The Age of Accountability

“And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions. And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers.” (Luke 2:46-47)

There is a spurious doctrine called “the age of accountability” that some have derived from this passage. This doctrine teaches since Jesus went to the Temple at age twelve, that is the age when men become accountable to God for their actions. This may have been “custom” among the Jews at the time, but the Bible speaks nothing of an age of accountability at any age. In fact, the Bible clearly states that men are born sinners and therefore accountable to God from conception.

“Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.” (Psalm 51:5)

David is not saying that he was conceived by an act of sin on his mother’s part for that would prevent him from ruling as king of Israel.

“A bastard shall not enter into the congregation of the Lord; even to his tenth generation shall he not enter into the congregation of the Lord.” (Deuteronomy 23:2)

He is saying that at the moment of his conception he was already a sinner. We do not become sinners by sinning. We sin because we are sinners by our inherited nature from Adam.

Death is the result of sin being in a person. If sin is not counted against any child younger than 12 years old, then none of them would ever die. Tragically, we know this is not the case.

Luke does not mention the age of Jesus in order to set up some sort of rite of passage. As we will see later, His age is mentioned to show why everyone was so amazed at His wisdom and focus.

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