Children, whether they be little children which are held in one’s arms or older children who have already .come to years of discretion, occupy a very important place in life. Except for Adam and Eve, our first parents, everyone must first pass through the stages of childhood before becoming an adult. The children of today will be the leaders of tomorrow. Thus, all education today is centered about the child. To see this one only has to look at all the educational facilities and the money spent to maintain them and their numerous programs. If you children reading these words do not see this clearly, your parents certainly do when they see the annual tax bill and the amount allotted for education. This is in addition to the tuition that is paid for your Christian instruction.
Not only are you children of today the country’s citizens of tomorrow, but from the viewpoint of the church you are the church of tomorrow—its future deacons, elders, ministers, and covenant parents of the next generation of believers.
Yes, you are important as children. The Bible also teaches this. Jesus said in Matthew 19:14, “Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto Me; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” This is also plain from the promise of God to Abraham in Genesis 17:7, “And I will establish My covenant between Me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee.” Thus, when the Spirit was poured upon the church on Pentecost, Peter could say, “for unto you is the promise and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call” (Acts 2:39).
Now that you know that you are important, what is your inward feeling and attitude? Are you inclined to rise up in pride and put yourself “in the driver’s seat,” so to speak? Do you look down in disdain upon your parents, teachers, consistory, or government officials? Children, the apostle Paul has something special to say to you. In Ephesians 6:1-3 we read, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honour thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise; that it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.”
What does this imply for you? First of all, it pre supposes that you as children are members of the church of Jesus Christ, and that too, as manifested in the congregation to which you belong. As Paul addressed the saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus, the children also were included in that address. Thus, you too must learn to say, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.” You too have been redeemed by Christ’s blood, are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works which He before prepared that you should walk in them. As children you also must put off the old man of sin and put on the new man in Christ, keeping the commandments of God and delighting to live with Him.
Yes, you are in the Lord and must obey in the Lord your parents. This is not merely Paul saying this to you, nor is it merely I who am saying this to you, but “thus saith the Lord!” God Himself says to you, “Honour thy father and mother.” He says, “My little children, I am the Lord thy God; obey your parents in the Lord.” That is correct, you are told by the Lord Who made heaven and earth to obey your parents.
Obedience, what is it?
Obedience presupposes that your father and mother have authority over you. Authority is the right which one receives from God to rule and to expect obedience. Parents receive this from God, and are thus obligated to discipline and to punish if obedience is not forthcoming, since you are to honor your father and mother. To honor someone means that that person is important, worthy of respect. The opposite of honor is to count lightly or to think little of. I am sure that all of you are familiar with the cartoon that appears in most daily papers under the caption, Dennis the Menace. We laugh at his pranks and remarks, considering them cute. But little Dennis has never learned the lesson of Scripture, what it means to honor. father and mother. Instead we find in him an example of one who is a mocker of God’s holy laws, making a joke of that which God considers serious. This is a reflection of the mentality of the sinful and fallen world of mankind who do not know God as their Savior.
How does one show honor? By obedience! You cannot honor your father and mother if you do not obey your father and mother. So often you want to ask the question, “Why, why must I obey, why must I do what you tell me to do?” To this your parents must answer, “Because I am clothed with authority.” Too often today children sit upon a little throne in the home from which they seek to rule over all those whom God has placed in authority over them. Whenever the parent tells the child to do something, invariably the question “why?” will be heard. If this sounds familiar, if you always ask your parents, “why?” then you have not learned to honor your father and mother as God’s representatives of authority. To honor your parents means that you fear God. It also means that you obey your parents as those who speak the will of God, your heavenly Father.
The apostle Paul, in his own way as inspired by the Holy Spirit, answers your question of “why?” He says, “for this is right.” “Why must I obey my parents? Why must I do as I am told and do it when I am told?” Infallibly and authoritatively the answer of Scripture always is, “for this is right.” For children who are in the Lord, as you are, this is the proper thing to do. A referee must call the game according to the rules of the game. He must be fair. He must call the game right, justly. For children to obey their parents is just, is fair, is according to the rules. God is just; Christ is just; and all of God’s rules are just and right. Therefore, that which is just is that which befits the creature according to its nature and under God’s ordinances.
Consequently, it is very fair on the part of parents to say to their children: “Listen to us; do as we tell you.” It would not be just for God to ask you children to be teachers and to bear the responsibility of ruling. That would be unjust, requiring you to do what is beyond your ability and power. God has thought it well that children shall listen, shall hear, shall obey. That is where you will find your true beauty, for the adornment of the child is obedience.
To obey is not easy for you. In fact, it is contrary to your very nature. Thus, if obedience is your true beauty, then by nature you are ugly. You need to pray, pray to God for the grace to obey your parents. And grace you will receive, for God has put His law and His love in your hearts by His Holy Spirit. With this law and love you will walk in obedience. Assurance of salvation will be the fruit of such a walk in life, for a tree is known by its fruits.
But we are not finished yet. There is something unique about this commandment. It comes with a promise: “that it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.” At the time the law was given, this promise referred to the land of Canaan, which makes it easier to understand now. The land of Canaan was a picture of the heavenly Canaan. Those dwelling in Canaan do so as heirs, their possessions being pictures of the eternal inheritance in the heavens above. To live long on the earth is the portion of those whose inheritance is among all those who are sanctified to the Lord.
The earmark of a child of God is that he has learned the new obedience of faith and love in Christ. It is not possible to be obedient to God while one is disobedient to one’s parents. A disobedient child does not honor his father, does not obey, does not show the fruit of the Spirit in his walk and life and confession. In such the infallible fruits of election are not seen. A disobedient child goes his own way. That, dear children, is the way of death. Such a one will not live in the land, but will perish in his sins.
Do you wish to dwell forever in the land? Then obey your parents in the Lord, whether in the home, in the school, or in the church. This is well-pleasing unto the Lord. The Lord loves obedience, as can be seen from I Samuel 15:22: “Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifice, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.”
Thus, you too must learn that you are in need of daily conversion to God. When you are obedient and confess your sins and ask the Lord and your parents to forgive you, then you are happy, blessed, and beautiful children in grace. Then, when your father and mother correct you, you will obey them and honor them as though God Himself were speaking to you. Then you, who as a child is obedient, will be the man who is obedient, the man in Christ forever.
Finally, remember this, that your first teachers are your father and mother as they instruct you beginning in the home. Here is laid the basic pattern for all obedience in every relationship of life. When you are not obedient to your teachers, and to the authorities on the street, and to the consistory, it is because you have not learned well the basic lesson of obedience and honor to your parents for God’s sake. But when you obey God in every sphere of life you are walking in the kingdom of heaven on earth, as obedient subjects of the King. May the Lord so bless you!