Lesson 25 - Children and Parents - Page 1 of 2 (Lessons on Ephesians)

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

Commentary on the Book of Ephesians
By: Tom Lowe Date: 1/17/18

Lesson 25: Children and Parents (Ephesians 6:1-4)

The teaching of this passage is profoundly counter to today’s culture. Sadly, in many ways it is also counter-church-culture. For Paul seems to expect that children will be present in the Christian assembly to hear his letter read, just as they would be to hear the “other Scriptures” (2 Peter 3:16). But the great problem facing churches today is that children are missing from many congregations. What’s wrong? It is that church is not relevant to Christian parents, because if it were they would do everything they could to encourage their children to attend church. I will address this again in the following paragraphs.

Ephesians 6:1-4 (KJV)
1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.
2 HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER (which is the first commandment with a promise),
4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

The Narrative (Genesis 49:1-28, KJV)

1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.
The directives that the Lord has given us in this short passage are needed today as much as in any other age since Adam. From personal experience and from all I have heard and read, I can truthfully say that children today are more disobedient and disrespectful to parents, than at any time in the past. God knows the end from the beginning and He knew the commands given in our present Scripture would be needed in this 21st Century. I find it interesting that “disobedience to parents” is repeatedly named in the Bible as a symptom of formidable evil in human life, as in Romans 1:30 and 2 Timothy 3:2, where it stands as one of a black catalog of developed evils.

Some will not accept what I am going to say; children are to obey their parents in the lord. Children are to honor their father and their mother until such honoring of parents brings dishonor upon the God who loved the world enough to permit Jesus to die for all sinners.

There are many children who love the Lord, but whose parents do not. The children have been born again, the parents have not. They drink, they gamble, they swear, they cheat on their taxes, and at work they spend more time gossiping than doing their job. To those saved children I would say, you honor your parents as far as it is possible without dishonoring God. Do not be ugly or hateful . . . as a Christian you should not act unseemly. Honor and obey your parents until you reach the place where you must commit sin against God in order to obey them—and then you are not duty bound to do so. It may cost you your home, it may cost you your education, and it may cost you your share of your parents’ wills . . . you may be left out of the inheritance. But it would be far better to be left out of an earthly father’s estate than to miss heaven! There is nothing on this earth worth going to hell for. So . . . children, obey your parents in the Lord. If your parents are godly, you obey them. Do not question their commands, their advice, or their wishes. If your parents are born again, you obey them. Walk in the path laid down by your parents concerning your friends, the places you go, and the company you keep. Parents who love the Lord will not lead you astray.

Disobedience to parents is the last and lowest form of lawlessness to occur on this earth. “But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy” (2 Timothy 3:1-2). Disobedience to parents is one of the characteristics of the last days. Today we hear of many cases of children rejecting parental authority and even killing their parents! This is indicative of the times in which we live.

Of course there will come a time in a boy’s life when he begins to rebel against his parents because it is time for him to move out and get married and start a home of his own. God has given him a nature that rebels against being a mama’s boy, tied to his mama’s apron strings for the rest of his life. God wants him to stand on his own two feet. This kind of rebellion, this struggle for independence, is different from disobedience.

This verse is reminiscent of Luke’s description of Jesus. As a youngster He engaged the teachers in the Temple in discussions of God’s Word (they were amazed at both His understanding of the Scriptures and His answers to the questions they asked Him; Luke 2:46-47). He gently, but firmly, reminded His parents of His relationship to the Father (Luke 2:49; Psalms 27:4, 8). He “was submissive to them” (Luke 2:51). At the age of twelve He already had more understanding than His Elders (Psalms 119:100); but He did not therefore despise their roles or that of His parents in His life. He had more wisdom than Mary and Joseph, yet He was submissive to them—even though they had been in error.

Should we, as children, do less than our Lord did?

If you are young you may feel there is very little you can do to serve the Lord. Here is a special word for you. Your loving obedience to your parents may be the very thing that makes others wonder “what has his or her family got that we don’t have? Their relationships with each other seem so different from ours.”

Some parents command their children to do things that are absolutely contrary to the will of God. But Paul is not thinking about that difficult situation here. He is addressing Christian parents and their children. The words “in the Lord” point up the context of their relationship.

Everything is to be seen within the context of our loving fellowship together with the Lord Jesus Christ. In that fellowship we have different roles. The role of children is to learn to obey the heavenly Father by obeying their earthly father. God trains us to respond to His Fatherhood (which we cannot see) by responding to earthly fatherhood (which we can see!). He thinks of everything as he trains us to serve Him in the future!

What Paul has already said is motivation enough. But he now spells out the gospel motives that encourage us to live in this way.

It is the right way to live (“for this is right”). Children who obey their parents are living the way God intended. Any other way eventually breaks the family—as many passages in the Bible, including the Old Testament child-training Manual, the Book of Proverbs, underline. So when a youngster is “filled with the Spirit” as the young Lord Jesus surely was, it comes to expression in obedience to the law of God: “Honor your father and mother” (Exodus 20:12; Deuteronomy 5:16).

2 HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER (which is the first commandment with a promise),
“Honoring father and mother in the Lord” has a promise to go along with it. The fifth commandment is the *first in fact it is the only one of the commandments with a promise to spell out a specific promise of life for those who obey it: “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” When I saw it, it spoke directly to me and said that I cannot live much longer, that I will die if Jesus tarries. As I write this I am seventy-five years of age. From the time I entered my teenage years until I graduated, I did not honor and respect my parents as I should. I broke my father’s heart. I was ashamed of his lack of education and the way he dressed. I put him in an early grave. I stole money from him. I felt the same way about my mother, because she would not wear her false teeth; they did not fit well and hurt her gums. I was ashamed of her and made fun of her in front of the whole family. I dishonored my parents by drinking and carousing, and by borrowing money I never paid back.

*Possibly the word “first” has the sense of chief or primary: a first commandment i.e., one of primary importance accompanied with a promise.

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