Sunday Sermon: ‘In the Nurture and Admonition of the Lord’


(audio version)

The Apostle John wrote in his third epistle – “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.” (3 John 1:4) Most agree that John was referring to his spiritual children; however, I believe that many of us parents could say the same thing about our physical children. For many of us there is no greater joy than to know that our children love the Lord and are walking in His truth.

Yet we know as parents that this doesn’t automatically happen. Children are born with a certain amount of innocence, yet that innocence is quickly tarnished by the world, the flesh, and the devil. In order for our children to walk in the truth, we must lead them in the truth. Note once again what Paul says in the book of Ephesians –

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.

This is the third message from this passage. Thus far we have seen:

I. God’s Requirement of Children

II. God’s Reward for Children

III. God’s Responsibility for Parents

Last week we saw that parents are not to treat their children with harshness or unfairness, lest they provoke their children to anger. “Fathers, provoke not your children to wrath.”

Yet that does not mean that parents must avoid any type of confrontation at all cost. The Bible says – “Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.” (Pr 22:15) Sweet as our children may be, just like us, they are born with a disposition that naturally rebels against the will of God. Therefore it is up to the parents to raise their children – “…in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” What exactly does that mean?

When I was growing up, my dad had a grapevine in the back yard. During late summer that vine would always be hanging with bunches of grapes. A few years ago I bought a small grape vine and planted it with the hope that one day I would have a grape vine like dad’s. But my grapevine died. Why did dad’s grapevine flourish and mine didn’t? It was because dad nurtured his vine and I didn’t. I simply planted mine and forgot about it.

Children are a lot like a grapevine. They have the potential for producing an abundance of fruit, yet many don’t. Why not? It’s because some children are cultivated and others aren’t.

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

A. ‘Bring Them Up

1. The thought here is – ‘nourish them up to maturity’

2. Paul wrote this to indicate that this is to be an ongoing process that will continue until the child is grown. Some have said that even when the parent is old and gray, they still can nourish their children on to further maturity.

3. There are two primary parts to nourishing a child to maturity:

a)  Cultivate within them things that are godly

b)  Curb from them things that are not godly

B. Admonition – Cultivating what is godly

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

1. Admonition =

a)  ‘Instruction’,  ‘put in mind’, ‘impart understanding’

b)  ‘Set right’ ‘Fix in their minds’

c)  Fix what in their minds?

2. The admonition of the Lord

a) Albert Barnes wrote, “If a man does not teach his children truth, others will teach them error.” Repeatedly throughout scripture we find God commanding parents, and especially fathers, to teach their children about the Lord.

b)  This was the intent of Solomon when he gave to his children a collection of wise sayings that we today call the book of Proverbs. Consider what Solomon said –

Proverbs 4:1 Hear, ye children, the instruction of a father, and attend to know understanding. 2 For I give you good doctrine, forsake ye not my law. 3 For I was my father’s son, tender and only beloved in the sight of my mother. 4 He taught me also, and said unto me, Let thine heart retain my words: keep my commandments, and live. 5 Get wisdom, get understanding: forget it not; neither decline from the words of my mouth. 6 Forsake her not, and she shall preserve thee: love her, and she shall keep thee.

c)  Sometimes we as parents say that our children didn’t come with an instruction manual, yet that’s not true. They did and it’s called the Word of God. Note again what Moses said to the parents in Israel –

Deut 6:6 And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: 7 And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children…

(1) It all begins in the heart of the parent.

(2) Many parents don’t realize the impact they have upon their children. We live in a day when many young adults are walking away from the Christian faith; yet there are some who continue to follow Jesus, even after they are out on their own. Sometime back I did a little survey to try to determine what it was that caused certain young adults to continue to follow the Lord after they left home. Consider their words –

“Watching my parents’ example – we had family devotions each day. “

“Parent’s example. They were very involved.”

“My parent’s faithfulness. They never wavered. Always remained faithful.”

“My mother’s guidance and encouragement, sending us to a church school, going to Sunday School and attending services together as a family.”

“Parents were my biggest influence – I also went to a Christian school and was always able to be involved in some type of ministry”

“My mom asked me a question that I’ll never forgot, ‘Paul, do you love God?’  That seed has never left my mind.“

“Probably my parents always having us in church all the time. Putting us in Awana. And seeing my dad do the right thing when others expected him to cheat or hide something. And seeing him go out of his way to be honest.”

“The constant faithfulness of my parents. And their being faithful to church.”

“I would have to say one of the biggest things that contributed to my desire to follow God was the peace my mother and grandmother seemed to have no matter what happened. Even on their worst days, they still seemed to just know it would be okay. That peace is one thing that sparked my curiosity to know more.”

“Going to church, trusting God, daily devotions –those were never an option.  We just did them. I saw that it was a vital part of my parent’s life – and then knew it had to be a vital part of my own life. Their consistency is something I try to emulate in my own life.”

“How unplugged from media they taught me to be. Popular TV sitcoms and popular secular music and activities were just simply something that our family did not do. Also while my parents encouraged me to play sports and achieve, they never cared more about my progression in this world’s achievements than my relationship with Christ.”

“Church and ministry and serving God was not something we just did on Sundays. It was part of our every day lives. It was who we were as a family and what we did. So when I was “out from under” my parents, I just continued doing what I knew to do and what we had always done.”

I also discovered something important about children who may not be raised in a strong Christian home –

“I did not grow up in a Christian home, so nothing from home… The words of forgiveness and love that I heard from church every week …”

“My desire to follow God was greatly influenced by my church family.  I am thankful that my parents made sure we got to church even though for years they never attended.”

That’s powerful stuff! A common thread in all of their comments was that they witnessed a genuine Christianity in an adult, and almost always the Christian that made the greatest impact upon their life was their own parent. How well that goes along with what wrote to young Timothy–

2 Timothy 3:15 And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures,  which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.

2 Timothy 1:5 When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also.

Yet none of us are perfect parents. Christian author and Bible teacher Chip Ingram writes in his book, Effective Parenting in a Defective World

“If the responsibility that heavy causes you to feel an enormous amount of pressure, let me encourage you. You don’t have to be perfect. In fact, you can’t pass perfection down to your kids if you wanted to; they’re fallen human beings just like you and me. What you can do, however, is demonstrate how godly people handle themselves when they blow it. Authenticity is the goal, not perfection.”

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

d)  I’m sure that there are parents here today, especially some of our dads who are thinking, “I would like to do more, but I don’t even know where to start.” Let me make some simple suggestions.

A while back I started reading through the book of Proverbs. Something I heard sparked me to do this and so first thing every morning I sit down with my Bible, a highlighter and a small notebook.  As I read, I highlight verses that seem to really stand out and speak to me.

Then I make a few notes in my notebook concerning I believe that verse is saying. Someday I hope to teach a series of lessons entitled – “Parenting Through Proverbs.” There is so much practical and important wisdom found in this one book alone that if we dads did nothing else but learn what it had to say and then pass it down to our children, we could change their life.

So here’s your assignment as dads:

1)   Tomorrow morning – start reading the book of Proverbs. Highlight important verses so that you can find them again and make yourself some notes.

2)   Discuss with your wife what God is teaching you

a) She can give you some valuable insight

b) It will draw you closer together as a couple

c) It will put you on the same page as parents

3) Begin to talk with your children about what you’re learning. Doing this will help you as a family:

a) Form your biblical convictions,

b) Communicate as a family on a spiritual level

c) Establish God’s goals for your life

Admonition – Cultivating what is godly

C. ‘Nurture’ – Curbing what is ungodly

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

1. The word ‘nurture’ in the King James is a little misleading. Actually the phrase ‘bring them up’ is more in line with what we think of when we use the word nurture.

2. ‘Nurture’ here refers to:

a) Chastening or discipline

b)  One commentary says – ‘Directing and correcting.’

3. Dad’s luxurious grapevine didn’t happen on its own. For one thing, dad had to nurture it up to maturity. But he also had to train it to grow along an arbor and he had to prune it often along the way. Jesus used this same illustration in reference to all believers, both young and old.

John 15:1 I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. 2 Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.

Though the thought of disciplining our children might seem harsh and unpleasant to many parents, we need to realize that it is a part of God’s process for spiritual growth. Let me explain. Note this important passage from the book of Hebrews –

Hebrews 12:5 And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: 6 For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. 7 If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? 8 But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. 9 Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? 10  For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; (in order to receive pleasure from an obedient son – see Pr. 3:12) but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. 11 Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.

The same word translated as ‘chastening’ in Hebrews 12 is translated as nurture in Ephesians 6:4. Paul is referring to discipline for the purpose of teaching and producing godliness. It’s also the same word that Paul used in 2 Timothy 3, translated as ‘instruction.’

2 Timothy 3:16  All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:


It is important that we note that our heavenly Father combines chastening with encouragement.  God the Father does not chasten out of anger or frustration or even for punishment. He chastens in order to prune away the bad so that we might be able to produce more good. The same should be true for earthly fathers.

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