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Posted by Pastor Greg Allen on August 9, 2017 under AM Bible Study |

AM Home Bible Study Group; August 9, 2017

Ephesians 6:1-4

Theme: The worthy walk of the Christian should show itself in the parent/child relationship.

(All Scripture is taken from The New King James Version, unless otherwise indicated).

Paul had been describing how the worthy walk of the believer—particularly as it is empowered by the ongoing ministry of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:18-21)—should show itself in practical living. And Paul has been particularly highlighting this in the home-life of the believer. He spoke of how it shows itself in the husband/wife relationship (Ephesians 5:22-33); and he is about to speak of how it shows itself in the servant/master relationship (6:5-9). And between them, he speaks of how it shows itself in the child/parent relationship.

The disregard for parental authority that characterizes our current culture is no small thing. Among the grievous sins that Paul lists in Romans 1:29-30—sins that are unspeakably wicked and that are deserving of the righteous judgment of God—is “disobedient to parents” (v. 30). In 2 Timothy 3:1—when Paul writes about the perilous times that will characterize the last days—he warns that among the sins that require God’s people to be separated from the wicked is “disobedient to parents”. A culture in which there is a systemic disregard for parental authority on the part of children, and an equally systemic neglect of its enforcement on the part of parents, is a culture whose people will be without regard to authority to God.

Paul urges his fellow believers in Ephesus to be faithful to this first and fundamental line of obedience and submission. He expresses this with …


Paul writes, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord …” (v. 1). Note that the word for “children” here must include those who are old enough to hear a command from the apostle, understand the reasons for which it is given, and be responsible for personal obedience to it. And note too that—as we have stressed in discussing the relationship between the wife and the husband—the keeping of this command is not to be done in the power of the flesh, but through the enabling filling of the Holy Spirit.

Paul does not here order all children to obey all adults; although, obviously, all children are obliged in the Lord to respect their elders (Leviticus 19:32; 1 Timothy 5:1). Rather, just as in the instructions to the wives and to the husbands, the children are directed to be obedient to their own parents. There is a primary obligation owed to them that is not owed to other adults. And note that Paul instructs that this is to happen “in the Lord”. This may mean that children are especially responsible to obey parents who are Christians because it would then be believes who gain the benefit (see also 1 Timothy 6:2); but more likely, this is a command to obey parents as an act of obedience first to the Lord Himself.

Paul gives two important reasons for this command. First, he affirms that “this is right” (v. 1). The word that is used means “righteous” or “just”; and it expresses that it is in keeping with righteousness before God for a child to obey his or her parents. In a similar passage in Colossians 3:20, Paul says, “Children, obey your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing to the Lord.” It is well-pleasing not only because the Lord commanded it and because He desires it; but also because the Lord Jesus Himself did the same. In the childhood of His walk upon this earth, the Lord Jesus “was subject to” Mary and Joseph (Luke 2:51). In His childhood, He was ‘about’ His heavenly Father’s ‘business’ (v. 49); and even in His adulthood, He did not do His own will, but rather the will of the Father who sent Him (John 5:30). He was able to testify, “The Father has not left Me alone, for I always do those things that please Him” (John 8:29). If a believing young person wants to know what is right to do, then they should humbly submit to their parents in the fear of the Lord, because God’s word says, “this is right”.

A second reason Paul gives for this command is because it is a clear commandment from God. Paul quotes from the Fifth Commandment (Exodus 20:12; also Deuteronomy 5:16) and says, “’Honor your father and mother’” (v. 2); and then adds the comment “which is the first commandment …” It’s not possible, of course, that this is the ‘first’ one; but some have suggested that it is the ‘first’ one of the second table of the law—the one that governs relationships with one’s fellow man (Commandments 5-10). It is strategically placed as a bridge between the first table of the law and the second table of the law in such a way as to reflect a reverential fear of God in the way that we conduct our human relationships. But it may also be called ‘first’ in that it’s the very first commandment that each one of us must learn in life. It is ‘foundational’ in that once this one is clearly established in our hearts at an early age, the rest of God’s commandments become much easier to be submitted to. Note also that Paul adds that it is “the first commandment with promise” (v. 2); and then, he goes on to recite that promise from the Fifth Commandment: “that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth’” (v. 3). The young man or young woman who learns early in life to obey their parents actually sets the foundation for a long and happy life.

My son, hear the instruction of your father,

And do not forsake the law of your mother;

For they will be a graceful ornament on your head,

And chains about your neck (Proverbs 1:8-9).


Paul does not instruct just the children; but also the fathers. “And you, fathers …” (v. 4). We note here that Paul does not give instruction to the mothers; and this may be because the father is to hold the position of headship in the home (v. 23). Though mothers do a great deal of the nurturing and caring of the children, it is the fathers who are morally responsible before God to provide for this work and to give loving leadership to it. He is to be so deeply involved in the nurture and instruction of the children that he is the one held responsible for it before God.

It may also be, however, that Paul singles out fathers for particular instruction because they are not always as gentle in their parent as the mothers are. And so Paul tells them, “do not provoke your children to wrath …” This can happen when a father is harsh, or when he is unjust in discipline, or shows favoritism, or when he does not keep his promises to his children, or when he demands something of them that he will not do himself, or when he is hypocritical in his spiritual leadership. Paul is very clear of his meaning in Colossians 3:20; “Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged”. It is a terrible thing when a father is to represent God to his children; and yet does not behave like Him (Psalm 103;13).

Instead, fathers are commanded, “but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.” This suggest deliberate, intentional instruction—to nourish being to provide tender care, and to admonish being to instruct from the word. And note that this is to be “of the Lord”. The father is a steward of his children—serving them on the Lord’s behalf, and not bringing them up after his own will and purposes. He too can only do this in the enabling of the Holy Spirit.

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