Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Matthew 11:25e (Holman) “. . .and revealed them to infants.”
Jesus is not rejoicing over being rejected by His neighbors. He is rather celebrating that the plan of salvation His Father devised makes Heaven possible for all, not only the elite. If only geniuses and intellectuals could be Christians, Heaven would have few inhabitants, salvation would be only a scholastic prize, and people would boast their own knowledge had merited for them their salvation.
This is not to say anything is inherently wrong with learning. God created human intellect. People were designed to think, reason, seek, and learn. John Calvin, Augustine, Martin Luther, C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, and Chuck Colson prove intelligence in and of itself is no hindrance to believing in Christ.
With regard to having a personal relationship with God, neither intelligence nor the lack thereof stands in the way. Neither the learned nor the unlearned has any advantage or disadvantage. Both are able to believe. Regarding Christ’s Kingdom, brilliance is not necessary to be invited in; dullness does not exclude.
Knowing God requires taking salvation out of the intellectual and putting it in the spiritual. A person can be an Einstein, but without a childlike heart, he will not know God. We humans are more than intellects that think and reason. We are sinners who have failed God miserably. Despite our failure, He loves all equally and yearns for all to be saved. Thus He devised a plan of salvation which would be available to all, and could be forfeited only by one’s own refusal to receive it.
Grace is amazing. The plan is, too. We have long sung William Newell’s beloved words, “Oh, the love that drew salvation’s plan!” We marvel at a method making salvation equally possible for all. Old, young, rich, poor, good, bad, male, female–all are on level footing. The same salvation is offered to all equally. God put His spiritual cookies on the lowest shelf. Even a small child can reach them.
Few can be brilliant scholars, but all can be childlike. Our goal is not to be childish, acting out the bad traits of little ones, but to be childlike, a word we use to describe winsome traits of the young. What are some desirable childlike traits?
First, children are humble. They possess simple, lowly hearts. To offer salvation to all evenhandedly, God had to find a way to make it within the reach of the lowliest, the humblest. The whole purpose of salvation is to dethrone self and enthrone God in human hearts. Therefore, pride is spiritually self-defeating.
It is remarkable to see the Lord of heaven and earth embracing the humble as His own. If God did not stoop to us, we would think less of Him. We’re drawn to, and enamored by, the High, Holy One who descends to lift lowly, sinful ones.
Jesus chose a life of self-humiliation. God humbled Himself to become man. His followers must be humble. “Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves” (PH 2:3 Holman). This verse gives a workable, easily understood definition of humility. A tangible, objective trait of humility is, we consider others more important than ourselves.
Our salvation hinges on the attitude we have about ourselves spiritually, not intellectually. Pride, not intelligence, shuts out. Humility, not stupidity, admits.
Second, children are teachable. Willing to be taught, they love to learn. Children aren’t puffed up, thinking they have all the answers and know everything.
The condition for acquiring spiritual knowledge is conscious ignorance. Trouble arrives spiritually when we think we have arrived intellectually. To learn more about Jesus we must admit we know little of Him. The Twelve were deemed “unlearned and ignorant” (AC 4:13), but they succeeded for God because they knew their own shortcomings. They were willing to be taught, to learn from Jesus.
Third, children are unprejudiced. Preconceived ideas have not yet slammed shut their brains. They are not yet predisposed, and don’t have it all figured out.
Children still view things with unbiased wonder. I picked up my grandson Sam at school recently in my pick-up truck. In cars he always sits in the back seat due to danger from air-bags, but in my old truck he for the first time rode in a front seat, enjoying the wide open view. Nothing breathtaking was on the route, but he was fascinated with it all, thrilled to be taking it all in. To him it was brand new.
Free of prejudice, children are willing to surrender themselves to knowledge outside themselves. Salvation requires accepting fresh ideas coming from Jesus and the Bible. Becoming a Christ-follower requires relinquishing preoccupations with one’s own preconceived ideas, and willingly taking our Master at His word.
Fourth, children are dependent. Knowing they are not self-sufficient, they look for help. “Infants” and “Father” go together. Each is corollary to the other.
To come to God, we have to take the posture of spiritually helpless children, and renounce self-help. There must be utter disregard for trying to come based on our merit, on our efforts to earn salvation. We must be willing to be saved God’s way, by grace, as a free gift. Heaven will contain no crowing, strutting roosters.
The common people heard Jesus gladly (MK 12:37). As religious outcasts, they knew they needed help, and freely admitted their weakness and nothingness.
The sophisticated often overlook God’s plan of being saved by grace because they don’t want salvation to be simple and free. They want to unravel it, figure it out, to merit it, to bring something to God that forces Him to reward them.
God, though, wants the person, not only their intellect, accomplishments, or gifts. Childlike souls, welcoming this humbling truth, gladly depend on Jesus to be saved, but childish souls swell up with their importance and want their way.
Fifth, children aspire. They imagine and dream, seeing above and beyond the real world they live in. In our culture, to become a believer, we have to aspire, to look above and beyond the sinful age we dwell in. We have to believe Jesus can and will come live in us anyway, even though the world around us is perverse.
To children, nothing is impossible. I used to pretend I was Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays. In my back yard, alone with myself, I hit more home runs than did the two of them combined. I believed I could someday be, yea excel, them.
Dear unbeliever, dream like a child. Imagine Jesus can find you in a dark world. He knows our names, our addresses, and will come live in our hearts if we repent, turn about face from our sins, and ask Him to forgive us and be our Lord.
Lostness cannot be blamed on bad surroundings or on anything else other than our own decision to stay lost. However sinfully bleak the setting, salvation can be received by those who love it and are willing to embrace it for themselves.
Dear believers, we too must aspire as children. We often find ourselves in uncongenial straits, surrounded by unsympathetic, sometimes hostile, unbelievers.
Don’t give in to the lie we cannot be holy. By God’s grace we can stay true, we can overcome. God’s best are often found in the midst of Satan’s worst.
Some of the Twelve came from evil, unbelieving Capernaum and Bethsaida. Obadiah stayed pure in Ahab’s palace. Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego never flinched in a pagan land. Flowers can grow atop a garbage dump.
For unbelievers and believers, the key to spiritual success is a childlike heart. It is the only way a believer can draw closer to God, and an unbeliever can become a believer. Be humble, teachable, and unprejudiced. Depend. Aspire.