Ephesians 6 and Covenant Children

Discussion in 'Credo-Baptism Answers' started by Douglas P., May 31, 2011.

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  1. Douglas P.

    Douglas P. Puritan Board Freshman

    I’m wondering how my Baptist brothers understand Ephesians 6:1-4 in consideration of it’s surrounding context and in light of Ephesians 1:1.

    From my understanding, Paul’s argument that children should obey their parents in the Lord rests on the presupposition that the children of believers are in the covenant community. It seems as though his logic goes that since children are part of the visible administration of the New Covenant, they should obey their parents just as (although from a fuller Christological and Eschatological understanding) children did under the administration of the Old Covenant.
  2. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Puritan Board Doctor


    Thanks for your question.

    These and other similar passages in the epistles are brought forth by our paedobaptist brethren as evidence that non-professing children of church members are in an outward or visible administration of the New Covenant. As you note, it's only natural to look at it that way if you come to the text with that presupposition. This was an interpretation that held sway with me for a while. However, it seems to me that more weight is placed on these passages than they are able to bear.

    We have no reason to believe that the children in 6:1 are not professing believers. The letter is addressed to "the saints" and 5:22 ff is dedicated to elucidating the duties of Christian wives, husbands, children, fathers, masters and servants. (Even unbelieving children or those who have yet to profess faith publicly should obey their parents, but that's a little off topic.)

    I think the wording in 6:1 might lead to some confusion. I'm not a Greek scholar, but it seems to me that the best interpretation of "obey your parents in the Lord" is to obey your parents in all things lawful or as it is in accordance with God's revealed will, whether the parent(s) are Christians or not. This would be similar to how wives are to obey or submit to their husbands.(Ch. 5, cf. 1 Pet 3:1-2) In many cases it was probably common for most if not all of the household to be believers, as we see with the household baptisms. But if "in the Lord" is interpreted to modify parents instead of obey, then one could then argue that only Christian parents are to be obeyed. As we see from 1 Cor 7:14, it was not uncommon to have only one believing parent. And even though society tended to be more communal than our individualized culture today, there may well have been children of a certain age who were believers but who had unbelieving parents.

    Moving further on in the passage, servants (or slaves) are to obey their masters (v.5 ff) and masters are to "do the same things unto them." While I think it's fair to assume that there were many Christian servants serving Christian masters, this was not always the case. Christian servants should obey their masters whether they are Christians or not (working as unto the Lord) and masters should "do the same things" whether their servants are Christians or not.

    Servants were often members of the household. If we believe household baptism based on the head of household's faith is to be practiced, should servants and other extended members of the family (i.e. mother in law etc) be baptized too? I've heard at least Reformed pastor say that he believes that is what would have been done. I don't know if he had this particular passage in mind or was simply reasoning from the household passages.
  3. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    How, precisely, are you getting the text to "bear up" everything you just proposed? What exegesis of Paul leads you to the conclusion that Paul is restricting his instruction to mature, professing children?

    Also, how does the baptism of mothers-in-law or servants bear upon the question asked?
  4. PuritanCovenanter

    PuritanCovenanter Moderator Staff Member

    Is the 5th commandment a creation ordinance? Is it not considered to be a part of Natural Law as some define natural law? If it is then this commandment would be required of everyone who was ever born.

  5. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member


    Is this part of general revelation:
  6. PuritanCovenanter

    PuritanCovenanter Moderator Staff Member

    That would be more specific in relation to the Mosaic I believe Rich. Especially if it is attached to the promises of living in the "land".

    But I think Calvin is attributing this more in a general way and in a way that it would be relavent even outside of that covenant. Wouldn't you agree?
  7. Herald

    Herald Administrator Staff Member


    In context Paul is writing about relationships (wives, husbands, children, fathers, slaves, and masters). Its interesting that within the span of a few verses (5:31; 6:2-3) Paul references the Law (Gen. 2:24; Exo. 20:12). We know that the covenant of marriage is binding regardless of the spiritual condition of the persons involved. That children are to obey their parents seems to be binding also, and under the exact same conditions. It is not necessary for the credobaptist to assume Eph. 6:1-3 is directed towards believing children. Children are expected to obey their parents. It is part of God's moral law. Now, we can extrapolate that children raised in a Christian home, who obey their parents, stand a greater chance of coming to faith in Christ; but I don't believe that is the point of the passage. Covenant families are not the main point of the passage either. Eph. 5:22-6:9 deals with relationships within the church. It's not necessary (and I believe it's massaging the text) to make Eph. 6:1-3 apply to covenant children.

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