“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother’—which is the first commandment with a promise— ‘that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.’ Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:1-4).

I find two things ironic about these verses. Two things bug me just a little bit about how these verses are normally interpreted, so may I vent for just a moment? 🙂

First, I see that Paul says the Old Testament still applies to us today. Recently, I sat next to a woman at a meeting. The following promise from the Old Testament was mentioned, but this woman mumbled that it didn’t apply to us. “We live in New Testament times,” she said.

“I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand {generations} of those who love me and keep my commandments” (Exodus 20:5-6).

Is she right? Do these sorts of promises not apply to us, because we are in “the church age”?

Evidently Paul didn’t think so! He quotes here from Deuteronomy 5:16.

“Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God has commanded you, so that you may live long and that it may go well with you in the land the LORD your God is giving you.”

I even notice that he quoted it a little wrong! He says in Ephesians, “That you may enjoy long life on the earth.” However, in Deuteronomy, the Law says, “That it may go well with you in the land the LORD your God is giving you.” He takes a promise made specifically to Israel and applies it to mostly Gentile, Ephesian believers (and to us by extension, no matter where in the world we live or what our nationality by birth).

If we don’t believe that all of God’s Word applies to us and “is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17), then will we be careful to teach our children to obey? Will obedience be a very high priority in our homes? Will we even realize that the length of life our children enjoy may hinge on whether we teach them to obey?!

This smacks of the original lie of Satan.

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” (Genesis 3:1)

Wouldn’t Satan love to steal our children and to hinder the kingdom of God by our belief that obedience isn’t important, that it isn’t commanded by God, that parts of the Bible don’t apply to us, and that we can just let a few things slide now and then?

“Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless” (Romans 1:28-31).

“We know that the law is good if one uses it properly. We also know that law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious; for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, for adulterers and perverts, for slave traders and liars and perjurers…” (1 Timothy 1:8-10).

“But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them” (2 Timothy 3:1-5).

I have a second pet peeve. While many say that the Old Testament commands don’t apply to us, many also say that New Testament commands don’t apply to us, especially if they might be “cultural.” In other words, maybe Paul only told the church in Ephesus to do something, because of the terrible culture in which they lived — but those things don’t apply to us enlightened, modern people.

For instance, just a few verses before this, Paul says that “wives are to submit to their husbands in everything” (Ephesians 5:24). Yet I read, just this week (but I’ve read it many times, to my frustration), that those verses were cultural. Mart De Haan, from Radio Bible Class, writes:

One thing we know is that the Apostle’s words would have sounded different to readers in first century Roman and Jewish worlds than they sound to many of us today. In Paul’s day, men ruled their homes and women were regarded as property.

One of the first rules of Bible interpretation and application is to consider what a text meant to its author and first readers. The historical and grammatical context of a Bible passage is foundational to the way it needs to be understood and applied to our own day.

So let’s review what we know first about marriage in light of the whole Bible and then look at what the Apostles’ words would have sounded like in their own day… (Source)

I’m skeptical, honestly! If wives only had to submit in the first century because they were regarded as property, but in our day, we’re wise and submit out of mutual love and respect… well, when does it end? What parts of the Bible do we take our scissors to, and which parts do we leave in?

And why does no one say that children obeying their parents is cultural? Why doesn’t anyone say that children only need to obey because in the first century they would have been beaten if they hadn’t obeyed?

The verse and chapter numbers weren’t in Paul’s first letter to the Ephesians. So do children need to obey their parents or not? No, because this is an Old Testament command? No, because the New Testament times in which this verse was written were different than our culture? Or yes, because “all Scripture is God-breathed and is useful”?

For me personally, I want to take the stand that God’s Word is for me, Anne Elliott. I must hear! I must obey! Maybe this will make me look a bit strange, but I’m doing it “out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:21), not for others’ eyes.

Who’ll stand with me?

P.S. For practical ideas on how to teach your children to obey, see my blog post here.

Views: 1

Our website will be undergoing periodic maintenance on June 16-17, as we upgrade to better serve you. If you need help, contact us at (989) 494-1353.