- God's Will For Children (verses 1-3)
- a. Obedience To Parents
- b. Fellowship With The Lord
- c. Natural Rightness
- d. Scriptural Adherence
- e. Resultant Blessing
- God's Will For Parents (verse 4)
- a. Do Not Provoke
- b. Nourish
- c. Discipline
- d. Instruct
Ephesians chapter 6, and we enter a new chapter - in fact, the last chapter of this little book. This is the third part of our sub-series within the epistle to the Ephesians, and we're looking at 'Christ in the Home'. We've looked at the Christian wife, last week we looked at the Christian husband, and we've looked both those nights at the Christian marriage and what it entails to the glory of God. Tonight we're going to look at 'Christ in the Home Part 3' and it's 'Parents and Children'. Now before I read this passage of Scripture, many of you may think: 'Well, this boy doesn't know what he's talking about, he hasn't got any!'. Well, I'm in good company because, as far as I can tell, Paul didn't have any either! And that's who we're reading this evening, and he was inspired by the Spirit of God - so I will take the word of God, as he did, from the Spirit of God and apply it to your hearts tonight. So it doesn't matter, really - didn't matter to Paul, and it doesn't matter to me - so listen to what I have to say tonight.
Verses 1 to 4: "Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honour thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise; That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth. And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord". Now, before I go on any further, there's a wee tune I can hear and it's somebody's phone or something, maybe you can't hear it - it's gone off now, that's alright - just in case there's an emergency and somebody's children needs their parents, or something like that!
OK, now: this is a great subject we enter into this evening, for no matter where we look in the society in which we live today there is rebellion all around. We looked at the relationship between husbands and wives, and we have looked at how the wife is to submit to the husband - and we find that that is not 'in vogue' today, and there is a rebellion within the marriage relationship, so much so that marriage is declining today. It's better, in the eyes of the world, to live together, to co-habit, and not to make that commitment - in fact, the government has set that in stone by making it a benefit for you not to marry. You see it in that relationship, you also see it in the relationship that we're entering into tonight: parents and children. Children are rebelling against their parents, and indeed also in legal circles that is also being set in stone. Next week, God willing, we will look at how this relationship is breaking down also between employers and employees - and it seems that employers have to go very far lengths to keep men and women from going on strike, and it's very difficult to be an employer in the days in which we live.
We see it in our own land, with relation to the government and citizens - that citizens no longer recognise the government as appointed by God. As the book of Romans teaches us: we may not agree with everything that the government tells us to do - it would be a funny thing if we did - but yet we are still to recognise that the powers are ordained by God. Sadly we find it in the local church, when members will not adhere to God's guidance through overseers. And there is rebellion all over the world, no matter where we turn we find it. We find division, we find antagonism wherever we look, and it's strange because the humanist tells us that we live in the most educated time ever, supposedly it's the most civilised society that the world has ever seen - yet this antagonism, this division and rebellion, seems to be rife all over, universally there is a panorama of division.
Now Paul's solution in our little book is found in chapter 1, verse 10 that we looked at many months ago - this is the solution to this problem in the world: 'That in the dispensation of the fullness of times [God] might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him'. That is the answer to all the division that there is in society, and even within the church of Jesus Christ. God's great plan of the ages is that one day, because of the atonement of Christ at the cross, He will bring all things together 'one in Christ'. In other words, God's answer for this problem of rebellion in this sinful world is: regeneration. Regeneration! To be born from above, to be born again of the Spirit of God - and when that happens in the life of a believer there will be spiritual harmony that will mark that child of God. We have looked in these last couple of weeks - and this is our third week - at how that spiritual harmony overflows into the home, into the heart of humanity. When the doors are closed, when no one else is looking but it's just you, the wife, the children, the grandchildren or whoever - but they see you as you really are, and it's then that this great Christian faith kicks in. It's then that it becomes different than all the other religions in the world and the impact of the Christian family, as we have been looking at, cannot be underestimated. Indeed, we learnt in chapter 5 - the theme of this chapter being the fullness of the Spirit, that great subject - that it is when the wife is filled with the Spirit that she will be submissive to her husband. We learnt last week that when the husband is filled with the Spirit he will love his wife and submit to the love of Christ - as Christ loved the church he will love her! As the couple - one person - are united together in matrimony, that couple will submit to the lordship of Christ in their marriage together.
Now we come to the Christian child. Paul again comes with the same theme: Christian children, they submit to the authority of their parents. Verse 4 is the last verse in a series of verses in a passage that begins in verse 21 of chapter 5 - remember that the divisions that we have in the New Testament and throughout the Bible were added by men, they are not inspired of the Spirit of God, and some of them, as we've said before, are put in good places and others of them are not put in such good places. This is one of them, because Paul's train of thought is started in verse 21 of chapter 5: 'Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God' - and then we have all the relationships: the wife to the husband, the husband to the wife, chapter 6 now we have children to their parents. And Paul's train of thought is this - and if we miss this, we miss everything - that the key to the Christian life, the key to the church of Jesus Christ, and the key to a harmonious home is the fullness of the Spirit of Almighty God. Therefore, if it is a Spirit-filled home, children will obey their parents in the Lord for this is right.
Now we'll begin looking at God's will for children from this passage. Your first point on your study sheet: God's will - what is God's word to the children? Often people think that God has nothing to say to the children, but when you look into the Old Testament and indeed look at the prophet Samuel, it was only a child that God could speak to at that time. It's good to see some of the young people out, but this doesn't just apply to children, it applies to all of us who are children by the flesh. We may be grown up, but we are still someone's children and that relationship always goes on until our parents pass away and we go to glory. But here we have God's word to the children.
Now I want you to notice this first of all: that Paul is, himself, admonishing children in the assembly at Ephesus. Now that is so 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's refreshing, isn't it? That the boys and the girls came to church, they went to worship with their family, they came to be with the people of God, they weren't segregated - it's important to have Sunday School and children's meetings, but it's also important that children are brought into the body of the church and listen to the word of God, for that's how many of them have got saved. There they were, the children meeting with the church, the families attending public worship together, and Paul addresses the children first. Isn't that strange? Well, it's not really strange because he addresses the wives first, he addresses the children first and he addresses the slaves first in the next passage. What he is doing is - as we have learnt in the last few weeks - that societies values are being turned on their head by the church of Jesus Christ!
What does Paul say to the children? The first thing on your sheet is this: he says that God's will is that they be obedient to parents. 'Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right' - obey! In the Greek language that word literally means 'to hear under', to hear under. It's not: 'Listen to me!' - you know the way sometimes you lose your temper - 'Listen to me!', that's not what he's talking about. But he's talking about, in a child, an ear that is listening and willing to obey. Not being forced, but a willingness to listen. The verb is in the present imperative tense, which means this: it's continuous. This is an obedience that continues right throughout life, right throughout every decision that a child makes, it is to be in obedience to the godly wisdom of the parent. Now, it's a stronger word than 'wives obey your husbands', because it's a word that implies it is implicit - you must do this. You don't discuss it, like a husband and a wife would reason together about a decision that they are about to make and then the wife must adhere to the husband's final decision over it all, this is different - the child must implicitly obey their parent. Paul is saying first of all, with regards to obedience to parents, that it is a fundamental duty of all children to obey their parents - whether they're Christians or not makes no difference, because the child-parent relationship is ordained of God over all mankind, and this continual obedience must be seen!
Now there's a modifying factor to all this that motivates that obedience in relation to the church of Jesus Christ at Ephesus. And although this is something that relates to all humanity, whether they're saved or unsaved, Paul now begins to narrow this down to the Christian child and the Christian parent. The second thing Paul desires for these children, and it is God's desire for them, is: fellowship with the Lord. 'Children, obey your parents in the Lord' - and what that means is simply what it means for husband to love a wife as the Lord loved the church: it's 'as unto'. Do all things to the glory of God - and what Paul is saying to the children is: 'You're to obey your parents, or your father specifically, unto the Lord'.
Now turn with me to Colossians chapter 3, just over a few pages, and verse 20. And we get again an amplification of this thought from Paul, Colossians 3:20: 'Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord' - so in Ephesians he says 'as unto the Lord', in Colossians 'for it is well pleasing unto the Lord'. So children who obey godly parents are obeying the Lord - and that's the way children ought to see it, as pleasing the Lord. And it's a thing about attitude, and this is what is so important within the book of Ephesians: it's not just the outward appearance, it is the attitude of the heart and the mind that makes the difference before God. It's not like the wee boy whose teacher sent him into the corner of the room to sit down, but he said to himself: 'I'm sitting down on the outside, but I'm standing up on the inside'. That's sometimes how we obey God - outwardly - but the attitude within us has failed to be submissive to the lordship of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. This is attitude that Paul is talking about, and he is saying: 'Yes, Christians are not released from normal obligations of life' - that parent-child relationship that is across the whole earth, they're not released from that because they're saved. Indeed, we go a step further, if anything the regeneration makes them, or ought to make them, better children within the home. That is God's will for the children. Now, it is not God's will that they obey their parents in sinfulness, because that that would not be 'as unto the Lord'. They're not to obey in sin, but they're to obey the Lord and suffer the consequences - even if it means to go against their parent's wishes, if they want them to do something sinful, and obey the Lord rather than obeying men. So, they are to obey parents, they are to obey parents 'as unto the Lord'.
Thirdly, Paul shows us that this is a natural righteousness. He says: 'for this is right'. You may think that's obvious for him to say such a thing, but what is he getting at? Well this is the first feature of motivation: why children should obey their parents - 'for it is right'. What Paul is saying is: it's a natural thing, it's built-in in the law of nature, it's ordained of God in creation and this proves the rightness of the action, this proves that it is right to obey parents. The parent brought the child into the world, and that's the natural order, that surely the one that brought the child into the world should be obeyed by the one who has been brought into the world. We see that even in the animal kingdom, it testifies to that natural order of authority and submission. Those who are immature, impulsive and inexperienced should submit to the authority of their parents who are older, wiser and experienced. But sadly, we would be blind in our world today not to see that that is not so - and I do not speak about the church, I speak about the world. We could spend all night speaking about the church, but as we look into the world we see that that fellowship, that natural relationship between a parent and a child is breaking down - and we can see the breaking down of civilisation because of that!
As Warren Wiersbe said: 'The modern version of Ephesians 6 verse 1 is this: 'Parents obey your children, for this will keep them happy and bring peace to the home' - and I add a postscript to that: '...and keep you out of the law courts'! That's reality today, isn't it? Children are taking their parents to court! And this natural rightness that we find here - our third point - it's starting to break down, but that is Paul's first reason why we obey our parents as unto the Lord, because in creation it is naturally right.
Now fourthly, he goes a step further. The second reason why you obey your parents is because it's scripturally right. There is a scriptural adherence, and he quotes from Exodus 20 and verse 12 - from the 10 commandments - and also Deuteronomy 5:16: 'Honour thy father and thy mother'. I think it's interesting that Paul appeals to their knowledge of the law - don't forget he's speaking to the children here, and he quotes this as if they know what it is - and I believe they knew what it was! These children in Ephesus knew what Paul was quoting when he said: 'Honour thy father and thy mother' - they knew, I believe, he was quoting the law of God. Now, although the New Testament teaches us that we are not under the law but under grace, this shows us that the righteousness of the law is still the revelation of God's holiness - that has not changed. We can't scrumple the law up and throw it in the bin because we've entered into grace, but the law is still God's revelation of His holiness. We still can't approach it, except live by it by the Spirit of God - and that's important, what they could not do without the Spirit we can do with the Spirit. And Paul is saying that, he is reinforcing that the Lord is important for believers by saying: 'Children, honour thy father and thy mother'. Paul said that in Romans 8:4, that we are to live, as Christians, the law of God by the Spirit of God - he says: 'That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit'. If you and I are walking after the Spirit, the power of God's resurrected Christ is in us to live the law of God!
All the 10 commandments are given forth in the New Testament scriptures, and indeed this commandment: 'Honour thy father and thy mother' was quoted by the Lord Jesus Himself. That shows us that the New Testament believer is to observe these 10 commandments - the only one that is not mentioned is: 'Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy'. And it's wrong for a New Testament Christian, just the same as an Old Testament believer, to fail to honour their father and their mother. Let's not lose that, we are not under law but grace, but this is still God's standard of holiness and it is still sin to not honour them in our hearts. 'Honour thy father and thy mother' - that word 'honour' literally means 'to estimate' or 'to fix value upon'. That paints a beautiful picture, doesn't it, of honouring father and mother: to value them, to estimate them of high esteem, that's honouring in the truest sense! This honour is the inward attitude leading to the outward obedience of obeying your parents as unto the Lord. It's not just an obedience, but it's an obedience that comes from a deep love, a deep desire and respect and honour to obey your parents. I believe that that honour goes on right throughout life, I believe it goes into adulthood - when they need you the way that you needed them, that you're there for them and you love them as they loved you.
So, there it is: 'Honour thy father and thy mother' - it's a scriptural adherence. It's not just something natural in nature or in society, but it is something that God has commanded the child of God to follow. Fifthly he tells the children: it is good to obey this will of God because it has resultant blessing. He says the third motivation is because it's for your best interest: 'Honour thy father and thy mother; which is the first commandment with promise; that it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth'. It has a blessing, if children obey their parents as obeying the Lord it will bless them, it's in their best interest to do it! Now notice that the promise that's given here is only the outcome of obeying your parents, it's not the main reason for doing it - the main reason for doing it is that God has commanded it, that's the important thing, because it is right! But if you do what is right - in all things - God will bless you for it. Now you can note this in a general sense if you think about it for a minute - and it's not too hard to think about this - of a child who receives no instruction and no correction from his parents, and that's what we're living in today: children who get no direction in life, no moral perspective or outlook at all.
Think of the implications of that! William MacDonald says: 'That child would be personally miserable and socially intolerable'. I can't remember who it was, it's only coming to my mind now, but someone told me this week of an undertaker who buried, last week, seven suicides of young men. Seven. We live in a socially miserable generation, and we live with socially intolerable children - you have to sit on some of them in the children's meeting to make them behave, because in life they haven't been given any direction, they haven't received correction or instruction! And we can see it on a national scale, that the abortion of the family has had it's reaping - and we are seeing the results of the family unit being demolished by government, by state, by religious, established churches and everything! 'It will be well with thee', if you obey your parents, and it will not be well if you disobey.
The fourth motivation and the second blessing that comes from obeying your parents is found in the commandment itself, for the commandment is said to be the first of promise. Exodus 20 verse 12: '...that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee'. Now that's a bit different, if you look at it in verse 3, with what Paul says. Moses says, '...that thou mayest live long on the land' - verse three, Paul says: '...live long on the earth'. He changes the word 'land' to 'earth', because in the book of Exodus the promise was given, to the children of Israel who were wanting to enter the promised land, by God that they would live long literally in that land if they obeyed their father and their mother. But we live in the church age today and that doesn't apply to us, and Paul knows that so he brings in the earth and he makes this a more general promise - but yet still there is the blessing there that, if we obey, we shall be blessed.
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. 'That thou mayest live long on the earth' - in the Old Testament it was literally living long, but now it's something else. Sure you know, and I know, that obedience does not 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, but this is what I want you to see: this is a principle, it's not an absolute black and white guarantee, but it's a principle - and the principal here is this: 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.
If you train up a child in the way that he should go, he'll not go to the pubs, God willing he'll not go to the clubs - but hopefully, hopefully he will go to the church of Jesus Christ, he will be brought up in the fear and admonition of the Lord and he will not come across the dangers that this world presents. That is the principle that Paul is writing down here from the Spirit of God, it's true in a general sense that a life of discipline and obedience to God's word and to your father and your mother - who are godly and trying to instruct you and admonish you in the ways of the Lord - will be conducive to health and long life. But if you rebel, if you're reckless you're in danger of premature death! As Matthew Henry put it: 'This gospel that we preach has its temporal blessings as well as its spiritual' - isn't that right? It's not all about 'pie in the sky when you die', it affects your life now! It is abundant life that God wants to give now, and if we live according to His precepts - this isn't 'health and wealth gospel', but it's the commandment of promise that we will have certain blessings that you cannot have if you're in the world.
Life is not only measured by the quantity of time, and I believe that's not what Paul is meaning here, but rather the quality of experience - that if you want to have true life that obedience to parents, children, will bring enrichment no matter how long your life is, for it will embellish your character traits. If you go with friends to the world and do all the things that the world are doing, you will become a little bit like them - if not all the way. You will form habits if you disobey your parents that will destroy your life! Your character and your personality will change, maybe even the spouse that you meet and marry will change your whole future because you disobey your parents - and the whole point is this: sin robs us! And it robs children who are not obedient to their parents.
The awful condition of children today in our world, I believe largely, is a direct result of rejecting God's word. We don't have time to look at these passages, but in Romans 1 and in 2 Timothy 3 we find that disobedience to parents is a characteristic of the last days that we are living in today. And if you look at those two passages of Scripture you will find [that] the sins that are surrounding disobedience to parents are heinous abominations that you could hardly imagine, or would want to think about! But smack, right in the middle, is disobedience to parents. That shows you how serious it is in the eyes of God, and it tells me this: that by nature a child is totally and utterly depraved. A child is a sinner that needs to be saved by the grace and the blood of Christ, and therefore every single child needs to be instructed by their parents, and the church of Jesus Christ needs to tell them how to be saved.
That is God's will for children: that they obey their parents, that they are in the Lord and obey them as the Lord for it is right, for it is said 'Honour thy father and thy mother, and so it will be well with thee'. But what is God's will for parents? That's what we find in verse 4, he says: 'And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord' - God's will for parents. Paul is telling us this: that if children are left to themselves they'll become rebels. Now a lot of people would say: 'Boy, he's harsh' - you see that's the truth, isn't it? In fact, if any of us are left to ourselves we'll be rebels, if we're not arrested by the grace of God along life's road and converted by His Son, we're servants to sin and slaves to our body and fleshly desires - isn't that right? The wee children are no different if they are left without instruction, this is why Paul tells parents in verse 4: train them, instruct them!
And sadly, as we read the word of God, the Bible records unholy results of men who did not instruct their children and didn't train them. We read of David who neglected Absalom, and then we find later that he pampered Absalom, and later we find a dead Absalom! And no matter how David wept over him, it wouldn't bring him back. He set a bad example and the result was death after Absalom himself had rebelled against his own father. Then you find Eli, don't you? And he failed to discipline his sons, it says in the word of God that he brought disgrace and defeat to Israel. God said, listen, I quote: 'His sons made themselves vile and he restrained them not'. God cursed the land because of it. You read of Isaac, he pampered Esau - and his wife, she showed favouritism to Jacob - and the result was a divided home and a divided nation. And then Jacob, who had been shown favouritism, he was partial over Joseph - remember, he gave him a coat of many colours! And God had to rescue Joseph from a pit because of that favouritism, and God had to take him to Egypt, and God had to make a man out of Joseph!
Instructions and responsibilities are now balanced, and here we have an instruction to the father. It's interesting, look at verse 4, he speaks specifically to the father because the father is the supreme head - God-given head - of the home. Now what Paul says to fathers is unusual in his day - what he said to children was not unusual, that's the way children were meant to behave in the world in which we are reading here - but this that he says to the parents is very, very strange. The first thing he says is this: do not provoke - '...ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath'. You see, in Paul's day the father was supreme, and when a baby was born the baby was brought before the father and it was set before him, and if the father picked the baby up the baby was accepted into the family, and if the father didn't pick the baby up - believe it or not - it was rejected, it was either sold or given away, and in some cases the baby was taken, set outside the door, the door closed, and the baby would freeze to death in the exposure. Now 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! This is a new thing, it's new to this world that the child's feelings should be considered at all!
What Paul is saying again - as he already says with regards to authority, with regards to the authority between wives and husbands, and now children and parents - is this: don't abuse it, fathers. That's what he's saying: 'Provoke not your children to wrath' - don't abuse the authority I've given you, don't use the authority over your children to abuse them. What is to be done is the opposite, you find it in Colossians 3:21: 'Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged'. You see, if you provoke them they'll be discouraged, but that's not what Paul's asking us to do. Paul's saying: 'Don't provoke them, and therefore they will be encouraged'! So many children need encouragement in our world, and the reason - I believe - why Paul addresses the father specifically here is because he is the one who's probably prone to provoke the children more than the mother. Isn't that true?
The word for 'provoke' in Greek means 'exasperate', it means to incite or to frustrate. If you think about it for a moment: what frustrates children? I'll tell you what frustrates them: unreasonable demands, undue harshness, constant nagging. As Montgomery Boice put it: 'Goading their children into a state of perpetual resentment' - how many children have you seen like that? How many children have been sinfully driven from the side of the Lord by a harsh, legalistic tyrant who calls themselves a father? Perhaps it's their way of bolstering their weak ego and their lack of achievements in their life, so they belittle or lord it over their children like a mini-Hitler, to show that they have power, to show that they have strength - and many fathers have an insatiable desire to dominate, because in life they are nobodies in a man's world, so in their family they have to tread their children into the dirt!
That's why, in many homes, we have children with very low self-esteem. Some would say that you hear too much about self-esteem today, and that is true - but you know, Paul writes about self-esteem because he tells husbands to love their wives as they love themselves, as they love their own body. He doesn't tell them to hate their own body, or to hate themselves - if they're going to love their wife they have to love themselves to a certain extent, not in a sinful way. And the child must be loved, the child must know encouragement and self-esteem, they can't have a lack of worth. You provoke a child by saying one thing and doing another - you know what they're like, they can see through you right away, can't they? You provoke a child by blaming and never praising them, by an inconsistent, unfair approach in discipline, by maybe showing favouritism to one child over the other, by making a promise to them and not keeping it, by making light of their problems that they see as very, very great. And, oh, as I look at this I say to myself: 'Boy, how do parents need to be filled with the Holy Spirit to be able to do that'! But you see, that's it - they need to be filled to do it.
Secondly, Paul tells them: don't provoke, but nourish. The word in the Greek for 'nourish' literally means 'to bring up' - or sorry, he says 'nurture' but I have put it down as 'nourish', because that's what it means 'to bring up'. Indeed in Ephesians 5:29 the exact same Greek word is translated 'nourish'. Calvin translated it 'kindly cherish' - you're to kindly cherish the children. Now 'nourish' conjures up in our mind the idea of providing food and shelter and clothing, and that's included and it still is God's ordained responsibility for the husband to provide for the home. But you know, it means more than that, it's talking emotionally and spiritually - that the husband is to nourish the children by sharing love and encouragement, and the love of God and the word of God. You remember the Lord Jesus Christ as a little boy, it was said in Luke 2:52: '...and Jesus increased in wisdom, stature, favour with God and with man' - that was balanced growth if there was any! It was growth intellectually - He increased in wisdom. It was growth physically - He increased in stature. Spiritually - in favour with God. And socially - in favour with man. Let me tell you this: that our Lord Jesus Christ received the greater deal of that in the home, with a holy mother, and a holy earthly father, and His heavenly Father.
Let me say this: nowhere in the word of God is the upbringing of our children assigned to outside the family unit - nowhere! Many today in this world, in this express world that we live in, give their children to be brought up by strangers who they don't even know, who look after them while their parents go out, perhaps, to work and they don't need to work. They're high-flying, they're earning thousands or they're climbing the ladder, and their family is suffering because of it! I heard of a toddler being taught yoga by the child minder of a believer! We dare not let the world bring up our children, we are to nourish them and cherish them.
Thirdly, we are to discipline them. The word 'nurture' that you have is quite a weak translation, if I can say that, for a stronger translation is 'chasten'. It means instruction, and indeed in Hebrews 12 - you know the passage about disciples, the Lord's children, being chastened - it's exactly the same word. It's the idea of learning through discipline, and it's talking about correction that may be verbal, or indeed corporal. Now, we're getting onto a thorny issue here - for today some psychologists and educators, and children's workers and social workers oppose any corporal punishment at all. They see it as an archaic philosophy of punishment that's outdated, we have evolved beyond that in our mental state and physically speaking. The cry is: 'Let them express themselves! Let them do as they wish! If you discipline them, if you punish them, it will suppress their personalities and perhaps warp their characters' - and sadly even some Christians today now have swallowed this belief that their children will grow up scarred if they are punished.
Well, children are expressing themselves alright. I'm well aware of the backdrop of child abuse in this evil world, and indeed of parents who have taken this principle to Satanic extremes of abuse - but again, let us say this: beware that we do not opt for a knee-jerk reaction! We must beware that we don't throw the baby of biblical corporal punishment out with the bath water of brutality! You see, this is what the church does at times - because the world, or some evil people in the world, go in a certain direction we forget about the whole thing entirely! Now, let me say this, and let me be clear: that a heavy-handed approach to child discipline is forbidden by the word of God. 'Provoke not thy children to wrath' covers it; 'Love them not in anger', lest you injure the body or lest you injure the spirit and they turn away from you or turn away from God.
We're not talking about flying off the handle - and I support any efforts to eradicate such sinful behaviour - but to ban smacking is unbiblical, it is a denial of the word of God and those who ban it will reap what they sow in rebellious children. That's what you find within the word of God, and let me say this: you hear some comparisons of what smacking is like, and I want to say that it's like comparing extracting a rotten tooth with grievous bodily harm! Isn't it? To say that this is physical abuse? And let me go a further step: to say that this is wrong is to accuse God of sin! Now beware, for in Hebrews 12 verse 6 it says this: 'For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth'. Proverbs 13:24: 'He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes'. Is God wrong? Let's discuss this a minute (only I'm going to be the only one speaking, that's the only thing!). Let's think about it: is God wrong, is He? Why do we have to upstage God? Why do we always have to make a better idea? Now I'm not talking about using a cannon to squash a flea or anything like that - Evangelist Brady Wilson said of his mother that she had an old razor strap which hung on a nail in the kitchen and under it was the sign: 'I Need Thee Every Hour' - that's not what I'm talking about. In fact an over use of discipline will be useless at all, won't it? It'll lose the whole impact of the thing! And I'm not saying that if you discipline your child you'll have a model Christian or a model citizen on the earth, I'm not saying if your child has failed that you didn't do anything right - but what I'm saying here is: in the word of God there's a principle and it means this: if you want to give your child the greatest opportunity of development in every area of life, like the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, you'll discipline!
Speaking of disciplining your children, Susannah Wesley - the mother of 17 children, including John and Charles - said this: 'The parent who studies to subdue self-will', studying to subdue self-will, 'in his child works together with God in renewing and the saving of his soul. The parents who indulges it does the Devil's work, makes religion impractical, salvation unattainable, and does all that in him lies to damn his child, soul and body, forever'.
Fourthly he says 'instruct'. The word is 'in the nurture and admonition of the Lord' - and that word 'admonition', as we finish, simply means 'to instruct', 'to encourage'. And the book of Proverbs is full of it, isn't it? It is a picture of a father, encouraging, sharing wise counsel with his own son. That is simply saying this: we must instruct our children! If we don't teach them the world's going to teach them, and - oh - how the world wants to get them! And oh, how the devil is out for the family today! He wants the home.
But here, as we end, is the instruction of God to us. Deuteronomy 6:7: 'Thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up'. Now listen, this is the question: do we teach our children the word of God and do we talk to them about it? As Matthew Henry said: 'Instruct them to fear sinning. Inform them of and excite them to the whole of their duties toward God'. It'll not give you the perfect child, but it will give them the greatest opportunity of living a godly life in a sinful world.
Our Father, we are so conscious in a sinful world that even holy things are made to look sinful. We are conscious also, our God, that it is difficult in our day to live holy and godly in Christ Jesus. It is difficult to be a parent, it is difficult to be a child - but Lord, we thank Thee for the Spirit of God, and we pray that we may be filled by Him so that we may be able to walk by the Spirit and not fulfil the lusts of the flesh. We pray Lord, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that You would make our homes holy places where Christ is exalted, and where the light of the Gospel can be seen in changed and holy lives. For we pray these things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the twenty sixth tape in his Ephesians series, titled "Christ In The Home Part 3: Parents And Children" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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