Sunday Sermon: ‘Honor Thy Father and Mother’

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Today is Mother’s Day and we want to pay special tribute to all of our mothers. I heard this funny little story that might put a smile on our face.

It seems that a Sunday School teacher was teaching a lesson to her boys and girls about the danger of looking back and not keeping our eyes focused on the Lord. Her Bible story was about Lot’s wife who looked back at Sodom and turned into a pillar of salt. Just then little Billy raised his hand and said, “My mommy looked back one day while she was driving, and she turned into a telephone pole!”

That’s not exactly the tribute that most mothers want. Moms, we love you and we honor you on this special day.

The title of my sermon today is ‘Honor Thy Father and Mother’ and my text is found in Ephesians 6.

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.

I. The Importance of Honoring Our Parents

A. Foundational Part of Life

There are certain biblical principles that are foundational for living a good life. Some of these principles might be: do not kill, do not steal, and do not commit adultery. The reason God gave us such commandments was not to put restrictions on our lives, but to help us live happy and productive lives.

Included also among these important commandments is – “honour thy father and thy mother…” The commandment to honor our parents is one of the most repeated commandments found throughout scripture. Originally it was a part of what we call the Ten Commandments. Moses repeated it just before the children of Israel entered into the Promised Land. Some believe that the reason Moses reemphasized this particular commandment is because the well-being of the entire nation was partially dependent upon children honoring their parents.

Deuteronomy 5:16 “‘Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God commanded you, that your days may be long, and that it may go well with you in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.” ESV

Jesus made several references to this important commandment. On one occasion Jesus used this commandment to condemn the religious leaders who pretended to love God, yet didn’t properly care for their parents. ‘Hypocrites’ Jesus called them.

When you come to the writings of Paul, you see that this is the commandment he uses primarily to instruct Christian parents on how to raise their children.  “Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.” (Colossians 3:20)

Why is this commandment so important? Perhaps the greatest reason is because it helps to lay the right foundation in a child’s life. Many family experts believe that a child’s proper understanding of God and future relationship with God is dependent upon the fulfillment of this commandment. Dr. Andreas Kosetenberger wrote a book entitled, ‘God, Marriage, and Family.’ In this book he says,

“…the primary importance of obedience is not for parents to receive their children’s obedience, but for parents to help children to learn to exercise obedience ultimately in their relationship with God.” [1]

That’s pretty heavy when you stop to think that a child’s relationship with God is partially determined by their relationship with their parents. In almost every resource that I studied in preparing this sermon, that truth was expressed over and over again. For a child to learn to properly relate to God, they must first learn to properly relate to their parents. We might go so far as to say that in the very early years of a child’s development, the parents are like God to the children. I can’t tell you the number of times I have had a parent tell me that their child thought that I was God. That sounds funny, yet it helps us to see the important role an authority figure plays in the life of a child at an early age. Look again at what Paul is saying –

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

First of all, note the child is obeying their parents ‘in the Lord.’ There is a direct connection between the child’s obedience to their parents and their relationship with the Lord. Secondly, note that Paul says that this is right. The word ‘right’, as it is used here, means more than doing what is good. This same word is often translated as ‘righteousness.’ A child’s obedience of their parents is in the sight of the Lord, a righteous thing to do.

B. Christian Children Honoring Their Parents

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

Although learning this principle would be beneficial for every child, many believe that Paul is referring primarily to children who are being raised in a Christian home and who themselves have made a profession of faith in Christ. Paul is speaking directly to children in the church who have accepted Christ as their Savior.             

1. Children, obey your parents – “in the Lord”

The phrase “in the Lord” goes with the verb “obey.” Part of the way a Christian child lives out their Christianity is through their obedience to their parents. Some go as far as to say that it is the primary way a Christian child lives out their Christianity. The number one responsibility of a Christian child is to honor and obey their parents.

2. Children, obey your parents – “for this is right”

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

Literally Paul is saying, “for this is your act of righteousness.” Obeying and honoring your parents is the “righteous thing to do.”

These verses are a part of Paul’s teaching on the lifestyle of the believer. As with most of Paul’s writings, the first part of one of his letters has to do with doctrine. The second part has to do with application of the doctrine. Ephesians chapter 1-3 are doctrinal. Ephesians chapters 4-6 are how to live out the doctrine.

Ephesians 4:1 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called… ESV 

As a friend of mine used to say, “Live a life that is worthy to be called Christian.” Paul continues his teaching at the beginning of chapter 5 –

Ephesians 5:1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. ESV 

Literally the word Paul uses here means to mimic God. We’re not God and we’ll never be completely like Him; yet as His followers, we are called to imitate the way He thinks and acts.

In Ephesians 5:18 Paul tells us how to do this –

Ephesians 5:18 And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit…

To be filled with the Spirit means to be under the Spirit’s control and influence. The way you and I live out our Christianity is by being under the control and influence of the Holy Spirit and not our fallen sinful nature. “Be filled with the Spirit” is a command in the present tense. In other words, at all times strive to be under the guidance and control of the Spirit.

Then Paul begins to explain how a Spirit-filled believer will think and act.

Ephesians 5:21: Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.

A major part of Christian life is living with a submissive spirit. Jesus, the perfect Son who pleased His Father in every way, had a submissive spirit. Therefore, His followers should as well.

Ephesians 5:22 Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.

Notice that it is not just her husband that she is choosing to submit to; she’s submitting to the Lord.

Ephesians 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it… 

Guys, I remind each of us once again that this is sacrificial love. The husband who loves his wife the way the Lord loves the church is laying down his will so that he might meet her needs. He’s submitting himself to her needs.

Then Paul comes to the parent / child relationship.

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.  

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

Finally, Paul explains what a Spirit-filled relationship should look like between a master and his servants – 

Ephesians 6:5 Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ… 9 And, ye masters, do the same things unto them, forbearing threatening: knowing that your Master also is in heaven… 

Here is an amazing and important truth found in each of these commandments – they are present tense imperatives. In other words, they are commands from God which we should always be striving to obey. Living this way becomes our lifestyle in Christ.

3. What if My Child is Not Obeying Me?

Let me say at this point that this is not something for parents to hold over the heads of their children. A child’s respect and obedience of their parents is not a device parents should use to manipulate their children.

If you child is not obeying you, perhaps you should stop and ask yourself why.

a. Is it because, although my child professes to be a believer, they are not a believer?

b. Is it because my child has other areas of sin in their life?

c. Is it because I am doing things that are causing them to rebel?

Ephesians 6:4 And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath…

d. Or is it because I have failed to teach them how to obey me?

…but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

II. Instruction on Obeying and Honoring Parents

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;)  

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

Again, I remind us that many Christian family experts believe that the child’s learning to obey and honor their parents is the pathway to that child learning to obey and honor God. 

A. Children, Obey Your Parents

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

I think that it was no accident that Paul listed obedience before honor. Many believe that before a child can learn to properly honor their parents, they must first learn to obey them. What does it mean to obey your parents?

1. What Paul is Not Saying

First, let me point out what Paul is not saying. He’s not saying that a child should always obey their parents if what their parent is telling them to do is sinful. If a parent told their child to steal something from the store, the child shouldn’t do it. As Peter and John told the religious leaders of Israel, “We must obey God rather than men.” (see Acts 5:29) But rarely is a child’s disobedience because their parent is trying to get them to do something sinful.

2. What Paul is Saying

Unless what the parent is telling the child to do is wrong or sinful, the child should listen to what their parent is saying, and then do it. That’s obedience. The word obey means to listen to what is being said, and then do it. I was amazed recently when I heard someone in this church pray, “Lord, help us to learn that when You speak, we move.” Did you get that? When God speaks – we move. That’s being obedient.

B. Obedience vs. Submission

A child’s obedience to their parents is not the same as a wife’s submission to her husband.

Ephesians 5:22 Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.

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

Though these two commands may sound similar, yet they are not saying the exact same thing. The Greek word for ‘obey’ is not the same as the word for ‘submit.’ What’s the difference?

1. Submission

Submit refers to the attitude co-equal take for the common good. Scripture does not say that husbands should command their wives to submit to them. Scripture says that wives should choose to submit to their husband’s leadership. Consider how God first established the home.

The Bible says that both the man and woman are created in the image of God. (Genesis 1:27) The Bible also says that as soon as God made the man, the Lord said, “It is not good for the man to be alone, I will make a helper that is suitable for him.” (Genesis 2:18) God knew from the very beginning that the husband would need a wife in order for him to do God’s will. The Bible says that when God made the woman, He did not make her from the dust of the ground as He had made Adam, but instead the Lord took a rib from the man’s side. Centuries ago Matthew Henry explained this better than anyone else ever has.

“The woman was made of a rib out of the side of Adam; not made out of his head to rule over him, nor out of his feet to be trampled upon by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected, and near his heart to be beloved.” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible)

2. Obedience

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

The word ‘obey’ refers to one who is under the authority of another. Listen to what the Roman centurion said to Jesus.

Matthew 8:9 For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” (NIV)

Most of us know that wherever you go in lif, you’re going to be under someone else’s authority. The Bible says that God has created various levels of authority, not for the purpose of dictatorship, but for the purpose of order.

Ultimately, we all are to be under God’s authority. Where do we learn this important truth? Paul tells us that it is in the home through the parent/child relationship. This implies that it not only requires the child to listen and obey their parent, it also requires the parent to teach and instruct the children what is right in the sight of God.

Deuteronomy 6:1 Now these are the commandments, the statutes, and the judgments, which the LORD your God commanded to teach you, that ye might do them in the land whither ye go to possess it: 2 That thou mightest fear the LORD thy God, to keep all his statutes and his commandments, which I command thee, thou, and thy son, and thy son’s son, all the days of thy life; and that thy days may be prolonged.                                                                                                

3 Hear therefore, O Israel, and observe to do it; that it may be well with thee, and that ye may increase mightily, as the LORD God of thy fathers hath promised thee, in the land that floweth with milk and honey.  

4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: 5 And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.  

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, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. 8 And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. 9 And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates. 

The first thing a parent has to do is live it out before their children. If parents are rebelling against authority, and especially God’s authority, then they are going to have a hard time instilling this in their child’s heart.

Secondly, the parent must diligently teach these truths to their children, who will in turn teach it to their children, who will in turn someday teach it to their children. The home is where we learn about God and how to submit ourselves to Him.

Thirdly, what we teach is more than just words. It’s how we live and think. “Hear and observe to do…” In other words, first listen to what God is saying to us and then do it. Obey Him.

I should also point out that the Hebrew model for training children involved both instruction and discipline. A child must learn that there are rewards for obedience, and consequences for disobedience.

C. Children, Honor Thy Father and Mother

Ephesians 6:2 Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;)

Obedience eventually leads to honoring. Many experts have said that in the young, formative years of a child’s life, the emphasis is primarily on teaching them how to obey. Once this groundwork has been laid and the child matures, then honor begins to develop. What does it mean to honor our parents?

The word ‘honor’ means to place a high value upon something. It means to consider something to be very precious. God’s goal is that children ultimately come to honor their parents. Why is honoring our parents so important? A child who learns to properly honor their parents is prepared to worship God. Worshipping God is honoring God. Worshipping God is more than a song we sing. It’s the life we live. It’s our attitude as well as our actions. It’s bowing our will before Him and out of love, living to please Him. When Jesus was asked, ‘what was the greatest commandment’, He quoted Deuteronomy 6:5“thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.”

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.

Blessings will come to the child who learns to obey and honor their parents. We should also note that punishment will come to the child who doesn’t. The Bible strongly condemns a child dishonoring their parents. We read from the book of Leviticus, “Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death” (Leviticus 20:9) Though the New Testament doesn’t encourage such drastic penalties, we should keep in mind that if God felt this strongly in the Old Testament, He still feels pretty strongly about it today. Grace is not about living less of a Christian life. It’s about the power of God in us to live more of a Christian life!

III. Incentive for Obeying and Honoring Parents

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.

What is a child’s incentive to obey and honor their parents? I’ve already expressed this throughout my message, but let me do a quick review once again:

A. “This is Right” (this is righteousness before the Lord)

A child that obeys and honors their parents is doing what is right in the sight of God. A child who doesn’t, isn’t.

B. God Has Promised to Bless Children Who Honor Their Parents

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. 

This blessing may involve a direct blessing from God, or it may be the natural result of learning how to live a godly life. Solomon said to his sons,

Proverbs 1:8 Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching, 9 for they are a graceful garland for your head and pendants for your neck.

What is Solomon saying? He’s saying, “Son, if you will learn to listen to what your mother and I are trying to teach you, it will bring you happiness and prosperity.”

Kids, your parents are not against you. They’re for you and they come second only to God in wanting to see you succeed and do well in life. A lot of what they have to teach you, they’ve had to learn the hard way and they’re trying to protect you from danger and guide you to prosperity.

C. This is How a Child Learns to Obey and Honor God

Ephesians 6:1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord… 

Paul is talking to Christian children who are being raised in a Christian home where Jesus is Lord. Parents, establish a family altar in your home where you and your children can meet together with God and learn how to live for Him. If you do, it will bring joy and happiness to your home today and to your children’s homes tomorrow.

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[1] Andreas Kostenberger, God, Marriage, and Family, (Wheaton, Crossway, 2010) 106.

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