Just as I finished preparing this article, I received and read the article by Rev. Miersma on a companion text to that of mine. And although there may be some close similarities between the two articles, I believe there are enough differences between them to merit submitting this article for you to read. Besides, the repetition of God’s truth can never hurt one, but can only strengthen. We take Colossians 3:20-21 as the basis for this article which will be submitted in two installments. Further, I encourage our adult readers to have their children or grandchildren also read this article for their mutual edification.
“Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord. Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged.” Col. 3:20-21.
It is obvious from the Scriptures that we live in the midst of this world as pilgrims and strangers. It is obvious, too, that while we are in this pilgrimage, passing through this life, we do so as the children of the living God looking for the life that is above, prepared for us in the heavens. Doing this, we pass through a life and time which is one that is filled with spiritual pitfalls and troubles along the way. Through this passage God will lead us safely unto our heavenly home. He does so by powerfully working in us by the precious Spirit of Christ, as He applies the Word to our hearts. It is such a word of His saving grace that we consider together in this article, an exhortation to lead us in the right spiritual pathway in our relationships in the covenant home. The Word of God, which is the sword of the Spirit, comes to us in exhortation concerning our families.
This Scripture passage says to the covenant youth and children of the church, “Obey your parents in all things, for this is well-pleasing unto the Lord.” The Word speaks to children; it says obey, obey your parents.
The Lord our God has established various spheres of authority through which He is pleased to rule His church, until the day in which He makes complete the work of salvation by ushering in the new heavens and earth. When the Lord addresses us in the Scripture, and especially now as He addresses our children, it becomes immediately evident that our children, from the youngest to the oldest, are to be considered as part of the church. They are to be considered heirs of righteousness, partakers of the promise of our God. We believe this wholeheartedly as children of faith, believers in the Word of God. This is a basic tenant of the Reformed faith, that is, not only that God saves adults, but that His church is made up of children as well. This is emphasized in the Bible throughout. Already is this included in the promise to our parents recorded in Genesis 3:15. There we have the promise of salvation in Christ, for it is in the seed of the woman that the promise is fulfilled. That seed is principally Christ, but in Christ the seed are all those who are conceived and born in Christ. Therefore, the promise when it was-given to the church was always given to believers and their seed (children). Literally this is true, as that promise is recorded for us in Genesis 17:7, Acts 3:39, etc.
It is for the above reason that we therefore must at the outset of this article understand the children of the church to be heirs with us of righteousness. The reason, of course, is that salvation is determined by God’s eternal and unchangeable will, not dependent upon our work or walk. It is not dependent either upon who or what we are. And because it is God’s eternal will that decides salvation, and because He is pleased to gather His seed in the line of continuing generations, we find the children of the church addressed, beloved in the Lord, with their parents. So, children, does this address of our text come unto you.
Now Christ says unto our children, “Obey your parents.” It is evident from the Scripture that the fundamental calling of the children of the church is to obey their parents. Children, this is one of the basic callings you have as children of God. Before the eyes of Christ you have a particular place in His church, as children. And this refers to the young children, as well as to you who are nearing adulthood. The particular place you have in the church is one of obedience to your parents. This is not only the teaching of our text, but the teaching of God’s Word throughout. It is in the way of obedience to covenant parents, that God is well pleased to instruct you, and to bless you. In this way He is pleased to lead you as His child through this life and to bring you home, even to salvation!
This is the teaching of a companion text found in Ephesians 6:1-3. Take time to read it. Further, the Proverbs speak this same language. Proverbs 13:1 says, “A wise son heareth his father’s instruction: but a scorner heareth not rebuke.” First we note that, according to this proverb, your father’s instruction is often in the form of rebuke. Secondly, the child who hears that rebuke or instruction is a wise son. But one who hears not is a scorner, and a scorner is an abomination not to parents only, but unto God.
In Proverbs 1:8 we read, “My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother.” Our parents give to us instruction and law. We, as children, are to hear that. We are to hear that, too, because not only do we believe that we are covenant children, but we also believe that we have covenant parents—covenant parents who fear the Name of God, and who, by grace, set before us the law which is in harmony with God’s Word. It is a law that has its source, basically and primarily, in God Himself. Then indeed, as covenant children, we ought to hear it. Thus we have the testimony of Scripture speak throughout its pages. There is no question that God through His Beloved Son, our Lord, calls children to be in obedience to their parents.
Mind you, this is love, too! Christ teaches us that. Christ says, “He who loveth Me, keepeth My commandments.” One of His commandments is that as children we obey our parents. For when children walk in obedience to their parents they grow in knowledge. That is one of the blessings of this Christian walk. They grow up in the Lord. They are equipped as children of God in faith. This is a wondrous promise of our God to us.
When the opposite is true, the Scripture is just as clear to point out that children become fools—fools when they hear and obey not their parents. They are a shame not only to their parents, but also a shame to their living God. The fruit of such a walk of disobedience, if not followed by repentance, is that one becomes a scorner and invokes the wrath of God. Such a one becomes a misery to himself and to the church, and he becomes the object of an eternal wrath. Indeed, this too is the antithetical teaching of the Proverbs and the whole of the Scriptures.
Hence, we see that the lack of obedience of any child is grievous sin. It is a sin against which, in the strength of grace, we must fight. On the other hand, to allow disobedience in our children is also a grievous sin on the part of parents. And, again by the grace of God, we must also flee that sin.
When our text calls us as children unto obedience, we understand that obedience is an outward activity, the activity of doing what our parents tell us. Our text goes even deeper than this, in that it uses a term for obedience that indicates submission. The Lord Jesus Christ says to you children to place yourselves willingly under your parents. And you are to do this, not with eye service as unto men, but for your Lord’s sake. This means that you don’t obey your parents merely to get on the good side of them, or merely because of some natural affection for them. (Although none of these things in themselves are wrong.) But the principle is that, as servants of Christ, you do their will from the heart. To obey, then, is to submit unto the will of your parents from the heart, and so to submit as to the Lord. Because we love Christ, because Christ’s faith abides in our hearts, and because we would do the will of our Father in heaven, we will obey our parents. And this becomes manifest in our obedient activity before them.
Of course, from this principle it follows that we are to obey our parents whether they are mean to us or not, whether they are even froward to us or not (cf. I Pet. 2). Even if we were to have evil parents we are to obey them, we are to submit to them! We may thank our God when we have parents who love us in the Lord. Not that they always walk perfectly before us. They don’t. They sin, too, but principally they love us in Christ, and in all things we are to obey them for Christ’s sake.
There is only one time when we may not obey our parents. And that is if our parents would require of us, or instruct us, to disobey God. Then we must, in a submissive way, in a way of humility, in the way even of bearing punishment, not striking back, not being mean to them with our eyes or killing them with our tongues, but in submission bearing the punishment, say no, I must obey God!
It is good to emphasize the meaning of our obedience as given us by the Word. The calling of Christ to you children is that you seek your parents’ will. Children, that means that you must talk to your parents. For it is needful to know your parents’ will. You must ask your parents what their will is. Your parents must instruct you, they must teach you. And they must make it clear what their will is for you. On your part you are to talk to your parents—not only to your mothers. Maybe that would be easier for you as a daughter; but you are to talk to your fathers as well. And you must let them know what you are concerned with, and what the difficulties are which you face. And then ask them as a covenant child how you are to behave in a particular situation that you find yourself in. The question is, “What is your, view as a parent, as a godly parent, as a parent placed over me by the living God. What is your will in these matters for me?”
Then, beloved children, desire that will, and see that will as precious, as the will of God-given parents! Then, too, we will seek to fulfill that will. This means that we shall pray often, that we will turn to the Word of God for strength to be obedient, strength to hear, and to be humble, for strength to stand, not in pride, but in grace, in those ways well-pleasing to my God.
Of course, the question may arise just exactly how you can obey as a child of Jesus Christ. Children, beloved of God, Jesus obeyed His Father perfectly in your stead. By nature you and I will not obey. But we have a Lord. We count ourselves part of the body of Christ. And Jesus Christ in our stead, in our behalf, walked in obedience throughout His life. When all the enemies of darkness came against Him He said, “not My will, but Thine be done.” He walked in that obedience even to the cross, and in obedience He poured out His life’s blood, giving Himself up to the accursed death of the cross. He walked in this obedience unto the Father that He might cover the sins of God’s children, and that He might strengthen them by His Spirit. You, as the children of the covenant, in the strength of Christ alone, can and will obey. Again, we pray for grace that we may live out of Christ, and out of that new life which He sheds forth in our hearts.
There has been given to us a divine motive for hearing this word of God. Our text says that this is well pleasing unto our God. Those walking in obedience to their parents become the objects of God’s rich blessing. That is His promise to His children. It is right, according to Paul in Ephesians 6:1, to obey. It is just—just in God’s eyes—that is why we obey. It is certainly the desire of God’s children, then, to obey, to be right before God. For the child of God from the heart says, “I desire with all my heart to walk in a way that is right with Him.”
Thus, beloved children, it is good to listen; and not to teach, to obey, and not to lead. It is our place as children. It is a place that pictures the whole of the church, as they are the children under God. This is our calling. It is our place to hear and to be instructed and to be led by our Lord!
Therefore, by the power of the living God that abides in your hearts, hear this word, and seek it.
(to be continued)