Second Corinthians

Commentary on the Book of Ephesians

By: Tom Lowe                                   Date: 1/17/18


Lesson 25: Children and Parents (Ephesians 6:1-4)



The teaching of this passage is profoundly counter to today’s culture.  Sadly, in many ways it is also counter-church-culture.  For Paul seems to expect that children will be present in the Christian assembly to hear his letter read, just as they would be to hear the “other Scriptures” (2 Peter 3:16).  But the great problem facing churches today is that children are missing from many congregations.  What’s wrong?  It is that church is not relevant to Christian parents, because if it were they would do everything they could to encourage their children to attend church.  I will address this again in the following paragraphs.


Ephesians 6:1-4 (KJV)

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

2 HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER (which is the first commandment with a promise),


4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

The Narrative (Genesis 49:1-28, KJV)

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

The directives that the Lord has given us in this short passage are needed today as much as in any other age since Adam.  From personal experience and from all I have heard and read, I can truthfully say that children today are more disobedient and disrespectful to parents, than at any time in the past. God knows the end from the beginning and He knew the commands given in our present Scripture would be needed in this 21st Century.  I find it interesting that “disobedience to parents” is repeatedly named in the Bible as a symptom of formidable evil in human life, as in Romans 1:30 and 2 Timothy 3:2, where it stands as one of a black catalog of developed evils.

Some will not accept what I am going to say; children are to obey their parents in the lord.  Children are to honor their father and their mother until such honoring of parents brings dishonor upon the God who loved the world enough to permit Jesus to die for all sinners.

There are many children who love the Lord, but whose parents do not.  The children have been born again, the parents have not.  They drink, they gamble, they swear, they cheat on their taxes, and at work they spend more time gossiping than doing their job. To those saved children I would say, you honor your parents as far as it is possible without dishonoring God.  Do not be ugly or hateful . . . as a Christian you should not act unseemly.  Honor and obey your parents until you reach the place where you must commit sin against God in order to obey them—and then you are not duty bound to do so.  It may cost you your home, it may cost you your education, and it may cost you your share of your parents’ wills . . . you may be left out of the inheritance.  But it would be far better to be left out of an earthly father’s estate than to miss heaven!  There is nothing on this earth worth going to hell for.  So . . . children, obey your parents in the Lord.  If your parents are godly, you obey them.  Do not question their commands, their advice, or their wishes.  If your parents are born again, you obey them.  Walk in the path laid down by your parents concerning your friends, the places you go, and the company you keep.  Parents who love the Lord will not lead you astray.

Disobedience to parents is the last and lowest form of lawlessness to occur on this earth.  “But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy”  (2 Timothy 3:1-2).  Disobedience to parents is one of the characteristics of the last days.  Today we hear of many cases of children rejecting parental authority and even killing their parents!  This is indicative of the times in which we live.

Of course there will come a time in a boy’s life when he begins to rebel against his parents because it is time for him to move out and get married and start a home of his own.  God has given him a nature that rebels against being a mama’s boy, tied to his mama’s apron strings for the rest of his life.  God wants him to stand on his own two feet.  This kind of rebellion, this struggle for independence, is different from disobedience.

This verse is reminiscent of Luke’s description of Jesus.  As a youngster He engaged the teachers in the Temple in discussions of God’s Word (they were amazed at both His understanding of the Scriptures and His answers to the questions they asked Him; Luke 2:46-47).  He gently, but firmly, reminded His parents of His relationship to the Father (Luke 2:49; Psalms 27:4, 8).  He “was submissive to them” (Luke 2:51).  At the age of twelve He already had more understanding than His Elders (Psalms 119:100); but He did not therefore despise their roles or that of His parents in His life.  He had more wisdom than Mary and Joseph, yet He was submissive to them—even though they had been in error.

Should we, as children, do less than our Lord did?

If you are young you may feel there is very little you can do to serve the Lord.  Here is a special word for you.  Your loving obedience to your parents may be the very thing that makes others wonder “what has his or her family got that we don’t have?  Their relationships with each other seem so different from ours.”

Some parents command their children to do things that are absolutely contrary to the will of God.  But Paul is not thinking about that difficult situation here.  He is addressing Christian parents and their children.  The words “in the Lord” point up the context of their relationship.

Everything is to be seen within the context of our loving fellowship together with the Lord Jesus Christ.  In that fellowship we have different roles.  The role of children is to learn to obey the heavenly Father by obeying their earthly father.  God trains us to respond to His Fatherhood (which we cannot see) by responding to earthly fatherhood (which we can see!).  He thinks of everything as he trains us to serve Him in the future!

What Paul has already said is motivation enough.  But he now spells out the gospel motives that encourage us to live in this way.

It is the right way to live (“for this is right”).  Children who obey their parents are living the way God intended.  Any other way eventually breaks the family—as many passages in the Bible, including the Old Testament child-training Manual, the Book of Proverbs, underline.  So when a youngster is “filled with the Spirit” as the young Lord Jesus surely was, it comes to expression in obedience to the law of God: “Honor your father and mother” (Exodus 20:12; Deuteronomy 5:16).

2 HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER (which is the first commandment with a promise),

“Honoring father and mother in the Lord” has a promise to go along with it.  The fifth commandment is the *first [in fact it is the only one of the commandments with a promise] to spell out a specific promise of life for those who obey it: “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” When I saw it, it spoke directly to me and said that I cannot live much longer, that I will die if Jesus tarries.  As I write this I am seventy-five years of age. From the time I entered my teenage years until I graduated, I did not honor and respect my parents as I should.  I broke my father’s heart.  I was ashamed of his lack of education and the way he dressed. I put him in an early grave. I stole money from him.  I felt the same way about my mother, because she would not wear her false teeth; they did not fit well and hurt her gums. I was ashamed of her and made fun of her in front of the whole family.  I dishonored my parents by drinking and carousing, and by borrowing money I never paid back.

*Possibly the word “first” has the sense of chief or primary: a first commandment [i.e., one of primary importance] accompanied with a promise.


Since I did not honor my parents, I lost the promise of long life upon this earth. You children who have no respect for your parents, who are breaking their hearts by the things you do, the places you go, the company you keep, mark it well: you will not live to a ripe old age, because honoring godly parents promises long life and blessings on earth. If you are deliberately disobeying godly parents, rest assured that you will reap what you are sowing!

We hear a lot today about juvenile delinquency.  I readily confess that we do have a good deal of delinquency among juveniles—but I hasten to say that in many cases the fault is not with the child, but with the parents.  I know some parents that have done their very best by their children—and even then the children have gone the way of the world; but in most cases the teenagers who drink, curse, smoke, lie and steel have been brought up in homes where they were not disciplined or controlled.

The Bible promises, “Train up a child in the way it should go, and when it is old it will not depart.” The Word of God goes on to say, “He that spareth the rod hateth his son.” Today many children are juvenile delinquents because they were not brought up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.  The time to begin training a child is not when the child is three, four, or five years old; but while it is still in a crib.  Some parents wonder why they cannot control their children.  The answer is simple: they did not begin in time!  The majority of children will do almost anything they can get away with.  You must remember that your child was born in a tabernacle of sin, totally depraved; and it is just as natural for a child to resist authority and go the way of the flesh, as it is for the sun to rise in the east.  The inclination to do wrong is born in a child.  The child must be taught to do right.

Do not misunderstand me: if a baby dies the grace of God takes care of the innocent; but I do not know any definite age of accountability, because the Bible does not tell us.  Some children become responsible at a much earlier age than others.  There is no set age when children can be saved, but long before they are old enough to know they are sinners, they demonstrate the spirit of a sinner.  They scream, they fight, and they have all of the marks of their depravity.  Therefore, the time to begin training the child is while it is still in the crib.  If your children do not respect you, if they do not say “Yes, ma’am,” and “Yes, sir,” it is your fault!  When you tell your child to do something, if he replies with “I will not do it,” or “I will do it when I get ready,” do not blame the child; but blame yourself.  Parents are responsible for the child they brought into this world.


*In their original setting (Exodus 20:12) these words apply to the nation Israel and have specific reference to prosperity and long life in the Promised Land. The general promise is fulfilled to individuals, just so far “as it shall serve for God’s glory, and their own good.” Paul gives the words a wider meaning, making them apply to all children who render obedience and honor to their parents.


Samson and Absalom are two examples in Scripture of boys who did not follow this commandment, and their lives were short.  Samson, a judge, died when he was a young man.  Absalom rebelled against his father David, and he was killed when he was a young man.

4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

In using the word “fathers” there is no thought of taking responsibility from the mother.  The word “father” is the term for parenthood, and is without a doubt designed to remind us that we represent to our children what our Heavenly Father does to us.  The parent’s duty is stated both negatively and positively:

  • NOT to incite to anger by severity of treatment that arouses resentment and robs the child of respect for parental authority when not exercised with restraint.
  • Rather to nurture them; to do everything that is conducive to their growth and development in the continuous process of child-training, for such is the meaning of the words educate, culture, and

And you “fathers, and you mothers, are the responsible leaders in home authority.  Your authority is not for your gratification but for their good, entrusted for a season to your guardianship.  No, “bring them up,” “educate” them, “lead them out” and on, in the development of good into better, in the “Lord’s discipline and admonition”; using restraint and using warning, but not what your own quirks and sudden whims dictate; it must all be “the Lords,” learned by you first in His school and animated with His love.

When a child is young the mind is being molded, and we can bend that tender twig to shape it into a beautiful life, if we handle it right. But if we make the child angry by tormenting it, or making a public example of it, ridiculing the child in public, we are doing wrong.

A parent should never whip or reprimand a child while angry.  If your child does something that causes you to become angry, you should wait until the anger subsides, until you are calm, and then punish the child.  May I add that there is an age when whipping will no longer help a child.  What that age is will differ in children.  Some children will bear disciplining much longer than others—but as a parent you can know when the child is too old, too big, to be corrected with a switch or a leather strap.  When that happens, there are other ways of correcting, such as taking away some of their privileges or something they particularly love, which will do more good than whipping.  Reason with the child, and try through understanding and reason to show him that the correction is for his own good.

This doesn’t mean that they are to be treated as if they were a cross between an orchid and a piece of Dresden China.  I think that the board of education should be applied to the seat of learning whenever it is needed.  The writer of Proverbs had a great deal to say about this [Note especially Proverbs 23:13-14; “. . . if you punish them with the rod, they will not die.]:

  • “Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them” (Proverbs 13:24).
  • “Discipline your children, for in that there is hope; do not be a willing party to their death” (Proverbs 19:18).
  • “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far away” (Proverbs 22:15).
  • “Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish them with the rod, they will not die. Punish them with the rod and save them from death” (Proverbs 23:13-14).
  • “The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child who gets his own way brings shame to his mother. Correct your son, and he will give you comfort; He will also delight your soul” (Proverbs 29:15, 17).

Parents should train their children in the things of the Lord.  The Bible should be read in their presence, prayer should be made in their presence, and grace should be said at every meal. The children should not be sent to Sunday school and church—they should be taken to Sunday school and church by their parents.  If we bring up our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord the Lord will certainly keep His part of the bargain.  “Train up a child in the way it should go, and when it is old it will not depart.”


Summing Up

Paul did NOT encourage children to be obedient to their parents because they lived in a dominantly patriarchal and hierarchical society.  He encouraged it because it is right.  It is as simple as that—for this and for all of the commandments!

The lifelong lesson is surly obvious: look for ways to honor your father and mother, no matter what your stage of life!  Find them as soon as you can.  It may yet transform family relationships and things will indeed go well with you! 


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