As we continue to look at this very practical section of Ephesians, I think it is clear that Paul was not laying down an order for society in general. He addresses the Christian community specifically on how husbands and wives and children and parents are to live in relationship to each other as visible expressions of Christianity. He points out how Christians are to uniquely live under Christ's Lordship in the most intimate relationships of life. The simplicity of Paul's instructions offers clear guidance for family relationships. Paul really addresses each member of the family with a one word command that if followed will make a profound impact in our family, our church, and our culture. To the wives he says, "Submit"; to the husbands he says, "Love"; to the children he says, "Obey";and this morning we will look at the divine directives for fathers, "Bring them up," which is one word in the Greek:
Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Ephesians 6:4 NASB
Our text this morning is straightforward and simple. It divides naturally into three parts: First there is the address, "Fathers." Second, there is the negative command, "Do not provoke your children." Third, there is the positive command, "But bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord."
"Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger"—the Greek here reads; "And the fathers, do not make your children angry." The coordinating conjunction "and," closely ties the fathers' responsibility with the children's responsibility. Paul could have only addressed the children (6:1-3) and said, "Obey your parents. Any questions?" And he could have moved on. But instead, he addresses the fathers, giving them their responsibility, which is to teach the children to obey.
There is a question as to whether Paul is speaking only to "fathers" or whether he is using this in a more generic sense to refer to "parents." The Greek word translated here as "fathers" is the word pater. I think that it's significant that this Greek word could be translated as "parents" as it is in Hebrews 11:
By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents [pater], because they saw he was a beautiful child; and they were not afraid of the king's edict. Hebrews 11:23 NASB
The plural of pater can be used to denote the mother and father. However, that Paul should change to this word when he has used goneus in the previous verse for "parents" seems strange. If Paul wanted this translated "parents," it seems to me that he would have used goneus here as he did in verse 1.
In 6:1 Paul said, "Children, obey your parents [goneus]." This clearly teaches that mothers as well as fathers are to be obeyed. Mothers and fathers have a shared authority over the children. But in 6:4, it's better to accept the translation as "fathers," (pater), and to take Paul's words as relating directly to the heads of the families who were present in the Ephesian fellowship, and who were responsible for the welfare and upbringing of children.
Why does he address only the fathers? Is it because mothers don't ever provoke their children to anger? No! Paul knows that mothers are guilty of this at times, but probably not as much as fathers. I believe that this verse is applicable to dads and moms. But Paul gives this command to the father, because just as the man is the head of the woman, he is also the head of his family, therefore, the responsibility finally rests upon him to bring up his children. This does not eliminate the responsibility of the mother.
The norm of society is to see the father's role only as provider and protector. This role is certainly taught in the Scriptures:
But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. 1 Timothy 5:8 NASB
For a man not to provide for his family is to deny the Christian faith. Certainly we all understand that a man is to provide for his family. But that is not all there is to fatherhood. The father is to be the spiritual head of the home.
Men, by and large, have not lived up to their responsibility to their families, and as a result, their families are falling apart. The Bible makes it clear that the man is to be the spiritual leader of his family.
"Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger"—the Greek word used here for "children" is teknon, the same word used in 6:1. Teknon means: "offspring," a child is the teknon of their parents no matter what their age. They could have ranged from the very young to perhaps even young adults still living at home.
The words provoke and anger are the same Greek word parorgizo, which has the idea of: "to irritate, provoke to anger." Parorgizo is translated in the following ways: "do not exasperate your children" (New International Version); "never drive your children to resentment" (The Jerusalem Bible); "do not provoke your children to anger" (Revised Standard Version); "don't keep on scolding and nagging your children" (The Living Bible); and "don't over-correct your children or make it difficult for them to obey the commandment" (Phillip's New Testament Bible).
Fathers, we are commanded to not make it a practice of making our children angry. How is it that we make our children angry? It could be through excessively severe discipline, unreasonably harsh demands, abuse of authority, or by neglect. I think it is different depending on the child. But whatever it is that causes your child anger, you are not to do.
The parallel passage in Colossians says:
Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so that they will not lose heart. Colossians 3:21 NASB
The word he uses for "exasperate" means: "to provoke or to irritate, or to excite in a negative fashion, or to embitter." This is the same idea as in our text, "Don't make them angry." Then he gives a reason for not making them angry, "So that they will not lose heart"—"lose heart" is from the Greek word athumeo, a compound word from "a" which means: "without" and "thumos," which is: "passions, desire, spirit." It means: "to become disheartened to the point of losing motivation, to be dispirited or to be broken in spirit." This is the only occurrence of this word in the New Testament. Lightfoot translates it as: "to go about their task in a listless, moody, sullen frame of mind" (Linguistic Key, 582). We might think of it as throwing water upon the flame for life. It implies that a parent is so cold, stern, harsh, and rigid that a child's strength is sapped, his drive for positive achievements gone, and his hope for the future shattered. He exists, and that is about it. His one goal in life is to get out from under such tyranny.
Yahweh wants us to encourage our children. He wants us to praise them for what they do right. Constant criticism will discourage them. They may become disheartened in their attempts to please their parents.
If you remember back a few weeks ago when we were looking at:
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, Ephesians 5:25 NASB
I said that this exhortation to husbands to love their wives is unique. It is not found in the Tanakh, rabbinic literature, or in the household codes of the Greco-Roman era. So this was radical, this was revolutionary! It was never heard of before. This is uniquely Christian!
Well what Paul says here to the fathers is unique and radical also, "do not provoke your children to anger." This was a radical command in the Israelite world. Israel followed the patriarchal structure with the father having absolute control over his children, even over his married sons and their wives if they lived with him.
This was also a radical command to the world of Hellenistic Judaism. In Hellenistic Judaism parents were to children as God is to the world, according to Philo. The fathers had a right to severely admonish as well as beat, degrade, and lock up their children.
This was also a radical command to the Roman world of Paul's day. Fathers in Rome had absolute authority over their families. When a baby was born into a Roman family, it was brought out and laid before the father. If he picked it up it meant that he was accepting it into the home. But if he did not pick it up, it meant that the child was rejected. It could be sold, given away, or set outside the door, the door closed, and the baby would freeze to death in the exposure. That was legal! That was the world that Paul is writing to, so you can imagine the impact of it when he tells fathers not to provoke their children to anger! Paul begins his instruction to fathers by showing that harsh treatment of his child is wrong. This is a new thing, it's new to this world that the child's feelings should be considered at all! This is uniquely Christian! The Christian's household code is different from any of the household codes of other nations. Fathers are told nothing about their power of disposal over their children, instead their duties are spelled out.
Paul goes on to say to the fathers, "but bring them up"—the adversative conjunction "but" denotes a strong contrast from the negative to the positive. The present imperative ektrepho appears only here and in 5:29. It means:"to feed." It's a word used in the Bible primarily of nurturing children, providing nurture, providing a climate of growth and development.
Paul is telling the fathers that they play a very important role in the raising of the children. This would have been a shock to those of the Roman culture, and it seems to be just as shocking to those in our culture. Do you understand the importance a father plays in the upbringing of children?
Listen to these numbers. Today, almost 1 out of 2 American children go to bed each night without a biological father in the home. And fifty-percent of our children today will spend at least some time before age 18 with only 1 parent. The poverty rate for children born to mothers who finished high school, got married, and waited until they were 20 to have their first child is 8%. The poverty rate for those who don't do those things is 79%. The average poverty rate for children of single mothers is currently 47%; it is 65% for black children. Sixty percent of America's rapists, 72% of adolescent murderers, and 70% of long term prison inmates grew up without fathers. Do the math. What conclusion do you draw?
It is impossible to deny. Despite the message of Hollywood, having a biological father in the home to help protect, provide for, and raise the children is an essential element of societal health and happy, well-adjusted kids.
Relationships with our children are more important than we think. In the home we lay a foundation for all of life. We need to lay a good foundation that will serve our children well throughout their whole lives.
There is a peculiar role that the Scripture gives to husbands and fathers. Fathers bear a special responsibility for the moral life of the family. So I urge you to take that responsibility, fathers, and that you be involved in the lives of your children.
And, fathers, do not provoke your children to anger; but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Ephesians 6:4 NASB
Children are to be brought up, "In the discipline and instruction of the Lord"—discipline is from the Greek word, paideia, which means: "tutorage; education or training; by implication disciplinary correction." Paideia is a broad term, signifying whatever parents and teachers do to train, correct, cultivate, and educate children in order to help them develop and mature as they ought. It is used of the Lord's training of His children so that we may share His holiness:
and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons, "MY SON, DO NOT REGARD LIGHTLY THE DISCIPLINE OF THE LORD, NOR FAINT WHEN YOU ARE REPROVED BY HIM; FOR THOSE WHOM THE LORD LOVES HE DISCIPLINES, AND HE SCOURGES EVERY SON WHOM HE RECEIVES." Hebrews 12:5-6 NASB
Yahweh uses suffering and pain in our lives to train us. Suffering helps us mature in Christian character. It's the idea of learning through discipline, and it's talking about correction that may be verbal, or indeed corporal. Now, you mention corporal punishment today and find yourself in a battle with most psychologists, educators, children's workers and social workers who oppose any corporal punishment at all. They see it as an archaic philosophy of punishment that's outdated.
Many today say that corporal punishment is physical abuse. But to say that corporal punishment is wrong is to accuse Yahweh of sin! We just looked at Hebrews 12:6 that says, "Whom Yahweh loves, He disciplines, and He scourges"—the word "scourges" is from the Greek mastigoo, which means: "to skin alive with a whip," indicating to us that Yahweh's discipline can sometimes be severe, but we must remember it's an act of love:
He who withholds his rod hates his son, But he who loves him disciplines him diligently. Proverbs 13:24 NASB
Let's think about it: Is Yahweh wrong? How arrogant can man be to accuse the Living God who created them of doing wrong. We don't have a better plan than Yahweh's and to think we do is the height of pride. Discipline is a must in the life of a child:
All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness. Hebrews 12:11 NASB
Too many Christian Parents now look to psychologists as the experts in how to raise their children. But the problem is, these "experts" dispense a lot of anti-biblical nonsense, such as, "you need to build your child's self-esteem.," And what I see as a huge problem today is that most children are on drugs, antidepressants, or have ADD, or ADHD. When what they really need is a good diet of whole foods and some good old fashion discipline.
Believers, Scripture is sufficient to equip us as good parents. Paul says that Scripture is adequate to equip us for every good work:
All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 NASB
Certainly "every good work" includes the work of rearing our children properly. The word "training" is from paideia. So paideia is also used of the training in righteousness that comes through the inspired Word.
So Paul says that fathers are to, "bring them up in the discipline and instruction"—this is from the Greek word nouthesia, which is literally, "admonition." It is also used of the instruction or admonition that we receive through the Scriptures:
Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. 1 Corinthians 10:11 NASB
So Paul's command implies that a father will lovingly exhort, encourage, and correct his children with God's Word as the standard. This is what Paul says in the end of verse 4: "bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord"—the father must make sure that they learn and follow biblical doctrines. This has been the duty of parents, and especially the fathers, throughout the history of Yahweh's people:
"Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! "You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. "These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. Deuteronomy 6:4-6 NASB
Moses was talking essentially to fathers here. First and foremost was to be their own relationship with Yahweh. You cannot impart what you do not possess. If you are not walking in submission to God's Word, you can't expect your children to do so.
Verse 5 here is repeated by Yeshua when He is asked which is the greatest commandment in the law:
And He said to him, " 'YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.' "This is the great and foremost commandment. "The second is like it, 'YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.' "On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets." Matthew 22:37-40 NASB
This is the heart of Christianity, we are to love Yahweh and love our neighbor. Notice verse 6 of Deuteronomy 6:
"These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. Deuteronomy 6:6 NASB
Fathers, this is where it all starts. These truths must be in our hearts. So, the first step in being a spiritual leader is: Take a spiritual inventory of our own lives. Every man must ask himself, "Where do I stand spiritually? What is my relationship with Yahweh?" Many parents take or send their children to church because they think that the kids will learn good moral lessons there, but the lessons will lose their impact if the children don't see evidence of the parents' own spirituality.
Dads, a very important thing for us to realize is that we teach our children more through our example than we do with our words. I think the words of the apostle Paul to the Philippians should be memorized and put into practice by every father:
The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:9 NASB
This should be our moto, Dads, "Do as I do. Watch me, children, and whatever you see me do, you do the same thing." Does it scare you to say that to your children? It shouldn't if you are living in obedience to the Word of God.
Moses told the fathers that the truths of the Word of God need to be in their hearts and then he went on to say:
"You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. "You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. "You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. Deuteronomy 6:7-9 NASB
Fathers, we must teach our children the Word of God. You can't build a spiritually strong family by just coming to church one hour a week. You've got to talk to your kids as you go about your daily lives. If you want to build a strong family, then your children need to see on-going evidence that Yahweh is a daily part of your life. They get that message when they have the chance to talk to you about spiritual things.
Moses said, "Talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up." The idea here is that all of life is a blackboard that you use to teach your children the truths of God. This is not talking about sitting down and having a family devotion, that is fine, but what he is saying is that we are to take every opportunity to teach our children the truths of God's Word. Fathers, in order to do this you must spend time with your children.
A recent survey revealed that the average five year old spends only 25 minutes per week with his father. That equals less than three weeks total time together in 18 years!
Charles Francis Adams, a 19th century political figure, kept a diary. One day he entered, "Went fishing with my son today—a day wasted." His son, Brook Adams, also kept a diary, which is still in existence. On that same day Brook Adams made this entry, "Went fishing with my dad today—it was the most wonderful day of my life!"
It takes more than 31/2 minutes a day to make a positive impact on someone's life. Great dads spend time with their children. Spending time requires effort; it is an investment. When you give your children your time, you are giving them your heart.
When we are spending time with our children, what are we to teach them? We must show our children that the Bible is the most important book in our lives, and that it contains the answers to life's greatest questions. We need to train them in how to deal with life's trials in a spirit submission to the sovereignty of Yahweh. We need to train them how to handle their emotions; how to relate lovingly to others, how to work through disagreements and conflicts in a godly way, how to discipline and use their time, how to work hard, how to be a good steward of the money and possessions that God entrusts to them, and every other skill that they will need as mature adults.
Let me give you a couple of really important things that a father can do to build a strong relationship with his children. A father must demonstrate an ongoing love for his wife. The marriage relationship is a stage upon which the performance of relationship is acted out before an audience of watching eyes. Children thrive on the demonstration of love between parents. They want the confidence that their dad is tremendously in love with their mom. A father can be wonderfully active with his children —taking them to the play ground, fishing, skating, taking walks, and helping with homework. But he will nullify all his efforts if he does not continually cultivate a love relationship with his wife. Loving your wife is a prerequisite to building a strong relationship with your children.
One of the greatest emotional needs a child has is the need to know that Dad and Mom love each other. Fathers, the best thing you can give your children is a loving demonstration before their little eyes of how much you love their mom. The Word of God puts it this way:
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, Ephesians 5:25 NASB
Husbands, your relationship with your wives is to provide a picture of Christ's love for the church.
One more thing that I think is really important is a father must keep his promises. What kind of relationship can you have with your children if you don't keep your promises to them? Do they see you as a man of his word? If a father is not trustworthy, if he doesn't keep his word, what will his children's view of God be?
Fathers, please understand this, nowhere in the Word of God is the upbringing of our children assigned to outside the family unit—nowhere!
Let's talk for a minute about the Fatherhood of God. The Bible teaches us that Yahweh is a Father to believers. Yeshua taught His disciples to call God their Father:
"So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him. "Pray, then, in this way: 'Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Matthew 6:8-9 NASB
Over and over in Matthew, God is called a "heavenly Father." Paul repeatedly calls God a "Father":
For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, "Abba! Father!" Romans 8:15 NASB
I believe all human fatherhood should be patterned on the divine Fatherhood. The overarching guide for every father should be to live in such a way that his children can see what God the Father is like. They ought to see in their human father a reflection — an imperfect one of course—of the heavenly Father in His strength and tenderness, in His wrath and mercy, in His exaltation and condescension, in His surpassing wisdom and patient guidance. The task of every human father is to be for his children an image of the Father in heaven.
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; Ephesians 5:1 NASB
Yahweh purposely designed human fatherhood to be an illustration of His relationship to us. The whole reason that Yahweh even created something called "fathers" was so that we could better understand who He is. In the very beginning, Yahweh fashioned the family, and the role of the father in the family, to serve as a living picture of who He is. Therefore, when He refers to Himself as our "Father," it is not arbitrary or unimportant; it is highly intentional. It has great significance. And by the way, that's why contemporary assaults on the biblical view of the family are so destructive. Not just because they harm the people involved, who usually find that alternative forms of family structure don't work very well, but also because they obscure the picture of Yahweh that human fatherhood was intended to reveal. They make it harder for people to understand what Yahweh is like.
Dads, we are to live set apart lives that give our family a model of Yahweh. We are to be able to look at them and say, "Follow me as I follow Christ." We are to be an example of godliness for our families to follow.
As a Christian, what is one thing about your heavenly Father that you know for sure? Your answer should be, "I know God loves me":
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8 NASB
The "us" in this verse is believers. All you have to do is look to Calvary, and there you see a message of love written in blood. Yahweh's love is absolutely unconditional and irrevokable to His children.
So if Yahweh's love for us is certain, and it is, it should also be true of a parent/child relationship. Children should know for certain that the parent loves them unconditionally. As a godly father, our kids should know that we love them.
A good father will ponder: "How can I be like my own heavenly Father?" We are taught in Scripture to imitate our heavenly Father. We are told to be holy as He is holy (l Peter l:l6). We are told to be merciful as He is merciful (Luke 6:36). To be a good child is to copy daddy. It honors a father to be imitated, and we are commanded to honor our fathers. And so the most important question a father can ask himself is not, "What shall I teach my children" but rather, "Who am I before the living God and before my children?"
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