The Christian Family Part 7: The Duties of Children (Ephesians 6:1-4)

The Christian Family

Text: Ephesians 6:1-4
Title: The Christian Family Pt. 7: The Duties of Children
Date: March 19th, 2023
Location: Christ Covenant Church – Centralia, Washington

Ephesians 6:1-4
Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;) That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth. And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.


Father, You tell us that children are a reward and an inheritance from You. And so we ask on behalf of our children that you would give them and us all a true and never-ending desire to know You, to love You, and have You for our exceeding reward. We ask this in Jesus name, Amen.


Well this is my last sermon in our series on The Christian family. Next week Les will preach on the subject of Grandparents and then the following week we will begin the Gospel of Mark. So that’s where we are going.

This morning we are going to consider the duties of children. What does God require of children as children?

  • Last week we saw in Psalm 127-128 that children are a blessing from the Lord, and does anyone remember what the two illustrations/metaphors we saw for what children are like?
    • 1. Arrows in the hands of a mighty man (Ps. 127:4).
    • 2. Olive plants (Ps. 128:3).
    • And so if you are child, you should want to be at least two things: 1) a sharp arrow and 2) a fruitful tree.
      • You should want to be dangerous to the enemies of God and you should want to be a pleasant person to be around, stable, fruitful, full of the Holy Spirit your entire life.
      • That is what God wants you to want, and here in Ephesians 6:1-3, he tells you how to become that. So let’s walk through these 3 short verses together and see what the Lord will teach us.

Verse 1

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

  • Here the Apostle Paul is addressing children who are still under their parent’s authority.
  • It is important to remember that although we are all somebody’s son or daughter, the time in which we owe obedience to our parents is limited by God.
    • For example, when a man and a woman get married, Jesus says, “For this cause shall a man leavefather and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and the two shall be one flesh (Matt. 19:5).
    • Many marriages struggle because either husband or wife or both never really leave their father and mother, they continue to be emotionally or financially attached, and thus the cleaving and weaving of a new life together can be forever frustrated.
    • We’ll talk later about the honor we owe our parents when we are adults, but it’s important to remember there must be a real cutting of the umbilical cord that happens when children come of age, and this command to obey your parents applies only to children who are still underage and in the home. That is who Paul is addressing.
  • The command is straightforward and clear: obey. Children are required by God to obey their parents in the Lord. And this little phrase “in the Lord” is a reminder that parental authority is not absolute, meaning, if your parents command you to sin, you must not obey. As it says in Acts 5:29, “we must obey God rather than men.” This applies to children as well.
    • So children, if your mom or dad tells you to steal, or to lie, or to do something that God says is wrong, God says, you must not obey them, you must not sin. The most important thing for us to do as Christians is always obey God, no matter what.
    • Now this doesn’t mean you will always like what your parents tell you to do. But as long as they are not commanding you to sin, you must cheerfully obey them, because that is how you obey God, and God only ever commands us to do things that are good for us. It might not seem good to you, and that is where you have to trust God. God knows far better than you what you need.
    • When we are young, we don’t actually know what is good for us. We need someone else to tell us.
      • We think we can live off of Cheetos and chocolate and soda pop. And so God has put parents who are (hopefully) wiser and more experienced, to teach us what God says is good for us, that is the role God has assigned to parents.
  • So children, God wants you to obey you parents in the Lord. And if you want to know the reason why, the first reason is because “it is right.”
  • For something to be right means it is fair or just.
  • Imagine for a moment that your mom tells you to clean up your room, and if you clean up your room, you can watch a movie, eat popcorn, and have some ice cream.
    • So you diligently cheerfully clean up your room, and then mom says, actually while all of us watch a movie and eat ice cream, you have to clean up everyone else’s room, scrub the toilets, take out the trash, and go straight to bed (no dinner).
    • How would that make you feel? That would feel unfair, unjust, not right.
    • Or imagine your Dad says that if you mow the lawn, he’ll pay you $20. And so you mow the lawn, do a great job, and then Dad says actually, you have to pay me $20. That would feel unfair.
  • Now when God says, obey your parents in the Lord for this is right, he is saying, obedience to your parents is what is fair, it is what is just, it is what they deserve. Your parents deserve your obedience.
    • And the reason is because you would not exist without them! You would not be alive if your parents hadn’t given you free food, free clothes, free diaper changes, a free education, and a free place to live. You paid for none of it. Everything you have and are is a gift from God through your parents, and because of that you owe them obedience. It is right, it is just, it is fair for children to obey their parents in the Lord.
    • And when you are disobedient, you are being like the unfair Dad who charges his son $20 to mow the lawn. You are being like the unjust Mom who promises the movie for cleaning your room but then punishes you instead. That is what disobedience to your parents and to God is like: it is unfair to them, and it is bad for you.
  • So that’s the first reason children are to obey, because it is fair, just, and right. But God has also given us other reasons to obey that are a lot more fun.

Verses 2-3

Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;) That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.

  • Here is the second reason to obey your parents: so that you will live a long time.
  • Proverbs 3:1-2 says, “My son, forget not my law; But let thine heart keep my commandments: For length of days, and long life, And peace, shall they add to thee.”
  • When you obey God by obeying your parents, God promises to bless you. This is especially true when your parents command you to fear the Lord and follow Jesus, to confess your sins and ask forgiveness.
  • The people who are happiest and live the longest, are the people who love and serve God. You were created to glorify God and enjoy Him forever, and parents are given to teach you how to do this.
  • So children, if you want to live forever in the happy place with God, then obey your parents, do what they tell you to do and do it cheerfully, and God who sees into your heart and mind, will richly reward you. Paul says, this is if the first commandment with a promise, meaning God will keep His Word.
  • Now this is a great responsibility that parents have, preparing children for eternity. And so God gives a specific command also to fathers.

Verse 4

And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

  • Just as children are required to obey their parents, so also parents are required to obey God. Colossians 3:20-21 reinforces this same theme: “Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord. 21 Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged.”
    • When God commands children to obey, He likes to tag on reminders for fathers as well. Children are walking mirrors, and often their sins are a standing rebuke to our own.
    • If you remember our sermon on the duties of husbands we saw that the husband as head is responsible for his wife, and the same thing is true for our children as well. When our child sins, that is our responsibility, it is our duty to deal with it as God commands. This is how Joshua could say with conviction, “but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15).
    • Our children’s spiritual state is our responsibility, and God has commanded us to raise them “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” In other words, we are required by God to raise Christian children, godly offspring, who know and love Him. There is not a more important task for parents than this.
  • If you want to be a righteous father, you must start to think like righteous Job, who offered sacrifices to God on behalf of his grown children.
    • Job 1:4-6 says, “And his sons went and feasted in their houses, every one his day; and sent and called for their three sisters to eat and to drink with them. And it was so, when the days of their feasting were gone about, that Job sent and sanctified them, and rose up early in the morning, and offered burnt offerings according to the number of them all: for Job said, It may be that my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts. Thus did Job continually.”
  • Fathers must take responsibility for the sins of their children. We rise up early in the morning and seek mercy from God on their behalf. And when it comes to discipline, Paul commands fathers to be on guard against anger, to be emotionally self-controlled and loving, and to not set our children up for sin and frustration.
    • Fathers, like the Lord Jesus must not break the bruised reed or quench the smoking flax. We must not harm or discourage the souls of our children by being overharsh or unreasonable with them.
    • This is because we as fathers, more than anyone else, get to show our children what God is like.
    • Of all the people in the world, the father is the single most influential person on a child’s understanding of God, for good or ill. Fathers, who derive their name from God the Father, “of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named” (Eph. 3:14-15), have this sacred task of revealing to our children what God is like.
      • So who is the god you are portraying for your children? Is it the true God or is it an idol? Do you image the true God who is essentially love, goodness, and wisdom, abounding in mercy and quick to forgive? Or do you image the pagan gods, who are capricious, unstable, ready to strike down anyone who offends them? What kind of God are you portraying for your children? Who is the God you claim to worship? Whether we like it or not, we are walking metaphors to our children for what God is like.
  • So fathers, if you have failed, and when you fail in this, are you quick to repent and make things right? Have you apologized to your children for the ways you have provoked them to wrath? Have you sought their forgiveness without any excuses? That is what godly fatherhood looks like.
  • If your child never repents, it might be because you have never shown them how. If your child never comes to you seeking forgiveness, perhaps it is because they have never seen you do it.
  • We serve a God who is not surprised by our sin. He knows far better than we how wicked we are. And yet that same God has so loved the world, that he gave Christ to die for us. And so why would you not go to Him for forgiveness, for help, for guidance, when he is just bursting to give it to you, when he is like the father of the prodigal son, eager to welcome you home.
  • Faithful fatherhood starts with knowing the true character of God, that in Him is only love, goodness, and wisdom, and that He is more ready to forgive than we are to seek forgiveness. Look at the cross. Jesus says in John 15, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.”
  • There is no greater love than Christ dying for sinners, and you are made friends of Christ when you receive that love and do what He commands, so children and parents both, become friends with the Lord Jesus through obedience. And Hebrews 5:8 says, even Jesus learned obedience through the things he suffered.
  • So when parents and children obey God, we do so in the footsteps of Christ. We deny ourselves; we deny our selfish desires, we take up our cross and follow Him. That is what it means to be a Christian, and that is how build a Christian household.

What does God command between parents and children when we grow up?

Finally, I want to consider the honor we owe our parents when we are no longer under their authority. What does God command between parents and children when we grow up?

  • There are three basic elements to the 5th command, “honor thy father and mother.”
    • The first is to reverence them as our elders and superiors. To give them honor for no other reason than that they were here before us.
      • Leviticus 19:32 says, “You shall rise before the gray headed and honor the presence of an old man, and fear your God: I am the Lord.”
      • The logic of this command is that we are to honor those who existed before us, and since God was here before any of us, He is the Ancient of Days, He deserves supreme honor, supreme reverence, all our worship, and so by honoring our elders at all stages of life, we are taught to honor the Lord.
    • The second element of the 5th command is what we already saw earlier, namely a child’s obedience to his parents, this is limited until the time he comes of age.
    • The third element is what happens when parents become old and weak. When they, like children, are no longer able to take care of themselves.
      • At this stage, grown children have the glorious task of repaying their parents for the years of sustenance and care they once gave to us.
    • Honor in this sense, means material sustenance, food, provision, a place to live, help in old age.
      • The biblical ideal is for parents to save and store up an inheritance that is large enough to cover their needs when they are no longer able to work. In modern terms we call this a retirement fund.
      • Proverbs 13:22 says, A good man leaveth an inheritance to his children’s children.”
      • Paul says in 2 Cor. 12:14, “for the children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children.”
    • So it is the parent’s duty to plan for the future and to save for retirement. And it is the children’s duty once they are grown to be planning for this as well. This is what it means to “honor thy father and mother” when you are grown.
      • Failing to do this is a serious sin and one that Jesus speaks forcefully about. He says to the Pharisees in Mark 7, “All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition. 10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.’ 11 But you say, ‘If a man says to his father or mother, “Whatever profit you might have received from me is Corban”—’ (that is, a gift to God), 12 then you no longer let him do anything for his father or his mother, 13 making the word of God of no effect through your tradition which you have handed down. And many such things you do.”
      • So the Pharisees had created a financial scheme that amounted to them robbing widows houses, and plundering the money due to fathers and mothers. By calling it “Corban” (a gift to God), they created this religious loophole that prevented it being used for the purpose God intended. And Jesus is basically saying to the Pharisees, you deserve the death penalty for this.
      • If the law says, cursing your father and mother is a capital offense, how much more not caring for them in old age?
    • Now as in Jesus’ day, there are many hurdles to honoring our father and mother when they are old.
      • As a nation we have decided to abdicate this duty to the government and so we have Social Security and Medicare.
      • We have a corrupt healthcare industry with perverse incentives.
      • We have a tax system that rewards spending instead of saving and encourages debt. If the borrower is slave to the lender, then what does 31 trillion dollars of US debt say about us?
      • We are enslaved to modern day Pharisees, but that does not excuse us from obeying the 5th command.
    • So God calls us to honor our father and mother, by caring for them in old age, like they cared for us when we were young. And just as parenting is a great sacrifice, so also caring for ailing parents can be a great sacrifice as well, but when we honor our parents this way, we honor God.
    • Now much more could be said about this, and every situation requires great wisdom, so if you specific questions about this, please do ask.
    • But wisdom can be had if you remember the golden rule: Do unto your parents, as you would have your children do unto you. How would you like to be taken care of when you are approaching death? Who do you want to be around you in your latter years? Well treat your parents like you hope to be treated one day.
    • Your children are watching. They hear how you speak about their grandma and grandpa, they see how you care for them (or don’t), and that is the lesson that will stick with them. How did my parents treat their parents. Did they honor them or dishonor them? Do unto your parents, as you would have your children do unto you.


Proverbs 30:11-12 says,

11 There is a generation that curseth their father,

And doth not bless their mother.

12 There is a generation that are pure in their own eyes,

And yet is not washed from their filthiness.

  • Our generation is a generation devoid of honor. There is enmity and strife and bitterness between parents and children, both blaming and seeing only the faults in one another.
  • And this is what Christ has come to bring an end to. He has come as Malachi 4 says, “to turns the hearts of fathers to the children, and the hearts of children to the fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.”
  • And so parents, turn your hearts to your children. Turn to your hearts to your own parents. Love them and honor them as God commands, and it will be well with you. You will live forever in the New Heavens and New Earth. In the name of the Father, and the Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen.