Born Again at Two Years Old

In a recent post, I emphasized the importance of encouraging children to cultivate a personal walk with God. In the opening lines, I mentioned in passing that I was born again at 2 years old. One reader expressed doubts about this statement, saying:

The comment about being born again at 2 years old is a red flag for me.

Though I stand by my testimony, this is an understandable reservation. So allow me to share my testimony of salvation, and some thoughts about childhood conversion. After all, apart from genuine conversion, no child can cultivate a personal walk with God.

My Conversion Testimony

When I say that I was born again at 2 years old, perhaps I should be more specific. I was 2 years and 11 months old, which means I was almost 3. Perhaps that will help alleviate some reservations.

Also, my loving, Christian parents attended church faithfully, taking me with them from infancy. Both at home and church, I received abundant teaching from the Bible. At church, nursery workers and Sunday School teachers taught me biblical songs, Bible verses, Bible stories and simple lessons about the gospel. At home, my parents did the same, with my mother doing all that she could to teach me about Jesus.

My parents also prayed for me faithfully, before and after I was born. They devoted my life to God, asking Him to do whatever it takes to save me at an early age and accomplish His purpose in my life. In fact, God especially used the example of Hannah’s prayer in 1 Samuel 1 to guide her prayers for my birth and childhood years.

One evening, as a 2 year old boy (almost 3), I walked into my bedroom to sleep for the night, as I did any other night. But this time, I vividly recall something different: clear, inner conviction over sin. There in my room, in an unmistakable way, I became deeply and personally aware that I was a sinner. I was especially convicted over my sins of lying and disobeying to my parents.

With these thoughts in mind, I turned around and approached my mother in the kitchen. Though I don’t remember my actual words, I do remember looking up and asking her to show me how to ask Jesus to save me from my sins. We sat down in the living room of our rented upper duplex together, with the lamp turned on by the sofa. She reviewed the gospel message with me, using the Romans Road as a basic progression of truth, asking me questions along the way to see if I truly understood. That night, I bowed my knees and my heart before God, and in childlike faith, accepted the resurrected Jesus Christ as God and Savior for eternity.

I will never forget that moment. And I will never doubt the reality of my conversion, though I’ve tried. I’ve considered whether or  not it was genuine, giving this serious thought at various times over the years. But my confidence only grows stronger that Jesus Christ delivered me into His family that evening, as a child of 2 years old. I am forever grateful.

Some Thoughts about Childhood Conversion

Every child is different. No child is the same. So I cannot say when every child is old enough to be converted, as though there is a universal age when this becomes possible or when every child becomes responsible to do so. But if we’re not careful, we may fail to grasp the seriousness of God’s interaction with children at an early age. We should expose children, from infancy (2 Tim. 3:15), to steady Scripture influence, whether through song (Eph. 5:10), conversation (Deut. 6:6-9), teaching and preaching, or otherwise.

And what about the example of Jesus celebrating the Passover in Jerusalem at 12 years old (Luke 2:41-42)?

  • “Twelve years old” would have been one year before Jesus officially became an adult Israelite and accepted responsibility for fulfilling the law. (Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993), Lk 2:42.)
  • At the age of thirteen a Jewish boy became obligated to observe the law (Nid. 5:6; Nazir 29b) (Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 121.)

If 13 years old was the traditional age for an adult Israelite to accept responsibility for himself before God, then why did Jesus do this at 12 years? Perhaps Luke is using this detail as one line of evidence for Jesus as the perfect human being, come to be our Messiah. He not only followed the Law, but followed the Law perfectly and in an exceptional way.

But does this excerpt from the later childhood of Jesus tell us anything about when a child may be converted? Not really. Taking personal responsibility for the law at age 13 was a Jewish tradition, for which I am unaware of any Scriptural command. And by fulfilling this obligation as a Jew at age 12, he was already embracing His mission as the coming Messiah.

That being said, a child is a human being like the rest of us. Scripture teaches no specific “age of accountability” at which every child becomes responsible for their own standing before God. So we should teach our children Scripture and present our children with a clear gospel message seriously, faithfully and prayerfully from their earliest days of their lives.

In the Overmiller home, we pray daily for each of our children to be saved “as soon as possible.” We do this at the dinner table. We do this in family devotions. We do this in our private prayers. We also talk with them, during family devotions and in personal conversations, about their need to be saved. We do not discuss this in a pressured way, but in an honest, sharing, instructive way that children need and appreciate. We tell them, “Son/daughter, whenever you’re ready to make this decision, please let us know. If God is working in your heart, don’t put it off. It is very important.” Of course, we don’t recite those exact words every time, but you get the idea.

We involve our children in church, both the children’s teaching ministries and the general church worship service. And at home, we teach them biblical songs, memorize Bible verses, hold regular family devotions and talk about Scripture, Jesus and the gospel as much as possible.

When one of our children tells us that they want to be saved, we ask them questions.

  • We want to be sure that they clearly and accurately understand the gospel. On numerous occasions, we have sensed that they lack complete understanding. So we pause and encourage them to keep learning and to keep listening to the truth they are learning about Jesus.
  • We also want to be sure that they are acting with proper motives of repentance, rather than improper motives of wanting to please their parents, a Sunday School teacher, a sibling or friend, or worse yet, to get a prize toy or candy!

No child should experience human pressure to be converted. Such conversions, such prayers motivated by a desire to please someone in their life, pave the way for many doubts and generally do not yield genuine conversions at all.

In conclusion, we must remember the words of Jesus Christ, when he said, “But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven (Luke 19:14).”

And also consider this very important statement by Jesus, when he pointed to the faith of a child, not the faith of an adult, as the kind of faith associated with conversion: “And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 18:3).”

Do you have thoughts to share on this important topic? Or perhaps you have questions? In either case, I encourage you to leave a comment below. I look forward to hearing from you!

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