I was rostered on to take a lesson recently and as I was reading the Bible texts through, I became more and more intrigued with it, so much so, that I want to share it with more than our Sabbath School class at our local church.
Paul, the author of Ephesians wrote quite pointed counsel on how marriages should work between a husband and a wife in the latter part of Chapter 5. He paralleled this counsel with how Christ (husband) should work with the church (woman/wife).
Now, with the original text not having chapter breaks, the text flows on to include other working relationships in chapter 6;
That of children to their parents – verses 1-3
That of fathers to their children – verse 4
That of servants to their masters – verses 5-8
That of masters to their heavenly Master – verse 9
Now, taking a broad look at these verses of chapter 6:1-9, it is very direct counsel on how children relate to their parents, and fathers relating to their children. It then goes on to include how servants are to relate to their masters and finally how masters are to relate to their servants.
The closeness of the family (including servants in the family confines) is the canvas, or the fabric of life. The outflow of that will have a great influence on society, whether it will bring prosperity or ruin to the family, the community, or nation.
But continuing on in the broad view of these verses; straight after all this sobering counsel to the family – war is declared! A sobering thought. In the context of the flow of the text, from chapter 5:21 right through to chapter 6:10 is direct counsel on how to arm yourselves for the war of chapter 6:11-18.
To prepare for this war, we need to look at how to get the relationship right between children and parents and servants and masters.
“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.” — Ephesians 6:1-3
This counsel is absolute. There is no room for situation ethics – it is not ambiguous! You know exactly the meaning of these words.
After the parents are sorted out, then Paul gives clear admonition to the children. “Children, obey your parents…for this is right!” Is that the total content? No, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right!”
What about if the parents are not 'in the Lord?' “Parents are entitled to a degree of love and respect which is due to no other person. God Himself, who has placed upon them a responsibility for the souls committed to their charge, has ordained that during the earlier years of life parents shall stand in the place of God to their children. And he who rejects the rightful authority of his parents is rejecting the authority of God.
“The fifth commandment requires children not only to yield respect, submission, and obedience to their parents, but also to give them love and tenderness, to lighten their cares, to guard their reputation, and to succor and comfort them in old age.God cannot prosper those who go directly contrary to the plainest duty specified in His word, the duty of children to their parents....
“If they disrespect and dishonor their earthly parents, they will not respect and love their Creator. When children have unbelieving parents, and their commands contradict the requirements of Christ, then, painful though it may be, they must obey God and trust the consequences with Him.” — Adventist Home, p.293
The Fifth Commandment
There is mention of the fifth commandment in Ephesians 6:2,3; “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.”
This is a very close take from Exodus 20:12; “Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.”
If the home is running in the order of the counsel given in chapter 5:21-33, then these three verses stand as they are written in Chapter 6:1-3. Then this family - this church - is ready for the war that is coming upon it in verses 11-17.
The preparation is very clear, there is no mistake about it. Tightly bound families will be one of the very foremost fortifications against the vehement attack on humanity, in the times ahead, physically and spiritually. Even in our day right now this applies, in all aspects, physically, mentally, spiritually and morally.
Tightly bound families will be a stronghold to make it through “such a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: the time such as has never been.” – Daniel 12:1
The text continues: “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” — Ephesians 6:4 – one verse only.
Now that verse is quite wide-opened. It practically counsels fathers not to drive the child to anger, but to bring them up in Godliness. That can be varying as many times over as there are fathers to children, no doubt. Different children need nurture and discipline for different reasons in different ways. Some are very sensitive, it only takes a word from their father and they wilt. Other children are harder to break and need more discipline.
We do have the often-quoted verses on how a child should be brought up. “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” —Proverbs 22:6
Or a similar verse not so well known. “The father of the righteous shall greatly rejoice: and he that begetteth a wise child shall have joy of him.” —Proverbs 23:24
These verses again leave the nurturing quite wide open. Good counsel, if applied well, with the support of Ephesians 6:4, will bring good results.
But now a bit more specific – and there are plenty of verses a bit more specific;
“Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.” —Proverbs 22:15
“Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die.” —Proverbs 23:13
“The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame.” —Proverbs 29:15
“Better is a poor and a wise child than an old and foolish king, who will no more be admonished.” —Ecclesiastes 4:13
So we find here, there is plenty of counsel that the child be restrained and disciplined. I do look back on my own role of fatherhood and feel I may have been a bit too much of a disciplinarian to my children. But the counsel bears it up – 'spare the rod and spoil the child.'
Above all that though, the ultimate end of the child growing up is, “ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.”
This will call for wise governance and wisdom from God, and there are many books written for us through the avenue of the Spirit of Prophecy that we can turn to for sound and excellent counsel. While we have just read of what seems severe restraint with the rod, there is another element that has to be included in this discipline as well.
“Fathers and mothers, in the home you are to represent God's disposition. You are to require obedience, not with a storm of words, but in a kind, loving manner. You are to be so full of compassion that your children will be drawn to you. Be pleasant in the home. Restrain every word that would arouse unholy temper. 'Fathers, provoke not your children to wrath,' is a divine injunction. Remember that your children are young in years and experience.
“In controlling and disciplining them, be firm, but kind. Children do not always discern right from wrong, and when they do wrong, they are often treated harshly, instead of being kindly instructed. No license is given in God's Word for parental severity or oppression or for filial disobedience. The law of God, in the home life and in the government of nations, flows from a heart of infinite love.” —Child Guidance, p.259
The Ideal and Un-ideal
Now all that we have studied above, is the ideal. It is preparing the church for war. But what about the un-ideal? Is there any hint of the un-ideal in our world today?
Isaiah gives very clear counsel on the un-ideal. Now we immediately think of Isaiah in very Old Testament times (760BC), but is it possible, even from those times and writings, that there could be some counsel for our day from that old writer?
“The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah… Ah sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters: they have forsaken the LORD, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger, they are gone away backward… From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores: they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment. Your country is desolate, your cities are burned with fire: your land, strangers devour it in your presence, and it is desolate, as overthrown by strangers.” —Isaiah 1:1,4,6,7
Why such severe counsel? What's the problem? Well chapter 2 gives the key.
“The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. And it shall come to pass in the last days…” — Isaiah 2:1,2
“Therefore thou hast forsaken thy people the house of Jacob, because they be replenished from the east, and are soothsayers like the Philistines, and they please themselves in the children of strangers.” —Isaiah 2:6
Why am I labouring this and taking so long to get to where I want to? Well, there is a foundation being laid here. Isaiah is relating to the last days. His nation has fallen heavily and been taken over by other corrupt nations. They have poisoned the 'Protestant' nation of Israel with spiritualism – soothsayers from the east! And look at what happens within Israel when God gives them over to the choice they have made – the followers of the master they have chosen; “And the people shall be oppressed, every one by another, and every one by his neighbour: the child shall behave himself proudly against the ancient, and the base against the honourable.”—Isaiah 3:5
When society falls into apostasy, the fabric of society breaks down and the ideal family is attacked and finally collapses. It would seem Isaiah was writing for another day as well; “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents…” —II Timothy 3:1,2
Counsel For Our Day
Both Isaiah chapters 1-3 and II Timothy 1, describe exactly where we are today in 2023.
Is there a reason for this? Is there something we can identify with that would allow, or cause the children to be out of their ideal placement in society? Yes there is!
Notice in Ephesians 6:4 it states, “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” Why would it state fathers? Because without fathers, the family breaks down. Without fathers, the young boys have no role model to follow. That is what is breaking our nation today.
Many boys are growing up in families that have no father figure. It is the usual when families split and divorce, that children stay with the mother. There is often no stable male relationship in the home, so the boys lose out. They are left like a boat without a motor – no direction – no role model to look up to. This is becoming more apparent and being talked about more in community circles.
New Zealand has been founded in its modern history on Protestant foundations. It has prospered and become a wealthy and well-recognised country. I am very pleased to be able to hold a New Zealand passport; a New Zealand passport is held in high esteem in the world.
But our Protestant principles we were founded on have been eroded by the 'east.' New Zealand is feeding itself from the children of strangers; and those children of the strangers are bringing strange government into our land!
As this system has been allowed to push into and take over society. Over the last 40 odd years, we have seen the increase of the breaking down more and more of the family unit and leaving families in disarray.
Ultimately, the same principles apply. A good master will treat his servants with the same tenderness that a father will his children. But there is a difference, servants are not family.
They may be in the household they are in of their master by choice or by force. But there is a pattern of servanthood as explained Ephesians 6:5-8.
Servants are to be obedient to their master. They are to give willing service with fear and trembling. They are to give their all to their masters, as a believer does to Christ. They are not to just serve to please the eye of the master, but genuine service from the heart. Their service is to be as if they are doing their all for Christ, over and above the physical master. And to know that all their service is really for their Lord.
Solomon wrote on this very principle; “He that delicately bringeth up his servant from a child shall have him become his son at the length.” —Proverbs 29:21
But as I was going through and preparing for this editorial, there is one point that came to me quite unexpectedly.
Ephesians 6:1-3 – how children should be to their parents – three verses.
Ephesians 6:4 – how fathers should treat their children – one verse.
Ephesians 6:5-8 – how servants should treat their masters – four verses.
Ephesians 6:9 – how masters should treat their servants – one verse.
It labours more with counsel of those who are in submission than to those in authority. Children have more counsel than the fathers, and servants have more counsel than their masters. The counsel is strong to the children and servants to honour their 'superiors’ and the counsel is strong to the fathers and masters to nurture their subjects in the Lord.
But may it be realised that the fathers and masters should have a well-grounded knowledge and faith in Jesus Christ that they can give and pass on to those who are subject to them. They are held in higher responsibility. They are to train the students, the lesser in authority. And there is very good reason for that.
“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.” —Ephesians 6:10
In closing, I want to re-emphasise the preparation of what Paul counseled so strongly. One of the main pillars in preparation for the war ahead is complete, stable and well-grounded families.
I looked up the word ‘service’ to finish this study off. When I typed in the word service, I found an astounding 11,478 hits. As I continued to look at the quotes, the very first one fitted well.
“The church is God's appointed agency for the salvation of men. It was organized for service, and its mission is to carry the gospel to the world. From the beginning it has been God's plan that through His church shall be reflected to the world His fullness and His sufficiency.
“The members of the church, those whom He has called out of darkness into His marvelous light, are to show forth His glory. The church is the repository of the riches of the grace of Christ; and through the church will eventually be made manifest, even to 'the principalities and powers in heavenly places,' the final and full display of the love of God.” —Acts of the Apostles, p.9