The Book of Ephesians Series
“The Christian Family”
Last week we began a new section in our series in the book of Ephesians. I’ve entitled this section “The Christian in Relationship.” Last week we considered the Christian Marriage (Eph.5. 22-33), next week the Christian in Business (Eph.6.5-9), but this morning we will look at the Christian Family (Eph.6.1-4).
As I mentioned last week, marriage was designed and ordained by God to be the union of one man and one woman for relational, sexual and family fulfillment. God designed marriage for procreation when He told Adam and his wife “to be fruitful and multiply.” (Gen.1.27-28a) The “be fruitful and multiply” reality in the one-flesh dynamic within the marriage relationship makes marriage and family the foundation for all human society.
Even though family is foundational for all human society we see that God used the family unit to fulfill His redemptive purposes in Christ. Remember that it was Noah and his wife together with their three sons and their wives that entered the Ark. (Gen.7.13, IPt.3.20) Remember it was Abraham and his family that journeyed to the Promise Land. (Gen.12.1-7)
The Lord said, For I have chosen Abraham, so that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice. (Ge.18.19a) Remember it was the 12 Sons of Israel that made up the lineage that produced the Christ. (Mt.1.1-17, Lk.3.23-28)
But before you are overcome with family guilt – thinking that there is no way your family could compare with any of those families – let me remind you that there are many flawed families in the Bible too. Remember Adam and Eve’s second son Cain murdered his brother out of spiritual envy. (Gen.4.1-8) Remember Jacob’s sons sold their brother, Joseph, into Egyptian slavery out of jealousy and lied to their father for years about the whole incident. (Gen.37.25-36) And who can forget King David’s flawed family to the point that his son, Amnon, raped his half-sister, Tamar. (2Sam.13.14) My point is that God has established family to be the foundation for all human society. Even though we see God using families to fulfill His redemptive purpose, we should be aware that family relationships can be difficult and sometimes they are just messed up. Many times, our flawed families become a source of embarrassment instead seeking God’s grace to enable us to work through imperfect relationships.
For those who don’t know me, my wife Barbara and I raised four boys, which are all adults now. Our two oldest sons are adopted, and our two youngest sons are our biological children. Barbara and I were not perfect parents, and we made a lot of mistakes, but I have to say we continued to strive to honor the One who is the perfect parent. Our heavenly Father as we raised our children.
Our text today is found in Ephesians chapter six verses one through four. Hear now the Word of God.
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.Honor your father and mother (which is the first commandment with a promise), so that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth. Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. (Eph.6.1-4)
The Covenant Connection
As we consider the Christian family it is important to see the covenant connection that children of believers enjoy in the church. One of the striking elements of our text this morning is that the Apostle wrote to children in the church of Ephesus as though they were believers themselves. As I mentioned before the Holy Spirit inspired the Apostle Paul to write this epistle directly to believers in the city of Ephesus. The Apostle opened this letter by writing, Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints who are at Ephesus and who are faithful in Christ Jesus. (1.1) As you read the book of Ephesians, it is clear that the only recipients of this inspired letter were those who were blessed by the Father, redeemed by the Son, and sealed in the Holy Spirit. (1.3-14) The recipients of this inspired letter are those who have been saved by grace through faith and are no longer strangers and aliens but fellow citizens members of God’s household. (2.8, 19) And when we look at the immediate context of chapter five, we see that the Apostle Paul has given instruction to Christian wives, then to Christian husbands (5.21-31), and now his turns his attention to the children of believers in the church and writes, Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.
The Apostle has no apprehension to write instructions to the children of believers as he did to the adult believers. Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. (5.22) Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her,
(5.25) Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. (6.1) The reason the Apostle can write directly to children of believers is because children of believers are part of the church, God’s covenant community. The Bible consistently teaches that children of believers are members of the church and have the right and privilege to biblical instruction, pastoral care, and the enjoyment of Christian fellowship.
The covenant community (the visible church) has always included children of believers. We see that the Apostle Peter told the first converts of the early church that the promise of the new covenant through Christ is given not only to believers but is also for their children telling them, For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself. (Acts 2.39) We see the fulfillment of this promise in the “household” baptisms in the book of Acts. Remember how the Lord opened Lydia’s heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul in chapter sixteen? But, Lydia wasn’t the only one baptized in the river that day. No, the Bible tells us that Lydia and her household were baptized. (Acts 16.14-15) Remember when the Philippian Jailer believed in the Lord Jesus? Well, it wasn’t just the jailer who was baptized but he and all of his household. (Acts 16.31-34) Remember when Crispus, the leader of the synagogue in Corinth, believed in the Lord? Well, the Bible records that not just Crispus was baptized but also his household. (Acts 18.8) And the Apostle Paul reminds us in the book of First Corinthians that he baptized the household Stephanas during that same time. (ICor.1.16) As a matter of fact the Bible tells us that the children of believers are sanctified – set apart – because of their believing parents. (I Cor.7.14) The point is that children of believers have a covenant connection with the covenant community (the visible church). A covenant child should see the church as part of their extended family consisting of spiritual aunts, uncles, and cousins.
The Bible does not teach that children of believers are automatically saved or redeemed but the Bible does teach that children of believers enjoy the benefits of believers. Benefits such as learning the Scriptures, participating in corporate worship, and living in fellowship with other Christians. Therefore, Christian parents should take every advantage to expose their children to all the benefits of the covenant community while there is still opportunity. Christian parents should “use all the means” to bring their children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Some parents say, “I don’t want to force our children to go to church or youth group.” And my response to them is to make sure they are consistent and don’t force their children to go to school, or tutoring, or piano lessons either.
I believe that Christian parents and the church should follow the example of our Lord Jesus who rebuked His disciples for hindering the children from coming to Him saying, “Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these . . . And He took them in His arms and began blessing them, laying His hands on them.” (Mk.10.13-16) Christian parents and the church should do everything in their power to give their children access to Christ. We should work to eliminate every barrier that might block them from receiving the blessings of Christ.
The Challenge to Covenant Children
The Apostle Paul understood this covenant connection when he wrote, Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. (6.1) Paul challenges these covenant children to obey their parents “in the Lord.” The Apostle is encouraging children of believers to understand that obeying their parents is a spiritual act of worship.The challenge is for children of believers to obey their parents who they can see with the motivation that by doing so they are obeying Christ who they cannot see.Having this type of mindset Paul says is right.
But then the Apostle goes deeper and challenges the covenant child not just to obey their parents but to honor them. Honor your father and mother (which is the first commandment with a promise), so that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth. (6.2; Dt.5.16) Obedience can be achieved by a sense of duty or obligation whereas honoring someone is done out of a sense of admiration and love.Paul is encouraging the covenant child to move beyond what is generally expected (obedience) – to a higher degree of relationship (honor, respect, esteem, and appreciation). Honoring your parents always bears good fruit as seen to the promise that things will go well with you, and that you may live long on the earth.
The Bible tells us that as time goes on children will become more and more disobedient to parents (2Tim.3.2) and to avoid this trend young people need to swift from obeying your parents outof a sense of duty to an act of worship. Paul writes to the children on the church of Colossae, Children, be obedient to your parents in all things, for this is well-pleasing to the Lord. (Col.3.20) If you are struggling to obey your parents you need to seek the things above, where Christ is. As you struggle to be obedient to your parents you need to realize that Jesus was a Son too and He wants you to seek Him for the strength to be obedient sons and daughters. Christ, the Son of God, was not rebellious, argumentative, or disobedient to His Father. I can’t find anywhere in the Bible where Jesus answered back to the Father, “Do I have to?” I can’t imagine Jesus slamming the door in the Father’s face saying, “I hate you!” Christ was the obedient Son who honored His Father. Jesus told us, “I always do the things that are pleasing to the Father.” (Jn.8.29) Obedience to the Father was a source of nourishment and satisfaction in Jesus’ life and He desires for you to receive that same nourishment and satisfaction by obeying and honoring your parents from a heart of worship.
The Challenge to Christian Parents
After challenging the covenant child Paul moves on to challenge the Christian parent writing, Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. (5.4) Even though Paul gives instruction to fathers specifically, we all understand that parenting is a shared responsibility of both the mom and dad. Both fathers and mothers should be partners in parenting. However, Paul addressing the fathers directly shows that the Christian father is called to be the spiritual leader of the home just as he is called to be the spiritual leader in the marriage.
Paul begins by telling Christian parents, do not provoke your children to anger. This is very similar to Paul’s words to the Colossians when he wrote, Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged. (Col.3.21)I often share the story about one afternoon at my grandma’s farmhouse when I was aggravating and teasing my younger cousin. My Grandmother came out and said, “Stop provoking that child!” At that moment I understood what “provoking” meant. Provoking is creating an annoyance or an irritation to the point of arousing anger.
Allow me to share some ways we can provoke our children to anger:
- By being overly critical and negative.
- By over-reacting: Forgetting that a child will act like a child. Forgetting that an adolescent will act like an adolescent. Forgetting that a teenage will act like a teenager. As Barbara and I were raising our boys I often had to remind myself of my past mistakes and failures. I’m not excusing sin or disobedience. I’m not saying we should neglect proper discipline. All I’m saying is that we should try to keep things in context and not overreact.
- By being verbally and physically abusive.
- By not being truthful and honest.
- By not being consistent.
Instead of provoking our children, Christian parents should strive by all means to bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. (6.4) Godly discipline and instruction are the two primary tools for Christian parenting. Discipline is reactive whereas instruction is proactive but notice that both discipline and instruction should be “of the Lord.” The Christian parent must seek the Lord in how to react to their children’s disobedience and they must seek the Lord in how to instruct their children in godly behavior.
Discipline of the Lord can be described as training by means of rules, regulations, rewards, and consequences. The writer of Hebrews tells us that “no discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” (Heb.12.7-11) I never enjoyed disciplining our children, but I knew it had to be done. I had to learn not to discipline out of anger but to seek the Lord to help me to discipline in such a way that produced a harvest of righteousness and peace.
But the Christian parent is not just to be a disciplinarian but also an instructor. Our calling as Christian parents is to bring our children up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Instruction of the Lord is the training in righteousness through the spoken word. It can be a teaching, a warning, counseling, or a word of encouragement. Instruction of the Lord is the Christian parent talking with their children about how to live their lives to the glory of God.
You shall teach them diligently to your sons and daughters and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.(Dt.6.7)
What does a Christian parenting look like in everyday life? It starts by living and modeling the Christian lifestyle in front of your children. It includes praying with and for your children at mealtime, at bedtime, and especially during a time of crisis. It entails reading and teaching them the Word of God. I love the passage when Paul wrote to Timothy saying, For I am mindful of the sincere faith within you, which first dwelt in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am sure that it is in you as well. (2Tim.1.5) Here we see the generational influence of the gospel through the faith of the parents and grandparents. My grandparents had a very positive affect on my life. My grandmother was my Sunday School teacher into her old age. Paul encourages Timothy to continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them,and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. (2Tim.3.14-15) Notice that Timothy’s mother and grandmother taught Timothy the Word of God from childhood. This is a great model for us to follow.
I want to close this morning by sharing two diagrams that have been helpful to me in my role as a Christian parent.
This chart is from Tedd Tripp’s book, “Shepherding a Child’s Heart.” It shows that when our children are young, they respond to our parental authority. But as the child becomes older, especially into their teenage years, it is our godly influence, our character, our temperament, and our counsel that has I higher impact on their lives. A wise parent will make the transition in their parenting as the child becomes older.
This is my chart. It came from a conversation I once had with my spiritual mentor when he told me that the role of a Christian parent is to constantly point their children to Christ. He explained that a child will naturally look to the parent as the authority figure and guardian, but the parent needs to challenge the child to look pass the parent and see that we live our lives for the glory of Christ and Christ alone.