Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Eph. 6:1 Introduction
After concentrating long on husbands and wives, Paul now turns his attention to parents and children. Family life can be a full blessing only when every member of the household, the youngest as well as the oldest, performs their God-ordained obligations. Each has a role to fulfill, divine duties to do.
Eph. 6:1a “Children,. . .”
Considering their lowly standing in society at the time, it is amazing to see this group addressed directly. Paul expected children to hear and heed his words. He obviously deemed them an important part of the church at Ephesus.
We previously discussed the advantages Christianity brought women. It provided children even more. Jesus broke sunshine into their dismal storm.
The ancients were by and large very callus toward the young. Fathers had absolute power over their children. If a father tired of caring for his children, he could set them loose to fend for themselves, sell them into slavery, or even execute them. If not pleasing to its father, a newborn was abandoned.
It was not uncommon for as many as thirty babies to be deserted in the Roman Forum on any given night. These children died of exposure or became the property of anyone who wanted to pick them up. Healthy babies were often collected by people who raised them in order to make them laborers, sell them as slaves, or stock the brothels of Rome. Unhealthy babies were forsaken. Seneca said with pride, “Children born weakly and deformed we drown.”
Christianity fought against this dehumanization of young human life. Children were not a burden to Jesus. He called them to Himself, “took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them” (MT 19:14). Jesus the Master loved children; Paul the Disciple followed His Lord’s example. By speaking directly to children, Paul dignified their place in the Christian home.
Eph. 6:1b “. . .obey. . .”
The word is “hupakouo.” The preposition “hup” meant “under.” The word “akouo,” root of “acoustics,” meant “to hear.” Thus, the combined word meant to “obey,” in the sense of “to hear under” authority. Children are to listen to parents, realizing they are under the authority of the speaker’s words.
The young are to recognize they look up to superiors, to ones who have a right to command. Youth are to hear with undivided attention, to deem a parent’s words weighty, of worth. Valued attention is a first element in obedience. To hear with submission and respect is the beginning of a good response.
When the parents at Ephesus realized Paul was about to address their children, they probably thought he would say something about Jesus, prayer, or nature. Instead, Paul spoke of duty. His words were not a sugared morsel. He did not tell a nice little story or quote a cute poem. Believing every stage of life should be taken seriously, Paul set before the youth a straightforward, practical duty. The laws of Christ are to rule childhood as well as adulthood.
Paul was in essence saying, “Children, you profess to be born again. You claim to have accepted Jesus as Lord. Now prove it. Let evidence shine forth from your life. Take as your first admonition of life, obey your parents.”
For youth, obedience to parents is a prime proof of salvation. It shows one is overcoming the devastating results of the Fall which plague every family member. Due to the old sin nature, men want to be dictatorial gods or to abdicate their leadership role altogether and be women, women want to be men, and children want to be adults. A root of self-will is inbred in every person. From this root grow two evil and misshapen stems–pride and disobedience.
Innate pride makes it hard for young people to obey parents. Moms and dads usually have more experience, know more, and are wiser than children, but youthful pride tends to think it knows it all. Age and experience help blunt the edge of inflated presumptuousness, but in the meantime, Christ’s regeneration can give humility enough to obey parents.
Disobedience flows from the mind’s natural recoiling from any idea of subjection. Rules set boundaries, and limitations often irk the young. Only with difficulty do we allow ourselves to be placed under the control of another.
When Jesus comes into our lives, He softens this resistance. He teaches us that discipline is God’s purpose in all of life. In youth we learn discipline from parents and then begin to discipline ourselves. The purpose of adulthood is not to be free, but rather to be responsible. Parents are God’s tools to prepare us for this self-discipline He requires of us when we become adults.
Youth, if born again, your responsibility in the home is to obey your parents. Resist your natural inclinations. Rise above your inbred rebellion. The pill is bitter to swallow, but true nonetheless. Children cannot guide themselves. “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child” (PR 22:15 NASB).
God knew obedience would be difficult for the young. As we have noted, He made a submissive spirit one of the things He gives us at conversion. To help us even more, He graciously ordained that the ones assigned to chastise and punish us are the same ones who, until our own marriages, love us most.
Parent, your wild child will eventually be tamed and corralled by someone–a school official, a policeman, a warden, a military officer. God, though, wants the disciplining done by those who love the children the most.
Some parents want others to do the tedious task of discipline, and want to retain for themselves the privilege of spoiling their child. This attitude is ironic. A parent does this to win the child’s love, but the exact opposite often happens. An undisciplined child begins to view a parent as nothing more than a gift-giver, a gravy-train, Santa Claus. If the parent does not continue to conform to this image, animosity builds in the child and the parent becomes an object of contempt. If your child runs loose and wild, you will lose him or her if you ever try to pull in the reins. Children do not reverence parents naturally. Respect must be earned by a well-balanced mix of love and discipline.
A child who is taught to obey parents learns self-control and obedience to law, both of which are essential for good character and stamina. I am glad my parents disciplined me. If spanked at school, I was spanked again at home. One day, in the second grade, I skipped school. A church member saw me walking the streets and called my parents. Dad came to find me. He laid me down on my stomach in the back seat of the car, knelt in the front seat, and spanked me. When we arrived at school, he told my teacher to spank me, too. Thank God for a merciful teacher who could tell I had suffered enough for one day. I once threw a book at a Sunday School teacher. Dad, a firm believer in swift justice, marched me to his office at church and spanked me with his belt.
Children and youth, if you claim to be followers of Jesus, you must act like Jesus. He is the role model for Christians of all ages, and the Bible clearly tells how He acted as a child. Christ lived with His parents in Nazareth, “and was subject unto them” (LK 2:51). The Creator of the Universe took the place of lowly subjection. He is the prototype. Let’s follow His example.