up on her sister Naomi and burst out again, crying, ‘Poor Naomi!’ Her mother was greatly affected at such a behaviour in a child, and knew not what to say to her. One of the neighbours coming in a little after, asked her what she had cried for. She seemed at first backward to tell the reason: her mother told her she might tell that person, for he had given her an apple: upon which she said, she cried because she was afraid they would go to hell.
“At night, a certain minister, who was occasionally in the town, was at the house, and talked with her of religious things. After he was gone, she sat leaning on the table, with tears running from her eyes; and being asked what made her cry, she said, ‘It was thinking about God.’ The next day, being Saturday, she seemed a great part of the day to be in a very affectionate frame, had four turns of crying and seemed to endeavour to curb herself, and hide her tears, and was very backward to talk of the occasion. On the Sabbath-day, she was asked whether she believed in God; she answered, ‘Yes.’ And being told that Christ was the Son of God, she made ready answer, and said, ‘I know it.’
“From this time there appeared a very remarkable abiding change in the child. She has been very strict upon the Sabbath; and seems to long for the Sabbath-day before it comes, and will often in the week time be inquiring how long it is to the Sabbath-day, and must have the days between particularly counted over, before she will be contented. She seems to love God’s house, and is very eager to go thither. Her mother once asked her why she had such a mind to go. Whether it was not to see fine folks? She said, ‘No,’ it was to hear Mr. Edwards preach. When she is in the place of worship, she is very far from spending her time there as children at her age usually do, but appears with an attention that is very extraordinary for such a child. She also appears very desirous at all opportunities to go to private religious meetings; and is very still and attentive at home, during prayer, and has appeared affected in time of family-prayer. She seems to delight much in hearing religious conversation. When I once was there with some strangers, and talked to her something of religion, she seemed more than ordinarily attentive; and when we were gone, she looked out very wistfully after us, and said, I wish they would come again! Her mother asked her why. Says she, ‘I love to hear ’em talk.'”
Jonathan Edwards shares several evidences of her conversion. For example, he reveals, “She seems to have very much of the fear of God before her eyes, and an extraordinary dread of sinning against Him…She sometimes appears greatly affected, and delighted with texts of Scripture that come to her mind. She has often manifested a great concern for the good of others’ souls: and has been wont many times affectionately to counsel the other children…She has discovered an uncommon degree of a spirit of charity…She has manifested great love to her minister: particularly when I returned from my long journey for my health, the last fall. When she heard of it, she appeared very joyful at the news, and told the children of it, with an elevated voice, as the most joyful tidings; repeating it over and over: ‘Mr. Edwards is come home! Mr. Edwards is come home!’ She still continues very constant in secret prayer, so far as can be observed, for she seems to have no desire that others should observe her when she retires, being a child of a reserved temper. Every night, before she goes to bed, she will say her catechism, and will by no means miss. She never forgot it but once, and then, after she was a-bed, thought of it, and cried out in tears, ‘I han’t said my catechism!’ and would not be quieted till her mother asked her the catechism as she lay in bed. She sometimes appears to be in doubt about the condition of her soul; and when asked, whether she thinks that she is prepared for death, speaks something doubtfully about it. At other times she seems to have no doubt, but when asked, replies, ‘Yes,’ without hesitation.”
Nowadays we are “dumbing down” everything with volume after volume written for dummies. You never will convince me that children are dummies, given the way they operate computers and perform complex tasks at an early age. Therefore, we should share with them the greatest truth in the world about Jesus Christ and their need for salvation. We read in
Rev. Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892) wrote a book titled Come, My Children: A Book for Parents and Teachers on the Christian Training of Children. He titles the ninth chapter “What Mean Ye by This Service?” In it he shares in part, “And now I will remind you of the institution that was connected with the remembrance of the Passover. ‘It shall come to pass, when your children shall say unto you, What mean ye by this service? that ye shall say, It is the sacrifice of the Lord’s Passover.’
“Inquiry should be excited in the minds of our children. Oh, that we could get them to ask questions about the things of God! Some of them enquire very early, others of them seem diseased with much the same indifference as older folks. With both orders of mind we have to deal. It is well to explain to children the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper, for this shows forth the death of Christ in symbol. I regret that children do not oftener see this ordinance. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper should both be placed in view of the rising generation, that they may then ask us, ‘What mean ye by this?’ Now, the Lord’s Supper is a perennial gospel sermon, and it turns mainly upon the sacrifice for sin. You may banish the doctrine of the atonement from the pulpit, but it will always live in the church through the Lord’s Supper. You cannot explain that broken bread and that cup filled with the fruit of the vine without reference to our Lord’s atoning death. You cannot explain the communion of the body of Christ without bringing in, in some form or other, the death of Jesus in our place and stead. Let your little ones, then, see the Lord’s Supper, and let them be told most clearly what it sets forth. And if not the Lord’s Supper—for that is not the thing itself, but only the shadow of the glorious fact—dwell much and often in their presence upon the sufferings and death of our Redeemer. Let them think of Gethsemane, and Gabbatha, and Golgotha, and let them learn to sing in plaintive tones of Him who laid down His life for us. Tell them who it was that suffered and why. Yes, though the hymn is hardly to my taste in some of its expressions, I would have the children sing, ‘There is a green hill far away / without a city wall.’ And I would have them learn such lines as these: ‘He knew how wicked we had been / and knew that God must punish sin; / so out of pity Jesus said / He’d bear the punishment instead.’
And when attention is excited upon the best of themes, let us be ready to explain the great transaction by which God is just and yet sinners are justified. Children can well understand the doctrine of the expiatory sacrifice; it was meant to be a gospel for the youngest. The gospel of substitution is a simplicity, though it is a mystery. We ought not to be content until our little ones know and trust in their finished Sacrifice. This is essential knowledge and the key to all other spiritual teaching. May our dear children know the cross, and they will have begun well. With all their gettings may they get an understanding of this, and they will have the foundation rightly laid.
“This will necessitate your teaching the child his need of a Savior. You must not hold back from this needful task. Do not flatter the child with delusive rubbish about his nature being good and needing to be developed. Tell him he must be born again. Don’t bolster him up with the fancy of his own innocence, but show him his sin. Mention the childish sins to which he is prone, and pray the Holy Spirit to work conviction in his heart and conscience. Deal with the young in much the same way as you would with the old. Be thorough and honest with them. Flimsy religion is neither good for young nor old. These boys and girls need pardon through the precious blood as surely as any of us. Do not hesitate to tell the child his ruin; he will not else desire the remedy. Tell him also of the punishment of sin, and warn him of its terror. Be tender, but be true. Do not hide from the youthful sinner the truth, however terrible it may be. Now that he has come to years of responsibility, if he believes not in Christ, it will go ill with him at the last great day. Set before him the judgment-seat, and remind him that he will have to give an account of things done in the body. Labor to arouse the conscience; and pray God the Holy Spirit to work by you till the heart becomes tender and the mind perceives the need of the great salvation.
Children need to learn the doctrine of the cross that they may find immediate salvation. I thank God that in our Sabbath-school we believe in the salvation of children as children. How very many has it been my joy to see of boys and girls who have come forward to confess their faith in Christ! I again wish to say the best converts, the clearest converts, the most intelligent converts we have, ever had have been the young ones; and, instead of there being any deficiency in their knowledge of the Word of God, and the doctrines of grace, we have usually found them to have a very delightful acquaintance with the great cardinal truths of Christ. Many of these dear children have been able to speak of the things of God with great pleasure of heart and force of understanding. Go on, dear teachers, and believe God will save your children. Be not content to sow principles in their minds which may possibly develop in after years, but be working for immediate conversion. Expect fruit in your children while they are children. Pray for them that they may not run into the world and fall into the evils of outward sin, and then come back with broken bones to the Good Shepherd; but that they may by God’s rich grace be kept from the paths of the destroyer, and grow up in the fold of Christ, first as lambs of His flock, and then as sheep of His hand.
“One thing I am sure of, and that is, that if we teach the children the doctrine of the atonement in the most unmistakable terms, we shall be doing ourselves good. I sometimes hope that God will revive His church and restore her to her ancient faith by a gracious work among children. If He would bring into our churches a large influx of young people, how it would tend to quicken the sluggish blood of the supine and sleepy! Child Christians tend to keep the house alive. Oh, for more of them! If the Lord will but help us to teach the children we shall be teaching ourselves. There is no way of learning like teaching, and you do not know a thing till you can teach it to another. You do not thoroughly know any truth till you can put it before a child so that he can see it. In trying to make a little child understand the doctrine of the atonement you will get clearer views of it yourselves, and therefore I commend the holy exercise to you.
“What a mercy it will be if our children are thoroughly grounded in the doctrine of redemption by Christ! If they are warned against the false gospels of this evil age, and if they are taught to rest on the eternal rock of Christ’s finished work, we may hope to have a generation following us which will maintain the faith, and will be better than their fathers. Your Sunday-schools are admirable; but what is their purpose if you do not teach the gospel in them? You get children together and keep them quiet for an hour-and-a-half, and then send them home; but what is the good of it? It may bring some quiet to their fathers and mothers, and that is, perhaps, why they send them to the school; but all the real good lies in what is taught the children. The most fundamental truth should be made most prominent; and what is this but the cross. Some talk to children about being good boys and girls, and so on; that is to say, they preach the law to the children, though they would preach the gospel to grown-up people. Is this honest? Is this wise? Children need the gospel, the whole gospel, the unadulterated gospel; they ought to have it, and if they are taught of the Spirit of God they are as capable of receiving it as persons of ripe years. Teach the little ones that Jesus died, the just for the unjust, to bring us to God. Very, very confidently do I leave this work in the hands of teachers. I never knew a nobler body of Christian men and women; for they are as earnest in their attachment to the Old Gospel as they are eager for the winning of souls. Be encouraged; the God who has saved so many of your children is going to save very many more of them, and we shall have great joy as we see hundreds brought to Christ.”
I was born on Nov. 22, 1961, in Mobile, Ala., and was born again on May 16, 1965, in Citronelle, Alabama. At 3-years-old, I made the great transaction. My mother led me to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.
From time to time at a funeral someone will say, “Pastor, I’ve done business with God.” Remember both Cain and Abel did business with God. Yet God accepted Abel and rejected Cain. Why? “By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks” (Heb. 11:4). You must do business with God on His terms or you have not actually done business with Him.
Have you made the great transaction?