I was five when I trusted Jesus. Some might say that was too young. Maybe? I don’t know. I would hesitate and think long about it if my child was that young. Looking back, I don’t doubt it was a true faith, though maturity came much later. I was in college when I learned to own my faith.
(I read somewhere recently that some come to faith like a bright flash, a light suddenly turning on. Others, though, are like the sun slowly creeping over the horizon. That was me.)
Regardless of what we might think of how old a child might truly understand the Gospel, the fact is the Gospel is simple enough for a child. That’s a humbling aspect of it. That’s why Jesus never turned down a child coming to spend time with him, no matter what grumpy disciples might think.
Faith like a child–not a spiritual life of immaturity, but trust in something so simple.
In 2 Timothy 2:8, Paul gave a simple explanation: “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead and descended from David” (CSB). Jesus, the Savior-King, the promised one, once dead, now alive. Paul gave an equally simple statement in 1 Corinthians 15, reminding us that it was all for our sin.
That’s it. That’s the Gospel: Jesus died for your sins and rose from the grave to save you. It’s so simple, a child, who has no concept of inerrancy or the virgin birth or the Trinity, can understand.
That’s not to say that doctrine and theology aren’t important. They have a place as we grow and mature. But sometimes, it seems, in the rush to protect the Gospel (as if the Gospel needs protecting) through theological triage, we assign so many things to the first order: A Christian must believe this. They are Gospel issues. No, the Gospel is that simple good news of what Jesus did to save you, the milk we need to grow to later chew the meat of theology.
Other matters are not truly Gospel issues but Gospel implications and Gospel applications. As Jesus said, everything falls on two commands, and the second is like the first: Love God and love others. With the Gospel, we learn to love God by the love God has for us. That changes us. That changes our hearts. Then flow the Gospel applications: we love others, a statement that has implications for everything from racial reconciliation to caring for the poor. As we mature in faith, our love for God and others should grow as we come to a greater grasp on the reality that the Bible is true and truly God’s word, and Jesus is everything Scripture claims he is.
But let’s not confuse maturing theology of Gospel implications with the simple beauty of the Gospel itself.
God loves you, sending Jesus to die and rise from the dead to save you from your sins. It’s so simple that even a child can understand.
Mike Bergman is the pastor of a very normative church in small-town America. He is passionate about the weather, his family, foster care, and Jesus.