Spirit-Filled Children Honor and Obey Their Parents (Ephesians Sermon 41 of 54)
May 29, 2016 | Andrew Davis
Sanctification, Life in the Spirit, Fruit of the Spirit, Holiness, Humility, Marriage and Parenting
This morning we're going to be looking in our continuing study in the book of Ephesians, in chapter 6:1-3, which you just heard Brad read. For me, I love biographies. I love missionary biographies. I love the heroic spread of the Gospel, some of which I just prayed about a moment ago.
The Life of John Paton
One of the most moving biographical accounts I've ever read or heard about is the story of John Paton, the courageous Scottish missionary to the cannibal infested islands of the New Hebrides in the mid-19th century in the South Pacific. Through Paton's influence, 3500 cannibals, through his direct influence, 3500 cannibals renounced their heathenism for Christ in the tiny island of Aneityum where he poured out his labors. In Fiji, 79,000 cannibals were converted by missionaries that he mobilized mostly from Australia. 79,000 converted. In Samoa, 34,000 cannibals professed Christianity through the labors of those same missionaries. In the New Hebrides where he focused his attention, which is a chain of islands, 12,000 were converted, and he said 133 of them were trained, specially trained, raised up, and sent out as missionaries to their own people.
Amazing fruitfulness in an overwhelmingly challenging and terrifying situation because a mere 18 years before he arrived there in 1858, in 1840 the first two missionaries to the island of Tanna, where he first began his missionary service, were clubbed to death and cannibalized immediately on the beach in the full view of the ship that brought them. 18 years later, he got on a boat and went to that same exact island with amazing courage. And he risked his life, his family. His wife died, his child died, he himself, 18 times stricken with fevers, the exact same fever that took the life of his wife. And with amazing courage, for those many, many years, led so many people to Christ. What are the roots of John Paton's character, his courage, his calling as a missionary? How can we understand what led to that kind of character, what led to a man like that? And I would have to say at the human level, in large measure, it was his relationship with his father, James Paton.
James Paton was a poor tradesman who raised his 11 children in the Scottish, Calvinistic heritage that he had inherited. Raised 11 children. He himself yearned to be a minister of the Gospel but providentially was prevented from doing so. And so, he entrusted himself to the Lord and poured himself into his family. When John was born, he and his wife, metaphorically, laid him on the altar before God with prayer, and dedicated him to the Lord's service that, if God saw fit, he could be a missionary of the cross. He did that just days after he was born, after John was born. And then this godly father bathed John in prayer as he was growing up, every day, family altar, solid doctrine, an intellectual depth to their faith that was unmatched. Also, the Covenanters heritage of martyrdom also was preached and taught in that household. Their father, James, had a prayer closet that he retired to three times a day, and he prayed with great passion for the conversion and for the discipleship of his own children.
When the time came for John to leave home for good and go off and serve as a missionary, the very thing that his mother and father had wanted when he was born, his father walked with him six miles along the road until the place came where they had to part. And as the two of them, father and son, were walking along the road together, the father was weeping, praying, pouring out heavenly counsels, prayers, advice, scripture, in these last few minutes they had together. And when the time came when he couldn't even speak anymore, he just continued to pray silently, his lips moving, and John remembered this many, many years later. No words could come out, but he knew his father was burning in prayer for him, tears flowing down his face. And they stood there, they were at the parting place, they had no more time together, the time had ended, and all he could say at that point was this. "God bless you, my son. May your father's God prosper you, and may He keep you from all evil." Then they embraced one last time and he walked away. John waved his hat in saying good-bye to his father, but his heart was breaking.
And so, he dove into a ditch to just have a good cry, and he's just laying there weeping about the separation, but also eager to begin his work. And after he'd been there some time he climbed up the dike to see if his father could still be seen along the road as he returned back to their home village. And just at that moment, his father also was climbing up the dike to look back to see if he could still see his son. There were some distance apart, and it was clear the father, James, didn't see him, but then just continued to talk, and he assumed, John assumed, praying for him as he walked on his way. And he watched through blinding tears, John did, until he could see his father no more.
Then he got up and hastened on his way to serve Christ as a missionary. These are his own words. "Vowing deeply and oft, by the help of God, to live and act so as never to grieve and dishonor such a father and mother." So that is on my mind as I preach on “children obey your parents in the Lord, honor your father and mother.” As we come to Ephesians 6, we come to the next section in Ephesians, but for me, a very powerful and moving one.
My desire is to be that kind of a father. My desire is all you fathers listening to me would be fathers like that. And beyond that, you children, at whatever age, some of you are coloring, scribbling, some of you listening as best you can, some very attentive as you get older. I understand. The text is written to you. I'm going to be speaking also to your parents about the text. I desire that a generation of servants of Christ like this would be raised up. There's a lot of missionary work left to be done, and also I think it's going to take an unusual amount of courage for you to be a Christian in America going forward, more than perhaps in our generation. So I want you to be ready to face the challenges you're going to face in the years ahead. In Ephesians, as we come to chapter 6, I want you to see it in continuity. It's not just popping up out of nowhere but it's a flow that we've seen in this beautiful book.
The Parent-Child Relationship: A Subset of the Christian Life
This idea of the parent-child relationship is a subset, or a part, of the Christian life that Jesus bought for us with His own blood. It's part of the life He bought. It's part of what it means to “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord,” for us to be godly parents and children. It's a life that flows from the salvation that's been so clearly taught in this magnificent book of Ephesians. "For it is by grace you have been saved through faith, and this not of yourselves, it's a gift of God, not by works, so that no one can boast." We were saved, we were justified, we were forgiven by grace through faith in the shed blood of Christ, “having been chosen in Christ before the creation of the world, having been predestined to be adopted as His sons and daughters, having received the hearing of the Gospel, having believed, having been marked in Him with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit, all of this flowing. Having been rescued from the dominion of darkness and transferred into the kingdom of the beloved Son, having all of these blessings, we are now called on to do good works.” Ephesians 2:10, "For we are God's workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God prepared in advance for us to do."
The Rising Temple of God
Now the centerpiece of those good works is the building of an eternal temple, a dwelling place, rising in every generation described beautifully at the end of Ephesians 2, as a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit. And this dwelling, this temple, this holy structure, which I think is the Church of Jesus Christ. I think we could also say it as the Heavenly Zion. It is the New Jerusalem. It is rising in every generation as living stones are quarried from Satan's dark kingdom and rescued and brought over and set in this spiritual wall, this image of the structure that we have at the end of Ephesians 2. Bringing in 1 Peter 2:5, "you are living stones." And we are put into this rising temple. This magnificent, glorious structure is presently under construction. Amen? But it's looking really good, I've been told, by the Spirit of God in my heart. It is magnificent and glorious and it's better than it was a month ago, much better than it was 10 years ago. Every generation of elect people who hear the Gospel and come over and believe, beautify and glorify it even more, and none of them ever gets lost. And it's just getting better and better.
This is the work of our lives, the glory of God, and the rising of this spiritual holy dwelling place. Now I believe, in the end when we get to heaven we're going to hear all the stories. Not just John Paton and his father, and not just what happened with those cannibals. We're going to hear them all. And we're going to be so eager to hear them. I'm telling you, all of you are going to be super PhDs in church history. You're going to love it, you're going to want to hear all the details, and you're going to hear from the heavenly perspective what God did by His sovereign grace to get those people saved. And we are going to glory in those stories. But I believe, I can't prove this, but I believe that when we get to heaven and we find out how it all happened, the overwhelming majority of those in Heaven will be there primarily and first and foremost because their parents led them to Christ. "Overwhelming majority. What is that Pastor? 55%?" I don't know what overwhelming majority means.
Parents and Missions
When I was at the IMB last week, or last month, knowing I was going to preach this, I went to five of the best missiologists and veteran missionaries in the Southern Baptist Convention, in the IMB. And I asked them this question. "Worldwide, what percentage of genuine believers do you think had Christian parents who led them to Christ, essentially?" They said, "Well do you want a number? I said, "Yes." Obviously it's anecdotal, I don't know. But the numbers ranged anywhere from 60%-75%. These are veteran missionaries. Because what happens is the missionaries go to that land, and none of them are Christians. They find some bridge people, those bridge people come to faith in Christ. Immediately, what do those bridge people do? They turn to the people they know, first and foremost their own families, their parents, their siblings, their children. And they begin to share the Gospel. Some of them believe, receive, and trust. Some of them turn in hostility and persecute. But that's where it all starts. Give it two, three, four generations, ask what's going on in that nation, the overwhelming majority had Christian parents. It just happens again, and again, and again. And it's a powerful thing to see this. So fundamentally, we believe that this parent-child relationship is essential to God's sovereign plan for the rising of the Church of Jesus Christ, for the building of this holy temple. It's foundational, it's vital.
When I was there at the commissioning service there were 36 missionaries commissioned. 29 of the 36 in their written testimonies, which I as a trustee get to read, 29 out of 36 said, "Effectively, my parents led me to Christ." 29 out of 36. It's amazing. And how my own son, when he was baptized a few weeks ago, zeroed in on 2 Timothy 3:15, which says, "How from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus." I believe this is the very thing that was promised to Abraham in Genesis 12:3 when He said, "I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you, I will curse. And through you all the families of the Earth will be blessed." The families.
In all of the types or patterns of evangelism that there is in the world, workplace evangelism, street evangelism, missionary type work, contact evangelism, airplane evangelism, which I love. Where can they go? They're captive. Especially if they have the window, and I have the aisle, where are they going to go? So we're going to talk about Jesus until they don't want to talk about Jesus anymore. I try to be kind, I try to find out if they're interested. But of all of the types of evangelism there is, by far, overwhelmingly, the most effective is parent-child evangelism. Nothing else even close. This is by God's will and by His power. And so, my desire is to put inside you, parents, especially, a zeal and a fervency for the souls of your children. The healthy Christian family is a great, magnificent factory, a machine, for the production of children of God who will live before Him forever. And it's been working now for centuries.
So we come to Ephesians 6:1-4. Listen again. I'm going to read verse four even though I'm not dealing with it today. But look at the text again. "Children obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother, which is the first commandment with a promise, so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the Earth. And Fathers do not exasperate your children or provoke them into wrath, instead bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord." We’ll deal with verse four next week, God willing.
The Blessings and Challenges of Children
Children: One of God’s Greatest Blessings
So I want to start by talking about the blessings and challenges of children. Children are one of the greatest blessings that God can ever bring into your life. They are endlessly fascinating, endlessly unpredictable. They are a rich Biblical blessing, and we need to be told that because in our nation, in our culture, there is a negativity toward children. A negativity like children are a burden, children are almost what feels somewhat like a curse. But in Psalm 127 it says, "Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord. The fruit of the womb is a reward.” And to borrow a phrase, an idea from 1 Timothy 4:8 about godliness, Paul is talking there about godliness and it says, "godliness has value for all things", listen, "holding promise both for the present life and the life to come." Children are like that. They hold promise both for the present life, to bless you in this present life, and to bless you in the life to come.
So in this present life, when Noah was born, his father Lamech called him Noah, which sounds like the word comfort, because he said, "He will comfort us in the labor and painful toil of our hands caused by the ground that the Lord has cursed." He's going to alleviate our suffering here, just to have a child. And then in Ruth chapter 4, the women said to Naomi, when Obed had been born to Ruth, her daughter-in-law, the women said to Naomi, "Praise be to the Lord, who this day has not left you without a kinsman redeemer. May he become famous throughout Israel. He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age." Think about that. How beautiful is that? "For your daughter-in-law who loves you and who's better to you than seven sons has given him birth. Then Naomi took the child, laid him in her lap, and cared for him. And the women living there said, 'Behold Naomi has a son.' And they named him Obed." He was the father of Jesse, the father of David,” the father of Jesus, Matthew 1:1.
And so, in God's sovereign plan we see the beauty of children. Children hold promise for this present life in more ways than we can count. There are just the joys of watching them grow and develop, speaking their first words, taking their first steps, continuously acquiring greater and greater capabilities. It's really a stunning thing to watch. I've mentioned this before, but I still can't get over it. When Christy and I were missionaries in Japan, the first year our primary job was to learn the language, the Japanese language. And that was hard. And I'll never forget, we had tutoring sessions, we had books, we had tapes, we had flash cards, we had all these things going on. We also had a one-year-old daughter named Jenny who came over with us basically inarticulate, and left two years later fluent in English. No flash cards, no tapes, nothing, no effort. I was so jealous. It's like, "How can this be?" And I figured there was some corresponding Japanese kid who was one-year-old when he came over, couldn't speak a word of Japanese. Two years later, fluent, conversational. And I just think it's amazing, going on right before your eyes as it's happening. It's a marvel.
So also you parents can testify how many earthly blessings have come to you from having children. The unforgettable moments, the things that can never be repeated and you treasure forever. I have drawers and drawers of memorabilia. What am I going to do with it? I don't know, but I'm not giving them away. Toward the end when the kids were getting older, I didn't accept just any art work, it had to be good. Okay? They had to have put some work into it, there had to be some thought. Just a couple of scribbles and crayon on the… We're not putting that on the refrigerator. But if you worked at it we would put it up on the fridge and it would be there for a while. And then I'd take it down. And I learned in the course of time to write on the back the circumstances, because what happens is, five years later it's like I don't even know what it is. Is it a tree, is it a mountain? I don't know. When was it given? But to write on the back who gave it when, same thing with cards, different things that are written, it's just absolutely precious. At every moment the way they just look up to you for approval, for love, the way that they just trust you at an early stage, the way that they are obedient at a certain level, and the way they just grow and grow and grow before your very eyes.
I've likened them before to a sunset. You can just picture that, and just the colors of it. And it's just different colors and it's continually changing so that if you look away for just a minute or two and talk to your friend and look back, it's different now. And that's the way it is with the children. They go through these stages, and you can't hold on, they're not going to be in them for long. They mispronounce a word, kind of really cute. And you actually want, at least I did, wanted them to keep mispronouncing the word because it was so cute. But they don't, they learn how to say it right. But it's just these sweet things.
And then they just keep growing and they challenge you and they ask questions and you share experience. You go to national parks together and you share that, and they remember that. Pretty soon, they're teens, and they're so intelligent, so gifted, so full of promise, so aware of your failures and weaknesses. Acutely aware. And you know it, and it's an interesting relationship, and you're just kind of along for the ride, and you're able to celebrate their amazing achievements academically or in athletics, or in music, or art, or other things that they love to do, things that are different than you love to do. And then come the later blessings as the kids get even older, walking your daughter down the aisle to give her to somebody else's precious son. Or seeing your son receive somebody else's precious daughter. And to be commanded by your son to do that wedding and not cry. That's just cruel. How am I going to get through a wedding like that and not cry? He asked me if I could, he's not here, so I can just talk about him. "Dad, I want you to be my best man." I remember he said that to me. "But I also want you to do the service. Can you do both?" I said, "I don't think so because the best man stands over here and I'll have to stand here. So the only way could do it is if I wear a sign, 'By the way, I'm also best man.' So that's not really going to work." But my daughters have asked, are you going to both walk me down the aisle and then receive me?" And I haven't figured that one out yet. I got maybe some time on that one. But all of those things. And then,. I've been told, we don't have this experience yet. But grandchildren come in and you have most of the blessings and almost none of the challenges. Amen, hallelujah. Looking forward to that. So we're looking for all of that.
The Challenge of Children
But then you've got the challenges of children too, and we have to be honest about that. Honestly, the challenges of the parent-child relationship is caused by the spiritual warfare that we're about to get into in Ephesians 6, and by indwelling sin.
The Bible teaches the clear doctrine of Original Sin. Every human baby is born in Adam, and they come into your family with that Adamic nature, a commitment to sin. Romans 5:12 says, "Sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men because all sinned." You have to meditate on the words "because all sinned". Every human sinned in Adam. And so it says in 1 Corinthians 15:22, "In Adam all die." And we've seen in Ephesians 2:1 that we were dead in our transgressions and sins in which we used to live. And verse 3 in that same chapter, "All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts, and like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath." Now, this sin nature may not be obvious to new parents immediately when their precious little child is wrapped up in a sweet smelling blanket. But what it is, is, as I've mentioned before, fanatical commitment to self-interest. And that you can see immediately in an infant. That fanatical commitment to self-interest is the essence of the trouble you'll have in raising them. And you have the same thing too.
There was a police study in San Francisco on juvenile delinquency, this is cited by Jim Eliff. These are striking words, because they're not written from a Christian perspective, they were just written from a secular policing perspective. This is what it said. "Every baby starts life as a little savage. He is completely selfish and self-centered, he wants what he wants, his bottle, his mother's attention, his playmate's toys, his uncle's watch, or whatever. Deny him these and he seethes with rage and aggressiveness, which would be murderous were he not so helpless. He is dirty, he has no morals, no knowledge, no developed skills. This means that all children, not just certain children, but all children, are born delinquent. If permitted to continue in their self-centered world of infancy, given free rein to their impulsive actions to satisfy everyone, every child would grow up a criminal, a killer, a thief, a rapist." Well, that's the essence of parenting, the negative side of parenting, is that's what you're facing, the sin nature. Fanatical commitment to self.
Along with that, as I just mentioned in passing, but it's very much the issue as well. We ourselves, even redeemed in Christ, we still have that flesh nature. We still have a fanatical commitment to self in there too. So we struggle with pride, we struggle with anger, we struggle with sins and selfishness and habitual patterns of evil. And our children, I have found, pick those up much more readily than they pick up our good habits in Christ. They pick up your particular habits and patterns, which is a great source of shame to parents, where they can see that in their own kids.
The Future of American Parenting
So, beyond that there's a constant demonic satanic side, and a world side, that Satan is cleverly assaulting your children's souls, and the world is pouring acid on them as you seek to develop them, etcetera. And so you've got all of this at work. Furthermore, we just need to understand the future of American parenting. Where are we going? Where are we heading here? I do fear for the future of our country. I already hinted at it in my prayer. But we have moved quickly beyond gay marriage at this point to an acceleration of wickedness and bizarreness that I just don't know where we're heading as a nation, as a culture. And there is a direct worldly attack on the right and responsibility of Christian parents to bring their children up in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. You're going to see that more and more.
I believe that the government is going to try to put a wedge between Christians and their children, and assert their right to indoctrinate our children. It's happened many, many times before. We Christian fathers feel the authority and the responsibility we have to say to the surrounding pagan world, in the words of Joshua 24:15, saying to the pagan world, "If serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the river, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are now living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord." But I was on a website recently that said every child should have the freedom to choose for himself or herself what religion they will follow.
The website is, I don't know how to pronounce this, but humanium.org. Wow. Listed the fundamental rights of children. Right to Freedom. "Children have the right to have an opinion different from their parents." By the way, they know that. "I have an opinion different from you." I'm aware. Alright. "A child should not be the victim of the pressure of an adult who would try to force him or her in order to influence them in their opinion." That's just called parenting. I'm sorry, I'm editorializing. Let me just read. "Children have a right to be informed, so they can make their own minds up about important subjects." Now, next heading, Freedom of Religion. "Children have the right not to undergo constraint or oppression which will injure their freedom of religion or other rights. Children can freely determine the religion or conviction of their choice. A religion doesn't have to be imposed on them." So basically, I'm supposed to, as a father, just be a world religion instructor. "This is what Buddhism teaches, this is what Hinduism... So now you make your own decision." It's actually abusive then it seems to bring them up “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.”
My daughter Carolyn showed me a tweet sometime ago that shocked me at how weird things are getting. It said effectively that it's child abuse to name a newborn baby before they've had a chance to choose their own gender. I don't know how that works. "Baby one, baby two." Here, the tweet said, "Use gender inclusive pronouns like baby-self or toddler-self until they are old enough to make their own choice." So in the name of individual freedom, all children should be free to choose everything for themselves, and not have anything forced on them. And yet it's plain that in the Bible parents are to bring their children up “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” Borrowing from the old covenant language in Deuteronomy 6:7-9, they're talking about these precepts and ordinances, but I'm going to just talk about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. "Impress them", the words of God, "On your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands, bind them on your foreheads, write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates." If I can just summarize, brainwash your kids.
Just brainwash them in the word of God. Let them be transformed by the renewing of their mind, because I'm telling you, the world will try to do it. It's not going to stand idly by, it's going to try to brainwash your kids in its direction. Along with this is the danger, as I just mentioned a moment ago, of ever encroaching government rights to the training of the future generation. Reading about what school was like in Nazi Germany in the 1930s, basically every child there was indoctrinated in Nazi ideology, and frequently got to the point in their teen years where then they would start turning their parents in to the Gestapo. So also the same kinds of things happened in communist countries during the Cold War.
John McArthur cited a letter he received from a man in his church who emigrated from Czechoslovakia during the Cold War. This is what he said. "My wife and I experienced the dissolution of the family unit by the communist government. From our own experience, the godless doctrine pumped into our little children's souls brought up the most cynical generation you can imagine." Parenthetically, less than 1% of Czechs in the Czech Republic are believers. 93% are atheists. But this individual said, "Most young people do not believe in anything, not even God. The godless system destroyed, in great part, the will of the people and produced an obeying array of cynical and different disposable robots. The same thing is beginning to happen to us now in this country." So, blessings and challenges.
God’s Goal for Parenting: His Glory in their Salvation
What is the Purpose of Parenting
Let's talk about God's goal for parenting, and that is His glory. Now, your outline says they're salvation, but I'm going to actually amend it. God's goal in parenting is His glory in your salvation too. So, just put "... His glory in their salvation... and yours." because God's going to be at work in both of you, and you're not any of you done being saved. So God has a wise purpose in all of this. Okay? So what is the purpose of parenting? I would say it's the exact same purpose of why God made the world. His glory, ultimately. God made all things for His glory. And the thing that glorifies him the most is the salvation of human souls. So that's the goal of parenting too, is His glory in the salvation of your children and of yourself. But let's focus on the children.
A key verse I use for parenting is one with which you should be very familiar. It's in Mark 8:36-37. "What good would it be? What would it profit a man if he should gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?" Or what would a man give in exchange for his soul? So let me put that in parenting language. “What good would it be for your child if he or she should gain the whole world, whatever that means, and forfeit their souls? And what would you give in exchange for the souls of your children?”
I know parents want to give their children so many good things. Good character, education, fine clothing, a comfortable lifestyle, fruitful career, athletic success, academic achievement, acceptance at a prestigious college. All the material blessings of prosperity, good morals, legacy, heritage, sweet memories, all of that. All of those earthly blessings are sweet, good things from God. But what would it profit you or your child if they gained all of them and they had to hear on Judgment Day, "Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels"? What good would it be if after they've been well-fed, well-clothed, well-educated, well-employed, worldly successful, you can boast to all your friends in your retirement home about what your kids are achieving and all that, if in the end they're lost, then what good would it be? So my desire in this sermon and next is that God would be glorified in the salvation of your children. That's my center desire.
“You Didn’t Come with a Training Manual!”
So, let's turn to the text, and here's the text, the Bible. I remember my father used to say to us in exasperation, because we drove him crazy, and we did. But he said, "You didn't come with a training manual." Here it is. Here's the training manual. The Bible is sufficient for raising your children “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” I'm not saying there's not good materials out there, there are. But it's sufficient. Here again, 2 Timothy 3:15-17. "How from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All scripture is God-breathed, and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." That sounds like parenting to me. Thoroughly equipped and ready for any good thing God wants them to do. Now we're focusing this morning on 6:1-3, that's the command to the children. Next week I want to focus, God willing, on the command to fathers and mothers, parents.
God’s Command to Children: Obey and Honor Your Parents
So, the words are going to come to children, but I want the parents to listen as well because it's the parent's job to hold these commands over their children and pray toward and act toward them obeying them. If the parents don't train their children to honor and obey them, they never will. And so the parents really need to embrace these words before the children do. These commands need to be on your heart, and then you can impress them on your children. Alright? So God's command to children is, "Obey and honor your parents." That's the order it gives in the text.
Children are Those Who are Still Dependent on Parents
Look at it, "Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother, which is the first commandment with a promise, that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the Earth." The address is to children, and the first command here that's given is, "obey." Now, you may say, "Alright, does this go on forever?" No, it doesn't. I think the word children would be certainly minors and teens and all that. And then on up until they are no longer dependent on you financially. There's still a pattern of obedience in Jacob's life. It says in Genesis 28:7, "Jacob had obeyed his father and mother and gone to Paddan-aram to seek a wife." The word obey is there. Now, I do not need to obey my mother anymore. When I got married, I left my father and mother, and I was united to my wife, and I started my own home. I need to honor her the rest of our lives, but I don't need to obey her. So there is a weaning off of parental obedience until they're on their own. That's the challenge.
The Meaning of “Obey”
Now, the word “obey” has to do with external behavior patterns. So the text in the order it gives us here is, I think, wise. Parents, to some degree, work on your children's external patterns of compliance, that they would obey you. And then it moves to honor, which is something from the heart. Our goal is a heartfelt obedience that's a genuine work of grace. But it starts with this idea of obey. And it means literally to hear under, it means to submit as in Ephesians 5:21, "Submitting to one another in the fear of Christ." Submission is obedience to God-ordained authority. Authority I define as the God given right to command, the God-given right to command. Parents have that. I feel like we're too squeamish about it. You have this sense of weakness. But we have the right and responsibility to give wise, loving, godly commands to our children.
And so, from infancy, they need to be trained to obey their parents. This is coming straight from God. Before they have the capacity to comprehend an invisible being who created them and whom they must obey above all, almighty God, they must first submit their wills to their parents who they can see and be trained to obey them. And they need to be taught that their obedience to their parents is ultimately obedience to God. So that's what you're teaching them.
The Moral Beauty of Obedient Children
Now, what is obedience? We covered this this morning in Bible for Life in the parenting class. I love it, and it's something that I heard years ago from a parenting curriculum that Kristy and I used early on. And it defined obedience in the pattern, I think, of Matthew 6:10. "May your kingdom come, may your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven." So how is God obeyed in Heaven? And what this curriculum writer said is, "That the angels obey God all the way, right away, with a happy spirit." So those were the standards we used for our kids. All the way means everything we said to do, 100%. So 80% obedience, that's not obedience. Right away means now. It's not hard. Now. No, not later. Now. Okay? No delay. To delay is to disobey. And with a happy spirit means we're ultimately trying to get to the heart. We want you to delight in the commands that were given and see them as wise.
Now, this pattern is for infants and young children and going up. And there's this pyramid where you're going to be early on covering your kids lives with commands, just covering them, papering them over with commands when they're young. And then dimmer switch turning them down more and more, until at last, they're ready to just take over their physical lives and look after themselves. And so, there's going to be all of these commands. Now, children it says are to obey their parents “in the Lord.” In the Lord means with a mind to Christ, you're looking to Christ. It implies the parents better be giving godly commands to them. So all authority is ultimately under Jesus. And we see the moral beauty of the obedience. "Children obey your parents in the Lord for this is right." The word gives a sense of morally beautiful. It's attractive when you have an obedient son or daughter. It's just delightful.
The Ten Commandments
And then he quotes the Ten Commandments. "Honor your father and mother, which is the first commandment with a promise that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy life on the Earth." Now, here's the complexity. I've meditated on this a lot in the last couple of months. The hard thing about Christian parenting is how we have to harmonize or synthesize the Old Covenant and the New Covenant. That's really hard to do. The kids are under the Law, they're under the Old Covenant. They're under the tutor, so to speak, until they are brought to Christ. So they have to be trained, in effect, just like the Jews were in the language of blessings and curses. This is what we've got, this is what you have to do, and this is what will happen if you don't do it. That's what we call in our family the if-then chart. "If you do this, this is what will happen." Alright? That's early on. And then as you go further and further in, you're wanting them to move into a New Covenant walk with Christ. In which from the heart, from a transformed nature, they are loving God and loving His Law, and His commands, and by the power of the Spirit, are fulfilling the Law. And that's the challenge.
You need to therefore, teach them the fullness of what the Law means. Talk about how when the Ten Commandments were given what the circumstances were, how God descended from Heaven in fire to the top of Mount Sinai, and how the ground shook beneath their feet, and how it became supernaturally dark. And how God spoke with a voice so loud and so terrifying that everyone in the camp trembled and they begged to not hear that voice anymore. "I am the Lord your God who brought you out of Egypt." And He is the one who's saying, "Honor your father and mother." So there's a sense of the terror of the Law, a sense of the judgment that comes if there's disobedience to the Law, all of that has to come. But that's not enough, that's not enough. You have to move from the Law to the Gospel. And so it says in Romans 3:20-24, "Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the Law."
They're not going to get saved by obeying you. They're not going to get saved by the Law. Instead they're going to find out that they're sinners in need of a savior by the Law. And so, Romans 3:20-24, it says, "No one will be declared righteous in His sight by observing the law, rather through the Law we become conscious of sin. But now a righteousness from God apart from the Law has been made known to which the Law and the prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus." So you're going to want, every time they sin and you're disciplining them and you're training them, to preach the Gospel to them, to tell them that Jesus came for exactly these kinds of sins. Jesus came to take out the heart of stone and to give you the heart of flesh. Jesus came to change your very nature.
What is the Command? Honor Your Father and Mother
And so, the command here given to the child is fascinating. "honor." "Honor your father and mother." What does that mean, “honor”? Been thinking about this. It's related to worship, I think. But it's obviously at a lower level. You only worship God. But it has to do with an esteem, it comes from the heart, a respect. Love is involved in there, but it's a sense of esteem and honor in the family of, or the relationship of worship. But ultimate honor is given to God in worship. And so the idea here is a heart attitude of respect toward the parents. I honor my father, I honor my mother. And that's something that parents have to teach to their children. Do you teach your children to honor you? Do you teach, each of you, teach your child to honor the opposite parent? The father's telling their children to honor their mother, and not speak disrespectfully. And the mother doing the same thing in reference to the father. A heart attitude.
Now, we, as parents don't have power over the heart. I can't make my child honor me, something they do with their heart. But I can show them the word, I can pray that God would work in them, I can yearn for the Holy Spirit to work this. Now, as your kids get older, as they get to be teens, as I already mentioned, it's not funny but it's just true, they just know your sins. But here's the thing, you don't have to be a sinless parent to be worthy of honor. You're worthy of honor because you're the father or the mother. Do you member when Noah got drunk and lay exposed in his tent? Remember that story in Genesis 9? And how one son, it seemed, mocked him. But two other sons put a cloak on their shoulders and walked in backward and covered their naked father. That's a timeless lesson on how you honor a sinful parent. The requirement to honor is not tied to how righteous your father and mother is, but to God's will.
Now, what is the promise that comes to children? Well earthly and heavenly blessedness. "Honor your father and mother, which is the first commandment with a promise, that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the Earth." So there's a promise here. It zeros in on a promise. This is the first commandment that gives you a promise. And it's blessedness, it's going to go well with you, you're going to have a good rich blessed life if you do this. And long life, in other words you won't be struck dead. I meditate on this. There is an Old Covenant feel here and both quality and quantity of life is linked to honoring your parents. We know that God struck two of Judah's sons dead. Ur was wicked so God put Him to death, and Onan was wicked so God put Him to death. Nadab and Abihu were struck dead by fire that came out from the Lord because they were irreverent. Ananias and Sapphira, this happened in the New Covenant era, God struck them dead for their lying. So children, honor your father and mother so that you may live long on the earth, and that it may be a richly blessed life, a quality of life.
Ultimately, this is what I yearn for. Early conversion, growth and discipleship from these kids, a development in spiritual gifts and knowledge of the Word of God so that they are unleashed in ministry for the Lord, just as James Paton did for John Paton. That's my desire.
Value Children as Fellow Image-Bearers
So, quickly, applications. Start by just delighting in the blessings of children. Behold, they are “fearfully and wonderfully made.” “God knit them together in their mother's wombs.” Cherish them, they are created in the image of God. They're not yours to command like they're your slaves. Alright? They are precious human beings. As I said about the husband-wife relationship, by far more significant than that she's wife is that she's human, and redeemed. And the same thing is going to end up true of your children. Far more significant that they're your children is that they are created in the image of God, and that they can believe the Gospel. So cherish them, and just cherish these times. You know what I mean. You older parents know exactly. The days, the years go by like the wind. Like the wind. Don't waste these days, don't waste the time. So parents, embrace your responsibility to bring your children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. More next week. Embrace your responsibility to preach the Gospel to them. "How from infancy they have known the Holy Scriptures." Saturate them.
Spurgeon’s Thoughts of Child-Rearing
Charles Spurgeon said this, "Some wrongly say, 'Do not teach your children, they'll be converted in God's own time, if it be His purpose. Therefore leave them to run wild in the streets.' Well, people who do that will certainly both sin against the child and the Lord Jesus. We might as well say, 'If that patch of ground over there is to grow a harvest, God will do it if it's God's good pleasure. Therefore, leave it and let the weeds overgrow it. And do not endeavor for a moment to kill the weeds or to sow any good seed.' Why such reasoning as this would not only be cruel to our children, but grievously displeasing to Christ.” Parents, I do hope you are all endeavoring to bring your children to Christ by teaching them the things of God. Let them not be strangers to the plan of salvation." This is Spurgeon, listen though. "Never let it be said that a child of yours reached years in which his conscience could act, and he could judge between good and evil, without knowing the doctrine of the atonement. Without understanding the great substitutionary work of Christ. Set before your child life and death, Hell and Heaven, judgment and mercy, his own sin, Christ's most precious blood. And as you set these things before him, labor with him, persuade him as the apostle did his congregation with tears and weeping to turn unto the Lord. And your prayers and supplications shall be heard so that the Spirit of God shall bring them to Jesus."
Say a final word to children, especially to teenagers. Let me speak directly to you teens. By now you are fully aware of your parents' strengths and weaknesses. By the way, they do have some strengths. You'll find that out more and more as you get older. But it is your time now, and these words I think are most understandable to you, because they are written to you. "Children, obey and honor." That's what God's calling on you to do. Remember how Noah's sons were blessed by respecting their father, even at his weakest, most sinful moment. Ask the Lord to give you a heart of honor toward both your mother and father. Ask Him to bless you with long life in the richness of the Gospel. And you younger children, I'm almost done, praise God. Love your parents, do what they tell, study the Bible, pray, ask your mom and dad questions that are on your hearts. And mom and dad be ready for them to do it, because they'll keep saying, "Why, why, why?" Until you have no other answer, and just say, "Because God wanted it that way, that's why." Close with me in prayer.
Father, we thank you so much for children. We thank you for the blessing that they are. Thank you that this church is so lavishly blessed. Every year, O Lord, at Mother's Day we see how many babies were born in our church, and as their parents yearn to dedicate them to Christ. We thank you for the blessing. We thank you for how we can see, at every stage, children that we've been blessed with. Lord, give parents grace to parent well, and give the children grace to be obedient and to honor. In Jesus' name, amen.