QUESTION: Does the phrase “all have sinned” in Romans 3:23 include children who have not yet come to the age of accountability?
ANSWER: No! In the context of this chapter, the word “all” refers to Jews and Gentiles, just as it does in verse nine. Of course, we realize that an infant is either Jew or Gentile, but, nonetheless, to infer that the “all” includes infants and, therefore, they are sinners is to read into the passage that which it does not teach. As well, such inference creates contradictions with other passages. For example, Ezekiel 28:15 teaches that we are perfect, or without sin, as infants; that iniquity is found in us at a later time in life. Ezekiel 18:20 teaches that we do not inherit sin. It is said of the “little ones” who left Egypt that they only (except Joshua and Caleb) would inherit Canaan, because they “in that day had no knowledge of good and evil” (Deuteronomy 1:39). So it is today. Without the mental capacity to know good and evil, one cannot sin. Infants clearly do not have the capability of knowing good and evil and, therefore, have no sin!