The Command to Children and their Parents

May 13th, 2018 sermon
By John Maiden, Associate Pastor

 Ephesians 6:1-4

God uses the relationships between parents and children to help lead us all to Himself as we follow His ways in this life:  “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother’ – which is the first commandment with a promise – ‘so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.’ Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:1-4)

I. Commandments to Children  (Ephesians 6:1-3)

A. “Obey your parents” – Children are to do what their parents tell them. God’s commands are not burdensome, but for our own good. When children trust their parents with their obedience, they learn to trust their God who made all things, made us, loves us, wants the best for us, and loves us so much He sent Jesus to die for us.

B. “Honor your father and mother” Children are to have a good attitude as they respect their parents. If they obey and honor their parents, they are promised blessing (“go well with you”, “long life”). This is illustrated visually by the “circle of blessing” in Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Ted Tripp.

II. The Commandments to Parents (Ephesians 6:4)

Both parents are to raise their children up in the Lord.

A. Do not anger children (both parents, but especially fathers) – leading to resentment. Instead parents are to love & encourage children intentionally, saying: “I love you…I am proud of you..You are good at…”

B. Discipline children – fairly, consistently, and lovingly. (See Proverbs 3:24, Hebrews 12:5,6)

C. Teach children – pointing them toward obedience & following God’s ways in love & service. At family worship time, try Bible, prayer, and singing about the goodness of God. Parents might read books, such as, The Jesus Storybook Bible (copies available through John Maiden). Discuss children’s church lessons as a family, esp. study of Esther (June 17-July 1) here at Perry Creek Church.

D. Set an example: Parents are the foundation to show children who God is and how He wants us relate to Him. Parents’ imperfections in child raising can model to our children how we can release our sins to God, and how He exchanges them for His Truth and forgiveness because of Jesus’ dying for us and defeating sin.

Long ago, God taught His people to teach all generations of their children to “fear the Lord your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life…be careful to obey so that it may go well with you…” (Deut.6:2,3) May we lovingly discipline and teach (directly & by example) our children to follow God’s ways, and may we all honor and respect our Lord as we obey Him and live in His “circle of blessing”.

Discussion Questions

  1. Why are we all (children and adults) so rebellious when we are told to obey? Isn’t “independence” the American way?
  2. Why are we so AFRAID to trust God & obey Him? How do we show our children as we lead/teach/discipline that we have their best interest at heart? How does God show us this?
  3. Parents, in what specific ways do you intentionally teach your children about living in the “circle of blessing”?  What is positive and what is negative?
  4. How do we, as children and adults, honor imperfect parents with a good attitude?
  5. Is there a time limit on honoring & obeying parents as the parent/child relationship matures?
  6. How do these commandments to children and parents in Eph.6:1-4 serve as a model for the way we are to live our Christian lives?


These past few weeks we have been discussing what people refer to as “Household Codes,” Paul gives in Ephesians 5 and 6. We have spoken about the roles of husbands, we have talked about the roles of wives, and then last week John took a more of microscopic look into our marriage relationship and dealt with how we are to handle conflict. This week we will focus on the family relationships of parents and children.

As a new parent myself, I am super excited about this message and what God is teaching me through his word in this season of life. Today I am not coming from someone who knows all the answers, as I am just beginning this journey myself. I have lots to learn and praise God for His grace where I fail. But I do come from the perspective of someone who is in the middle of this right now and learning what God is teaching me, as I begin to raise two kids of my own.

I also want to say this. If you are single, married with no kids, or are empty nesters and your beginning to tune me out, please don’t because God has given us this church as a family. In the same way a family operates, all of us have a responsibility to raise up Perry Creek kids and youth to love and serve Jesus. These kids, at some level, are your kids.

This morning we are going to do things a little different. This sermon is going to have two parts to it. There is usually a part in our service where we dismiss the kids to go back to their class to have their Bible story. As you can see, we have not done that yet. Reason being, I would like for the kids to be in here for the first part of this sermon. Why? Well the verses we are going to look at today  address them specifically.

So first let’s read our passage together. It is just four verses, but these four verses are packed with how a family should operate under God.

“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”

Ephesians 6:1-4

The Command to Children

First, we are going to look at the command to children.

Alright kids… This is for you!

Children are to obey and honor their parents

The verse starts out by simply saying:

“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.”

– Ephesians 6:1-3

Paul gives two commands to children:

  1. Obey here means to do what your parents tells you.
  2. Honor means to respect them. Or to have a good attitude about it.

I can remember when my parents would tell me to do something and I would not want to do it. Perfect example: taking out the trash. Maybe the situation goes something like this: Mom-  “John would you take out the trash, please?” Me – “Why?” “John, would you please take out the trash, like I asked you to?” “Ugh” Then I would get up, maybe mumble “Like whatever”. Grab the trash. And storm off. Throw the trash in the garbage and storm back into the house. I would obey by doing what they told me, but I had a bad attitude. To be obedient to this command, we need to do both. Obey and have good attitude about it.

As we have learned this year in the Treehouse, when God tells us something, we listen. Our kids have been going through the Old Testament and they have been learning time and time again, that God’s ways are best for us. We know that when God tells us something it is for our good and what is best. So we can trust Him.

I remember that I really wanted to ride a jet ski that we had as a family, when I was younger. (Have a picture of a jet ski). I am sure I could picture myself riding so fast, with water splashing in my face, and if I was lucky, maybe dad would let me drive! But there was just one problem. I didn’t want to jump in the water. Slowing going in was great. But jumping in, terrified me.

My parents told me that in order for me to ride the Jet Ski, I had to first jump of our dock. If I was going to get myself on a Jet Ski that went really fast and could fall off of, I needed to at the very least jump off the dock into the water, right. But I could not do it.

My dad would stand at the end of the dock, I even had a life-jacket on to protect me, and my dad was telling me that he would not allow anything to happen to me. But, I did not really trust him. I mean it was scary! So all morning went by and I still had not jump off into the water. I was missing out on being able to ride the Jet Ski.

Finally, that afternoon, I made up my mind that I was going to jump. My parents told me I would be OK, my dad was right there to catch me, and so I finally trusted him. Off I went flying into the air. And guess what. I made it. I splashed into the water, dad grabbed me, and I was OK. ) I then got to enjoy the afternoon on the jet ski! It was so worth it to trust my parents.

Kids/youth, it is so worth it to trust God. By trusting God and what he says is best, we get to enjoy the life that he has to offer us. When God tells us to obey our parents, it is for our good. We can trust him. In fact, God tells us that we enjoy life more when we do. Just like I got to enjoy an afternoon on the Jet Ski when I trusted my parents.

Why can we trust God?

  • He made all things
  • He made us
  • He loves us
  • He wants what is best for us
  • He sent Jesus to die for us he loves us so much

The verses go on to say this:

“Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.”

– Ephesians 6:2-3

This statement of having a long/good life is general statement of blessing. Paul is essentially saying, you want to live a good life. Obey your parents.

I love this illustration that Ted Tripp gives in his book, “Shepherding a Child’s Heart.”  As he speaks about this verse, he points our attention to what he calls “The Circle of Blessing.” For this I am going to need a volunteer. I have asked Evan Mailand to help me this morning.

Evan, thank you for helping. Here is your circle of blessing. As you can see, this is a fun circle of blessing. This illustration is to remind us that God’s best for us is obedience to our parents. But when we step out of the circle of obedience, there is danger. (Pull out nerf gun)

Let just say that Evan loves computer games. Do you love computer games, Evan? I know he does,  because I have seen a game he has made. He is so excited to get home and play his favorite game after school. What is your favorite game? But the problem is he has homework. When he gets home his mom tells him to go and do his homework for the day. So Evan goes back to his room and instead plays his computer game. (Starting to leave the circle) At dinner his parents asks him if he finished his homework. Evan said he had. (Gone from the circle).

He is now outside of the “Circle of Blessing”. This is a dangerous place to be! Evan now will have to face the consequences of lying to his parents, because they will find out, and getting a bad grade because he didn’t do his homework like his parents said.

But the good news is we can be forgiven even though we mess up, can’t we? Through faith in Jesus we can be forgiven. As we know Jesus came and died for our sins so that we can be forgiven. (Put Evan back in the circle)

Why do we obey? We obey because God tells commands us to obey our parents. Obeying our parents in ultimately obeying God. And we can trust him that is for our good. Thank you Evan. Let’s give him a round of applause

When it comes to obedience, here is the thing. This same circle of blessing applies to each and every one of us. Whether you are a kid or an adult, obedience is for our good. When we look at God’s Word and it gives us a command, it is for our good. This applies to all of the commands in Ephesians. We are called to serve the church, for our good. We are called to holiness, for our good. We are called to submit to our husbands and sacrificially love our wives, for our good. That is why:

For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.

–  1 John 5:3 3

By obedience to God is all things, we remain in his circle of blessing. Therefore, children/youth, seek to obey your parents. All of us, seek to obey the commands of God. For all our good, and the glory of God.

“Jesus Loves the Little Children”

Awesome, that was fun.

Alright parents now it’s our turn.

The Command to Parents

Parents are to raise their children up in the Lord

Do not anger. Discipline. Teach. Set an example.

Now Paul turns his attention to the parents. He says this:

“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”

– Ephesians 6:4

One of the first things you might wonder as you look at this passage is why Paul goes from parents to fathers. Why are fathers the ones singled out here? One thing to note is the word used here used for father is pateres is mainly used for fathers but can also mean parents.

Paul also could be addressing fathers due to the cultural climate. In that day, the father of the household was the more dominant member of the family. Who was more prone to ruling harshly.

Either way, we know that these principles apply to both the fathers and the mothers in a given family. It is not like it is OK for the mothers to lead their children to anger, but the fathers were more likely to do so, at that time. Paul a negative command and positive commands.

First, he tells parents:  Do not lead your children to anger. As mentioned, during this time fathers could be really harsh on their kids to the point that it was very heartbreaking. Fathers could sell their kids or leave them on the side of the road. The harshness that fathers especially led with, could easily lead children to anger and resentment towards their parents. This was clearly not a biblical way to parent.

While today may not be as extreme, there are things that we can do that lead our kids toward anger and resentment. And often times, parents do not at all have the intention of bringing their kids to the point of anger, which leads to resentment. But we can lead them to this by the way that we raise our children.

We are called to lead yes, firmly and consistently, but fairly, lovingly.

One example: Not expressing love, gratitude, and approval to our kids often enough. I believe this is so important.  Back in college, my church started doing a men’s bible study. I was excited about it, but the only problem was it was like at 5:30 in the morning so that men could actually come before work. But me and my friend Cory, who we have been praying for, decided we wanted to go. It was a several weeks study and I am sure we learned a ton of great things, but as it often happens, only a few things stick with you. One thing sticks with me to the day that I will never forget. The lesson was talking about fathers and sons and the importance of kids hearing affirmation from their fathers. I remember the man saying that sons long to hear from their dads three things, “I love you, I am proud of you, and you are good at __________”.

My dad was good at these growing up, but I remember one the first times after that lesson I heard those words. I was moving here to Wake Forest to start seminary training and my dad helped me come up and here and get settled. As he was getting ready to board to plane, I heard those words. “I love you son, and I am proud of you.” He was proud of me coming here, stepping out of my comfort zone, and training to become a pastor. We never outgrow, our need for encouragement and love as children. I believe that those three things are ways to fight against leading our kids from resentment to a family of love. To love them as God has called us to love them.

Even at a young age I want to do this to my children. To make a conscience effort to show my kids that I love them and appreciate them, because here is the crazy thing: We are the very first picture that our children get of who God is. Let that sink in for a minute. The way that we love, protect, and give authority, ultimately points them to their heavenly Father. So, I don’t want to have a home of anger and resentment. I want a home that outpours with the love of Jesus. There are so many other ways that I came across that are helpful reminders that lead to anger and resentment, but I believe if we live to build a home based on the love of Jesus, we are heading the right direction:

  • Comparing our kids to others:  They begin to feel like they don’t live up.
  • Inconsistent discipline:  Even now Sarah and I are seeking to do this. When we say “No” to JD about sticking his hands in his mouth for example, we have to be consistent in our discipline.
  • Overprotection:  Parents who smother their child can lead to bitterness.

So this is a focus on how we are to not be as parents, but what about how we are to be. Here then enters the positive commands.

Secondly: “Bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” The word for discipline here involves training that also includes punishment. Discipline sticks. OK, lets just be honest here. It stinks to give discipline, it stinks to receive discipline. But time and time again, in the Bible, we are reminded that discipline is good for us:

He who spares his rod hates his son, but he who loves him, disciplines him gently.

– Proverbs 13:24

One night JD was not having a good day. He was directly disobeying us and we knew it. We would tell him to not do something, like put his fingers in his mouth and he would look at me and aggressively put his hands in his mouth. So we had just had a bath and I was trying to get him to not put his hands in his mouth. He would not listen so instead of doing his favorite things before bed, read a story, play, and or sing, he had to go straight to bed. As I placed him in his crib, I tried to the best of my ability explain why he had to go straight to bed. I told him to sit down as I explained that he disobeyed and he would not get to read a story or play. He puckered out his and tearfully said “OK It absolutely broke my heart. I hated hurting him, but I began to understand that discipline, though it hurts, was for our good. I wanted to help lead my son to be obedience and I had to discipline him because I loved him. I hate it because in that moment pulled himself out of God’s best for him. He was doing just as we illustrated with Evan, going out of God’s circle of blessing. I want what is best for him, I want God’s best for him.

In the same way that God disciplines us, because he wants what is best for us. He has our good in mind. We are acting in the same way that God teaches us:

My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,

   and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,

because the Lord disciplines the one he loves,

   and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”[a]

Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live!  They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

– Hebrews 12:5-11

We discipline our kids for their good. We teach and train them to live according to God, because God knows what is best for us. We want them to obey not just so they can be good “for goodness sake,” like the song says. We want their obedience to ultimately lead them to obey the Lord Jesus Christ and to follow after Him. Kids learn to obey God, by obeying their parents. But this verse tells us, we not just to discipline, we are also called to instruct. So, Paul says: “Bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” To teach your kids the things of the Lord. To counsel them. To have healthy, biblical families, we need parents to teach it to their children in the Lord. If we are to be a church that makes disciples of the next generation, we need to be teaching our teaching in the Lord.

Family Worship:  I believe that one of the best ways that we can teach our kids about Jesus and show them that it is a priority in our homes, is by setting time aside, to worship together. Barna Study: 85% of parents say that that believe they have the primary responsibility for teaching their children about religion and spiritual matters. Yet, the majority of parents do not spend time during the week discussing religious matters or studying religious materials. If the home is the primary place kids learn about what it means to follow after Jesus, why are we not spending time teaching them? As followers of Christ, this should not be! What could possibly be more important than teaching our kids about Jesus?

If you are like me, if this is not happening, I am asking myself why? And I am asking myself how I can make it happen. Do we need to change schedules? Drop something we normally do? To make this a priority.

So your next question might be how? Maybe you desire your kids to be taught about God but I don’t know where to start. This is a great question. As the minister who oversees our family ministries, this is the question that I want to be asking. How can we, as a church, equip you as parents to instruct your kids in the Lord?

Sarah and I had the opportunity about a year ago to sit in on one of my best friends, what they would call “family worship time.” Their worship time consisted of three elements that I found to be three helpful aspects of worship as a family – Bible, prayer and singing.

Now all of these elements look different for each family, and you may not hit all of them, but I believe all are helpful in leading our family to worship Jesus.

Reading the Bible:  This does not have to be some long drawn out thing. Depending on the age of your children, make the content relevant to them. There are many resources available to help with this.  I think a great resource for Greenhouse and even some Treehouse kids is the “Jesus Storybook Bible.” This is what we have used before as a family. And look, because of the season we are in, sometimes it’s like reading one page, OK. But even at a young age, we are teaching and showing our kids that God is a priority. I have Jesus Storybook Bibles with me today! So if you need help, please come and get one today! This book does a great job of telling the whole story of the Bible with Jesus at the center. As the kids get older, you can begin to use what they are learning at church. Read through the stories they are learning in the Treehouse every week. Talk about them. That is why I try to send an email with the summary of the Bible stores they are learning. And then as they begin to worship in here, talk about the text that we look at in our worship service at home!

To start us heading in that direction, I am super excited about our plans for this summer! Starting on June 17th, the kids will begin a two week study in the book of Esther. So that will have them go through June 24th. Then on July 1st for three weeks, John will lead us as a church through a 3-week series on the book of Esther. (Pray for John it has 10 chapters) Because the kids will have just studied the book in the Treehouse, they will join us for those three weeks in our service. We will then be able to send home with you, helps so that you go over the story and what you are learning, as a family, throughout the week. If you are not already, we hope that this will help springboard you into a regular pattern of spending time together in God’s Word.

Prayer:  Also spend time together praying. Again, for us this is super short. Pray praising God about what you read. Pray for our church, pray for others, pray for your needs.

Sing:  At the season we are in, this is John Duke’s favorite part of family worship. I would have probably not done this had not seen my friend and his family do it, but we love it! Sing songs to God and about him! “My God is so Big” is a big one for us right now.

As far as when and where you do this? Wherever its fits you’re your daily schedule. Is there a time where you are gathered in one place? The dinner table? Bedtime? The car? And if not, maybe you can drop something so you can at least all be together talking about the things of God together.

We have talked about this before, but training our kids does not always take place in a planned out, organized part of the day. When we looked at Deuteronomy 6, we were reminded that teaching our kids about Jesus is the be a rhythm of our life. It is an “As you go”, teach your kids about Jesus.

  • Sit at Home:  For example, when you are at the dinner table at home. Talk about your highs and lows for the day. What made you laugh or sad today?
  • Walk along the road/Ride along the road for us:  If you don’t have they set time right now at home, take advantage of car time. Talk about highs/lows. Listen to the radio and discuss the music that they like and why they like it. Play worship songs together and talk about what they mean.
  • Lie Down:  This can be used for devotional time. Singing, praying.
  • Get up:  Maybe pray for the day as you part ways.

The Bottom line is this:  You can be using every part of the day to point our kids to Jesus. Choose one and begin to implement it in your lives. Choose a rhythm of life that works for you. Not everyone’s is the same. Right now our best time is in the evening at bedtime.  Maybe yours in the dinner table or time in the car. Whatever rhythm works best for you, then lean into it and try to use that time to instruct your kids in the Lord.

I challenge you to make this a priority. Get your kids involved. If they are older, let them be a part a telling the story or praying or choosing the song. Have fun with it and enjoy learning about God together. It’s never too late to make this a priority.

If you have never done this or haven’t in a while. It’s OK. This is not to make us feel guilty but for us to be reminded what is important. To repent of where we failed, live forgiven, because you are, and seek to grow.

While this passage addresses parents and children, it doesn’t matter if you are married with no kids or empty nesters, you can still prioritize time to pray, sing, and be in God’s word together as a couple.

Also, as a church, we all have a role to play in this instruction. As a church, we all have a responsibility to teach and show are kids Jesus. Whether it is in a formal setting, like is taking place now in the Greenhouse and Treehouse and just as important, as you interact with our kids and as they OBSERVE you. As we all live out our faith, our kids, our youth are watching us.  As the church, we are all family. We need each other and we are to help each other. Another key to helping kids stick to church was that “at least one adult from the church made a significant investment in me personally and spiritually.” It takes a church to raise up children and youth in the faith.

In all this, though. Remember the grace of God. As parents, as a church family, we are going to fail. But praise God for His grace. In the same way a sunset is to point is to God as creator or the stars.