Explaining Romans 7:9

Q. Please explain where in Romans 7:9 it says children have eternal life because their sins are not counted against them. I cannot find any reference to children in the verse.

A. Paul was using his own life as an example of something that happens with every child. Romans 7:9 says, “Once I was alive apart from the Law, but when the commandment came sin sprang to life and I died.”

Since God’s Law had been part of Jewish life for over 1,000 years, Paul could not have been saying it was first implemented during his lifetime. Therefore he had to mean he was not accountable for his sins (violations of God’s law) from birth but became so at some point during his life. And since he was still alive when he wrote the book of Romans he couldn’t have been referring to his physical death when he said, “The commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died.” He had to be speaking of the time during his life when he became accountable for his sins and lost his eternal life.

Therefore, Paul was saying he was born with eternal life and had it until the time he became accountable for his sins. At that time the penalty for his sins (which is death) was levied against him and he no longer had eternal life. This chain of events was obviously not unique with Paul, but applies to all children.

This point in a person’s life has been called “reaching the age of accountability.” It’s the time when a child has developed sufficient intellectual maturity to understand the nature and consequences of sin. In the Jewish culture this is traditionally age 12 for girls and 13 for boys, but no specific age is given in the Bible because children mature at different rates.

Sometime after Paul became accountable for his sins but before he wrote the book of Romans, Paul gave his life to the Lord and was born again. At that point he regained the eternal life with which he had been born.

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