Are Parents Responsible for Their Child's Salvation?

April 30, 2024

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Today's question says, "Am I responsible for my children's salvation? I get very contradicting messages from people. My pastor says it's God's responsibility, but I can't shake the feeling that I will answer God for what my children choose at the end of the day."


Note: The following is an auto-transcript of the podcast recording.

Hello friends and welcome to the Foundation Worldview Podcast where we seek to answer your questions so that you could equip the children that God has placed in your care to carefully evaluate every idea they encounter and understand the truth of the biblical worldview. I'm your host, Elizabeth Urbanowicz. It's been thrilled that you've joined me today for another episode. Today's question says, "Am I responsible for my children's salvation? I get very contradicting messages from people. My pastor says it's God's responsibility, but I can't shake the feeling that I will be answering to God for what my children choose at the end of the day." This is a really interesting question and also an important one for us to think through because we know that we can have no greater joy than to know that our children are walking in the truth. And our greatest goal and desire for our children is that they would be reconciled to God. And so if this is the ultimate goal, we really do need to think through, is this our responsibility? Is it God's responsibility? What should we think about this here? And as always, we're going to go to Scripture to dive down deep into God's word to answer this question.

Before we do, if you found the content of this podcast beneficial, please make sure you like and subscribe so you don't miss any future episodes. And if you have a question that you would like for me to answer on a future Foundation Worldview podcast, you can submit that by going to

The first thing I want to say for this question to the person who wrote it in is it does sound like you're experiencing some fear regarding this. And so this is something I would encourage you to just take a moment to step back and as we look at this biblically, to really gain confidence in what God's word has to say and not to fear in this area. Because I know it can be scary when we think about our children's salvation and really even when we think about anyone's salvation and is it our responsibility?

I have this memory, it's actually seared in my mind from probably when I was nine or 10 years old. My parents, they ran the high school youth group at the church where I grew up and every summer they would take the high schoolers away for one week to Bible camp during the summer, and I would always go along with them. And once I was around nine or 10, my parents had me start sitting in on most of the general teaching sessions. And this one year that we were there, there was a group, a drama group that was doing skits during each of the teaching sessions. And there was this one skit where I don't remember the entirety of the skit, but I just remember part of it was on judgment day. And there was these two girls that were being judged and one of them was a Christian and one of them was not. And the one that was not a Christian in the end of the skit, she was being, I think she was being dragged away to hell by Satan, which is not biblical, that Satan does not drag people away to hell, that hell has been created by God and it is a place of judgment for those whose sins have not already been atoned for. But anyway, the girl was being dragged down this aisle by Satan to hell, and she was calling out to her friend who was a Christian. Why didn't you tell me? Why didn't you tell me? And I remember just having this tremendous fear as a child thinking like, oh my goodness, I am going to be responsible if everyone in my life does not know about Jesus because I have never told them. And so for a long time in my life, I just had this tremendous sense of guilt. Anytime I would have a conversation with a non-Christian and I didn't share the gospel with them, which since then I have learned that yes I am to share the gospel. I am called to make disciples, but it is not ultimately up to me whether someone becomes a Christian or not.

And so that's what we're going to look at today. Is it up to us whether our children are saved or not. So what we want to ask ourselves is what does the Bible have to say about this? And we're going to look at two things in general. First we're going to look at what does the Bible say about salvation in general, and then what does the Bible say about a parent's responsibility in a child's salvation? So we're going to look at those two areas today.

So first just what does the Bible say about salvation in general? If you're not familiar with Christian theology as a formal discipline, this portion of Christian theology actually looking at salvation in general is known as soteriology. So soteriology is the study of salvation. And now Christians, those who hold to the historic Christian worldview, very much are in agreement over what salvation is and how it is accomplished. There's just some disagreement over the order of salvation. If those who hold to a more Calvinistic perspective believe that regeneration or rebirth comes before repentance, that God first regenerates a person and then because of his regenerating grace, that person is then led to repent of their sins or those who hold to arminianism believe that repentance comes first and then regeneration of rebirth. So someone first repents of their sins and then is born again or regenerated, and both those who hold to Calvinism and Arminianism would believe that it is the Holy Spirit that does this work of regenerating and it's the Holy Spirit that does this work of convicting people of sin. It's just the two views view the order of salvation differently, that Calvinism is regeneration and then repentance, arminianism views, repentance and then regeneration.

Now, regardless of this, regardless of what we believe is the true order of salvation, all those who hold to a historic Christian view agree that our understanding of salvation is rooted in Scripture. And so we're going to look, we're dive down deep into what does Scripture actually say. Now those of you who are familiar with this podcast know that we try to keep this each episode to under 20 minutes. So this is not going to be a comprehensive look at what Scripture has to say about salvation, but we are going to look at a few key points that are rooted in several key passages.

So the first thing that Scripture makes very clear is that all humans are sinful and deserve God's just condemnation. This is made clear in Ephesians chapter two verses one through three which says, "And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience- among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind." So this passage makes clear that all humans are in equal footing initially before God, that we are all sinful and we are all justly under God's condemnation.

A second truth revealed in Scripture about salvation is that Jesus bore God's wrath on our behalf to reconcile us to God. This is made clear in Romans chapter five, six through 11, which says, "For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person- though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die- but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation." So because Jesus died on our behalf, he has born God's wrath for us and then reconciled us to God. So the first truth we looked at is we're all sinful and deserve, God's just condemnation. Second, that Jesus bore God's wrath on our behalf to reconcile us to God. And third, those who repent of their sin and believe the gospel will be saved.

Now, this is what we talked about. We Christians differ about the order in which these events happen. However, all Christians who hold to the historic Christian faith agree that this is true, that all those who repent and believe the gospel will be saved. This is clear in Romans chapter 10 verses nine through 13, which says, "if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you'll be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, "Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame." For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For 'everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.'" Okay, so we see these principles clearly from Scripture. We're all sinful and deserve God's just condemnation. Jesus bore God's wrath on our behalf to reconcile us to God and those who repent of their sin and believe the gospel will be saved. So very clear teachings about salvation in Scripture in general.

So now we want to look at the second part of this. What does the Bible say about a parent's responsibility in a child's salvation? And I think here there's two very clear points. First, we are called to tell the gospel to others that this is very clear in Scripture. Romans chapter 10 verses 14 through 15 says, "How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, 'How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news?'" So this passage makes clear that humans are the vehicles through which God shares the gospel with others, that God uses us to preach the good news to others. So how does this relate to our children? Well, we need to ensure that they know what the gospel is and we are to show them how it is woven into every detail of life. Now, sometimes in Christian circles, we use the word gospel a lot, which is good. We should be talking about the gospel a lot. But we need to make sure that our children can actually articulate what the gospel is, that we are sinful, that Jesus died for us, and that through him we can be forgiven of our sins and reconciled to God. So we need to make sure that our children know what the gospel is. This is a question that we should be asking them regularly. Okay, tell me what is the gospel so that they actually know that.

And then that we make sure that the gospel is woven through every detail of life, that as we love them, that we are making clear we can love one another because God has first loved us and God is the one who enables us to love others. In our discipline and correction of them, again, it should always be focused on the gospel, that it's not just about changing their behavior. That yes, that is an element to it, but that's not the primary purpose. The primary purpose of our discipline is that they would confess and repent of their sin and then that we would have a restored relationship with them as we're fostering relationship with them. Again, it should be focused on the gospel that we are called to relationship because God himself is relational and Scripture is all about God reconciling us to Himself as we're serving as a family. It should be all about the gospel that we are serving others to model for them, that Jesus loves us and that he gave up his very life for us. So this first principle is we are called to tell others the gospel, and this is how it relates to our children. One, we need to make sure that they know what the gospel is, and then we need to make sure that it's woven through every part of our daily life as a family.

Second principle is that we are called to make disciples, not just converts. Okay? Jesus didn't say, go and make converts. He said, go and make disciples. A disciple is someone who follows the teachings of a specific teacher. And so it's not just about the initial moment of salvation, it's about actually becoming a disciple of Jesus and learning from him through God's word. Matthew chapter 28, verses 18 through 20, Jesus is about to ascend into heaven and he says, sorry, Matthew writes, "And Jesus came to them and said, 'All authority and heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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.'" So Jesus's command to his followers right before he ascended to heaven was to go and make disciples. And so this relates to us with our children that we are called to make disciples of them as well. And so what is involved in this?

Well, first, we have to build a relationship with them because in order to share the gospel, there needs to be a relationship. And so we need to make sure that we have strong relationships with our children. We also need to make sure that that understand how to think biblically. We need to train them to think. Well, those of you who have followed the Foundation Worldview ministry for a while know that that's what we are all about. We're about providing resources that equip children to think well and to think biblically. And then we also need to make sure that we have routines in our home that foster a love for God and a love for his word, that we're actually cultivating the affections of our children's hearts through the routines that we have in.

So I just covered these things, the building relationships, training our kids to think well and having routines that cultivate affections of the heart. I just went through those really quickly. If you're interested in more information on this, if you check out at Foundation Worldview, we have a parenting series, and the first session, the first 45 minute session in that series is available for free. So we will put a link to that in the show notes. But if you go and request that free sample the parenting series, you'll get a 45 minute teaching session on these three things about how we can make disciples of our children through building relationships, equipping our kids to think well and fostering certain routines in our home.

So I hope what you have seen as I have gone through these two sections, first just what does Scripture say about salvation in general, and then what does Scripture have to say as we're thinking about a parent's responsibility in a child's salvation is nowhere does Scripture state that salvation rests upon the shoulders of one individual?

There is nothing in Scripture, at least with my current understanding of Scripture. There is nothing in it that leads me to believe that I bear the weight of responsibility of an individual's salvation, whether that individual is a child of mine, a neighbor of mine, a family member, or anyone else in the world. And that is because we cannot save. I cannot save anyone, only Jesus can save. However, what we need to make sure that we are doing is that the elements for growth, the elements for discipleship are in place in our home, that we are making it so that our children are hopefully having hearts and minds that are softened to God and open to the things of him.

My Bible study leader when I was back living in Chicago, gave this great analogy. She gave the analogy of a plant and she said, if you plant a seed in the ground, it is not your responsibility to make that seed grow. We as humans, we don't have the power to actually turn a seed into a plant. It's the information that is in that seed that God has placed there that actually equips that plant to grow. But what we do need to do is we need to make sure that the elements for growth are in place. When we plant a seed, we need to make sure that it's in fertile soil. We need to make sure that we're watering it. We need to make sure that it's in a place where it's getting sunlight. And then once those elements for growth are in place, the rest is out of our hands. That seed may grow into a full blown plant, or it may die before it ever germinates, and we don't have control over that. But if we have the elements for growth in place, we have done what our responsibility is.

And it's similar with our children. We do not ultimately have control over whether or not our children are saved, whether they're reconciled in their relationship to God. But what we can do is we can put the elements for growth in place. We can make sure that we are setting up our home in a way where we are fostering relationships that reflect the kind of relationship that God desires to have with his children. We can make sure that we are equipping them to think well so that they are thinking biblically and they're able to reject the hollow and deceptive philosophies of the world, and we can make sure that we are putting rhythms and routines in our homes that are cultivating and appetite and affections for the things of God. So I think that plant analogy is a really helpful one. We need to make sure we have the elements for growth in place, but ultimately the ultimate growth is in God's hands only God can save.

Well, that's a wrap for this episode. But as always, my prayer for you as we leave our time together is that no matter the situation in which you and the children God has placed in your care, find yourselves that you would trust that God is working all things together for your good. By using all things to conform you more into the image of His Son. I'll see you next time.

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