The story is told of a man who was going from business to business looking for work. Finally he went to the office of a business owner by the name of Mr. Girard. When he asked for a job Mr. Girard took him over to the window and said, “Do you see that stack of bricks over there? Carry them over to the other side of the yard and stack them up. By nightfall the man reported that the project was completed and received his pay. He asked if there would be more work the next day, and the employer said, “yes, come in and carry those same bricks back across the yard and stack them where they came from. The following morning he came in and without a word began restacking the bricks. For the next four mornings this same process was repeated. Finally on the seventh day, the employer called him and said, “I have a new job for you to do. Excitedly the worker asked what it was. And the boss replied, “You are going to be my personal assistant with a regular salary and full benefits. You are exactly the kind of man I have been looking for. I have seen that you are willing to do exactly what you are told, and without complaining.”
Although it may not seem like it at first glance, this true story very well illustrates the passage to which we come today in our verse by verse study of the book of Ephesians. In the past 25 or 30 years countless books, articles, and seminars have been produced and developed about how to raise our children. And yet God’s Word gives the basic information about right parent-child relationships in just four verses right here in the 6th chapter of Ephesians! And when all of the other scriptural teachings are studied and applied, every Christian family has “all things that pertain to life and Godliness” in the area of Godly living (although that is not to downplay the materials that have been produced.) As we come to this last chapter of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians we have a sort of “last but not least” situation. While he has waited until the last chapter to bring these things up, that doesn’t mean that they are not important. On the contrary, in this chapter we have some of the “classic” verses in all of scripture. Who hasn’t heard, for example, these first three verses quoted (or even screamed in frustration) in one form or another? And most Christians are familiar with the famous verses about the Christian’s armor at the end of the chapter. So in a sense it is as if Paul has “saved the best for the end.”
By way of outline we have divided the chapter into 3 parts: In verses1 through 4 we have instructions for Sonship. Then in verses 5 through 9 we have instructions for servants. And finally, in verses 10 through 24 we have instructions for Christian soldiers
So let’s begin our study by looking at God’s Instructions for sonship as we find them in verses 1 through 4.
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. (2) Honor your father and mother, which is the first commandment with promise. (3) “That it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.” (4) And you fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.
Now the first thing we want to notice in these verses is the requirement that we find in verses 1a and 2a
Children, obey your parents in the Lord . . . honor your father and mother. . .”
It may be that even this early in your reading, someone is thinking, “well, I’ll just skip over this one, because it’s obviously for the kids.” But let me carefully point out that these words are really addressed to parents as much as to children. Children need to understand these principles as much as they can, because it is really for them. And parents, unless you guide your children in understanding it they will never be able to obey as God want them to. And that is because of the need for the requirement. This message needs to be addressed to parents and grandparents and parents-to-be, because obedience is not natural! – (a much misunderstood point) Children must be taught to obey because they are born with a sinful nature. That precious sweet little thing that wins your heart the moment it looks at you is more likely to disobey than it is to obey. A humorous story has often been told about a little girl whose nickname was Sweetie Pie, who was just old enough to talk, being fed her breakfast by her father. On her plate were some scrambled eggs, and a bowl of cereal and a small glass of juice. For some reason, however, Sweetie Pie had decided that she didn’t want to eat anything that morning. Her dad repeatedly tried to coax her to eat a bite of eggs to no avail. Then the same process with a spoonful of cereal. Even a small drink of juice wasn’t acceptable. Finally the exasperated dad said, “Well, then Sweetie Pie if you don’t want any of these good things to eat, what do you want for your breakfast? To which Sweetie Pie said “I want a worm.” The dad could hardly believe his ears. But as dads so often do, he went out in the flower bed and dug up a worm and put it on her plate. But Sweetie Pie would have nothing to do with the worm. Dad, who by this time was at the end of his rope said, said, “Now what do you want? And Sweetie Pie said, “I want you to eat half of it.” So the dad mustered up all his courage and cut the worm in half and forced it down his throat. With that Sweetie Pie started screaming and crying. Dad, who just couldn’t take any more, said, “What in the world is the matter now? To which Sweetie Pie said, “You ate the half I wanted!”
The bottom line is that children must be taught to obey, because they are born with a sinful nature. Now that doesn’t fit what the secular world tells us, and it may not fit with what you who don’t have children believe. But when you have the time, look at Romans 1:28 through 30 and you will see that that is exactly what the Word of God says.
But since God gives us this requirement, we need to think carefully about the nature of the requirement.
What does it mean to obey, anyway? The word “obey” is a translation of a Greek word that means “to look up, pay attention, take heed.” So the first aspect of the nature of this requirement is comprehension. One of the reasons that children don’t obey is that they didn’t hear what we said. In the case of small children you may have to literally take their face in your hand, make them “look up” at you and then tell them what you said. And with older children we need to say it in such a way that they can hear it, and make them listen in such a way that they can. Don’t make it possible for them to use the excuse, “I didn’t understand,” because a part of obedience is comprehension.
Another aspect of the nature of this requirement is the last part of verse 1: Notice the phrase in verse 1 “in the Lord.” God has designed His program in such a way that parents are in the place of god in the lives of their children. This phrase speaks of the fact that another part of obedience is Christianity. If your child is a believer it will be easier for him or her to obey because they will have the Holy Spirit to help them. So this is one of the many reasons that you need to lead him or her to faith in Christ as soon as possible. But there is still another aspect of this phrase “in the Lord.” God has designed His program in such a way that parents are in the place of God in the lives of their children. For a certain period of time, God reveals Himself and His will to children through their parents! You should teach your children that if you as a parent tell them to do something that is God’s will for them. When they obey you they are obeying God. Now from the human standpoint, there is a time limit to that, which varies from one child to another; but generally speaking, through the teen-age years. But parents, what an awesome responsibility! Too many times our attitude (whether we realize it or not is “Do as I say, not as I do.” How can we expect our children to obey someone they can’t honor?
Now we’ve been talking about this requirement that god gives, but as always He also gives us the reason for the requirement in the last part of verse 1 and verse 3.
Children, obey your parents in the Lord for this is right. (2) Honor your father and mother, which is the first commandment with promise: (3) that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.”
Why should children obey their parents? Just because “it is right.” The word “right” used here comes from a Greek engineering term that means something like our word “plumb” today. If the foundation of a building is not “plumb,” the whole building will be out of kilter. To obey is a standard God has set – something He has given us to do as His representatives on earth. That is a note that is rarely sounded in our society today. The world today says, “Do this because it will help you to win.” Or “because it is the “in” thing to do. Or “it will get you ahead of your co-workers.” But God says, simply, “Do it because it is right.” From God’s point of view, it doesn’t matter whether it makes you rich or helps you win or gets you in – just do it because it is right! Dr. Bob Jones used to say to his students, “Do right if the stars fall.” But that is becoming a lost art in our society today. A parallel verse to this one is Colossians 3:20
Children, obey your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing to the Lord
Anything that is right pleases the Lord, and anything that pleases the Lord and anything that pleases the Lord is right. Parents, we need to teach our children that when they obey us they are pleasing the Lord. And by the same token we need to remind them that when they disobey (whether the parents know it or not) it is displeasing to the Lord. So many kids think that if their parents don’t know about their disobedience they have gotten away with it. One of my sisters as a teen-ager disobeyed our parents and they found out about it. When my dad confronted her about it she said, “How did you know?” And he replied, “Sweetheart, I have asked the Lord to let your mother and me know anything we need to know about any of you children,” and He let me find about this.” To which my sister replied, “Daddy, that’s not fair!!
But there is a second reason for obedience in this passage. Not only is it a standard He has set, but it also brings stability, according to verse 3:
. . . “that it may be well with you , and you may live long upon the earth.
The principle of obedience is not something that came in with the writings of the Apostle Paul, it goes all the way back to God’s earliest dealings with mankind. Verses 2 and 3 of Ephesians chapter 6 are a quotation of one of the Ten Commandments back in Exodus chapter 20. And that makes it easier for to understand what Ephesians 6 is saying. It is not necessarily saying that if you obey your parents, you will live a good long life. Probably all of us know or have heard of obedient children who died in childhood. But rather, this is talking about a principle for all of society. Let me emphasize this: the principle of obedience, of respect for authority, is at the very core of all of society! The reason God made this one of the few commandments to His nation Israel was for their preservation as nation in the midst of wicked enemies. And the very same principle applies to us today! If there is any hope for our nation it lies right here: submission to authority. And that is God’s standard, not mine. And he has entrusted the teaching and development and development of it to us as parents!
Parents, is there anything that is good for your withhold from your children if it was within your power to give it to them? O course not! Well the greatest thing that you can give your child is to teach them to obey you and other authorities. And yet, many people withhold that from their children. The child doesn’t do what the mother tells him to and she turns to her friend and says, “cute little thing, isn’t he? – Can’t make him do a thing – he’s just like his daddy!” But listen: this is a requirement from God! You’d better see to it that he obeys! Not only for his good, but for the very stability of society as a whole.