As we begin to look at chapter 6, Paul is continuing to deal with the Christian's household code. He's talked about the duty of the wife, he's talked about the duty of the husband, and now he talks about the duty of children and parents. As we look at this household code, we must keep in mind that the broader context of these verses includes the injunction to walk wisely by being controlled by the Spirit:
And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, Ephesians 5:18 NASB
Believers, we must understand that we have the power available to live out these commands. Wives, the power is available in Christ for you to be able to submit to your husband. Husbands, the power is available in Christ for you to be able to love your wife as Christ loved the church. Christianity is supernatural; we really can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. But we can only do this as we are controlled by the Spirit.
If Yeshua can create and sustain the universe, then He can certainly hold my life together, hold my family together, hold my marriage together, hold our society together, and sustain us! Power is available to us in Christ.
I'm sure that you've probably noticed that our imperfections are magnified in the home. At home we see each other at our worst. The smiles that might be normal at a church gathering can turn to angry looks in the home. The pretense of being under control while in public might give way to out of control behavior in the home. Yet, if there is any area of life in which we need to demonstrate the power of Christianity, it is in the home. We can and we must live out these commands so that our homes will be a testimony to His love and grace. The Christian home is the outpost of Christianity. Yahweh places us in this environment to represent Him here on earth.
Paul has addressed the wives and husbands and now moves on to the parent/ child relationship. Paul tells the children to obey their parents:
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Ephesians 6:1 NASB
Who is this verse addressed to? Children! Anybody disagree with that? No? Good. Now the question we must ask and answer is, "What does he mean by children? Obviously, Paul is speaking to children old enough to understand the command, because he addresses them directly. I think that is important, he is speaking through this letter to children who are in the assembly, listening to his letter as it is being read out. That means that the children weren't segregated off to Sunday school, but were worshiping with their family and the family of Yahweh.
Does this only apply to young children in the home like the McCormack children? The Greek word used for "children" here is not teknia (little children), but teknon, which means: "offspring." I am the teknon of my mother, even though I am 60 years old. They could have ranged from the very young to perhaps even young adults still living at home. The obedience part is directed at children at home. I think that a person comes out from under the command to obey their parents when they go out and establish their own home. As long as a child is single and dependent on his (or her) parents for financial support, he is obligated to obey them. But as we'll see in a minute, we are always obligated to honor our parents.
"Obey"— is from the Greek word hupakouo, which is a compound word that literally means: "to hear under," that is, to listen attentively; by implication to heed or conform to a command or authority. It carries the idea of: "a readiness to hear and has in it the sense of obeying orders. The verb used here is an active imperative of 'obey' and denotes absolute obedience." It is also a present tense verb that means you are to do this consistently. Obedience is to be the pattern of your life.
Some try to make a big distinction between "submit" and "obey." But the terms "obey" (hupakouo) used here and "submit" (hupotasso) used of the wives are basically synonyms. In 1 Peter 3:5-6, wives are told to "be subject" to their husbands, illustrated by Sarah "obeying" her husband Abraham.
What is obedience?
We must clear from our minds the idea that "obedience" is some type of servile word reserved only for indentured servants. Yeshua told us that love for Him could only be demonstrated through obedience:
"If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. John 14:15 NASB
For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome. 1 John 5:3 NASB
Love and obedience belong together in relationship to the Lord, and the same is true in relationship to parents. If you love your parents, you will obey them.
How serious is disobedience? I think that's a good question to ask in our day, because we see so much disobedience in children. Is disobedience that big of a deal?:
Now David again gathered all the chosen men of Israel, thirty thousand. 2 And David arose and went with all the people who were with him to Baale-judah, to bring up from there the ark of God which is called by the Name, the very name of the LORD of hosts who is enthroned above the cherubim. 3 And they placed the ark of God on a new cart that they might bring it from the house of Abinadab which was on the hill; and Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, were leading the new cart. 4 So they brought it with the ark of God from the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill; and Ahio was walking ahead of the ark. 5 Meanwhile, David and all the house of Israel were celebrating before the LORD with all kinds of instruments made of fir wood, and with lyres, harps, tambourines, castanets and cymbals. 6 But when they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzzah reached out toward the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen nearly upset it. 7 And the anger of the LORD burned against Uzzah, and God struck him down there for his irreverence; and he died there by the ark of God. 2 Samuel 6:1-7 NASB
What happened here? Uzzah touched the ark of the covenant, and Yahweh killed him. Listen to me, Uzzah didn't kill anybody, he didn't commit adultery, he wasn't involved in idol worship, all he did was to try to keep the Ark of Yahweh from falling. All he did was touch the Ark, and Yahweh killed him. Why?
Here's what you need to understand: Yahweh gave Israel specific directions on the creation and handling of His Ark. Uzzah disobeyed these directions, and died because of it:
"And you shall put the poles into the rings on the sides of the ark, to carry the ark with them. 15 "The poles shall remain in the rings of the ark; they shall not be removed from it. Exodus 25:14-15 NASB
When Yahweh had the Ark built, He specifically ordered that rings be placed on the sides of the Ark, and poles placed in these rings so the Ark could be carried about as Israel moved. The Ark was to be carried by hand, not by cart.
The Ark of Yahweh was a very special symbol to the Nation Israel. The Ark was a rectangular, acacia wood box covered with gold, measuring 4 feet x 2.5 feet by 2.5 feet. The Ark contained the tables of the Law that Yahweh gave Moses, Aaron's rod that budded, and a golden pot filled with Manna.
The Ark was a symbol of the presence of Yahweh:
And David arose and went with all the people who were with him to Baale-judah, to bring up from there the ark of God which is called by the Name, the very name of the LORD of hosts who is enthroned above the cherubim. 2 Samuel 6:2 NASB
According to Yahweh's instructions, it was to be transported by the Kohathites, who carried it by holding onto poles inserted through its attached rings (see Exodus 25:10-22; Numbers 4:1-20). No one was to touch or look into the ark, or they would die.
Uzzah died because he disobeyed Yahweh's instructions. Disobedience is a dangerous condition—even when our motives are sincere, and we are trying to do what we think is right. We must constantly be mindful of the holiness of Yahweh and maintain a reverence for Him manifested by our obedience to His instructions and commands:
And Samuel said, "Has the LORD as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices As in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams. 1 Samuel 15:22 NASB
Yahweh delights far more in obedience than in the performance of worship ceremonies without it. Yahweh takes pleasure in our obedience, because our disobedience is idolatry:
"For rebellion is as the sin of divination, And insubordination is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, He has also rejected you from being king." 1 Samuel 15:23 NASB
When Yahweh says one thing, and we then stubbornly choose to go our own way, we are idolaters. We have actually esteemed the direction of our own mind over Yahweh's direction and become guilty of idolatry. And worst of all, the idol is our own self.
The obedience called for in our text in Ephesians is to "your parents," which is the Greek goneus. That is to dad and mom. Do children today need to be told to obey their parents?
Warren Wiersbe said: "The modern version of this is: 'Parents, obey your children, for this will keep them happy and bring peace to the home.'" The Duke of Windsor once quipped, "The thing that impresses me most about America is the way parents obey their children."
I would say that a modern version of this verse could be "Parents, obey your children and it will keep you out of the law courts!" Children today are taking their parents to court, and the social agencies will back children's rebellion almost without question.
It wasn't this way in the ancient world, children were very much under the domination of their parents. The supreme example was the Roman "Patria Potestas," the law of the father's power. Under it a parent could do anything he liked with his child. He could sell him into slavery; he could make him work like a laborer on his farm; he had even the right to condemn his child to death and to carry out the execution. All the privileges and rights belonged to the parent, and all the duties to the child. Although our society has greatly changed from that of the first century, God's Word has not changed, and children are still to obey their parents.
The biblical order is not, "Parents, obey your children," but rather, "Children, obey your parents." It would seem as if we've been influenced by worldly psychology that tells us, "Parents, cater to your child's every whim and don't do anything to stifle his self-esteem." Because disobedience to parents is so serious, Yahweh taught the children of Israel to severely deal with disobedient children:
"If any man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey his father or his mother, and when they chastise him, he will not even listen to them, 19 then his father and mother shall seize him, and bring him out to the elders of his city at the gateway of his home town. 20 "And they shall say to the elders of his city, 'This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey us, he is a glutton and a drunkard.' 21 "Then all the men of his city shall stone him to death; so you shall remove the evil from your midst, and all Israel shall hear of it and fear. Deuteronomy 21:18-21 NASB
That should show us how strongly Yahweh views children disobeying their parents.
Notice what Solomon has to say:
There is a kind of man who curses his father, And does not bless his mother. Proverbs 30:11 NASB
The eye that mocks a father, And scorns a mother, The ravens of the valley will pick it out, And the young eagles will eat it. Proverbs 30:17 NASB
This is Solomon's way of saying that it's really important to obey your mom or dad.
Why must you obey your parents? First, Yahweh has called for this kind of diligent obedience. It is impossible to please Yahweh as a child without obeying your parents.
Second, in the providence of God, He has given you the very parents who are yours. You would not be in the world if it were not for Yahweh's goodness in placing you in your home. Think about that for a moment: the Almighty God, who created the vastness of the universe, has by His own choice given you life through your parents and left you to their charge.
Obedience to parents is very important to Yahweh. Isn't it interesting, in Romans chapter one, in the midst of all of those horrible sins listed in that degenerate society, right in the middle of it, is "disobedience to parents"?
Obedience to parents is a manifestation of the rule of Christ in our lives. We cannot say, "Christ is Lord" and live lives of perverse and continual disobedience to our parents. It is part of our Christian life to live in obedience to our parents.
"In the Lord"—this does not mean, "Obey your parents only if they are Christians." This is a reference to Christ and is virtually synonymous with "as to the Lord" (5:22) or "as to Christ" (6:5) and indicates that their obedience is part of their Christian discipleship.
Why should children obey their parents? "For this is right"—the conjunction "for" introduces the reason for the obedience. S. L. Johnson writes, "So, the apostle says this is right for children to obey their parents. It's a natural law, written on the human heart."
Many commentators say that what Paul is saying here is: "it's a natural thing, it's built-in in the law of nature, it's ordained of God in creation." How do we judge what is right or wrong? Ultimately, the only standard we have of right or wrong is the Word of God:
So then, the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good. Romans 7:12 NASB
Paul says obedience is right, and then he quotes Scripture in verses 2 and 3.
Obedience is right if the command is lawful. If your parents demand something of you that is clearly against what Yahweh has spoken in His Word, only then do you have the right to not obey them. You must follow what Peter and the apostles did with the Jewish authorities that were over them and asked them to not speak anymore about Christ: "We must obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29). Peter later told Christians to submit to the governing authorities. So he was not promoting anarchy, but saying that the exception comes only when the command of your parents directly violates the command of God.
When I was a youth pastor, I was teaching on this subject of children obeying their parents, and I mentioned the exception of them asking you to do something that was against God's Word. After the service, a young girl came to us to tell us that her step father was sexually molesting her. We called the police and had her step father arrested. There are some sick parents in this world, and God does not command children to obey unlawful orders.
When we looked at Ephesians 5: 22, we said that it was not directed to husbands, the husband is not to make the wife submit. And in looking at verse 25, we said that it was directed to husbands. A wife cannot make a husband love her. Now, although this is written specifically to children, parents have a responsibility to train their children to be obedient. Did your children come into the world obedient? No. They need to be taught obedience. Parents possess basic authority. This authority has the responsibility to train children to obey:
Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6 NASB
Who is he talking to here? Parents! Parents, it is your job to train your children. You are to teach them the way to go. You're not to let them go their way, you're to train them. And this training involves making them obey:
Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; The rod of discipline will remove it far from him. Proverbs 22:15 NASB
Do not hold back discipline from the child, Although you beat him with the rod, he will not die. 14 You shall beat him with the rod, And deliver his soul from Sheol. Proverbs 23:13-14 NASB
The idea here is not that your correction will bring them to salvation, but that it will deliver them from physical death.
The rod and reproof give wisdom, But a child who gets his own way brings shame to his mother. Proverbs 29:15 NASB
Stripes that wound scour away evil, And strokes reach the innermost parts. Proverbs 20:30 NASB
Literally, this means: "blows of a bruise"; i.e., severe blows that bruise. Physical discipline may cure a child of evil and cleanse his inner person.
Disobedience comes naturally to children, and we must help them overcome it. Let me ask you a question, "Should Christian parents train their children to be unresponsive to instruction the first time it is given?" Of course not! Yet, in reality, many parents are guilty of such negative training. Desiring obedience, they actually teach disobedience. Listen, parents, when you let you child disobey you, you are teaching them that disobedience is okay. You are teaching them to sin, because disobedience is sin.
Paul goes on to say:
HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER (which is the first commandment with a promise), SO THAT IT MAY BE WELL WITH YOU, AND THAT YOU MAY LIVE LONG ON THE EARTH. Ephesians 6:2-3 NASB
"HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER"—this is a quote from Exodus 20:12. This command is given to children, mentioned in verse 1. The terms "father" and "mother" are synonymous with "parents," in verse 1.
There are no indications here as to the age of the children who are to honor their parents. As we said, the Greek word used for "children" in Ephesians 6:1 is teknon, which means: "offspring." I think that a person comes out from under the command to obey their parents when they go out and establish their own home. But the command to honor is never abrogated.
"HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER"—this command is repeated eight times in the Bible, it is stated twice in the Tanakh and six times in the New Testament. The Scriptures are clear, we are to "honor" our parents. But what exactly does that mean? As a noun, "honor" approximates our ideas of esteem, respect, (high) regard, or (good) reputation. To honor is to recognize the value of someone, or thing, and to act accordingly.
As a side note here let me just say that if Yahweh commands us to give honor to fathers and mothers, then mothering must be an honorable occupation. One should hardly have to make such a statement, but in today's world it is necessary to do so. The fact that women line up at abortion clinics around the country and in various parts of the world suggests that bearing and raising children is viewed as something far less than a blessing. This rejects the clear teaching of the Bible, such as is found in Psalm 127. Let those who would seek to avoid parenting be reminded that in God's Word, being a mother is a most honorable occupation.
Children are not told here to do anything in particular to honor their parents. We should assume, and rightly so, that different actions will be required at different times, of different people. The term "honor" is one that is seldom used in everyday speech. It is, therefore, necessary for us to look at what is meant by "honor" as it is used in the Bible.
Giving honor is preferential. When we honor someone, we distinguish them above someone else. Honoring someone sets them above others:
Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; Romans 12:10 NASB
Honoring parents means to think highly of them, in contrast to thinking lightly of them.
Giving honor is practical. Honoring another requires more than mere lip service:
Then the Lord said, "Because this people draw near with their words And honor Me with their lip service, But they remove their hearts far from Me, And their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote, Isaiah 29:13 NASB
That honor which Yahweh requires of man is an honor which translates into very practical terms, whether it be directed God-ward or man-ward.
Our Lord's teaching on the honoring of parents is fairly extensive. A passage that provides us with great insight into the command as God intended it, and as the scribes and Pharisees sought to circumvent it, is:
Then some Pharisees and scribes came to Yeshua from Jerusalem and said, "Why do Your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread." And He answered and said to them, "Why do you yourselves transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? "For God said, 'HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER,' and, 'HE WHO SPEAKS EVIL OF FATHER OR MOTHER IS TO BE PUT TO DEATH.' "But you say, 'Whoever says to his father or mother, "Whatever I have that would help you has been given to God," he is not to honor his father or his mother.' And by this you invalidated the word of God for the sake of your tradition. "You hypocrites, rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you: 'THIS PEOPLE HONORS ME WITH THEIR LIPS, BUT THEIR HEART IS FAR AWAY FROM ME. 'BUT IN VAIN DO THEY WORSHIP ME, TEACHING AS DOCTRINES THE PRECEPTS OF MEN.'" Matthew 15:1-9 NASB
Here we see that the Fifth Commandment is applied by our Lord to adult children, regarding their responsibilities to financially care for their elderly parents. The principle characters in this incident are the scribes and Pharisees. These are not young men, as a rule, but the elders of Jerusalem. Yeshua applied the Fifth Commandment to these older men, and condemned them for interfering with those who would care for their aging parents.
The tradition of pronouncing someone's goods to be "dedicated to God" is one that was taught by the scribes and Pharisees, one that was imposed on the people, thus prohibiting the people from doing what they apparently wanted to do. It tied up their funds, making them inaccessible for acts of charity at home. And who, do you suppose had control of this money? The text does not say, but my guess is that it was the Pharisees. The point seems to be that the Pharisees, once again, took advantage of the needy, the weak, and the helpless, by keeping children from having control over funds which would help their parents.
In this incident, our Lord taught that men dare not attempt to use "honoring God" (Corban) as an excuse for not honoring their parents. It all sounded so pious, so religious. The money, which should have been available to help parents, was "devoted to God" with the spoken formula "Corban." How could anyone fault a child for placing God above parents?
This was a sham, a facade, as Yeshua pointed out. This "tradition" of pronouncing something to be "devoted to God" was merely a means of setting aside the Fifth Commandment with pious appearances. True religion does not hurt the helpless, it helps them (cf. James 1:27).
In John's Gospel, we find that one of the last acts of our Lord upon the cross was done in fulfillment of our Lord's obligation to honor his mother:
When Yeshua then saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing nearby, He said to His mother, "Woman, behold, your son!" Then He said to the disciple, "Behold, your mother!" From that hour the disciple took her into his own household. After this, Yeshua, knowing that all things had already been accomplished, to fulfill the Scripture, said, "I am thirsty." John 19:26-28 NASB
Because Joseph had apparently died, and Yeshua was the oldest son, a greater obligation for the care of His mother would fall on Him. Thus, in one of His last earthly acts, Yeshua appointed John to carry out His earthly obligations. In this final act, Yeshua honored His mother.
HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER (which is the first commandment with a promise), SO THAT IT MAY BE WELL WITH YOU, AND THAT YOU MAY LIVE LONG ON THE EARTH. Ephesians 6:2-3 NASB
Paul cites the fifth Commandment, adding a parenthetical comment, "which is the first commandment with a promise." And then he quotes the promise, "SO THAT IT MAY BE WELL WITH YOU, AND THAT YOU MAY LIVE LONG ON THE EARTH"—this promise was to obedient Israelites, the promise was that they would dwell in the land of Palestine for a long time (Exod. 20:12), and that things would go well with them there (Deut. 5:16). Paul generalizes the promise so as to include Gentile readers, saying, "so that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth." What Paul is saying is not that we'll inherit the land, or even the earth, but he is saying this promotes a full life.
I know, that obedience does not always result in longevity—a good son can die young. And because a son or a daughter dies young does not mean that they have died because of disobedience to their parents. This is a principle, it's not an absolute black and white guarantee, but it's a principle—when children obey their parents in the Lord they will escape a great deal of sin and danger, and therefore. avoid the things that will threaten to shorten their lives. There is no joy like the joy of obedience. Sin brings discipline, but obedience brings blessings.
What Time is it? Because of the promise of long life on the earth, Lincoln contends that this could not have been written by Paul who expected an imminent parousia. So Lincoln obviously thought Paul was wrong since he sees the parousia as yet future. If Paul was wrong, who cares what he wrote, none of it matters. Paul did expect an imminent parousia, but understood that it's nature was spiritual, not physical. The parousia did come soon after Paul's writing, but believers remained on the earth, they were not raptured up into the sky, and children were to continue to obey and honor their parents, and if they did, they would be blessed.
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