Cornerstone EPC Sunday morning
Franklin, NC 28734 April 24, 2016
“Of Children and Parents”
Text: Ephesians 6:1-4
We continue this week in the household code of Ephesians (5:21-6:9). Last week we looked at God’s instructions for husbands and wives (5:21-33)—and, once again, men, we saw that the onus is on us. Next week, God willing, in looking at His instructions for servants and masters, we shall look at authority relationships generally. This week, then, we look at God’s instructions for children and parents. Let us go to the words of our text—words inspired by the Holy Spirit and faithfully recorded by the Apostle Paul.
(HERE READ THE TEXT)
Paul, led by the Spirit, first speaks to the children of the covenant household of faith. They receive two directives here. First, children must obey their parents. Obey cheerfully, and not grumpily. With God’s help obey without delay, without challenge, and without excuse. This means, when possible, obey Mom and Dad when required, and not later. It also means not to argue with your parents’ just command, and it also means do not invent a reason why you cannot obey them.
Yet also notice this: Children are to obey parents in the Lord. Obey Mom and Dad, then, looking unto Jesus. He commands your obedience, and your parents will answer to Him also concerning their parenting of you; you’ll (and they’ll) hear more about this later. Do not make their job harder before God. Here is an important thing to remember, though: Your parents should not require you to obey them when obeying them will mean disobeying God. This will happen rarely, if ever, but, should it happen, explain with respect why you cannot obey in this case—and leave the result to God.
Second, children must honor father and mother. That is, think highly of them and show them your high thoughts of them by your actions. Moses, led by the Spirit, taught God’s Old Covenant people to do this (Exodus 20:12, Deuteronomy 5:16). This is the first of the so-called Ten Commandments to have a promise affixed—and, no matter how many promises God has made, they are, “Yes,” and, “Amen,” in Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 1:20). Here are God’s promises for obedience to this.
It will be well with you should you obey parents. This doesn’t mean that everything is perfect; this is true only in Heaven. Yet it does mean that God blesses obedience in this area—and it means that He withholds blessing when we withhold obedience. Also, He promises long life. This generally means many years on this earth before departure for Heaven, but in any case it means all the days appointed for us on earth will come to pass—and those days will be full of His goodness. With this said, Paul turns to address the parents, so we’ll turn here also to address them.
The parents have two commands also—one negative and one positive. Verse four is addressed to fathers, but in view of the earlier context, we may take this as addressed to fathers and mothers considered together. Here, then, is the negative command: Anger not your children. Some English versions render the verb with embitter, while other versions express the same sense with the word exasperate. In any case, the condition is not good and the cause is to be avoided. Here are ways that parents provoke children to anger; may we, by God’s grace, avoid these.
We provoke our children, in view of our discipline of them, in three chief ways. First, we administer discipline too severe for the offense. Second, we commit the diametric opposite by failing to administer needful discipline—or by doing it in too lax a manner. Third, we provoke our children by administering discipline unevenly. We are too severe and too lax by turns, and our inconsistency harms our children and provokes their anger. We see, then, parents, what not to do. Let us now look at what we do before God for the benefit of our children.
In place of provoking our children’s anger, we rear them in the training and the instruction of the Lord. By this, we impart content knowledge of the Word of God and behavioral conformity unto the Word of God. Though pastors, Sunday School teachers, grandparents, and the like can assist with this weighty responsibility, this duty falls chiefly to parents—and this is the divine design. Such assumes that parents are both informed and shaped by the Word of God. Therefore, parents, let us be intentional, growing disciples of Jesus Christ; our children, and their children, and so forth until Jesus comes, depend upon it.
To both parents and children, I urge you to remember this: You cannot accomplish what you are commanded in your own power, and neither can I. What we need is the will of God as expressed in Scripture. We also need to do the will of God with a view to honor Jesus, and we need to do this in the presence and power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Without the powerful help of our triune God, all our exertions in behalf of our children are in vain. With His aid, though, they receive inestimable benefit through our imperfect efforts.
We need to examine one important arena for application of today’s text. How does our text today apply for adult children, whether their parents yet live on the earth or have gone to Heaven? Here is an answer, with its necessary background. Hold in the background this notion: the focus for young children is to obey parents. Now let this notion form in the foreground: the focus for adult children is to honor parents.
As we saw to be true last week with husbands and wives, so also we find to be true with children and parents—this may be relatively easy or relatively hard. It may be very easy to honor parents if they complied generally with today’s text, but it may be very hard to honor them if they did not. No matter how hard or easy this command may appear to be, the question remains: “How can an adult child honor his parents?”
All that follows assumes the powerful work of the Spirit in the adult child’s life. First, walk by faith in the ways of the Master. The Apostle John had no greater joy that to note his spiritual children walking in truth (3 John 4), and I imagine few pleasures above the pleasure gained when my two children walk in Jesus’ way. Walking with Christ, Who gave you spiritual rebirth, honors those who gave you physical birth. Second, think as well as possible of your parents, and, when possible, let them know how much. It will encourage them—and perhaps your declarations land a time when they desperately need some encouragement. Third, do for them what is possible for you to do. They did for us when we could not do for ourselves—and they did for us when we could, but they wanted to show us love anyway. Let us follow suit when and where we can.
Our text declares God’s will for us as children and as parents. May He give us His powerful help to comply with it, and may He have all the glory.