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Author:Rev. Stephen 't Hart
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Melville
 Melville, Australia
Preached At:Free Reformed Church of Baldivis
 Baldivis, Western Australia
Title:Children, obey your parents in the Lord!
Text:Ephesians 6:1-3 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Songs from 2010 APV Book of Praise
Bible translation used: NKJV
note: 4th in a series on parenting but can be used on its own

Psalm 111:1,2,3

Psalm 65:2

Hymn 11:1,2,6,9

Psalm 25:3

Psalm 111:4,5


Read:  Epehsians 5:1-6:9

Text:  Ephesians 6:1-3

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Stephen 't Hart, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Dear children of God,

Boys and girls, it is good to see you here in church this morning.  It is in fact good to see you here in church every Sunday because you belong  here.  You belong to God’s people and so you should be with us as we come together to worship the LORD, to sing psalms, to pray, to put our money in the collection bag, to read along (if you can!) in the Bible, and listen to the sermon. 

  Children have always been a part of God’s church and when even little children were brought to Jesus, He said in Mark 10:14,

“Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God.”

It is not surprising, therefore, that when the apostle Paul wrote his letter to the Ephesians, he expected that when it was read out in church, there would be children there to hear this letter also.  And so in his letter to the Ephesians, the apostle Paul wrote a few verses in chapter 6 especially for the children!  He wrote,

“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.”

And so boys and girls, although you should always try to listen to the Bible reading and the sermon in church, this morning you should try to listen even more carefully, because these words in the Bible are especially written for you!


Listening to your dad and mum and being obedient is a hard thing to do.  Sometimes we will listen but at other times we just don’t want to.  Of course you will listen if your mum calls you to come to eat your favorite ice cream!  But if you are called to the table and you do not feel like eating right now, and you are watching TV or playing with your sister or brother or doing something else, you most likely will not want to listen and come straight away as soon as you are called.

   Another problem is that obeying your parents means that you have to do what they say – and sometimes they will tell you to do something you don’t want to do - or you don’t think you should have to do.  Perhaps that includes things such as doing your homework, cleaning up your room, cleaning the bathroom, setting the table, washing the dishes, wearing the clothes or only using the make-up that your parents approve of and say is appropriate.

  And then instead of obeying our parents, we begin to criticize them.  We conclude that Dad and Mum are not doing such a good job.  Dad is out of touch with reality and Mum needs to stop being so unreasonable.  It is not that you are a “difficult child”, but that you have “difficult parents”!  If they were more reasonable, if they were more consistent, if they were more understanding, then you might have more reason to honour and obey your parents.

  But Ephesians 6 does not tell you to obey your parents so long as they are reasonable or so long as their rules make sense to you.  Oh yes, verse 4 does tell fathers not to provoke their children to wrath, not to exasperate them, but it is not for you to honour and obey your parents on the basis of how good a job you think they are doing!  Rather, you are to honour and obey them because the Lord placed them over you.  You are to obey them in the Lord!

  I preach to you to the Word of the Lord under the following theme:


Children, obey your parents in the Lord!

1.    The way of obedience.

2.    The reason for obedience.

3.    The blessings of obedience.


1. The way of obedience.

This sermon, of course, is not just for the children but for all of us, including the parents.  And perhaps for the parents, the Lord’s instruction to children here in Ephesians 6 is a bit too short!  To be a parent is a difficult thing and so instead of four verses on the relationship between parents and children, we’d prefer to have four chapters!  We witness a lot of disobedience and in a way we should not be surprised.  The Bible gives a number of examples where children were disobedient to their parents, where they did not honour and obey them.  I think for example of David’s son Absalom, of Eli’s sons Hophni and Phineas, of the son named Micah in Judges 17 who stole money from his mother, of the need for the laws in Leviticus and Deuteronomy on what to do with children who were disobedient and disrespectful to their parents.  Furthermore, the Lord teaches us in Romans 1:30 that one clear sign of people living in unrighteousness is that they are disobedient to parents.  And 2 Timothy 3:1,2 says that

“in the last days perilous times will come: for men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy” and so on.

And we know that this is true!  In fact, it has always been true.  Listen to what one person, Peter the Hermit, preached in a sermon almost one thousand years ago:

The world is passing through troubled times.  Young people of today think of nothing but themselves.  They have no respect for parents or old age.  They are impatient of all restraint.  They talk as if they know everything, and treat our wisdom as stupidity.  As for girls, they are forward, immodest, and unwomanly in speech, behavior, and dress.”

That was written a thousand years ago, but it could have been written yesterday.   And the reason for that is that wherever godlessness increases, respect for parents and those in authority decreases.  Disobedience towards God goes hand in hand with disobedience to parents and to all others in authority over us.  I am not saying that non-Christians are always disrespectful and disobedient, but the Bible does teach us, and our experience confirms it, that a right respect for parents and a godly obedience comes out of a right respect for God and a godly obedience to Him. 

  And that is why Ephesians 6:1 commands children to “obey your parents in the Lord.  In other words boys and girls, when you are obedient to your dad and mum, you are showing that you are obedient to the Lord!  It is because you belong to the Lord, because He is your Father in heaven, that you must obey your parents.


That this is true becomes even more clear when we read Ephesians 6:1-3 in the context of the whole letter.  The letter to the Ephesians can be split up into two parts: Chapters 1-3 spells out the blessings that we have received in Christ – the blessing as having God as our Father, and that we have been adopted to be His children – and chapters 4-6 teach us how to live now that we have received those blessings.  It teaches us that we have been saved by grace through faith and adopted to be God’s children, being united together in Christ, we must put off our old nature and put on the new nature so that we might reflect our heavenly Father who has saved us and adopted us.


And then comes Ephesians 5:1.

“Therefore be imitators of God as dear children.”


Therefore.  In other words, because you belong to God, because He is your Father and you are His children, you must now live your life in the Lord.   Instead of walking in the darkness as sons of disobedience, we must walk as children of light.  (Ephesians 5:6,8.)  And therefore wives, submit to your own husbands as to the Lord; and therefore husbands, love your wives just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her.  And, therefore Children, obey your parents in the Lord!


You see, children: that is how you are to obey your parents.  You are to obey them in the Lord.  You must obey them because you belong to the Lord, because He is your Father and you are His child.  And when God is your Father in heaven and Jesus Christ is your Saviour, then through the Holy Spirit you must live in the way that God wants you to live.  And He wants you to obey your parents, because obedience to your parents is the right thing to do.  So when your dad or your mum tells you to do something, you don’t only listen because you love them, because you appreciate what they do for you, because you are so happy to be a part of your family.  Those things will hopefully be true, but the reason why you must obey your parents is because you have another Father, who is the Lord, and you belong to Him!  And so this is what you should be saying:  “I must obey my parents because I must obey the Lord!  The Lord is my Father in heaven, and I belong to His people, I am His son, His daughter. The Lord is the One who decides what is right or wrong – not me – and since He wants to govern me through my parents, in obeying them I am obeying God.


2. The Reason for Obedience.

Ephesians 6 goes on in verse 2 by quoting from the fifth commandment, “Honor your father and mother.” 


It is important to understand why the apostle Paul quoted this to the Ephesian children.  In the Roman Empire, children were often afraid of their fathers.  A Roman father had absolute authority over his family.  He could sell them as slaves; he could make them work in his field; he could take the law into his own hands and punish them as he liked; he could even have them killed if he wanted.  A Roman father could even decide whether he wanted to keep his children in the first place!  One Bible commentary that I read said that when a baby was born it was placed before its father.  If the father stooped and lifted the child, the child was accepted and raised as his.  If he turned away, the child was rejected and literally discarded to die, to be taken by slave traders or worse.  One Roman father wrote to his wife from the city of Alexandria in Egypt, “If – good luck to you! – you have a child, if it is a boy, let it live; if it is a girl, throw it out.”  Indeed, that is how cruel and heartless many heathen Romans were in those days.


But the apostle Paul did not tell the Ephesian children to obey their parents to avoid being rejected.  Rather, he told them to do so because of the fifth commandment, to honour your father and your mother.  And by pointing to this commandment, Ephesians 6 reminds us that God had redeemed His people from the bondage not just of Egypt but also the bondage of sin, so that they might be His own possession.  And so God called fathers and mothers to exercise authority on His behalf, so that the children might live long in the Land and enjoy peace and security, in fellowship with God and their neighbour.

  And the same applies to us today.  God has redeemed us from the slavery of sin and has placed us in a community.  And God intends for us to live and develop in the community He has placed us, where we are free from fear and where we can learn to live in fellowship with Him, and under His authority.  God chooses to govern us through people He has placed in authority over us.  And in the family unit, those people are parents.  Parents are placed in a position of authority over us by God so that we might live a life of peace and freedom, and that it might be well with us. 


We do not always see the call to obey the authorities God has placed over us in this way.  By nature our children do not normally want to be parented, they do not have a love to obey.  Bu nature we tend to see obedience to authority as a heavy yoke, as something that can be burdensome.  And when rules are made that we consider nonsense and restrictive, we quickly get annoyed and ask why we should follow them.  But we must all live disciplined lives, in submission to those whom God has placed over us, and our children must be encouraged to do the same. Deuteronomy 6 is very instructive here when it tells us in verse 2 to obey God’s commandments

“that you may fear the LORD your God, to keep all His statutes and His commandments which I command you, you and your son and your grandson, all the days of your life, and that your days may be prolonged.”

Here we see that God has given authority to parents for a reason.  Their instruction is to be good instruction and their discipline is to be good discpline, pointing to the instruction and discipline of the Lord.  Parents may never use their position for selfish reasons, and certainly not to tell their children to do something wrong.  Rather, parents receive authority from the Lord to instruct them in His way.  As Ephesians 6:4 says,

“And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.”

Children, the reason why God commands you to obey your parents is because it is their job to teach you how live in obedience to God! 

   But perhaps you are thinking,  “what if my parents, my dad or my mum, tells me to do something that is wrong?  Do I still have to obey them then?”  To answer this, if we are honest we would agree that for most of us that does not happen very often.  Even when you might not agree with your parents' point of view, to honour and obey them is not normally sinful.  But it can and does happen.  And in those situations, remember that your parents are placed here in God's place.  That means that parents must submit themselves to the discipline and instruction of God.  If your parents or teachers tell you to do something that you believe is wrong, if possible, ask another adult that you trust for their opinion.  Then respectfully ask if you may appeal and gently explain why you are unable to submit to them in this situation since you must obey God rather than man.  But even then, you must do so respectfully and in a way that shows love and honour to your parents.  And you may pray that God will lead your parents to repentance by your godly example.

  And the same applies, of course, to when church elders or school teachers or policemen tell you to do something.  For all authority is placed over us by God, but remains firmly under Him.


Submitting to your parents and all others in authority over you is hard.  It is even harder to do it with honour.  But remember the reason why God wants us to honour our father and our mother.  He wants us to do so so that we might learn His ways, how we are to show honour love and faithfulness to Him.


Many of us, especially those who are older, have deep regrets that we did not listen to instruction, that we rejected the teaching we received.  Some of us have to live with that and the consequences of it every day.  Some of us struggle to feel forgiven.  And then when our children get older we get so scared that they will make the same mistakes as we did.  And then we may want to hold them close and try to force them to conform, to obey.  And sometimes as a result, we end up provoking our children to anger.


But there is another way to deal with the sins of your youth.  Turn to the Lord and ask Him to take those sins away.  Look to Jesus Christ and learn what He has obtained for you.  We do not know much about Jesus when he was a child.  But we enough, and the Bible sums it up in Luke 2:51,52.  "Then he (Jesus) went down with them (his parents) and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them."  Jesus submitted to his sinful parents and obeyed them.  And verse 52:  "And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and men."  Jesus is the only One who had a perfect childhood, who kept the fifth commandment to the very end - yes, even to the point of making arrangements for his mother when he was dying on the cross.  And as Philippians 2:8 points out, Jesus was also obedient to His heavenly Father  to the point of death, even death on a cross.  Jesus was obedient to  the point of death so that by His death He might take away our disobedience!  And the perfect Jesus Christ died to take away all of our sins, yes, even the sins of our youth.  And so hand over your past to Jesus Christ and choose not to dwell on it.  And when you do get to start dwelling on it again, say "Sorry, God.  I give this back to you.  Please take these sins and the feelings of guilt and shame so that I might live in freedom and look forward knowing that "sins of youth (you) remember not".  And God will do just that.  That's the good news!  That's the Gospel.


3. The blessings of obedience.

Children, you may feel guilty and inadequate when it comes to keeping the fifth commandment.  But let me tell you something:  so do your parents!   As parents we promise when our children are baptized to instruct them in the teachings of the Bible to the utmost of our power.  There are times when we don't feel like we are doing a good job - and we probably are not.  And one of the greatest fears of all parents is that their children will not listen to their instruction.  Because when a child rejects their parents teaching and even rejects the Great Teacher, Jesus Christ, it hurts.  It is very painful and a heavy burden to bear.

  As parents we are instructed to bring up our children in the training and admonition of the Lord.  And Proverbs 22:6 says,

“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.”

And we know that as a general rule this is true.  Yet, children are responsible for their own actions.  No child can stand before God and say “the problem was my parents: they did not bring me up well.”  Furthermore, some children are brought up well, in a godly home, but when they come of age they reject their father’s teaching.  And so Adam and Eve raised Cain and Abel at the same time:  Abel was a man of faith whereas Cain was not.  And the problem with Cain was not his parents but the sinfulness of his own heart.  And so parents, if your child has left the Lord and is not obedient to Him, it is not necessarily your fault.  If your child has left the Lord, you can not normally point to one thing or event and say that this was the reason for it.  Yes, we all make mistakes as parents, we all sin as parents and sometimes in very serious ways.  And some of you look back on your life and wish that you could start all over again.  But brothers and sisters, parents, let us not give up in despair but let us seek the cleansing and forgiveness that is ours in Christ and then unceasingly lift up our children to the throne room of His grace.


And when by the grace of God our children do turn to Him in faith and do obey their parents in the Lord, then they may also receive this promise:

“that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.”

A child who honours his parents and submits to authority will live under the blessing of that authority in this life.  And, as a general rule, it will indeed go well with him.


The blessings that are given to those who honour their father and their mother are indeed blessings for this life.  Without such honour a society will crumble under the burden of moral failure that goes with it.  God’s ways are good ways, and we enjoy the blessed fruits of keeping His laws.  But these temporal blessings are not the ultimate thing.  Rather, just as the Promised Land of Canaan was a foretaste of the new earth to come, so the promise of long days in the land of promise are a foretaste of living in eternal blessedness with God forever.  That is what God had in mind when He gave us the fifth commandment.  Let us therefore honour our father and our mother and so give honour to God.  And then we may look forward not just to His blessing in this life, but we may look to the eternal blessing of living with Him in the New Earth that is promised to us.  Amen.

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Stephen 't Hart, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2013, Rev. Stephen 't Hart

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