A sinner cannot be forgiven only on the basis of his or her repentance. God can forgive only when the penalty for sin has been paid and His justice has been satisfied. Christ paid that penalty for our sins at the Cross. This allowed God, Who is righteous and just, to forgive us based on om repentance and our faith in Christ.
Christ’s death provided a covering over (or atonement) of the guilt of the sinner, making the sin invisible to the eyes of a Holy God. This concept of God no longer recognizing our sin is conveyed in Isaiah 38:17: “For You have cast all my sins behind Your back.” (Read also Psalm 51:9; 103:12;Isaiah 43:25;Micah 2:19.)
Jesus Christ’s substitutionary atonement has satisfied God ‘s justice, freeing God to be merciful in offering us the free gift of salvation (Rom 6:23) by grace through faith in Christ (Eph 2:8).
Why Are Not All Saved?
Scripture clearly teaches that Christ died for all humanity, not for just a privileged few (read John 1:29; 3:16; 1 Timothy 2:6; 4:10; Titus 2:11; Hebrews 2:9; 2 Peter 3:9; 1 John 2:2). The question might then arise,”If Christ died for everyone, why then are not all saved?” The answer to this question is quite simple.
Yes, Christ died and made payment with His own blood for the sins of all mankind. But in order to receive and enjoy the benefits of this “paid-in-full” salvation, each person must believe in and receive Christ and His work for himself or herself personally.
All can be saved by Christ’s sacrifice – and God desires that none would perish without salvation (2 Pet 3:9). However, in order to be saved, it requires an individual decision by each person to believe in Christ (John 3:16).
This truth is reinforced in Romans 10:9,10: “That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation”. Christ’s provision of salvation must be believed and received personally and individually by faith. That is why we must share the Good News of the Gospel with others (Rom 10:14; see also John 1:12; 3:16).
God’s Gracious Provision
Since Christ died for all people everywhere – and since it is necessary to personally receive His salvation- what happens to those who die in infancy?
Those who die before they are mentally able to make a moral choice to either accept or reject Christ’s offer of salvation are covered by Christ’s atoning work at the Cross. The sin of rejecting God and His provision of salvation through Jesus Christ is not possible for an infant or a very young child.
At some point in a child’s mental, emotional and spiritual development, he or she becomes able to make a conscious choice to believe and receive salvation through Christ. Different children may reach this point at different ages. Therefore, it is very important that churches provide for teaching, ministry to, and even evangelism for children in a language and way they can understand. Children can be saved; they are also capable of worshipping, praying, learning Scripture, and even ministering to others. Each child should certainly be taught how to function as part of a church body and how to live as a disciple of Jesus Christ (Matt 18:1-6; 19:13- 15).