Sunday Sermon: ‘Even a Child Is Known By His Behavior’


Audio version of this sermon: Even a Child is Known by His Behavior

We learn from the book of Malachi that one of the primary purposes for the home is the development of godly children. ‘Didn’t the LORD make you one with your wife? In body and spirit you are his. And what does he want? Godly children from your union.  (Mal 2:15 NLT) Yet we know that godly children do not come about naturally on their own. There is a process necessary for raising children who love the Lord. As we continue in our study through the book of Ephesians we read –

Ephesians 6:1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. 2 Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;) 3 That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.  4 And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

I. God’s Requirement of Children

Ephesians 6:1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. 2 Honour thy father and mother …

Here is an amazing truth – Paul is speaking directly to children in this passage!

A. Children, Obey Your Parents

Though all children should be taught to obey and honor their parents, most agree that Paul is speaking here specifically to children who profess to know Christ as their Savior. One translation says – “Obey your parents because you belong to the Lord.” (NLT) Another translation says – “Obey your parents because you are Christians.” (GW) Should children who profess to be believers be expected to live according to God’s Word?

We read from the book of Proverbs – “Even a child is known by his doings, whether his work be pure, and whether it be right.” (Pr 20:11) Samuel was but a child when he heard the LORD speaking directly to him. David was but a boy when the Lord chose him to be the next king of Israel. Scripture says of Jesus when He was a child – Luke 2:51 And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them… 52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.

Both of our daughters made professions of faith when they were young; therefore Tammy and I approached parenting as though we were partners with the Holy Spirit. We believed that if indeed our children were true Christians, then the same Holy Spirit that lived inside of us lived inside of them. Therefore we believed that He would help confirm within them what was right and help convict them of what was wrong.

Paul tells children to ‘obey their parents.’ The word ‘obey’ is different from the word ‘submit’ Paul used in reference to the husband and wife relationship. (Eph 5:21-22) Submit refers to the relationship that is often between two equals and it speaks of a voluntary attitude that one takes in order to help support the other. Peter teaches us that husbands and wives are – “heirs together of the grace of life”  (1 Pt 3:7). Therefore a mutual support and submission is essential for a true biblical marriage.

Obedience however means to listen attentively and to obey the commands of another. It is an inward attitude of respect for authority that demonstrates itself through willing obedience. We should note also that this command to children is in the Present Tense / Active Voice which means:

(1)  The child must come to where they ‘willingly’ obey   (Active Voice)

(2) And they must do so on a continuous basis as a part of their lifestyle  (Present Tense)

A child’s disobedience to their parents is a very serious matter in the sight of God.

(1) To honor our parents in one of the Ten Commandments.

(2) In the Old Testament, for a son to rebel against his parents was a capital offense, worthy of the son being put to death (Deut 21:18-21).

(3) Scripture also teaches us that disobedience to parents is a sign of a sinful society.

Romans 1:28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge,  God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;  29 Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers,  30 Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents

(4) Paul tells us that disobedience to parents is also a sign of living in the last days

2 Timothy 3:1 This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. 2 For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy…

(5) The rebellious sons of Eli were called ‘the sons of Belial’ (1 Sam 2:12) which means that they were “worthless and wicked” and “destined for destruction.” Scripture teaches us that they both died in one day (1 Sam 4:17)

A child that is living in disobedience to their parents is living in disobedience to God. The parent is God’s representative before the child. (especially for the young child) The home is where the child must learn to properly submit to authority. Note what Paul says about our submitting to authority-

Romans 13:1 Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God : the powers that be are ordained of God. 2 Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God.

My mother reminded me many times when we were raising of our daughters – “When they are older, you can be their friend, but for now, they need you to be their parent.”

We should also note that Paul is not encouraging children to obey their parents, if their parents are trying to make them do things that are sinful. Much like Peter’s reply to the religious leaders of his day – … We ought to obey God rather than men. (Acts 5:29) Yet rarely is this the reason for a child’s disobedience. Most children disobey because they have not been properly taught to submit to authority. Unfortunately, children who never learn to properly submit to authority eventually grow up to be adults who resist authority. Some people can’t stand to be told ‘no.’

B. Children, Honor Your Parents

Ephesians 6:1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. 2 Honour thy father and mother …

The goal is not to just teach our children to comply with the rules. Parenting involves more than just – ‘Do it because I said so.’ Notice that obedience to parents should lead to honoring parents.

Obedience and honor are two different words and therefore have two different meanings.

(1) Obedience is the action and honor is the attitude. Obedience is the duty and honor is the devotion. Obedience focuses more on the training of the young child, while honor focuses more on the attitude once the child becomes older.

(2) What does it mean to honor? To honor means to fix a value on something and therefore hold it in high esteem. Though there will come a time when a child leaves their parents, cleaves to their mate, and therefore ceases to be directly under their parents’ authority; there should never be a time when they stop honoring their parents.

Jesus was very critical of the religious leaders of His day for how they treated their parents

Mark 7:9 Then he said, “You reject God’s laws in order to hold on to your own traditions. 10 For instance, Moses gave you this law from God: ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and ‘Anyone who speaks evil of father or mother must be put to death.’ 11 But you say it is all right for people to say to their parents, ‘Sorry, I can’t help you. For I have vowed to give to God what I could have given to you.’ (NLT)

One Bible teacher states that honoring our parents means to respect and love, as well as care for them as long as they live. Paul wrote to Timothy –

1 Timothy 5:3 Honour widows that are widows indeed. 4 But if any widow have children or nephews, let them learn first to shew piety (proper respect / reverence) at home, and to requite (repay) their parents: for that is good and acceptable before God.

8 But if any provide not for his own, and especially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.

Learning to honor our parents is the first step to learning to honor God. Consider how Jesus taught His disciples to pray – Matthew 6:9 After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.

II. God’s Reward for Children

One of the big questions children often ask is – ‘Why?’ To be honest, often I approach scripture with that question. ‘Why should I do this?’ Paul gives us two very important reasons why children should learn to obey and honor their parents.

Ephesians 6:1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right.

A. It is Right

Paul simply says – ‘This is right’. Therefore the opposite could also be said – to not honor and obey your parents is wrong; or to be more specific, to not honor our parents is sin.

When Paul said that a child’s obedience is right, he could have meant one of two things:

1. It is the right thing to do

In other words, it is fitting; it is proper. Many of us have been around children who have not been taught to obey their parents and therefore we know what a problem this is. Though the parents think that what their children are doing is cute, it’s driving the rest of us crazy!

2. It is the righteous thing to do

A child’s obedience to their parents is not only the right thing to do, it is the righteous thing to do. Note what Paul wrote to the Colossians:

Colossians 3:20 Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord.

Jesus said that the whole law of God could be summed up in two commandments:

a. Love God with all your heart, soul and strength, and

b. Love your neighbor as yourself  (see Mt 22:36-40)

Many believe that the Ten Commandments reflect these two principles.

a. Commandments 1-5 deal with loving God.

b. Commandments 6-10 deal with loving others.

Here is an important fact to consider:

The commandment for children to honor their parents is the 5th Commandment. If Commandments 1-5 focus primarily on our relationship with God, it might be concluded that a child’s obedience has as much to do with their attitude and reverence for God, as it does with their attitude and reverence for their parents.

B. It is Rewarded

Ephesians 6:2 Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;) 3 That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.

God made a promise to reward children who obey and honor their parents.

1. That it may be well with thee

We often think of commandments as being only negative. Many believe that commandments are rules meant to punish us or take away all the fun. Yet the Lord did not give us the Ten Commandments in order to burden us, but instead so that He might bless us.

Note that God specifically told children that if they would obey and honor their parents, He would bless them.

John Phillips writes in his commentary on this passage – “Children who grow up to love, honor, and obey his mother and father lay a foundation for a happier, more stable, and more successful life than does a child who is rude, disrespectful, self-willed and rebellious.”

2. That thou mayest live long on the earth

Ephesians 6:2 Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;) 3 That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.

Warren Wiersbe writes – “This does not mean that everyone who died young dishonored his parents. He (Paul) was stating a principle: when children obey their parents in the Lord, they will escape a good deal of sin and danger and thus avoid the things that could threaten or shorten their lives.” “But life is not measured only by quantity of time. It is also measured by quality of experience. God enriches the life of the obedient child no matter how long he may live on the earth. Sin always robs us; obedience always enriches us.”

III. God’s Responsibility for Parents

Nearly 1/4 of the average person’s life is spent as a child in their parent’s home. Home is where children must learn the importance and practicality of obedience and honor. Yet for children to learn, someone must teach.

Ephesians 6:4 And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

This is such an important subject that I don’t want to rush through it. Next week we will return to this passage and study ‘God’s Responsibility for Parents.’ But for today, let me try to summarize what Paul is saying into three statements:

A. God loves our children and wants to bless them.

B. God’s blessings are contingent upon our children’s obedience to His ways and principles.

C. Parents bear the responsibility to teach these principles to their children and to model them in the home.





Comments are closed.