Your Question: Can a small child have the Spirit of God in him?
Many parents wonder if their little children know God yet, or to put it another way “have God’s Spirit in them”. The two expressions mean the same thing since all believers have the Holy Spirit in them (Eph. 1:13). But children’s understanding of the world around them, including spiritual matters, is very limited. So can a little child actually have God’s Spirit? To answer that question, let’s look briefly at how the Holy Spirit works to save people.
In the Bible, Jesus told a man named Nicodemus how a person becomes born-again. But he doesn’t tell Nicodemus four easy steps to follow in order to become born again. Instead, he explains it this way:
“The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8 ESV)
Jesus’ answer sounds rather mysterious because the “how” and “when” of the Holy Spirit causing a person to be “born again” is mysterious. Nobody really knows how, when, or why the Holy Spirit changes a person’s heart so that they will repent and believe the Gospel.
Born again or “regeneration”
What we do know is that the Holy Spirit needs to make us born again (sometimes called “regeneration”) before we grasp the truth of the Gospel and confess Christ. The Bible says, “even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ — by grace you have been saved—” (Ephesians 2:5). Dead people can’t do anything, and those who are dead spiritually can’t decide for Christ, and they can’t repent and believe – unless God brings them to life. Only when God chooses them and makes them alive, can they then choose God. The Bible says that when God chooses to save somebody, he oversees the whole process of salvation from beginning to end:
“For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” (Romans 8:29-30)
John the Baptist
Usually the act of the Holy Spirit causing a person to be born again (or regenerate) is followed closely by them repenting and believing in Christ. In the case, of a little child, we know from the Bible that it is possible for the Holy Spirit to dwell in even an unborn infant, as in the case of John the Baptist:
“he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb.” (Luke 1:15)
Now, even though John was indwelt with the Spirit from birth, the Bible doesn’t indicate that he had a mental capacity any different from any other child. That means that John probably acquired an understanding of the great truths of God as he grew up, and that his faith grew as he did.
Because the Bible says that he was filled with the Spirit from his mother’s womb, we know that he knew God as he grew up. But if we didn’t have that Bible verse, it would probably have been hard to tell until he grew into maturity.
If we think about how the Holy Spirit saves people in general, and about the example of John the Baptist, we can conclude that a small child can have the Holy Spirit in him. However, because children are immature both mentally and spiritually, it will normally take many years before there is a certain outward expression of that internal regeneration (born-again-ness).
All Christian parents hope that their children know God savingly from an early age. From Scripture, we know that it is possible. But in experience, we must be extremely cautious is saying whether a child is filled with the Holy Spirit, and is thus saved.
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