Bible Study from Calvary Chapel Newberg

with Tom Fuller

Parents & Kids for the Gospel

Ephesians 6:1-4

In the Greco-Roman household, the father had absolute authority. It?s been said that a father could literally get away with murdering one of his children. That?s the atmosphere that Paul wrote into when he penned the instructions to parents and children in Ephesians 6. From today?s stand point, that kind of power is ridiculous, of course. But what we are seeing in our society today has gone so far the other direction that parents seem to have no input into their children?s lives and children seem to have no responsibility to do what their parents say at all.

Neither extreme is good. And as Paul continues his description of what it means to be ?filled with the Spirit? (5:18) we see how that relates to the parent/child relationship. Remember, this section isn?t in isolation, but Paul is giving us examples of how we can live out the character of God in this age. We can do it through mutual submission, and self-sacrificing love in marriage, and we can do it through children with ears and parents with heart and courage.


?Children? probably refers to ones who are under the care of their parents. Kids never lose the responsibility to honor their parents, but obedience here is probably limited to those living under the care of their parents.

?Obey? here literally means ?of one who upon hearing a knock at the door comes to listen to who it is.? This refers to the duty of a porter. It came to mean: ?harken to a command?, and ?obedient.? It?s much stronger than the word ?submit? that Paul uses when referring to Christians mutually submitting to one another in Chapter 5, verse 21.

So children are to obey what their parents tell them to do, but it is qualified in this way: ?as you would in the Lord.? This suggests that you should obey what your parents tell you to do as long as that thing is in keeping with the character of the Lord.

Remember, this whole section is about reflecting the character of Jesus into the world around us. And, as we?ll see, it?s the parent?s duty to teach their children the ways of God. It?s the kids? job then to come under that teaching and follow it.

Paul says ?for this is right.? That may in fact refer to the next verse. Like he is saying: Do this because the next part is truth.

2 - 3

Paul here quotes Exodus 20:12:

Ex 20:12 ?Honor your father and your mother so that you may have a long life in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.?

But no longer does Paul mean, as Moses did, that the Israelites would have a long stay in the Promised Land, but that life might be healthier. The word ?honor? can mean ?to set a value.? What kind of value do you place on your parents? I know some parents mistreat their kids. Some parents are absent altogether. No parents are perfect. I personally think the best way to honor your parents is to have a healthy relationship with your heavenly Father, even if you can?t always have one with your earthly mom and dad.

The job of parenting is not easy. And kids, especially those at home, need to recognize that and place a value on that. Parents are literally responsible for the physical, emotional, and spiritual well being of these precious little lives. As the parent of three children, I know what an awesome responsibility that is. Children, especially as they get into the teenage years, can really begin to think parents are just the people who put restrictions on them. If you are a child having those negative thoughts about your parents, remember what they are charged with and remember Paul?s words. The less you fight and the more you go along with them and honor them in the Lord, the more healthy your relationship will be now and down the road. Don?t act like the other kids around you, act like Jesus would as He obeyed the Father.


Paul specifically targets fathers, but mothers bear equal responsibility here. His admonition was not to ?stir up anger? in their children. ?Exasperate? is another way this is translated. Fathers in Paul?s day could do whatever they wanted. Paul is telling them not to act like the fathers around them, but as Jesus would. There is definitely a ?too far? that parents can go in causing their kids to get totally dis-regulated.

Instead, he says to ?bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.? This means to generally teach them the way of the gospel (?training?) and specifically correct {?instruction?) them when their character goes astray (as it will).

This doesn?t mean that we can ?create? saved individuals this way, but we as parents can strongly influence our kids to fall in love with Jesus. His character is the best way to go no matter what ? the way of self-sacrificing, other centered affection.

Children, by their nature, will not follow the character of Jesus, so we as parents bear the responsibility of correcting them.

General Principles

We can learn about God?s way of parenting from looking at some good and bad examples from the Scriptures:

Godly parents:

Hannah: 1 Samuel 2

  • She prayed over her child
  • She dedicated him to serve the Lord
  • She supported him in that effort (coat) (1 Sam 2:18)
  • They were genuinely concerned for Jesus? safety
  • They let God?s plan be more important than their plan or their pride. Once they learned what was happening they did not pursue it further.
  • They modeled and spoke the gospel (?sincere? = irrevocable)
  • Their faith became infectious
  • Jesus extoled child-like faith over intellectual understanding
  • He was conflict avoidant (His son Amnon raped his daughter Tamar and then was murdered by Absolom) By the way, David didn?t model good behavior either ? with Bathsheba, and it came back to haunt him.
  • He would never correct his children, who ended up rebellious (Absolom tried to overthrow his dad)
  • When Hophni and Phinehas? behavior went very bad, Eli would not step up to correct them. They ended up not only misunderstanding the things of the Lord but misappropriating them.

Mary and Joseph, Luke 2

Timothy?s mom and grandmother, 2 Timothy 1:5

Jesus, Mark 10:14 (and how he treats us as children)

Bad examples:


Eli (1 Samuel 2)

How does this work into Paul?s overall theme? Parents and kids, you have the opportunity to reflect the character of Jesus in the home, and thus influence others around you.

Jesus, as the Son of Go, was obedient to the Father, even when that meant going into harms way. He knew the Father always acted in agape love. As you obey your parents as you would the Lord, you model that kind of behavior to others.

Jesus, as our Lord, also cared deeply for His disciples. He put them into situations where their faith would be challenged but where they would grow in trusting Him. You as parents have that opportunity for your kids. But Jesus never drove them to frustration with Him ? they always knew He loved them, even if He confused them often. So too, parents, you have a powerful voice into your children?s lives. Do you model the character of Jesus to them? What you model, they will reflect.

It?s not just about correcting bad behavior; it is even more about modeling good behavior. For parents, it means having that accurate self-reflection on your own character?knowing your own weaknesses and strengths when it comes to acting and speaking like Jesus. As parents you can work together so that where one has a weakness, perhaps the other has a strength.

And another important aspect of parenting: be on the same page. If you need to work out an issue with your child, don?t be double minded. Go off and discuss it in private then speak and act with one voice.

Doing all of that, you kids may still not walk with the Lord. That part is not up to you. All you can do is train them and instruct them. What they do with that when they are adults is up to them and God.