EPHESIANS 6:4c-e(part 1)
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Eph. 6:4c “. . .but bring them up. . .”
Via the conjunction of contrast, “but,” Paul turns to the positive side of his teaching. The word translated here as “bring them up” is rendered “nourish” in 5:29. In the same way we nourish our body, and Christ nourishes the Church, we are to raise children. We are to “bring them up,” not jerk them up.
“Children, obey your parents” is not meant to be a weapon wielded by the hand of a ruthless tyrant. Parents are to be disciplinarians, not dictators. The sternest parents often fail miserably and raise the wildest children. Many parents ruin their influence by being “much too conscious that there is no chair in the house big enough for their enthronement” (Parker). Some adults have to be bullies at home because they are not much of a person anywhere else.
Households should be ruled gingerly. Avoid severity and undo cruelty. Do not alienate your children. “Never make your children your enemies, and never rule them too much. . . .He leads best who never seems to lead” (Parker).
Authority figures, including parents, must act in ways which elicit love as well as respect. “Bring them up,” positioned in our text as the antonym for provoking to wrath, “unquestionably conveys the idea of gentleness” (Calvin).
Both Moms and Dads, hold, bathe, and feed your newborns, and change their diapers. Put your children to bed at night, tuck them in with a Bible story and prayer, hold them tight. Hug your teenagers and grown children. We know that many young women who go astray are merely craving the hugs and caresses a father never gave. Men are true men when gentle with the wife and children. Parents, cultivate gentleness, and raise your children tenderly.
Eph. 6:4d “. . .in the nurture. . .”
The word translated as “nurture” denotes sternness, firmness, training, discipline. It emphasizes actions, highlights what is done to a child, and refers to rules, regulations, rewards, and retribution. “Nurture” implies a regimenting, a drilling, which can be backed up when necessary by punishment. Parents have far-reaching executive powers over a child. They have the right and responsibility to give commands, to enforce them, and to punish disobedience.
God is pleased when parents exercise their authority and order children to keep His ways. With joy YHWH said of Abraham, “I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord” (GN 18:19). Parents can rightly command, “We will–no questions asked–say grace at meals, go to church, not curse, not lie, not steal, etc.”
Parental authority extends to secular areas as well. Parents can rightly command, “We will do homework, do chores, have curfew and observe it, etc.”
The Bible gives parents not only authority, but also provides the best method for effective enforcement. The predominant Biblical model for disciplining children, the paradigm mentioned most often by far, is spanking. It is repeatedly referred to in Holy Writ (eg. PR 13:24; 22:15; 23:13-14).
Corporal punishment is nowadays often equated with wanton cruelty, but I disagree. Spanking allows punishment to be rendered soon after the wrong, thus increasing the discipline’s effectiveness (EC 8:11). Spanking enables the discipline to be finished quickly, thus removing a danger often connected with extended punishments, the allowing of time for bitterness to settle in and fester (EP 4:26b). Spankings can be effectively administered early in life, and thereby reduce the number of corrections needed later in life. Seven spankings at age three are better than three spankings at age seven.
Spanking must of course be done rationally, reasonably, and very carefully–no slapping, no hair-pulling, no arm-jerking, no berating, no biting (except in rare cases where your child is a chronic biter), no slugging, no punching, no whelps or marks left on the body. The best method is reasonable swats on the bottom, where God provides natural padding. My cousin Thomas Hill decided his padding was insufficient. Since he often received a spanking for causing trouble at church, he began wearing five pairs of underwear to church.
A final caution–after the spanking, give love in abundance. Let the incident end in sweetness. As parents, our love must never have to be earned.
Eph. 6:4e “. . .and admonition. . .”
“Admonition” deals with what we say to children–talking, verbal training, instruction, whether it be by teaching, warning, encouragement, counsel, advice, reproof. We parents need to explain the why of our discipline. Children need to understand the rationale behind our actions. “Because I said so” explains nothing. Say instead, “Children must have defined boundaries, and God chose parents to set them.” By the way, when administering discipline, please never say, “This is going to hurt me worse than it hurts you.” When being punished it is hard to grasp the subtle nuance contained in this thought.
In the home, “admonition,” general conversation, is critical. Knowledge, not ignorance, is the mother of our devotion (Birrell, in BI). Talk everywhere, in the living room, at the table, in the kitchen. Discuss the music on radio, talk about the news on TV. Analyze things in Christian terms by ever asking, “I wonder what Jesus thinks of that. What should Christians do about this?”
Talk about table manners and treating elders with respect. Tell daughters how to dress and sit modestly. Teach boys how to treat girls. Talk to children about the friends they make, the movies they watch, the temptations of life. Teach the spiritual realities of life. Detail the dangers of the evils we tell children to avoid, and the advantages of the course we want them to follow.
Thalwell deemed it unfair to seek to influence children in religious matters. He felt they should be free to investigate such things on their own. Coleridge asked Thalwell to come see his “botanical garden.” Upon seeing only weeds in it, Thalwell expressed displeasure and disappointment. Coleridge replied, “I thought it unfair to prejudice the soil towards roses and strawberries.”
A lady said she would not prejudice her young children with religious instruction. Archbishop Sharpe replied, “If you do not teach them, the devil will!”
“If you do not guide those children heavenward, Godward, Christward, churchward you will be the only one who is neutral, who is not influencing them” (Criswell). We are seriously fooled and naive beyond credulity, if we think the world, the flesh, and the devil are not using the hard rock culture, the entertainment industry, and drug and criminal elements to seek to win the hearts, minds, and souls of our children. Evil will have its influence and say. “The streets of the city offer no diplomas, they confer no degrees, but they educate with terrible precision” (Criswell). Parents must use “admonition,” verbal training, to counteract the flow of evil being flooded upon our children.
“Nurture and admonition,” discipline and instruction, actions and talk–parents, use every weapon in our arsenal to help children not be lost to evil.