Ephesians 6:1-4, Submission & Relationships, pt2:

  • This is our second portion looking at submission and relationships. Last we looked the marriage relationship and each one’s role! Tonight we’ll move ahead to the relationship between children and parents.
  • So our section has four imperatives: obey (6:1), honor (6:2), do not exasperate (6:4), and bring them up (6:4) – and that’ll be our approach:

1. Children Obey Your Parents: (1)

  • The first directive for children uses the standard Greek verb, which suggests ongoing obedience – keep obeying. This reality was widely accepted throughout the Mediterranean world. In addition, Proverbs 6:20 states “My son, keep your father’s command, and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.
  • Yet, how should this command be fulfilled? Paul says, ‘In the Lord’ (6:1). This indicates that the obedience of Christian children happens in the Lord, that is, in the realm and community of Christ the Lord. This is how our children should be brought up too, but I won’t jump the gun here. Now there is a second command.

2. Children Honour Your Parents: (2-3)

  • Honor your father and mother (6:2). This is a citation of a portion of the Ten Commandments, to “Honor your father and mother.” It is assumed that Paul wanted his Gentile audience to know that obedience to parents is not just right but also beneficial. It leads to a blessed and lengthy life (6:3).
  • The Greek verb for “to honor” means “to value, show high regard for, or respect.” So surely children honor their parents by obeying them. But honor includes much more, not just following orders but living in such a way that parents feel valued by their children and are esteemed by their community because of their exemplary children.
  • Thus, “Honor your parents” is more than a reason for “obey your parents.” If anything, “honor” is even more important because of its favorable consequences (good life, long life). Yes, by all means children should obey their parents. But they should go beyond obedience to energetically honor their parents, both in how they treat them directly and in how they live in the world.
  • Those are the commands to the children, now we turn to the address to the parents

3. Parents, Do Not Provoke Your Children: (4a)

  • The exhortation to fathers begins with a negative. Now for the sake of context, in the world of the early Christians, fathers assumed primary responsibility for the upbringing of their children. The address to fathers could include mothers as well, but given the switch from “parents” in verse 1 to “fathers” in verse 4, it’s likely that male parents are addressed here (with implications for mothers).
  • The verb translated as “provoke” appears only one other time in the New Testament and means there “to make angry.” The point of the text is not that fathers should never do anything to upset their children; sometimes children become angry even when their parents discipline them in a merciful and wise way.
  • Rather, Paul is warning fathers about treating their children wrongly, thus giving them justifiable cause to be angry. Fathers in the Roman world, who had ultimate and complete authority over their children, could easily abuse their power.
  • How? Perhaps through favouritism, comparison, unrealistic standards, over-indulging, discouragement, lack of rewards, unfulfilled promises, treating them like boarders rather than children, not admitting mistakes, ridiculing, neglect, abusive words, sarcasm, physical abuse.
  • Christian fathers are to avoid such injustice because their parental responsibility should be shaped by the gospel of a gracious heavenly Father. Even as families derive their name from the Father according to Ephesians 3:14–15, so human fathering should be shaped by the activity of God.

4. Fathers, Bring Up Your Children: (4b)

  • Fathers are supposed to “bring up” their children “in the training and instruction of the Lord” (6:4). The verb translated as “bring up,” has a literal meaning of “to provide food, nourish” and a related meaning of “to bring up from childhood.”
  • The Septuagint version of Proverbs 23:24 reads in translation, “A righteous father brings up [children] well, his soul rejoices over a wise son.” Therefore our verse does not picture a father standing back and giving orders to be obeyed but rather investing himself personally in the raising of his children.
  • The words translated as “training and instruction” have similar meanings in Greek. “Training” might carry an implication of discipline; “instruction” could be rendered as “admonishment.” They suggest positive instruction as well as correction when mistakes are made and warning to avoid them in the future. Amazing, isn’t it?
  • But Paul adds that this must be done “Of the Lord.” The Greek genitive means “training and instruction done by the Lord [through fathers].” Paul wants fathers to teach their children the specifics of the faith. Paul was not focusing only on what we might call religious education.
  • Rather, fathers (and mothers) are participants in God’s own work of bringing up their children. As Christ is the source of the growth of children in every area of life through the inspired efforts of parents.


  • S Lewis Johnson says that we as Spirit filled parents should…
  • never surrender your responsibility to your children. Don’t surrender your responsibility to the school. There are certain things you may delegate to the school; the school may teach them mathematics. But don’t delegate your responsibility to the school. Don’t delegate your responsibility to the church – that’s a great mistake that many professing Christians make. They delegate all the spiritual responsibility of bringing their children up to the church. That’s a very, very sad thing.
  • Mr. Pryor who is here, one of our elders, likes to say the best Bible teacher you’ll ever have is your father. That is true. The next best would be mother, no doubt. But parents, instructing your children in the things of the Lord, and you should not give it to others. It’s a privilege to instruct them in the word. Give them your time. Of some people, if they gave them as much time as they gave their garden, Martin Lloyd Jones said, the children would have more than they are having now. (Ephesians 6:1-9 Paul to Children & Fathers -Audio)