Obedience to our parents is an indication of our obedience to God. The Apostle John writes these simple but soul-searching words in I John 4:10, “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar; for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?” We could say with equal force, “If a man say, I love God and hateth his father or mother whom he hath seen, how can he obey God Whom he hath not seen?”
The commandments of Christ are not hard to understand. “A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another” (John 13:34-j. All our relationships one with another in the home, school, and church, toward parents, teachers, and brothers and sisters in Christ, must be governed by love. Love one another in the love of God! (Not with the false love of the world. True love is a particular and an exclusive gift. It is “out of God.” It comes only from Him and is given only to those who are born of God by His sovereign grace. Only such people can love-see I John 4:7-8.)
And the love of God which we must show to one another reveals itself in one basic way: submission to one another. We read in Ephesians 5:21, “Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.” Love is a servant. To love is to deny yourself and serve the person closest to you. Did not Jesus teach, us this when He washed His disciples’ feet? “If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you” (John 13:14, 15). The love of God in a man causes him to submit himself to his brother and sister in the Lord and to serve them. The love of God in a child, whether he is a child of two or of twenty, causes him to submit to his parents in godly obedience.
The subject of obedience to parents and of obedience to all in positions of God-given authority was dear to the heart of Jesus Christ. The title of this article is put in quotation marks because these words are the words of Christ. The Apostle Paul in Ephesians 6:l wrote the words, “Children obey your parents in the Lord.” Not only was Paul inspired by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, but he was also repeating what Jesus Christ Himself said. We all remember well Christ’s words to the Pharisees in Matthew 22:21 concerning our obedience to all in positions of authority: “Render therefore unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s. ” Not as well known is the Lord’s condemnation of the Pharisees in Matthew 15 where He exposed their disobedience to their parents. “For God commanded saying, Honor thy father and mother; and, he that curseth his father or mother let him die the death” (Matthew 15:4). The Pharisees raised their traditions and teaching above the Word of God. The Pharisees taught that a son may abuse his parents with disrespect, argue with them, and even curse them, providing he brought a gift to the temple. If he did this he would be free from condemnation.
But this disobedience went still farther. The commandment of God told them that they were to honor their parents not only by respecting them, but also by caring for them when they became old. This, also, the Pharisees, under a cloak of religious piety, would not do. As Jesus put it, “But ye say, whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, it is a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; and honour not his father or his mother, he shall be free” (Matthew 15:5,6). In other words, they were piously (or devilishly) saying to their parents, “Ah, I have dedicated all my money to the Lord, therefore I cannot look after you, Father and Mother. Of course I would help you, but I have dedicated all my money to the temple and there is none left for you.” The Pharisees disobeyed their parents by showing open disrespect and by refusing to care for their needs, and they taught men to do so with the excuse of religious dedication. The Lord called them hypocrites (verse 7): people who draw near to God with their mouths, but their hearts were far from Him (verse 8). A disciple of Christ is one who in the love of God submits himself to his parents for Christ’s sake.
That we should attend to the teaching of Jesus Christ concerning the relationships within our homes and specifically concerning our relationship I to our parents is urgent for us today. Anyone with I an ounce of spiritual discernment would agree that this is a tremendously important and timely subject. We are living in a world where there is an alarming breakdown in respect and obedience. The fermentation of lawlessness works actively in the whole of society. And this is most evident in the home, in the relationship between parents and children. Although it is not my intention to leap over the fence into the next rubric, “Signs of the Times,” nevertheless, how can it escape our consciousness that disobedience to parents is one of the preeminent signs of the times? Our Lord told us that there will be in the last days a breakdown in authority. A subdivision of that breakdown, in fact its source and foundation, Jesus told us, is disrespect to parents. Certainly a careful reader of the Scriptures cannot overlook that. The Apostle Paul in both Romans 1and II Timothy 3 describes the kinds of men who will abound in the last days, men from whom we must turn away, men who are ugly and vile in God’s sight. He says that these men shall be “disobedient to parents” (Romans 1:30, II Timothy 3:2). Not only that, but disobedience to parents is mentioned in the very same breath with such sins as murder, fornication, haters of God, and homosexuality. Disobedience to .parents is one of the characteristics of a man whom God has “given over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient” (Romans 1:28). Disobedience to parents is not a light thing, not an indifferent matter, not something to pass over, but it is a basic sign that the cup of iniquity is reaching its brim. The abounding disrespect seen in every sphere of society owes its origin to disrespect of parents in the home. What kind of man is an ungodly man in whom the spirit of Anti-Christ reigns? What kind of man is part of the whole process of the increase in iniquity? It is the man who continues in disobedience to his parents.
But more, the Bible plainly teaches that, shortly before our Lord’s return, the church will witness a breakdown in the home and in the family. The Devil knows his business. God’s institution of the home is the cornerstone of the church and the school and the whole of society. Deliberately the Devil works his hardest and directs his most severe assaults against the home. And make no mistake about it, the Devil works against our homes! Remember the revelation given to John inRevelation 12? John saw that the beast was cast out of heaven and that the beast knows that he has but a short time. He is filled with the fury of a wounded animal; no, with the fury of most bitter hatred against God and Christ. He knows deep down in his black heart that he is defeated, and so he goes forth to persecute the woman with utterly reckless abandon. “And the Dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandm,ent of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.” This means that the Devil especially aims at the children of the church, at the children of believing parents. All of the abounding lawlessness in the world, all of the countless evil influences in the world are numerous traps which the Devil sets in order to ensnare the children of believers. The breakdown of the institution of the family and the prevailing attitudes of disrespect toward parents are the Devil’s attempts to poison the children of Jesus Christ, and that means our children! As long as a family is faithful to Jesus Christ and lives as His bride in chaste observance of His commandments, the dragon will pursue that Christian family. And specifically the Devil will with fiendish fury pursue and seduce the children of that family.
Men of Israel, Awake! The enemy attacks you and your home! Grow not weary, take to yourself the shield of faith wherewith you are able to quench all the fiery darts of the Devil. Young people and children in whom dwells the spirit of Jesus Christ, remain steadfast! Stand immovable in the love of God by honoring your father and mother.
There is yet another reason why the will of Jesus concerning obedience to parents is important and needs to be taught and heard. The reason is that we are of the flesh (flesh as it is used in Romans 7). We are depraved sinners by nature. Although regenerated by God’s grace through the Spirit, we need daily to battle the weakness of our flesh. May we never grow weary of hearing that! We are in the flesh as children, as young men and women, as teachers and preachers, and as parents. The marriage form in the back of our Psalter, although criticized for its sober beginning, is good and proper. “Whereas married persons are generally, by reason of sin, subject to many infirmities….” This is not only true of the closest human tie given by God, which is marriage, but this is true of the tie between parents and their children. Our homes and schools are, by reason of sin, subject to many infirmities. You know that the trends found in the world are not just “out there,” but are “in here”; that is, they are in you and in me. Human parents are weak and they fail in their calling, as any spiritual father and mother knows only too well. Children, in whom dwells the Spirit of Christ, are likewise aware of their sin and know the heartrending sorrow of offending my God by offending their parents. The troubles and problems of the home sometimes become so deep and twisted that from the human standpoint we would almost say there is no hope. Oh, the grief of a parent whose child goes astray! That is a grief known only by a parent. Even if a parent has the faith of David, when he sees his child walk in ways of sin, then he too, as David, is bowed down in tears. Oh the grief of a child who grows up in disobedience and inevitably ends up living with the swine as did the prodigal son.
There is no defense against such problems; there is no help for a family other than the words of Jesus Christ. We look at the teaching of Jesus Christ concerning the home and the calling of the Lord to obey our parents as life in the midst of death. The only strength and the only comfort for a family is to abide in His will. When we are filled with the Spirit, and when we are aware of the Devil and our sin, we do not look at the title of this article with the thought, “Here it comes again, the same old story”; but we say, “The only hope and comfort for me is to know the will of the Lord for my home,” and we pray, “Lord, teach me to do Thy will.” The way of disobedience is the way which leads to untold sorrow and death. Heeding the word of Christ for our homes is the only way of contentment, joy, and life.
Why? Our obedience to our earthly parents is the way of joy and life because through obedience we show our love for our Heavenly Father. All of God’s people are children, adopted children in the blood of Christ. God is our Father. “I believe in God, the Father” which means that I believe the eternal God is my Father. He is the perfect Father, deeply concerned about His children, wise and loving, able and willing to work all things for their good. As our Father, He gives to us one calling in life, “Obey Me! Place all your trust in Me alone, and in love submit to My will which is good for you.” The child of God is called to show that love towards his Heavenly Father by honoring his human father. The child who by grace loves his human father and obeys him, is also the child who by grace knows and honors his Heavenly Father.
In the next few articles, the Lord willing, I would like to look at this more closely with you in the light of Ephesians 6:1-4. May the Spirit guide us and open our hearts