Ephesians 6:1-4 Children Obey Your Parents

Our text this morning is Ephesians 6:1-4,

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), 3 “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” 4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

There is a book that I have quoted from often over the last year. I have enjoyed the book so much that I have made it my practice to read a chapter from it each day. It is a book by P.B. Powers which is entitled, ‘A Book Of Comfort For Those In Suffering’. The original title of the book was, ‘A Sick Man’s Comfort Book’.

As you can tell by the original title, the author of this book was no stranger to suffering. He was a minster who became ill and his health rapidly declined at the age of forty-three. He spent the next sixteen years as an invalid before he died. He made good use of his illness and learned many things, he wrote them down in a book which is intended to give comfort to those who are suffering.

In the final pages of his book, Powers begins to talk about how there is even comfort to be found for those who are facing certain death. He writes these words, “The little infant that is sent into the world, so strange to it, has everything provided for it by the one who sent it; those who are sent by the same one into another world shall not be worse off.”

This has always been one of my favorite sentences in this little book. However, I recently discovered as I was reading it again that I had totally failed to see what the author was really trying to convey to his readers.

I always took this passage to mean, that all people who are born into this ‘strange’ world are greeted by parents who love and cherish them, and that when a believer dies they will be greeted by the loving embrace of our LORD. This thought is comforting; however, what the author was saying is far more comforting than even this.

The author is making the observation that it is God who sends an infant into this strange world and then provides for him/her everything that they will need. Then he says, “...those who are sent by the same one into another world shall not be worse off.” In other words, the same Lord that has sent each of us into this strange world and provides for us here will one day send us into another world and we shall not be worse off.

The same God who has providentially provided for us here throughout our entire lives will have everything ready for us when through death we arrive to be with Christ in heaven. It is then that every Christian will be received by the loving embrace of the LORD. Once there we will be completely restored, sanctified and glorified. And it is there that we will be greeted into the eternal kingdom and into our new home

John 14:1-3 - Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 2 In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.

The apostle Paul spoke of similar things when he said, “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs – of God and fellow heirs of Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with Him.” Then Paul says, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” (Romans 8:16-18)

It may seem to you a strange thing that I have started off this sermon on Ephesians 6:1-4 with that particular story. But there are a couple reasons why P. B. Powers words seemed to go with our text this morning. First, his statement reminds us that God has given to each of us life and that the Lord providentially cares for us at all times. He is always present and always involved in our lives. We are rarely aware of his providence over our lives; but He is always at work and He is always looking upon us.

Secondly, we are reminded that one of the means through which God provides for us in this life is through our parents. Parents are to be the means through which God administers correction and care. It is our parents who have been given the blessing to receive us into this world and to care for us as we mature. A parent is to not only to meet the physical needs of their child, but they are to give the child the spiritual nutrition that they need as well.

Let me read our passage one more time and then we will work our way through the text highlighting certain things.

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), 3 “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” 4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:1-4)

Let me make three broad observations concerning our text and then we will briefly discuss each.

  1. God addresses the children of this church through the apostle Paul

  2. The children are given responsibility for obeying two commands and they are promised a reward

  3. God gives the fathers two commands concerning their children that they are to obey

#1 God Addresses the Children

God, through the apostle Paul, addresses the youngest members of the Ephesian congregation. God cares so much about the children that they were not going to be forgotten about in this letter.

Jesus displayed this type of care for children in Matthew 19:13-14 when we read, “Then children were brought to Him that He might lay His hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, but Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for such belongs the kingdom of heaven.’”

Paul seems to have been convinced that there would be children who would be gathered with their parents in the congregation. Paul had an expectation that the parents and their kids would gather together to worship the Lord and to hear the Word that would be preached to them. In this case, Paul expected that the kids were there to hear this letter read and to receive all the blessings from it that we have talked about over these many months. Now he turns his attention to the children and speaks directly to them.

While reflecting upon these verses Dr. Sinclair Ferguson asks, “Did Paul grasp something that we have missed?”

  • He is referring to the wide-spread practice of separating our families into sub-groups as they come into our church services on Sunday mornings.

Dr. Ferguson then continues, “When some churches complain that they are ‘losing the young people’ from worship the truth is that they have never actually been present at it...If we send a subliminal message to our children ‘You do not belong here; you would not enjoy it’ we say something about ourselves (if worship were important to us we would do everything to encourage our children to share in that perspective!) We also say something to our children. It should not surprise us if they hear what our actions say as well as our words. How different Paul’s view – and our Lord’s view – of children!”

Dr. Douglass O’Donnell speaks of how important his relationship to Christ is and what happens within him when he sees that his kids participate with him in it. He says, “My joy as a parent is full – brought into a state of completeness – when my children obey the Lord. I am full of joy when I obey the LORD. My joy is fuller when they also obey the LORD.” (1-3 John, Reformed Expository Commentary)

If we take a moment to consider the view that society had concerning children at the time that this letter was written we will appreciate our text today even more. Dr. John Stott says that the Christian view of children was “a radical change from the callous cruelty which prevailed in the Roman Empire, in which unwanted babies were abandoned, weak and deformed ones killed, and even healthy children were regarded by many as a partial nuisance because they inhibited sexual promiscuity and complicated easy divorce.” May the scriptures bring a radical change to our society again today. (Psalm )

#2 The Children Are Given Two Commands And A Promise

When the children are addressed they are not given trite platitudes or meaningless verbal gestures. Paul does not greet them with a nod of the chin and a wink of the eye. The children are given commands to follow. They are given responsibility.

Some of the kids might want to argue that it would have been better to have been forgotten by the adults at church than to be given commands to follow by the apostle. But we must not have such a pessimistic view of this.

The children are given two commands to obey. First, they are to obey their parents. Secondly, the children are to honor their father and mother. Many children may obey what they are told to do while they grumble and complain in their hearts. But the apostle reminds them that they are not only to obey, but they are to honor their parents as well. They are to revere them in their internal and their external response. It is obvious that these commands would instantly be of an encouragement to the parents.

My mom was a school teacher in within the special education department. Teaching was always difficult but over the years it got harder and harder. Parents were not always willing to get involved in the areas that they needed too. Eventually there was less and less support from the school administration. If a child was sent to the principals office they would be sent right back as if their was no need to discipline. Eventually, my mom chose to take early retirement because things got so bad. She felt as though she was left alone in her job.

My mom had the option to retire but parents don’t have that option. Mom and Dad, God is supporting you as a parent and He provides you with grace, guidance and governing authority over your kids. And in our text today God is giving them two commands to abide by.

There is encouragement for the kids in these two commands.

  • Many of the kids may be asking where there might be encouragement for them in this text?

  • The Lord has just given them quite a bit of responsibility.

  • They may wonder if they can handle it?

  • They may wonder if they are capable of doing it?

Let’s look at three things to be encouraged by:

  1. Where God commands, He will provide the grace and the Holy Spirit to help

  2. The command is ‘right’ and the Lord created us this way

  3. God gives a promise of a blessing to those who obey

Encouragement #1 – There have been 15 commands in Ephesians 5. We have often said that all of these commands need to be done by the grace of God, through prayer and through the infilling of the Holy Spirit. A parents teaching, instruction, discipline and admonition is to that end. We are to always be teaching and modeling for our kids faith, repentance, grace and the empowerment of the Lord in these things. We are not teaching moralism; but that we need a relationship with Jesus Christ.

We are to show our kids that sin is overcome and that the Lord’s commandments are truly observed by those who have a new heart and a relationship with Jesus Christ. Therefore, Paul says, “Children obey your parents in the Lord” and he says to the fathers, “...bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”

Encouragement #2 – God gives these commands to all children because it is right. Ephesians 6:1 says, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” It is the way that God has created it to be. The Lord has placed in the consciousness of all of the peoples of the world that the children are to obey and to honor their parents. Because of the Fall children struggle with this, but it is God’s design for the children to obey and honor their parents.

Charles Hodge says, “It is not because of the personal character of the parent, nor because of his kindness, nor on the ground of expediency, but because it is ‘right’; an obligation arising out of the nature of the relation between parents and children, and which must exist wherever the relation itself exists.”

I also take Hodges words to mean that in varying degrees children ought to always seek to honor their parents no matter their age.

Encouragement #3 – When a child honors their father and mother they receive a gift from God:

  1. it will go well with them

  2. they will live a long life in the land.

A child may wonder what they can do for the Lord even though they are so young. But when a child obeys and honors their parents, God sees this as though they have honored Him in doing so.

The duty to honor our parents is so important that it was included in the moral law and engraved in stone by the very finger of God. And here in our text this morning Paul reminds children that it is still to be observed by Christians as well.

#3 God Gives Fathers Two Commands

Paul now turns to address the fathers and he gives them two commands that will help them as they raise their children. First, they are not to provoke their children to anger. Secondly, they are to bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

As a father, it often bothers me that I am so prone to sin as a father. In fact, I have fallen short so many times as a father that the only real comfort that I have is in knowing that although my kids may never have a dad who does not sin; I can try to be a father who is quick to ask for forgiveness when I have sinned.

Fathers can fall into many sins: favoritism, neglect, anger, selfishness, impatience, etc. In all of these areas we can quickly repent and apply the gospel in these areas.

There is another comfort that fathers can have even as they battle their sinful condition. We can take comfort in the fact that there are many moments when we are able to point our children beyond ourselves to their Heavenly Father. And we can take courage that Paul is reminding Christian fathers that they can reflect God’s glory to our family more and more through our life and our instruction. This is what Paul is speaking of in Ephesians 6:4, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”

Richard Sibbs says, “Fathers on earth are but poor fathers, and they be but beams of the fatherly affection that is in God. God will let us see by these beams of compassion that is in a father to a child, what real compassion he gives to us. The true reality of fatherhood is in God...Can we pity and pardon a child? And will God not pardon and pity us?”

Fathers, our lives may be such a small reflection of what God truly is, but we can display God’s glory more and more by the grace of God. Our aim and prayer ought to be like the apostle Paul’s, “Working together with Him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain...Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation. We put no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way...by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love; by truthful speech, and the power of God...” (2 Corinthians 6:1,6-7a)

I began by speaking about P.B. Power and how he suffered but he redeemed his suffering by pointing others to Christ through it. In a similar manner, poor and weak fathers are used by God to point their families to Christ.

Fathers have been commanded this morning to not become angry. And as we come to communion this morning it might be helpful for us to recognize how this command reminds us all God’s disposition towards us. Consider Jeremiah 3:11-12, “And the LORD said to me, Faithless Israel has shown herself more righteous than treacherous Judah. GO, and proclaim these words toward the north, and say, Return, faithless Israel, declares the LORD; I will not look on you in anger, for I am merciful, declares the LORD.”

We come to remember at Communion how Christ Jesus has taken away all of our sins. He has taken the punishment that we deserved and now we are at peace with God and His anger has been removed. God is merciful. As a result, we can be merciful and freed from anger in our homes and towards others.

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