Obedience to Parents

When Paul is writing to the Colossians and to the Ephesians he is anxious to set out the responsibility of believers in their relationships inside and outside their families. Husbands and wives, masters and servants and children and parents are all offered advice and instruction. The obedience of each shows ‘they are receptive to the Spirit’s work of transforming them into the likeness of … Christ’, O’BRIEN. When the last of these relationships is dealt with the instruction is very clear in Ephesians chapter 6. The word ‘children’ is not restricted by age though it most probably refers to those children still living at home with their parents and being ‘brought up by them’, see verse 4. However, the principles hold good for children of all ages, even adults with children of their own who, in showing respect to their parents, will be an example to their own offspring.

The word ‘obey’ is a word of total commitment and is neither hedged about nor restricted in any way. It maybe translated as ‘to listen attentively’ and means to act on what you hear. It is the responsibility of the children to obey in all things though one would be careful not to obey if it obviously means committing sin. Even then,discussion, negotiation resulting in resolution is better than rebellion. On occasions young people may wish for example, to be baptized but their parents object. In this case it would be prudent for the young person to wait at least until they are perhaps 18years of age and then, in maturity, take this biblical and necessary step. The Lord will honour such sacrifice and the young person will maintain his or her relationship with the parents, while the Lord can, should He so desire, change the parents’ view of baptism and allay their fears. Most parents wish only what they perceive to be best for their children and this desire should be respected, at least during childhood.

Disobedience to parents is a characteristic of the world in which we live, see 2 Tim. 2. 3. When outright disobedience is witnessed it is somewhat embarassing to the onlooker. Both Old and New Testaments speak against such disobedience and emphasize the pain that it brings to all involved. Salvation brings responsibilities and obedience to parents is one of them. The parents are described as ‘in the Lord’. This may suggest that only obedience to believing parents is required and that a saved young person may ignore the wishes or instructions of his unsaved parents. I doubt whether that is what Paul had in mind when he wrote. Perhaps he was suggesting that yielding to parents should be done with the Lord and His work in view. Reasonable, and even unreasonable(though not sinful), instructions from unsaved parents need to be accepted in good grace and obeyed. It is good to remember that the Lord Jesus Himself, though always God and always involved in the maintaining of the universe while here on earth, was‘subject’ to His parents even though Joseph was actually not His father. This may suggest that where believing children have a step-parent he or she, too, should be obeyed. In his letters Paul gives some reasons why obedience to parents is incumbent on all who believe: 1) it is right, Eph. 4. 1; 2) it is scriptural, v. 2; 3)it promotes happiness; 4) it offers long life; 5) it encourages discipline, v. 4; and finally 6) it pleases the Lord, Col. 3. 20. We take a brief look at these.

1) It is right

The thought here is that obedience to parents is appropriate and that headship in families should be acknowledged. The husband is not only head of the wife but also head ofthe family and that is divine order. It is therefore right and seemly that children obey the head and such children will be a joy to their parents and an example to others.

2) It is scriptural

Obedience to parents is spoken of in the law of the Lord. The fifth commandment is clear in its requirement that children obey parents, ‘honour thy father and thy mother’ involving not only obedience but respect. To obey reluctantly and in a sullen fashion is not much obedience at all. Yet this is described as the ‘first commandment with promise’, so one might wonder how the fifth become sthe first? Probably because it is the first commandment to which there is a promise attached and possibly because it is the first of the so-called‘horizontal’ commands, i.e, those that govern behaviour towards men rather than the first four, which are towards God and said to be ‘vertical’. The practice of obedience is based on God’s plan and God’s word to which it is our pleasure to submit.

3) It promotes happiness

The commandment goes on to say,‘that it may be well with thee’. Among the results of obedience is well-being.This is defined as being a state of real comfort and happiness. When we obey we experience a feeling of happiness and that encourages a healthiness of mind. This in turn, of course, puts us in a mental position where we can accomplish other tasks readily and where we can resist the overtures of Satan to disobedience, which is one of his prime methods of attack.

4) It offers long life

The second promise attached to the commandment is that ‘thou mayest live long on the earth’. Obedience is in usual circumstances rewarded by God by the gift of longevity. This of course may not always be true because many good people in the Bible and in our,day were taken away relatively early in life. The principle holds true, however, that long life either in time or in quality is promised to those who seek to obey this commandment.

5) It encourages discipline

An obedient child will make life easier for parents as they seek to bring up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. This involves preparing them for life and suggests the thought of maturity. Each step of obedience is progress in the experience of making right decisions in life and encourages a self disciplined approach for the children to all the challenges they face rather than the inconsistency of behaviour and the chaos we sometimes see in family life. ‘Nurture and admonition may suggest behaviour and speech’, LLOYD-JONES, so parental good behaviour and sound speech will serve as powerful examples to children and should be the norm in families ‘in the Lord’.

6) It pleases the Lord

Colossians 3 verse 20 says, ‘Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord’. Every believer, young or old, surely seeks to please the Lord. Here is yet another way to bring pleasure to the One who has done so much for us – by being obedient to parents!

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