Yesterday I preached from Ephesians 6:1-4 as we looked at the roles and responsibilities of the father. On our annual Father’s Day sermon, I sought to encourage and equip men to do the work of fatherhood – leading, nurturing, disciplining, and instructing. Our culture persistently seeks to dethrone God and belittle men, and the church of Jesus Christ needs to arise with faithful, humble, godly, and courageous men who will not back down to a God-hating society.
The Children are Commanded to Obey and Honor
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to notice it, but we are an anti-authoritarian society. That mindset continues to grow in our culture and it likewise spreads to the church. Today, we see it in the way people approach rules and regulations. It’s almost as if they’re optional. The culture doesn’t arrive at such a place suddenly. It begins with children who are not taught to obey and honor their parents at a young age. When rebellious children grow older and move out of their parents’ home, they will approach other authority figures in a similar manner.
Children are to learn to submit to their earthly authority figures (mother and father) at an early age, and with a goal of helping them submit to God. Children who refuse to obey and honor their parents and other governing authority figures will likewise refuse to submit to God. The word translated obey in this text is the Greek term, ὑπακούω. This particular Greek word comes from two other words – under and to listen. Literally speaking, this word means to listen under. The word pictures a person who is listening with a goal of submission and obedience.
Just as God designed from the beginning and as He put on display in the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:12), we see Paul repeating this command here to the church at Ephesus. As in the days of the Exodus, children are commanded to obey parents for their good. God will bless through obedience. However, children who disobey parents can expect to be cursed rather than blessed by God.
The Father is Commanded to Lead the Family
Fathers are commanded to lead the family. This is God’s design and it’s rooted in the creation order. Before men become prideful in their authority, they must first learn to be submissive to God’s authority. Paul points out that fathers are not to provoke their children to wrath. Provoke comes from the Greek word, παροργίζω, meaning “to rouse to wrath, to provoke, exasperate, anger.”
The picture in this text is that of a faithful father who nurtures his children with faithful leadership. When Paul says, “bring them up” that phrase emphasizes tender care of the little ones. John Calvin translates bring them up as “let them be kindly cherished.” Like a tender plant in the early stages of development rising from the soil needs tender care, water, and sunlight, in like manner the little children must be cared for with tenderness and love.
Paul doesn’t end at that point. He likewise points out the need for faithful discipline. It’s essential for a father to learn balance. He must not be a soft pushover and he cannot be overbearing with intense authority. At the same time, Paul puts the spotlight on the father’s responsibility to lead in the instruction of their children. Not only is it the responsibility of the father to lead physically, but it’s also his responsibility to lead spiritually.
The present day church culture in most mainline evangelical churches does not know what a catechism is. If the word catechism is a foreign term, we are led to believe that family worship is a foreign practice. Long before the father teaches his children how to shoot the basketball like King James he must teach his children the gospel of King Jesus. In his book, Family Driven Faith, Voddie Baucham, warns us all that, “70-88% of teens, who profess Christianity, walk away from their faith by the end of their freshman year of college.” Something must be done about this tragic trend. The fact is, something can be done. May God raise up faithful fathers who preach Jesus to their children and who refuse to bend their knee to the false gods of this age as they disciple a new generation to love God with all of their heart, soul, mind and strength.