A gracEmail subscriber in Arkansas asks the basis on which I believe God holds people accountable.
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So far as I know, the Bible does not use the term “accountability,” nor speak of a specific age at which one becomes accountable. Nevertheless, based on such texts as Leviticus 10:16-20; 2 Chronicles 30:17-20; Matthew 25:29; Romans 2:12-16, 25-29 and 2 Corinthians 8:12, I conclude that God holds humans accountable based on their individual knowledge, understanding, ability and opportunity. In other words, God does not hold people accountable for what they do not know, what they do not understand or what they cannot do, whether due to personal inability or lack of opportunity.
Judged by even that fair standard, no one blessed with reason and understanding measures up. Every competent person since Adam (excluding only Jesus Christ himself) has consciously said “No” to God at some time in response to the divine revelation each person had–whether that revelation came through creation, innate conscience, the Law of Moses, the message of the Gospel or some extraordinary means. Measured by the light we had, we are all sinners, responsible for our sins and accountable to God (Rom. 1-3).
Although no sinner deserves God’s favor, God is unspeakably gracious. Because of his heart of love for his creatures, God shows undeserved favor to sinners in whom he sees a heart of faith (Rom. 4) God has publicly demonstrated the justice of his grace by setting forth the perfect doing and dying of Jesus Christ in our stead (Rom. 5).