(Editor’s note: The following article is part of a four part series adapted from pastor John Kimbell’s sermon delivered June 29, 2014. In the first half of the sermon, what will be parts 1 and 2 of this series, Kimbell preached directly to the children, which is clear from what follows. We retained the second person where applicable, making this series particularly well-suited to read aloud at the dinner table or during family devotions. We pray it will bear fruit in the hearts of your children.)
by John Kimbell
Children, Ephesians 6:1-4 contains special words addressed very specifically to you. Words from God Himself. The God who made you. The God who cares for you. And who wants you to trust and obey Him. And I hope you will be eager to know what God has to say to you about relating to your parents, and what that means for your relationship to Him.
How are Christian parents and children called to relate to one another within the church? Ephesians 6:1-4 speaks to parents and in some ways, even more directly, to children. This text doesn’t cover everything the Bible has to say about it, but it actually covers, at least in summary form, a pretty decent part of it. In a sense, all of the Scriptures are relevant to the outworking of the parent-child relationship. But in terms of the specific obligations that are given between parents and children, the Bible actually doesn’t say a lot. I can give a pretty decent summary in just a few statements:
Parents are called to:
Children are called to:
There isn’t a whole lot more the Bible requires between parents and children. As good as organized sports and musical training and college scholarships may be — and I do think those are good things — they are not the essence of our parenting as Christians. And neither are they the essence of being a godly, “successful” child in the eyes of God. In fact, one of the temptations we face, especially in a society as affluent as ours, is that so many of those good things can very easily begin to encroach on and override the priority of these biblical essentials so that the essentials begin to get shortchanged and pushed aside.
Obeying and honoring one’s parents in the Lord. And bringing our children up in the training and instruction of Jesus Christ and His gospel — that gets to the heart of our relationship as parents and children. And that is right where Ephesians 6 takes us.
First off, Paul gives an exhortation to children: “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.’”
Children, obey your parents. When Paul addresses “children,” I don’t think the focus is so much on a certain age as on the fact these individuals are still in their homes and under the authority of their parents. Verse 4 makes clear that these children are still being “brought up” to adulthood in some manner. They have not yet moved out to establish an independent life or family. Paul’s instruction here applies to young children, as well as to older youth who are still in the home.
For those who are still in that situation, whom Paul calls “children,” there is basically one main command, one instruction that God gives you for how you are to relate to your parents: You are to obey them (v. 1); You are to “honor your father and mother” (v. 2). That second command, where Paul quotes from the 10 commandments: “honor your father and mother,” is a little broader than “obey” and extends beyond when we leave the home. But here it primarily means honoring them as their God-given authorities through obedience.
Children, that means you are to do what your parents tell you to do. If your parents tell you to eat your vegetables; if they tell you not to hit your brother or your sister; if they tell you not to lie; if they tell you to be home by midnight, or to do your homework; if your parents tell you to do something, God says you should do it.
God has placed your parents as authorities over you. That means it is part of your parents’ job to lead you and tell you what to do. In fact, if they don’t do that, they are not doing the job God has given them to do as parents. Now they need to do that in obedience to the Lord, as they submit to Him and His ways. We’ll come back to that. But we aren’t talking about them yet. We are talking about you.
Remember, to obey is a matter of the heart, not just a matter of our outward actions. Jesus said in Luke 6:45, it is out of the overflow of our hearts that we speak and act. So, when you obey your parents, you are to do it from the heart. That means you are to do it gladly. You are to do it with joy. You are to do it trusting them that they are wise and good in telling you what to do.
Kids, younger and older, think about how meaningful it is — I hope this is meaningful to you — that when the apostle Paul writes to the church he directly addresses you. These letters of Paul were read aloud to the churches. And this means Paul expected the children to be present when the church was gathered, that God’s Word was intended for them to hear, and that they were expected to pay attention to it and to receive that teaching and to follow it. This means God cares deeply about you, and about the way that you relate to Him and to your parents. This matters to Him.
Next time we’ll look at why children should obey their parents: “Because it is right.”
John Kimbell serves as Pastor of Preaching and Discipleship at Clifton Baptist Church in Louisville, KY. John and his wife, Sarah, have five children. He completed his Ph.D. in New Testament Studies from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
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