To the Saints in Ephesus . . . Who Are Children?

Paul writes “to the saints who are in Ephesus” (Ephesians 1:1) and explains to them the wonderful work that the Triune God has performed to save them, rescue them from their sin, and addi them into His church (the first half of the book). Subsequently, Paul tells these saints how they ought to live as members of the church in light of the wonderful works of God (the second half of the book).

We all agree that these saints are not saints because of their perfectly pure morality and behavior. If that were the case, then Paul would not need to give them instructions on living the Christian life. Plus Paul spent the first half of the letter telling them how bad they were (Ephesians 2:1-3) and about the great saving works of God (Ephesians 1:3-14). It’s better if we think of these saints as having been counted as saints by God by virtue of the fact that they “were once far off,” but they now “have been brought near by the blood of Christ” (Ephesians 2:13).

But what’s really interesting about these so-called saints is that children, yes children, are counted among them. Paul exhorts them: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right” (Ephesians 6:1). I say “interesting” because when we think about saints we usually think exclusively in terms of adult Christians, but Paul includes children under this category. Among the people in the church of Ephesus are children who are counted as saints.

We know that they’re not saints because of their behavior, but they are nevertheless counted as saints by God since they are part of His visible covenant community (the church). So when Paul says, “There is one body and one Spirit . . . one Lord, one faith, one baptism” (Ephesians 4:5), he must have these children in mind since he goes on to address them several verses later. Children are part of the body, which must also mean that they have been baptized. And thus we see that the Bible assumes that children are simply a part of God’s covenant people, which means that they ought to receive the sign of entrance into God’s covenant people: baptism.

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