Cornelius Hanko is an emeritus minister in the Protestant Reformed Churches.

Ques. 104. What doth God require in the fifth commandment?

Ans. That I show all honor, love and fidelity to my father and mother, and all in authority over me, and submit myself to their good instruction and correction, with due obedience; and also patiently bear with their weaknesses and infirmities, since it pleases God to govern us by their hand.

Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 39.

“I love the Lord, the Fount of life and grace!”

I love Him, because He first loved me, drew me to Himself as His child by His Word and Spirit, and taught me that He is the only true and living God!

He also teaches me from the pages of holy Writ to know Him in all the fullness of His glorious divine perfections as God above all, the ever blessed, adorable One!

He reveals His Name in all the works of His hands, and even more fully in His inspired Word, that I may speak to Him, addressing Him as my God and Father in prayer and worship, and speak of Him in awe and reverence!

He has set apart a day of rest, His Sabbath, that on the first day of each week I may begin the span of a new week in the communion of saints, to be prepared by Him for whatever He lays upon my way in the week that lies before me, looking to the eternal rest that remains for the people of God!

I may confess Christ as my Savior and Lord, and thus live before my sovereign Lord and heavenly Father in humble fear, reverence, and obedience as His child, even as He teaches me in this fifth commandment!

This commandment requires that I show all honor, love, and fidelity to those by whom it pleases God to govern me. This is required of me and us all as members of the household of faith. By submitting to them, we submit ourselves to our God and to His wise authority over our lives. We manifest our love and faithfulness to Him by walking in submission and obedience before Him in every sphere of life. Not to do so is to sin against Him! Our love to God is manifested in our love to our neighbor. The second table of the law follows from the first. “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar, for he that loveth not his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?” (I John 2:20). Thus the fifth commandment serves as a transition from the first to the second table of the law.

This commandment is the more important to us, because it appears first on the second table. Keeping this commandment is mandatory for keeping those that follow. Refusal to submit to authority opens the way for hatred, jealousies, murder, fornication, adultery, stealing, slander, and associated sins.

Here we are brought face to face with God as GOD, the almighty Lord of heaven and earth. He is the eternal One, Who created all things, upholds and governs them, and has sovereign right to rule over all as Potentate of potentates, the King of kings and Lord of lords (I Timothy 6:15). He is the righteous Judge. No man can or may resist His will with impunity.

Scripture teaches us that God delegates His authority to men. No man has any right whatever to rule over others, except by the authority entrusted to him by God. Jesus warns Pilate, “Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above.” Likewise, every person is responsible to God to exercise his authority in God’s Name and to His glory! He is God’s servant (Rom. 13:1-4). He must give account to God for what he had done with God’s authority entrusted to him! What a tremendous responsibility! Since all other relationships here on earth originate in the family, this applies, first of all, to husbands and fathers, then to school teachers, to officebearers, to employers, and to government officials.

A threefold responsibility rests on the shoulders of those who hold positions of authority. They must maintain certain definite principles and set definite laws to be obeyed. Moreover, they must insist that their laws be obeyed. Finally, they must punish the transgressor with a just punishment, in harmony with the offense committed. Failure to exercise that authority brings untold misery in the home, the school, the church, and wherever man holds a position of authority. How evident that has become in our day!

On the other hand, it is the duty of those placed under such authority to submit and obey for God’s sake. They must do so willingly, not grudgingly, in obedience to this fifth commandment. If they fail to do so, they must willingly bear the consequences. The time is approaching when we will be condemned for maintaining our faith and standing up for our principles. We will be called upon to follow the example of Christ, Who was reviled, yet did not revile in return, was unjustly condemned to death, yet surrendered Himself into the hands of His tormentors for God’s sake. Even as Paul, we will be required to suffer all sorts of persecutions because we want to remain faithful to our God, even if we must die for it.

The church of today already experiences perilous times!

This is an age of lawlessness! Every commandment of God is despised! Every precept for decency and good order is defiantly trodden under foot. Husbands and fathers seek their own vain glory, satisfying every evil lust. Wives despise the menial task of home-making and raising children. They have to get out of their oppressive four walls to exercise their talents, to seek out a career, or to obtain appealing luxuries with their own money. Gradually they take over the church, in shops and offices, as well as in the government. Sad to say, the men are often to blame by shirking their duty at home and beyond. After spending a day at work they prefer to retire to the quiet solitude of their den and TV set: Family life, parents and children gathering around to enjoy each other’s fellowship is a thing of the past. Both husband and wife are too tired or too involved in social affairs to make a home for the family. Children learn to shift for themselves, and soon become far too independent to respect any kind of authority. They become unmanageable in school and in the neighborhood. Parents cannot understand that others have problems with their children, while they have no problem at home. Soon the teenagers become involved in drugs, unwanted pregnancies, abortions, and conflict with the law. This lack of respect for authority spreads to every sphere of life in a growing spirit of lawlessness!

The church does not escape this evil influence. We are children of our time more than we often realize. People are lovers of self more than lovers of God, having a form of godliness, but denying Him Who is the power thereof. Our affluent times bring along their own unique problems. One income does not allow for all the expenses involved in home, children, food, clothing, automobile, sport equipment, church, and Christian school. Along with a wrong sense of priorities goes a spirit of spiritual laxity. Our hectic existence gives us little time, if any, for spiritual development. Modern psychology has replaced the sound counsel of the Scriptures. Preaching, especially doctrinal sermons, creates boredom. There is a growing clamor for more musical numbers, puppets, dialogue, movies, liturgical dances, and even potluck, which are supposed to be more spiritually edifying than sermons. The authority of the Scriptures is lost! Children grow up without any real spiritual guidelines. The people perish because they lack knowledge!

In this age the fifth commandment speaks louder than ever: Honor thy father and they mother!

That is, honor God, to Whom belongs all honor, by respecting those whom God has placed over us, first in the home, and then in every other sphere of life!

Husbands, love your wives! Scripture allows for no exception to this rule. Husbands should love their wives sufficiently to die for them, even as Christ died for His Bride.

Wives, even as you gave up your maiden name and took your husband’s name at marriage, so also serve him now as his God-given helper, that he may fulfill his calling in the home, in the church, and in the midst of the world! Scripture describes to us the beautiful wife in I Peter 3:1-6 and the virtuous woman in Proverbs 31, whom her children call blessed long after she has gone to glory. They speak of her to their children and their children’s children, even as her influence continues in the generations under God’s blessing!

Fathers, you are called to function in the office of believers as prophets, priests, and kings in your domain, your home! Your authority and ability come from Christ! Be faithful in prayer, worshiping, instructing from the Scriptures, admonishing in all godliness, with prayer and supplication. Mothers, be prayerful assistants for God’s sake.

Children, love your parents, with the love wherewith you love God! Respect them as given to you of God. You are a divinely created family, all of you brought together by none other than God Himself. God gave you your own parents to instruct you in the way should go. Honor them for God’s sake. And as you grow older and begin to see that they have weaknesses even as you do, then still respect them and obey them in your fear of God. The only time you have the right to oppose them is when they demand of you something that is contrary to the will of God. They may not require that you lie, or steal, or commit some other sin against God!

Our ministers, elders, and deacons are ambassadors of Jesus Christ, called by God through the church as under-shepherds of the chief Shepherd of your souls! They do not build God’s church, Christ does. Christ addresses us through them, so that we worship in Christ’s presence to hear what He will say to us for the salvation of our souls. Let us heed His Word and submit to His authority. That includes respecting the officebearer for the sake of his office. Therefore we should shun the growing practice of calling ministers, elders, and deacons by their first name.

How many employers and employees live in the spiritual intimacy of Boaz and his workers (Ruth 2:4), or even strive to attain it! The master-slave relationship has changed to an employer-employee situation, but this still implies authority and obedience. Those who hold positions of employer do so as servants of God, and those who are employed by them must give a full and honest day’s labor, as the Lord requires this of them.

The word “politics” us often associated with all sorts of corruption, yet the magistrate is appointed to God to protect the innocent and to punish the guilty. Judges must answer to their Judge, and rulers to their Ruler, for what they have done with the power invested in them. And we must be subject to them, even in obeying speed laws and stop lights. The time is not far off that we will be compelled to maintain our faith over against the power of the antichrist, which will involve suffering for ourselves and our families, even to loss of homes, going hungry, and facing death. It was at the times when the church suffered under the cruel oppression of the Roman emperors that Peter wrote, “Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king as supreme; or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evil doers, and for the praise of them that do well” (I Peter 2:13, 14).

We are called to render “unto all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor” (Rom. 13:7).

This is referred to as the first commandment with promise!

Typically that referred to Israel as a nation in the typical land of Canaan. Spiritually it refers to us who look forward to the heavenly Canaan, where we shall live in intimate communion of life with God to the praise of the glory of His grace in Christ Jesus!

Already in this life, God-fearing parents see His promise realized in their children and their children’s children, who walk in His fear. They begin to realize what it means that God say, “I will be a God unto you and to your seed after you.” It is a foretaste of that day when we shall stand before God with the saints of all ages to say, “Behold us, Lord, and the children Thou hast given us, for we are thine!”