In our message, THE FIRST COMMANDMENT WITH A PROMISE (Eph. 6:1-4), we continued to look at how being filled with the Spirit manifests itself in family relationships. Not only did God establish marriage “at the beginning,” He also established the family and is concerned about restored relationships (Matt. 19:4-6; Mal. 2:15-17; 4:6, etc.). The family unit is a stabilizing and preserving element in nations- much like the church is (Gen. 1:27-28; Eph. 2:18-20, etc.).
In the family, designed by God, “children [are to] obey [their] parents… for this is right” (Eph. 6:1). While this design is true in all cultures and times, children who know God are especially called to this truth “because [they] belong to the Lord” (Eph. 6:1 NLT). Christian children have the Holy Spirit and can be “filled with” Him (Eph. 5:18; Gal. 5:16, etc.). When they do this, it is not only “right” but “well pleasing” to God- that is, it makes God happy (Eph. 6:1; Col. 3:20, etc.). Children “in the Lord” are to “obey” their parents “in all things,” unless it contradicts God’s Word because they ultimately serve the Lord Jesus (Col. 3:20; Acts 5:29; Matt. 18:6-7, etc.).
Children are also to “honor [their] father and mother” (Eph. 6:2a). When a child disrespects either parent, his heart is not right before the Lord. Honoring involves a proper attitude as well as appropriate behavior, and should be applied by Christians to all people (Prov. 16:31; 1 Pet. 2:17, etc.). While a child is required to obey his parents until he reaches adulthood, honoring is a lifelong call to include doing what he can to care for his parents if/when they have the need in later years (John 9:23; 1 Tim. 5:8, etc.).
Paul’s citation of the fifth commandment does not mean the church is under the law of Moses (Eph. 6:2; Ex. 20:12, etc.). Ephesians explains the truth that the church is “a mystery” revealed by God through “the apostles and prophets” of the first century, and the Bible also shows us the Mosaic law was temporary: that is, it “was added …[to Israel], till [Jesus] should come.” (Eph. 2:14-3:20; 5:31-32; Matt. 16:18; Gal. 3:19, etc.). The Church is not Israel, and history as well as the Bible shows us the early church did not keep the fourth commandment (i.e. “Remember the Sabbath…”) which was the sign of the Mosaic Covenant, but instead the first century church worshipped on Sunday (e.g. Gal. 3:10-14; 4:21; 5:3; Deut. 27:26; Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:1-2; Heb. 7:11-14; Col. 2:8-17; 2 Cor. 5:21, etc.).
While the church is not under the Mosaic law, God’s Word does say in this “dispensation” we are under “the law of Christ.” (Gal. 6:2; Eph. 3:1-3, etc.). Here, Paul shows us, part of that “law of Christ” means- it is just as wrong for New Testament believers to dishonor parents as it was for an Old Testament Jew (Eph. 6:1; Col. 3:20). But unlike Jews under the Mosaic Covenant who were to “stone to death… the stubborn and rebellious” child (i.e. Deut. 21:18-21), the law of Christ is “fulfilled in us… [by] the Spirit” (Rom. 7:6; 8:3-4; Eph. 5:18, etc.), and the “promise: ‘that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth’” also has application to us (Eph. 6:3). Israelites who obeyed this command were promised to stay “in the land” given to them by God, but a child today who obeys his parents will escape a good deal of sin and danger that could shorten his or her life “on… earth” (Deut. 5:16; Eph. 6:3; Prov. 3:1-2, etc.).
Just like husbands have responsibility in the marriage covenant, Christian parents also are accountable to God for how they raise their kids (Eph. 6:1-4; Col. 3:19, 21, etc.). Parents are not to “provoke [their] children to wrath” (Eph. 6:4). This means they are not to embitter them against God through personal unconfessed sin which would include such things as disciplining when angry or making unreasonable demands and showing favoritism, etc. (Col. 3:21). Such sins should be confessed to God and, when appropriate, to their children as well (1 John 1:9; James 5:16, etc.). The Bible shows us here (i.e. Eph. 6:4) fathers and mothers should instead:
- “Bring them up” in the Lord- “Bring them up” is the same word as “nourish” in Ephesians 5:29. Parents are to encourage their children in the things of God not only by providing for them physically but emotionally and spiritually as well.
- “Train” them in the Lord- This is the same word as “chasten” in Hebrews 12:6. Many in our culture oppose any form of discipline- opposing God’s Word. Yet training is a basic principle of life and an evidence of love (e.g. Prov. 13:24)
- “Admonish” them in the Lord- The word “admonish” means to instruct and encourage. The book of Proverbs has much to say about parents sharing wise counsel to their children. Our children may not always appreciate our counsel, but that does not eliminate the obligation we have to instruct them and encourage them. Of course, our instruction must always be tied to the Word of God and it should also be applied in our lives (2 Tim. 3:13-17; James 1:22-25, etc.).