Thinking biblically about children part 2

It’s common for parents to have very low expectations of their own children’s ability to understand and obey.

In fact, with some parents, it seems as if they think children don’t have responsibilities towards God until they are adults and that they are free to just run around and do whatever they want until then.

When we look at Ephesians 6, we see that Paul’s attitude was very different.

As he works his way through God’s expectations of believers in their relationships with one another, he speaks not only to husbands and to wives, but pointedly to children as well.

And younger children as well.

This command is not so much to children who have left the home and gotten married obviously because Paul told us back in verse 31 that when you get married your relationship with your parents changes, you leave your father and mother; and we see in verse 4 that he is talking about children who are still being brought up by their parents.

Now I think the fact that Paul commands children that are still in the home being trained by their parents directly shows us that he assumes children can be converted, be genuine believers, and even have a desire to honor the Lord.

There are some who see that Paul talks to children here and say aha, it must mean that Paul thinks of every child born to a Christian as automatically being a believer and part of the church; but whenever people say things like that, I think wow, that’s reading a whole lot into this one command, isn’t it? And it doesn’t fit what we know to be true from the rest of Ephesians, even.

Paul told us back in chapter 2 that we all once lived in the passions of our flesh and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind and that certainly includes even children born to believers. Even the children of believers are born sinners and need to be converted and be born again. Children who are born into Christian families are favored and shown grace by God in that they hear the Word of God like this, they hear the law of God in Ephesians 6 and the gospel and the great promises of God, so they are privileged, but their need to be saved is the same as the rest.

The good news, of course, is as we look at this passage is that they can be saved. Paul clearly assumes that. There are some children of six or eight or ten who have a deeper desire for Christ than people three times their age; which is why Paul doesn’t overlook them as he speaks to the church. Children need instruction, they need discipleship and really, wherever they are at in their relationship with God at this point, you can’t start this process of training them in the Word of God too early.

We should like Paul be teaching them the Scriptures and what God desires of them from a very young age. This is actually what Paul says his disciple Timothy’s mother and grandmother did with him. You remember how Paul says to Timothy ‘from childhood’ Timothy ‘you have known the sacred writings,’ in other words, from being just a small child, Timothy, Paul is saying, you remember how your mother was teaching you the Word of God.

Talk to your children about God’s commands, God’s promises, like Paul does from a very young age.

Because if you don’t think children can know and understand Scriptures as they grow up, they probably won’t; but if you do think children can know and understand the Scriptures even at a very young age, you will find they can and will.

I know that from personal experience, even with our children, from a very young age we have been having some great conversations about God and the gospel.

There was an old preacher named Charles Spurgeon who once said and I agree completely, “We cannot begin too early to fill the minds of our children with Scriptural knowledge…The Holy Scriptures may be learned by children as soon as they are capable of understanding anything.”

You make a very big mistake if you don’t expect that your children pay attention at least at some level according to their capacity to God’s Word and if you don’t challenge them on a regular basis with their responsibility to put what they hear into practice; because Paul inspired by God to write Ephesians, clearly does.

2 thoughts on “Thinking biblically about children part 2

  1. Hi Josh. I’m thankful for these thoughts. Two thoughts to add in affirmation:
    1) Paul’s instruction in Ephesians 5 & 6 on relationships (wives, husbands, children, fathers, slaves, masters) is a series of “for example”s of “submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ” (5:21). That phrase is simply an explanation of the direct command of verse 18, “be filled with the Spirit”.
    My point is, I totally agree with you, Josh, that Paul had reasonable expectation that children would be able to comprehend and follow his instruction. We often don’t think of discussing concepts like being filled with the Spirit, or reverrnce for Christ as the motivation for obedience. Which leads me to my second point,
    2) this command to children has to bring us right to the foot of the cross. In pre marital counseling, this passage has been the launching pad for the gospel. Couples should not be after a good marriage, or even being the best husband or wife they can be. That’s moralism, because it leaves God out. The command to “be filled with the Spirit” and to “submit to one another out of reverance for Christ” must drive us to humble dependence on the righteousness of Christ. A child’s obedience is explained by Paul here as an expression of worship. The gospel makes the difference between duty and delight.

    Parents, explore with your kids what it means to be filled with the Holy Spirit, to walk by the Spirit. Help them see the battle going on between flesh and Spirit, in a truthful, biblical way. Then point them to Jesus, “who for the joy set before Him endured the cross..”

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