Ephesians 6:4 reads,
“And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.”
You can read Part 1 here.
Now it is interesting here what Paul actually says. For many of us in the church we like to mentally change a preposition in Paul’s statement. We like to function as though our children are a continual evangelism project. Many churches remove children from corporate worship and give them their own form of “worship” every Sunday. Yet still, Bible classes are segregated by age, and most often the adults are being taught the Bible, and the children get a Gospel message every Sunday. Even Reformed churches have levels of membership. There are baptized members (infants and children) and then there is the graduate level of communicant members (baptized adults). The preposition we subtly shift in our minds is the preposition “in.” Our churches like to shift Paul’s language to this, “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them to the Lord.”
This is not what Paul says. He says to bring your children up IN the Lord. How does this happen? How are our children IN the Lord? Answer: Baptism. Follow this flow of thought: Jesus says to make disciples by baptizing people and teaching them to obey everything He has commanded, Matthew 28:18-20. Then Paul says that baptism places us in the death of Christ and in the new life of Christ, Romans 6:1-11. Paul also says that all those who are baptized are in Jesus Christ, Galatians 3:27. To be in Christ, and to have Christ in us, means we are saints (holy ones), Colossians 1:27. This is how Paul can tell the Corinthian church that their children are holy (saints), 1 Corinthians 7:14. This is also how the covenant obligations are applied to children in the church (Ephesians 6:1-4), because they are IN Christ, and now they are called to be branches that bear fruit, John 15:1-8.
It is not as though God’s grace comes down from heaven and rests five feet off the ground waiting for your children to reach it. God’s grace goes all the way down. If a three year old knows he sinned against his mommy and then asks her forgiveness and God’s, does God’s grace not accommodate the capacities of this child? If a 30 year old man becomes a Christian and all he can say is, “Jesus died for me,” does God’s grace not come down and accommodate his theological ineptitude?
The call for Christian parents is not to see their children as evangelism projects, rather we are to see our children belonging to the Lord, and we are called to teach them to live like it.
But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear Him,
and His righteousness unto children’s children;
to such as keep His covenant,
and to those that remember His commandments to do them. Psalm 103:17-18