Children can do more than you might think
It’s common for people and parents especially to have very low expectations of children.
It is almost 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.
Look at this.
As he works his way through God’s expectations of believers in their relationships with one another in the book of Ephesians, he speaks not only to husbands and to wives, but he also speaks pointedly to children as well.
You can imagine a church service where they are reading the book of Ephesians for the first time, and their minds are wandering, but as they are reading through the book of Ephesians for the first time, and then the preacher says children, and their eyes look up.
Paul has something to say to children.
And here, it’s likely that in this particular passage he’s speaking to younger children actually.
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.
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. He’s talking about spirit filled children, and he tells children obey your children how? In the Lord. Paul is assuming children can have a genuine relationship with God and a genuine desire to honor God with their lives.
Now 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.
Because 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.
And maybe you have seen evidences of that in your life as well. I know I have met children of six or eight or ten who have a deeper desire for Christ than people three times their age. This 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.
If you don’t think children can know and understand Scriptures, 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.
Sometimes at shockingly young ages.
Even with our children, we have enjoyed some great conversations about God.
When they are one, we teach them who made you and what else did God make and some of the other questions from the Catechism.
Even when they can’t talk, we will teach them who made you and they will point to the sky as we say God and then we will ask, what else did God make and they will stick out their arms as wide as they can, as we say all things.
Children can learn and understand more than we imagine.
I remember one of our older daughters was in the car with her sister Bayley, who was maybe two at the time, and my older daughter was telling Bayley she didn’t need to be scared because God was sitting in the car with her, and Bayley who is a little bit technical, I guess, she said, no, God is a spirit and He doesn’t have legs, so he can’t be sitting down next to me, but Jesus, maybe Jesus could because he has legs.
One of the greatest blessings you can give to young children is to help them memorize the Word of God, and if you help them do this, they will often speak to you the Word of God when you least expect it.
There was an old preacher named Charles Spurgeon, “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 might be walking somewhere with your two year old, when you start to complain about how long the walk is, when your daughter looks up at you and says, “Rejoice in the Lord always Daddy and again I say rejoice.”
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.