Spirit-Filled Parent-Child Relationships
We can scarcely overestimate the importance of the home in God’s plan. We need only to look at the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20 to see how strategic the home is. Consider the two tables of the law. The first four commands deal with the vertical dimensions of life – our relationship to God. The last five commandments deal with horizontal issues – how we relate to our fellow man. What is right in the middle? The command to honor father and mother.
You see the home is the place where children learn both how to relate to God and how to relate to others. It is the training institute in which kids learn how to live in the world that God created. Tedd Tripp in an article entitled Embracing God’s Plan for Authority states:
We need to provide our children with a coherent and accurate model of reality, a model of how God has made things and how they are all supposed to function. Our goal must be greater than simply forcing or persuading our children to obey God’s commands. Our goal must be to help our children understand and embrace the world God has made.
Tripp goes on to talk about the various authority structures God has placed in the world. For instance, the authority of government, the authority of leaders in the church, the authority of husbands in the home, the authority of employers in the workplace, etc. He argues that it is essential for parents to teach their children about authority if we want them to function properly in the world God has established.
This is of great concern to Paul in the book of Ephesians. We have already seen that this section of the book is governed by the ideas of submission and leadership. We have been looking at how those concepts are to be lived out between husbands and wives. Now, we turn our attention to how submission and leadership are fleshed out between parents and children. Keep in mind that all of this instruction is to be understood as demonstrating the filling of the Spirit in our families. So, today we see what Spirit-filled children and parents look like.
I. Spirit-filled children obey and honor their parents (vv. 1-3).
A. Children? Who is being addressed?
1. The word translated children is a general word which does
not give us any indications of age or circumstance.
2. If we look at the larger context, we get some indications.
a. Verse 4 tells parents to bring up their children in the
discipline and instruction of the Lord. Based on this,
we can judge that the children being spoken to in v. 1
are children who are being “brought up” in the home.
That is, they are still at the age of being under the
support and authority of parents.
b. Since children are directly addressed in this letter, we
may also assume that it is not addressed just to infant
or very young children, but also to those who were at
an age where they could listen and understand. That
would mean children perhaps as young as 4-5 yrs all
the way up to the oldest teens.
c. So, I think we can safely say that this instruction is
addressed to all children who are living with their
parents and still under their primary support and
authority. It would certainly exclude those who have
become adults and established their own homes.
APP: I think it is important to recognize that the Bible directly addresses Christian children. I want the children and students to listen closely. If you are a Christian, the Bible is speaking directly to you today. Look at verse 1. It says, “Children…” Just like it said husbands or wives, it now says children. That is you. Your responsibility to hear and obey God’s Word does not begin later. It does not begin when you are an adult. Your accountability to God is not something you can shirk until you are older. God is speaking to you. You are responsible to hear and follow His Word.
B. Children are to obey and honor their parents.
1. The word obey literally means to “hear under.” It is a word
that means to follow instruction in submission to authority.
This same word is used to speak of how demons, wind, and
waves obeyed Jesus. It speaks of how Xns obey the truth.
2. The word honor is a value word. It was used to describe how
a price was fixed for a piece of land. It is a word that means
to determine the worth of something. So, when it is used in
connection with people it means to respect, honor, and treat
someone as worthy and valuable in your eyes.
3. When you bring these two ideas together it means to value
your parents appropriately and obey their authority. That is,
you are to hold them in the highest regard, respect them, and
do what they say.
4. These two ideas encompass both inward attitude and
outward behavior. In other words, you need to respect your
parents with your attitude as well as obey your parents with
your actions. Outward conformity to rules while harboring
an inward resentment toward parents is not fulfilling this
C. Why should children honor and obey their parents?
1. Because you honor and obey Jesus Christ. Look at the words
“in the Lord.” Your obedience and honor to your parents is
first because you honor and obey Jesus. You cannot say you
honor and obey Jesus while you dishonor and disobey your
2. Because it is right. I think there are two ways in which it is
a. First, it is proper. It is only fitting that you should
obey and honor your parents. They have cared for
you and provided for your needs (food, clothes, $$,
etc). They have loved and protected you. They have
spent hours agonizing for your future. They have
sacrificed for you so you could be well cared for.
b. Second, it is in keeping with God’s law. God has
commanded you to honor and obey them. If you do
not, then you are wrong. You are living wrong. You
are thinking wrong. You put yourself on the wrong
side of God’s command.
3. Because God promises a long and blessed life. This is the
First command of God with such a promise attached to it. It
is stated in Exodus 20:12. Now we must understand this in
proper context. It is to be understood in general terms. Those
children who learn to honor and obey their parents generally
live longer and more stable and prosperous lives. This is not
to say that all children who die young were disobedient. It is
a general promise that those who honor and obey will be
blessed by God.
ILL: Sultan McCullough, former tailback for the USC Trojans, decided he wanted to honor his mother. So, he had his mother’s name tattooed across his chest in 4 inch letters – M A B L E. The only problem was his mother’s name was spelled MABEL. Talk about a misguided attempt at honor.
Listen, if you want to honor your parents, you don’t need to do something silly or drastic. Obey them. Show them respect. How about some ways you can do that?
· Respect their decisions. When they render a decision about something, don’t argue. Submit to their authority even though you may not agree. They are smarter than you think.
· Respect their things. They work hard to provide a house, car, furniture, clothes, etc. Show respect for them by showing that you understand the labor required to have these things. Take care of the things they provide for you.
· Respect their convictions. Nothing brings more honor to a parent than to see their children loving the Lord and walking in the truth which they hold dear.
TS – So, kids demonstrate the fact that they are filled with God’s Spirit by giving honor and obedience to their parents. Now we turn to the parents.
II. Spirit-filled parents raise their children with loving discipline (v. 4).
A. Fathers? Who is being addressed here?
1. I do believe that fathers are singled out here primarily
because of their authority and leadership in the home.
2. I do not interpret these words as having no relevance to
mothers because both parents are addressed in v. 1.
3. So, both parents are implied. Fathers are to take the lead.
B. Do not provoke your children to anger.
1. One translation says, “do not exasperate your children.”
Another says, “Do not goad your children to resentment.” In
other words, do not treat them in ways that foster angry
resentment and deep-seated frustration toward you.
2. We have already been warned about the toxicity of anger in
this letter (4:26, 31). As parents, we must not contribute to
this in our children.
ILL/APP: I have noticed in my parenting that what often brings anger or frustration in my kids is when a good and necessary aspect of parenting gets out of balance. For instance…
- Discipline without self-control. If I discipline my kids in an angry, out of control manner, it angers and frustrates them.
- Criticism without praise. If all my kids ever hear from me is how wrong they are or how bad they are doing, it angers them.
- Authority without example. If I tell them to do something and assert my authority but I do not set an example of doing it myself, it angers them.
- Correction without instruction. If I tell them they are doing something wrong but don’t show them how to do it right, it frustrates them.
- Lecturing without listening. If all I do is constantly lecture them about things without taking the time to listen to them, it breeds frustration.
- Demands without sensibility. If I make demands upon my kids which are insensible or unreasonable, it frustrates them.
- Law without love. If my kids only see me as a lawgiver and not as one who loves them deeply, it will feed resentment.
C. Bring up your children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
1. Bring up is the same term used in 5:29 translated nourish. It
refers here to the nurturing of children to maturity. This
reminds us that parenting is not passive. We must be fully
engaged in bringing up our children.
2. Two key aspects of this nurturing are discipline and
a. Discipline refers to training with an accent on
b. Instruction refers to training with an accent on
c. Both of these together encompass the whole process
of correcting undesirable ideas and behaviors while
teaching desirable ideas and behaviors.
3. This is taking place in the sphere of Christian faith. It is “in
the Lord.” In other words, our parenting is done with a view
to helping our children develop a Christ-centered and Christ
ILL: The Puritan Thomas Watson commenting on the fifth commandment said, Be careful to bring them up in the fear and nurture of the Lord. 'Bring them up in the admonition of the Lord.' Eph 6: 4. You conveyed the plague of sin to them, therefore endeavour to get them healed and sanctified. Augustine says that his mother, Monica, travailed more for his spiritual birth than his natural. (Thomas Watson, Ten Commandments)
APP: Dear parents and grandparents, our task is not simply to raise productive citizens of society. Our task is to raise Christian young men and young women who understand the world from God’s perspective and whose deepest passion is to follow Jesus Christ. Of course we want them to be successful. Of course we want them to get the right job and marry the right person and have a fulfilling life. But, if I can borrow a phrase from our Lord, “what will it profit a child if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul.” Teach them all you can. But make sure you teach them in the context of knowing and loving Christ.
In an audience such as this, there are bound to be some strained relationships between parents and their children. It could have been a flare up that happened before church today. It could be something that has been seething and boiling for months. As parents and children, let’s take God’s Word seriously. There may be some children here today who need to ask God to forgive them for being disrespectful and disobedient to their parents. Then they need to ask their parents to forgive them. There may be some parents here today who have driven your children to anger by the way you have parented them. Will you ask God to forgive you? Will you then ask your children to forgive you? This can be a day of new beginnings.
Parents and children both, you need Jesus Christ. Neither of us can honor these directives from Scripture without Jesus Christ. Do you know Him as Lord and Savior of your life? Have you turned from your sin and trusted in Jesus who was crucified and raised from the dead? If not, trust Him today. Confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead. As you turn to him you realize that you are turning away from sin and from your selfish life to surrender to Jesus. Don’t live another day without trusting in Him.