Ephesians 6 v 1 – 3
We seem to be living in a topsy-turvy world. Many things seem to be the opposite of what they should be. This is no less true in the families of our land. There seems to be a principle or a standard, taught by governments, and the psychologists and sociologists who advise government, that goes like this with respect to the family – “Parents, obey your children – give them what they want – deny them nothing – and do not punish them – for by doing this you will make sure you will have a peaceful and happy home life.” This doctrine of the world around us is diametrically opposed to the wise teaching of the Apostle Paul as he wrote his letter to the Christians at Ephesus. There were children in the congregation and they would have heard the words of the Holy Spirit coming from the pen of Paul. From Ephesians 5 v 18 onwards we have been discovering what it is to be filled with the Holy Spirit. This filling leads us to the power of being in SUBMISSION – Christians submitting to one another as they submit to the Lord Jesus Christ and His sovereign will. Paul, the writer of the Letter to the Ephesians, narrowed down the application of the principles of submission from the whole assembly of believers to specific relationships within the church. He has dealt with wives and husbands – and now he comes to the children of families – beginning at verse 1 of Chapter 6. Ephesians 6 v 1 is a message to children. It is not primarily a message to parents to pass on to their children – it is a direct message to children –
“Children, obey your parents!”
But of course the parents must take notice too! This is no complicated set of regulations that could not be understood by the young ones – CHILDREN – you know if you are a child or not! OBEY – not a difficult word to understand – respond to a command – do as you are told. YOUR PARENTS – the people who have the responsibility before God to bring you into the world and to teach you how to be an adult. What could be simpler? An unambiguous statement of God’s requirements by the Maker Himself. But how easily it has been turned around. It had been turned around in the pagan culture of Ephesus – therefore it needed to be spelt out clearly. The Ephesians had been converted – saved by the grace of God – but they were still in the culture of their day and were learning day by day that living as a Christian is different. Christian people are called out people – out of the ways of the world and the culture around them – to live separately with a new culture, rooted in the good laws of God the creator. We too are in the same situation. Instead of looking around us to see what the people around are doing with their lives and in their families, we look to God’s word. There is the authority for what we do or don’t do. Children obey your parents. This is the next stage in the Holy Spirit’s instructions to us and we can focus on verses 1 – 3 as being
The Duty of children to their Parents
The Lord God is very kind in the way that He has caused these words to be written. In our English language they are very memorable words and it is right that each of us whether adults or children, be able to go away today with Ephesians 6 v 1 firmly imprinted on our memories. We can do this by observing the verse in 3 sections which join together neatly –
1. Children obey your parents
2. In the Lord
3. For this is right
We will be able to notice also that these three sections dovetail with the teachings of verses 2 and 3, making an easily remembered whole, based on verse 1.
1. Children obey your parents
The first important matter to notice is that Paul starts with the children – children obey your parents. This was the same way that he dealt with wives and husbands – he started with the wives first. He starts with those who are to be obedient, who are to be subject in a relationship – because the underlying theme is submission – verse 21 of chapter 5
Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.
This is what marks Christianity out as different from paganism. In ancient literature it was the father, the patriarch who was the most important when it came to discipline and leadership in the family. The women were put together with the children as objects of the man’s tyrannical rule – the mother had no status. But the Jewish and Christian models, rooted as they are in the Mosaic Law, put the mother alongside the father – children obey your PARENTS – PLURAL. Both of them! The word for parents in verse 1 is formed in the original from the verb TO BE – GINOMAI. Parents are therefore people who bring another life into existence. My parents brought about my being – I am, because of them. And once more we can see how the god of this world is doing his best to interfere with this most basic relationship. He is goading men to conduct research into cloning and such like so that children can be produced without the method that God prescribed which provided children with 2 parents. The creator knows best. And, who wants a test tube for a parent? A monogamous marriage relationship of 2 parents, a man and a woman, who love each other, is God’s recipe for the ideal environment in which a child can grow and be nurtured. The child’s responsibility is to obey those parents. Many of our problems in society today can be traced to a breakdown and spoiling of marriage and home relationships. Discipline is breaking down. Lawlessness is rampant and godly standards of behaviour are being ridiculed and dismissed. And this is always the case in periods of history where God is left out of people’s thinking. It happened in Bible times. Think about the times of the judges. When the Bible says that every man did that which was right in his own eyes. That quotation included the children. In our own country there were awful scenes of riot and immoral behaviour in the times before the great revivals of religion when God graciously came to help our people with a mighty outpouring of His Holy Spirit. And today we are witnessing that decay again. This is nothing new. Paul told us about the characteristics of such societies – and in two of the lists that he wrote, describing people’s behaviour in times of godlessness we see the term DISOBEDIENT TO PARENTS – included as one of the features –
Romans 1 v 28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; 29 Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, 30 Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 Without understanding,
Then in 2 Timothy 3 v 1
This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. 2 For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3 Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, 4 Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; 5 Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof:
But when people are trusting the Lord God and are filled with the Spirit of His Son the Lord Jesus Christ then there is a return to God’s order – Children obey their parents. Now this is not to say that just because the parents are believers that the children will be too. But it is that when the Christian parents, filled with the Spirit, submitting to God and one another, insist on God’s pattern – that their children obey them – then there is a God honouring situation in place in those families. The right environment is created in which the children can obey, and can hear about God, and see the Lord Jesus Christ in their parents and be loved as God loves His children. For those formative years in Christian families, children can see God’s grace at work, whether or not they themselves are converted. Nevertheless they are taught to obey. This is God’s recipe. The word for OBEY in the Greek is a graphic description of what it is to obey – HUPAKOO –OH. It is formed from 2 Greek words under and listen. To obey therefore literally means “Children – place yourselves under the authority of your parents and listen to them.” God has provided you with parents – He has given them authority – and you must listen to them – hear what they say and then do it! There is another advantage of obedience to parents. God has given children the opportunity to learn how to obey God when they learn how to willingly obey their parents. It is an awesome thing to fallen into the hands of the thrice holy living God. It is a fearful thing to be subject to the creator and it would be terrifying for young children to be exposed to the majesty and holiness of the Almighty God. But how kind of the Lord God to provide this blessed arrangement of the human family, to enable young children to learn awe, reverence, respect and discipline from human parents. Of course this is the ideal and we have to recognise that some children and indeed people who are adults today have not had much of an example from their parents. Some children have had parents that have been cold and indifferent towards them, others have suffered cruelty and tyranny; others have been deprived of one of their parents through the tragedies of divorce or bereavement. But Paul, we must remember, is writing this letter to Christians in the churches at Ephesus, Asia Minor and now it is read by all churches everywhere in the world. His letter is timeless – but it is to Christians.
“Children obey your parents”
is primarily to the Christian Church – because it is the Christian church that is going to lead the way, as a salt and light community, to show the sad world outside of the church, how things can be when God’s plan is followed. Here it is to all of us in this Church – and all who hear this message – and Christian visitors too. It is for children primarily – but for parents too. It is for grandparents – it is for great grandparents – for aunts, for uncles, no one is excluded even those who are single and those who are not parents. The word of God is to us all – Children obey your parents. Children – God says you are to obey. Parents – God says your children are to obey you. Grandparents – God says that your grandchildren should obey their parents – therefore help and support your children in their task. Aunts and Uncles – your brothers and sister’s children are to obey their parents – you too must help and support your nephews and nieces to obey their parents – because God says they are to obey. And if you do not fit any of these categories, although that seems doubtful, then even you have the responsibility as a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ to pray for the children of this church and of your own families, asking the Lord that these children may obey their parents and thus learn how to obey God! How relevant and practical the Word of God is! The most important duty of any child towards God and man is to obey. Obedience to authority is challenged in every section of society today simply because children have not been required to properly recognise their duty. We are born rebels with each of us expressing that rebellion and inherent selfishness from an early age. So we need to LEARN how to obey. Children who learn to defy their parents’ authority will go on to defy other authority. Ultimately they could go on to learn how to defy Divine authority. But the Lord God says Obey – this is the first thing – Children obey your parents – learn how to obey in the safety and loving security of the home. But now we come to the HOW. How are children to obey their parents?
2. In the Lord
It is a NATURAL law for children to obey their parents. It is seen in other parts of nature – in the animal and bird kingdoms – parent creatures nurture their offspring training them and requiring obedience from them. Their lives depend on obedience to their parents. A lioness teaches her cubs to hunt – they stalk their prey – but if one eager youngster springs out before the right time, that lioness makes sure that the cub remembers another time – by discipline. Now if other creatures in God’s wonderful world can require obedience from their young surely the very crown of creation should be required to obey parents too? It is a requirement of children whether or not they are in a Christian family to obey their parents – it is God’s order for creation. It is a BIBLICAL law for children to obey their parents. It is a requirement within Christian families – a commandment from God – outlined in verses 2 and 3 as a repetition of the 5th Commandment
Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;) that it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.
But as we have noticed so many times before, the Moral Law of God is also binding on ALL men and women, boys and girls, whether they are in religious families or not. The Bible says that this is God’s world. He is the creator, we are the creatures. He has laid down His laws for us to live by whether we believe in Him or not. It is no good for any boy or girl to say, “I do not have to obey my parents because I am not a Christian. I do not have to obey God’s rules because I do not believe in God. I can do what I like and God’s rules do not apply.” But the Bible says that you must obey – God has written His rules into all of our hearts whether we like it or not. And we know that He has, by the little voice of conscience that speaks to us when we do wrong, whenever we break His laws. But some of you children are Christians – you have said so and say that you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul says that you are to obey your parents in the same way that you say that you obey the Lord Jesus. We can see how Paul puts this so very neatly, repeating what he said of wives and husbands - In Chapter 5 verse 22 the Apostle says,
Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.
Then in verse 25 his words are
Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church,
Now to children he says,
Children obey your parents in the Lord.
As we saw with the teaching to husbands and wives, their submission, obedience and love are to be as unto the Lord. Their relationship to the Lord Jesus Christ as Christians, which is their PRIMARY relationship, is to Him. And as they submit to or love the Lord, so they must submit to or love their husbands or wives. So now, when it comes to Christian children, the same is true – as you obey the Lord Jesus Christ and seek to happily do His will and please Him in everything that you do as a believer – so you must show that you do in your obedience to your parents – your obedience is to them IN THE LORD – or as unto the Lord – or as if you are obeying the Lord. Honouring, respecting and obeying our parents is part of our obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ.
Children, obey your parents in the Lord.
But it must also be said that God requires this obedience in families who are not “In the Lord” too – because it is His plan for ALL human beings not just for Christians. In this letter to the Church Paul is merely directing the teaching to those in Christian families who would hear it. One of the first words that many children learn as toddlers after, mummy, daddy and no – is WHY? A child is told to do something – and out comes the cry – WHY? “Why should I obey you?” The third section of verse 1 gives the answer to why obey?
3. For this is right.
In these 4 words there are 4 reasons why children should obey their parents in the Lord. Reason 1. Because the Word of God says so; The Bible is God’s instructions for us and we are to follow these instructions closely. Reason 2. Because it is Right to do so. The word RIGHT here is the Greek word DIKAION that refers to observing God’s laws and keeping his commands. It describes an upright, virtuous person who is approved of by God and acceptable with Him. It is a RIGHTEOUS thing to obey God and your parents. Reason 3. Because the Lord Jesus Christ obeyed His parents – the New Testament tells us so –
Luke 2 v 51 And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them:
The Lord had a childhood. He was a child in Nazareth and we know that He obeyed the law in every detail – this included honouring and obeying his parents. He did it primarily to please His heavenly Father and to leave us an example that we may follow in his steps. Reason 4. Because when you obey your parents you will benefit. The Ten Commandments are the very centre of God’s plan for us. They deal with our relationship and responsibility to God and our relationships and responsibilities to other people. The first 5 are summarised by the Lord Jesus Christ when He said,
“Thou shalt love the Lord Thy God with all thy heart, and with all of thy soul, and with all of thy mind, and with all of thy strength.”
Each of the first 5 has “The Lord Thy God” as part of their wording. The second five have the words “Thou shalt not” in their wording because they have to do with how we behave towards others – the Lord’s summary was this
“And thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”
Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;) That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.
The 5th Commandment links the command to honour father and mother with the commandments that address our duty to honour God. This is important because it puts our parents in the place of God over us as children. And all of us are to render honour to our parents as the human authors of our being. If we fail in this or refuse to honour our parents it is an insult to the God who chose them to be our parents. Rebellion towards parents is rebellion towards God. Defiance of our parents is defiance against God and that is sin punishable by death. In fact under the Law of Moses a son who was persistently defiant against his parents’ authority was guaranteed a SHORT LIFE – (he was publicly accused and stoned to death for his rebellion.)
Exodus 21 v 15 And he that smiteth his father, or his mother, shall be surely put to death. 17 And he that curseth his father, or his mother, shall surely be put to death.
But this commandment has the promise not of a short life but of a long one. Long life in this promise refers to the QUALITY OF LIFE rather than the length of it. The promise is here. Obedience brings a blessing. A child who grows up to love and obey father and mother lays a good foundation for a happy and successful life with stability and contentment. A rebellious child who is rude, disrespectful and selfwilled will never be free of problems when adult life comes. Many young people end up on the wrong side of the law because they have not learned respect for rule and authority. John Philips says that,
“Contemporary society has produced a bumper crop of young people who are determined to do their own thing. Many of them are enmeshed in the drug and immorality scene and are filled with restlessness, rage and the notion that society owes them a living.”
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.
Do you believe this? That it is indeed right for you to obey your parents? Parents – you too have a responsibility and it is awesome. You are faced with a world around you that does not believe the Maker’s instructions. They have been told lie after lie by modern child rearing agencies and psychology experts, that all you have to do is provide for and feed and love your children – and nature will take its course and they will emerge as decent citizens all on their own. My friends that is rubbish! God says that they are to obey you! God says that in obeying you they will learn to obey and honour Him. He warns that if you do not teach them to obey you then they are unlikely to obey Him and they will suffer because of it – and so will you – because you will have to watch, when they are adults – you will have to see for yourselves the creatures whom God has made, through you, suffering the consequences of failing to honour and obey. What would we Christian parents do without the Lord Jesus Christ and the power of His Holy Spirit? What an urgent need there is for us the church to pray for children and their parents – that God will graciously help the children to learn obedience, and the parents to learn how to teach them to obey, requiring it of them with love and tender compassion. If the rebellious child is not subdued in the loving environment of the home he is unlikely to be subdued in the hostile environment of the world outside the home. Parents ought to bear this in mind as they bear their responsibilities before the Lord Jesus Christ. Once more we can look at the Lord Jesus and His obedience. He obeyed Mary and Joseph. He submitted to them in the home at Nazareth at the beginning of His human life. Then at the end of that life he obeyed the will of His heavenly father – and bled, died and suffered on the cross – obedient unto death – even the vicious awfulness of crucifixion, submitting to the plan of salvation for us. He bore our sins – willingly and obediently – so that we do not have to bear them ourselves, when we trust in Him. What a wonderful saviour He is. Once more He does not command us to do anything in life that he has not been willing to do Himself. Children obey your parents – because Jesus did. Obey your parents in the Lord – because it is the right and righteous thing to do. May God help our children, and the rest of the church, to listen to God’s word this morning and obey it!