Ephesians 6:1-4 Our Family Life

“Be filled with the Spirit, with an overflow of

(1) speaking to one another (ministering life to people)

(2) in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord (ministering to the Lord in worship),

(3) giving thanks always for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father (positive speech that glorifies God), 

(4) submitting to one another (harmonious relationships) in the fear of God (respecting the authority that each person carries as from God)” (5:18-21).

This is then applied to MARRIAGE (husband and wife relationships - 5:21-33). After Marriage the next Divine Institution is the FAMILY (parents and children - 6:1-4) and finally he speaks to the WORKPLACE (6:5-9). The Word of God must be applied in the nitty-gritty of life’s relationships. We need to be filled with the Spirit for our marriage, children and work, so that we can be a witness to the Lord in them. Being a Christian is not just about the ‘spiritual’ times; it’s about pleasing and glorifying God in everyday life, in our relationships, especially at home and at work.

The Duty of Children (v1-3). First Paul addresses the children directly: “CHILDREN, obey your parents in the Lord.”This shows that the children were thought as part of the church family and would be included in the public worship. This was due to the influence of Jesus (Mk 10:14) which radically challenged the Roman culture of the time. The duty of children is another application of the general submissiveness of 5:21, but the requirement ‘to obey’ is stronger. than the ‘submission’ of wives. This means parental authority over children is stronger and they can and should enforce obedience, although Paul will soon put limits on this authority so it is not abused. Children’s first need for the formation of their character is to learn obedience rather than self-expression.

Jesus gave his example to children. At the age of 12: “He went down with them to Nazareth, and was subject to them ...and Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men” (Luke2:51,52). 

Paul appeals to the children to obey their parents on three grounds:
(1) NATURE: “for this is right.” Obedience of children is universally accepted, written by God on all human hearts. Thus disobedience to parents is a mark of an apostate society (Rom 1:28-30, 2Tim 3:1-2) 

(2) GOD’S REVEALED LAW: "Honour your father and mother", which is the first commandment with promise: "that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth" (from Ex 20:12, Deut5:16). This is the 5th of the 10 Commandments. The Jews taught that each tablet had five Commandments (the first five contain our duty to love God, the second - to love our neighbour). Thus honouring parents belongs primarily to our duty to God, for in childhood they represent God to us, mediating His authority and love, and so it was given great importance (Lev 19:1-3) with severe penalties for the stubborn and rebellious son who defiantly refused to obey (Lev 20:9, Deut 21:18-21). 

To honour is to have an attitude of love and respect towards them, acknowledging their God-given authority and place in our lives. What honouring means in practice depends on our stage in life.

For children it means to ‘respect and obey’, for adults it means to ‘respect’, and as such it applies to us through our whole life.

What this means in practice depends on our circumstances:

1. Forgiveness. Individuation, especially in teenage years where the child gradually gains more freedom and authority, can happen with conflict and be painful. It is often easy to trace problems and hurts to problems with parents and then to judge them. It is not easy to be a parent as the person will discover in turn. Even if the sin of the parent is serious it not good to be bitter - for our own good we need to forgive. Forgiveness is the best gift you can give anyone especially yourself.

2. Give Appreciation to them - for all the good they have done you.

3. Contact - often children nowadays grow up and don’t maintain much loving contact. The ‘how’ of honouring is left to us to be creative, to bless them and express appreciation. 

The command to honour is enforced with a promise of prosperity (‘that it may be well with you’) and long-life (‘that you may live long’) on the earth. This proves these earthly blessings are not just for the Jews under the Old Covenant, but for us under the New and better Covenant. But if we don’t honour our parents, then we can’t receive the fullness of promise because of reaping bad stuff from our dishonouring. Even as adults, our earthly blessing depends on honouring our parents. Parents should often tell these verses to their children reminding them that they are God’s Word (command) to all children, and that the blessing of a long and good life is promised for obedience: “God’s Word says you must obey your parents if you want to have a good and long life. ... I want you to be obedient because I love you and want the best for your future.”

(3) The Child’s Own Christian Commitment: “CHILDREN, obey your parents in the Lord.” 

“Children, obey your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing to the Lord” (Colosians 3:20).

‘In the Lord’ signifies that by obeying their parents they obey the Lord. If Jesus Christ is the child’s Lord, then he obeys his parents as part of his own personal relationship to Christ. This puts a limit on obedience, for although Colossians says ‘obey in all things’, Ephesians clarifies that this means all things compatible with their loyalty to Jesus their Lord. Order in society and family was established by Jesus in His Creation, and His work of Redemption does not overthrow it, rather it undoes the damage inflicted by the Fall (through human rebellion, oppression and selfishness), restoring it to what it was always meant to be. Thus in Christ, by His work of reconciliation, God’s new society (the New Creation) has begun with family relationships transformed by love because they are ‘in the Lord’. Thus even the children obey willingly rather than grudgingly as Jesus did, in order to please Him.

The Duty of Parents: How should parents bring up their children? Of course every child is unique. Someone said:‘When I had no children, I had 12 theories of how to bring them up, then I had 12 children and no theories!’  But we must understand the principles of the Word of God because the world (including the schools) operate under a humanistic theory which fails and spoils the child. It (after Rousseau) teaches that a child is born good and gets bent out of shape by the world, especially authorities imposing structure on his life. Therefore it says we should remove external authority and then his intrinsic goodness will just take over. This makes parents and teachers feel guilty and fearful of imposing themselves and instead leave the child alone, to develop by himself. Of course the result is 
disaster because children are born with an inherited sin-nature (Psalm 51), lacking knowledge of how to live and the ability to establish self-control. God gave them parents to bring them up and train them in the right ways, adding external control until their internal (self) control is developed and can take over. If parents let go of this God-given control, thinking they should let the child do want it wants. then the sin-nature (rebellion) will have free-reign. Also, the child instinctively knows that the parent does not love him much, because the parent can’t be bothered to establish control. 

In his words to children, Paul had established the fact of parental authority to be obeyed. But now, he urges that parental authority be exercised with restraint for it can breed resentment and rebellion if it is: 

(1) Overly harsh and cruel in punishments (corporal punishment is only be used in the case of clear wilful defiance of authority, i.e. rebellion - Proverbs 13:24, 22:15, 23:13-14, 29:15). Never discipline when you are not in control of yourself and your temper. The motive must be love for the child.

(2) Unfair, arbitrary, inconsistent in discipline or showing favoritism (kids have a strong inbuilt sense of justice) 

(3) Unkind - using hurtful comments to humiliate, suppress and control them.

(4) Critical - having unreasonable expectations and making demands that don’t allow for the child’s age.

(5) Domineering in not allowing a child room to be himself. Not all non-conforming is rebellion. In growing up, they must develop according to their own gifts which may be different from their parents dreams for them.They must learn to develop independance and exercise their own authority (individuation). Parents have the hard job of setting and enforcing the bounds of freedom and increasing them as the child shows growth in responsibility (learning to let go).

When speaking to parents Paul first identifies bad parenting: “And you, FATHERS (and mothers), do not provoke(prick, exasperate, goad) your children to wrath (anger, resentment).” Recognising how delicate and vulnerable a child’s personality he warns against abuses of authority (as described above): “Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged” (Colossians 3:21). 
Discouragement will happen when criticism outweighs praise, encouragement and blessing. Here Paul implicitly recognises children have a life and will of their own, and are not to be manipulated, crushed or exploited. 

He then describes how good parenting works:
 “but bring (‘nourish’ or ‘feed’ as in 5:29) them up (rear them tenderly, deal gently with them, for they need the security of knowing they are loved) in the discipline (‘paideia’ - training with the accent on the correction of the young, including punishment, used of God’s discipline in Heb 12:5-11) and admonition (‘nouthesia’ - directive verbal instruction) of the Lord”(v4).

Nothing causes a child’s personality and gifts to blossom and develop like the positive encouragement of loving, understanding parents. Clearly, parents are to take their responsibility to care for their families as God the Father cares for His, for in Christ we are one big family of God (Ephesians 3:14-15, 4:6). Clearly there is a place for discipline but parents are to be gentle, self-controlled, patient educators, taking the time and trouble to bring their children up, teaching and training them how to live, warning and correcting them as needed.

The training ‘of the Lord’ signifies they must depend on the Lord and submit to His Word in bringing up their child. The Lord then stands behind their training. Through their use of the Bible as final authority for teaching and training him, and through praying together, the child realises he is really submitting to the Lord’s instruction and is learning from the Lord His ways. He is receiving the Lord’s Word 
through his parents. The greatest aim of this upbringing is that he will grow up to a mature adult, loving, trusting and following the Lord completely from his own free-will, who will then bring up his childrten to do the same.



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