Holy & Free 11, Parents

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Pastor Scott L. Harris

Grace Bible Church, NY

November 23, 2003

Holy & Free, Part 11 – The Role of Parents

Ephesians 6:4

Over the last two weeks we have been discussing the family as part of our “Holy and Free” series. As Christians, we have a lot of freedom in Christ to choose the specifics of how wey will live within the parameters of pursuing holiness according to the commands and precepts of God’s Word. This is also true when it comes to the family. Each family will be different from every other Christian family in many specific areas, but every Christian must still fulfill the role that God has designed for them within those families. We have already discussed the role of the wife, the role of the husband and the role of the children. This morning we will examine Ephesians 6:4 and the role of the parents.


We must remember that Paul’s discussion of these God given roles within the family are all with in the context of walking in wisdom (5:15f). God has done marvelous things for the Christian. We were once dead in our trespasses and sin, but God has made the true believer alive through Jesus Christ. We have been given a new nature, and the Holy Spirit now dwells within us. One of the many benefits of this is a quickened mind and the ability to understand spiritual things. The true Christian has the ability to walk in Godly wisdom, and Paul is calling on us to do just that. We are to “be careful how [we] walk, not as unwise, but as wise” (5:15). It is wisdom to follow God’s design for the family.

The great tragedy is that families continue to disintegrate in our nation, and people continue to turn to the vain philosophies & wisdom of men rather than to the One who designed both mankind and the family. When people reject the creator and His design, they prove the Scriptures true that they have been blinded by Satan (2 Cor 4:4), and that in professing to be wise they have become fools (Rom. 1:22).

But is not enough to just know the creator’s blueprint for the family. You also have to follow His instructions for construction and operation, and that is impossible unless you are filled with the Spirit. The Christian life is impossible without the acting of the Holy Spirit in your life to give you both the understanding needed and the ability to live according to God’s design. As you are filled with the Spirit, you can submit to one another (vs. 21) and fulfill your God given role.

The role of the wife is to be in submission to her husband and show him respect, but to do this she must first be in submission to the Holy Spirit. If she is not, she will either resent her role or be so trodden down that at best she will only be the shell of the woman God created her to be.

The role of the husband is to lead his family in godliness through a sacrificial, committed love. This is impossible unless he is first in submission to the Holy Spirit. It is impossible for him to generate within himself this type of love. It must be the love of Jesus Christ flowing through him.

The role of children are to obey their parents. This is the way in which young children show their parents honor. As they get older, this obedience is to change into willing submission, and as adults it is demonstrated with respect and care. Children that are not submissive to the Holy Spirit will also be resistive to their parents.

Parents, let me stress that your ability to properly raise your children is in direct relationship to your ability to be a godly spouse. You will never be a better parent than you are a wife or husband, for the starting point for both is submission to the Holy Spirit. If you are unwilling to submit to the Spirit in your role as a spouse, you will not do so in your role as a parent, for you have already decided that you know better than God what is best for your life, and that same basic belief will carry over into your parenting too. You cannot be a better parent than you are a spouse.

But, you say, your partner is not a believer or you are divorced, or you are raising the kids by yourself. Again, submission to the Holy Spirit in primary. How do you treat your unsaved spouse or ex-spouse? Does your example toward them reflect godliness and the love of Jesus Christ? If it does, you will be a positive influence for Christ on your children. If it does not, you will fill your children with what is in your heart – whether that be resentment, pride, bitterness, revenge or anything else ungodly.


Coming down to Ephesians 6 we find that God requires Children to obey their parents. I talked about this last week. This is the first principle of parenting. We are to require our children to obey us in the Lord. In fact, if you do not require obedience from your children, then you are teaching them to sin. Obedience is to be the first time, right away and with a happy face. Anything less is not full obedience.

If a child does not obey the first time you ask them, then they are disobedient. If they will not obey until you tell them 3, 4 or more times, or until your voice reaches a certain pitch, or the arteries in our neck stand out, then you have trained them that they do not need to obey until you reach that level of agitation with them. I would venture that most of you know what I am talking about either from observation or actual experience. “Junior, please put your toys away and get ready for bed.” 5 minutes later, “Junior, I thought I told you to put those toys away and get ready for bed.” Another 5 minutes later, “Junior, I know I told you to put those toys away and get ready for bed.” Another 5 minutes later, “Junior, I am not telling you again, put those toys away and get ready for bed or your going to get it.” Another 5 minutes later, with your face read and your volume hitting a 100 decibels, “Junior, this is the last time, do what I said or I am going to spank you.” At this, Junior finally obeys. Understand that you have actually trained junior to ignore you until you reach that severe level of agitation. Children really can and will obey the first time if you train them to do so instead of making them guess when you are actually serious about your commands.

What if in this scenario Junior answered, “yes sir,” but still did not do it until he was done playing several minutes later? That may not seem like a big deal on the surface, but when you do not require a child to obey right away, then you have put them in the position of being judge of what is and what is not important. That right does not belong to them, it belongs to you. Again, you have actually trained them to disobey. Our children need to obey us the first time and right away.

Now in saying that we must remember that we as parents must also consider what the child is doing and give our commands properly. Who likes to be a couple of moves from the end of a game and then be told they have to put it up right now and go to bed. Who likes it to be five minutes before the end of a TV program be told to turn it off and come to dinner immediately. We parents should be sensitive to what are children are doing when we give commands. It would be better in such circumstances to assess what they are doing and give them an appropriate time warning first. “You have five minutes to finish what you are doing, and then come to dinner.” Or, “As soon this program is done, I want you to get ready for bed.” We also have to set up a system where the child can respectfully appeal our commands to them. Otherwise we can really frustrate them.

Teaching your children to appeal is not for them to give excuses or argue. That is disrespectful. Appealing allows the child to respectfully give additional information to us so that we can give them appropriate direction. It saves the child from the frustration of trying to obey us in doing something they believe is unreasonable or having to figure out how to obey us and another conflicting command. For example, you come home and tell your child to take out the trash not knowing that they were already told to do their homework before they did their chores. The commands are in conflict. What is the child to do? Most children now will either disobey one of the parents or argue. Instead, they can ask to appeal, and then with permission granted, they inform the parent of the other instructions they have received and ask which they should do first. The parent can then give appropriate direction.

We also need to require our children to obey with what I call a “happy face.” Obedience includes the child’s attitude. A child that is grumbling, complaining or whining may be conforming their outward behavior to our commands, but they are not being obedient from the heart. I cannot stress enough that it is the heart that we are trying to train, not just behavior. You have to get behavior first, this is the primary parenting responsibility with the little ones, but you can’t not stop there. You must also train the heart. which will be revealed in their attitudes.

Do not allow or accept grumbling, complaining or whining from your children, otherwise you are training them to sin against you and against God. Those things demonstrate that there is rebellion in their hearts. Remember what God did to the children of Israel in the wilderness for their much grumbling? As they grumbled God would chastise them with plagues, poisonous snakes, the ground opening up and swallowing Korah and his followers, and forty years of wandering until that whole generation had died off. I am not saying that if your child whines you should put a snake in their bed, but I am saying that you should not accept or tolerate grumbling because it is a form of rebellion.

Children can be forced to give behavioral obedience, but we have to make sure we go beyond that. Remember, obedience is the school master that gives the child the skills to pursue both Godliness and success. We also want to instill within them the principles of God’s Word and train their hearts so that they will be internally guided rather than outwardly conformed. Our real goal should be that by the time they are 12 or 13 that their obedience to us has turned into submission – i.e. a willingness and desire to follow our guidance – and that such submission is actually secondary to their submission to the Lord. This will not be accomplished without hard work and the help of the Holy Spirit.

Remember that it is only through submission to the Holy Spirit that our children will be able to honor their parents as God demands.


Here in Ephesians 6:4 we find the rest of the basic principles for parents to follow. And, fathers, do not provoke your children to anger; but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”

For the most part, our society no longer has the mindset of Harry Truman, who when president, had a sign on his desk that said, “The buck stops here.” We are more prone to follow the example of our ancestors Adam and Eve and just pass the buck along. Adam told God that it was the woman’s fault. Eve told God it was the serpent’s fault. We tell ourselves it has got to be somebody else’s fault. Let’s figure out who so that we can sue!

It is no different when it comes to parenting, and this is true even in Christian circles. If a child turns out okay, the parents do not hesitate to acknowledge them as their children, and usually with a bit of pride showing too. But if the child turns out rebellious and a problem for society, then the parents are quick to claim that they did everything they could, so it was not their fault. They do not want to bear any of the responsibility for how the child turned out as an adult.

Moms and dads, you need to understand that there is a dual responsibility in how your children turn out. Both you and your child bear a responsibility in what kind of adults they become. This does not mean the child can blame you for the sins they commit, for regardless of how good or bad a child’s parents, the individual bears full responsibility for himself. Why? Because of God’s call to everyone to repent from their sins and follow Him. God’s grace is sufficient to change anyone that will repent. Remember, all of us were dead in trespasses and sin, but it was God who made us alive together with Christ (Eph. 2). The effect of sin may have had us in different stages of decay and corruption, but dead is dead, and when we were made alive in Christ we became new creatures. The old past away and the new was put on (2 Cor. 5:17f).

No one will ever be able to stand before God and blame their parents or anyone else for the sins they have committed. Ezekiel 18:20 states this truth very clearly “The person who sins will die. The son will not bear the punishment for the father’s iniquity, nor will the father bear the punishment for the son’s iniquity; the righteousness of the righteous will be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked will be upon himself.

Don’t ever let yourself get caught in the trap so prevalent in modern psychology that passes the blame along to someone else or to “society” in general for all the problems you have. Throughout the Scriptures we find this truth that God holds each of us individually accountable for our own sins. God’s judgment of us will be impartial, and it will be based on each man’s individual deeds – (1 Peter 1:17; Rev. 20:12,13).

Parents, understand that God is not going to hold you responsible for you children’s sins, but He is going to hold you responsible for your failures to raise them according to His directions. How our children turn out is a reflection on how you parented them. What you do in raising your child will greatly affect what they believe to be true, what they believe to be important, what life is all about, what behaviors are acceptable or unacceptable, how they feel about themselves and others. How you raise them will reflect in how they turn out.

This does not mean that you are responsible for their salvation because you cannot save anyone. Salvation is the work of God Himself as the Holy Spirit brings the individual to conviction of sin, repentance and regeneration so that they will believe and follow the Lord Jesus Christ, receiving from Him pardon for their sin. No parent can guarantee the salvation of their children, but the parent is to set the stage for the Holy Spirit’s work. They are to teach their children God’s laws, that sin is failure to keep God’s laws, and that sin’s punishment is eternal death. Parents are to teach their children about God’s love, especially as demonstrated in Jesus Christ and His Substitutionary death. We are to teach our children about eternal life that can be given to us through forgiveness of sins through faith in Jesus Christ and following after Him.

But you say, “We did everything we could. Our child rebelled against us and followed Adam’s sin nature within him. It’s not my fault.” God’s answer is, “Did you do everything you could? Did you follow all my commands to you as individuals and as parents? Did you demonstrate a perfect walk with me? Did you really bring your child up in my nurture and admonition without provoking him to anger or exasperating him causing him to lose heart?”

Let’s be honest with each other. No one in this room walks perfectly with Christ right now. How much less has any parent here done so since the time their first child was born? The solution for guilt is not trying to pass the buck, but confession and receiving God’s forgiveness. Don’t let your pride get in the way. If your children are grown and are not following Christ, then the key to further ministry with them is 1) As the Lord brings your past failures with your children to your attention, confess and ask God’s forgiveness. His promise is that He will forgive (1 John 1:9). You may need to do this with your children as well. 2) Pleading for God’s mercy upon them that the Holy Spirit will yet bring them under conviction of sin and draw them to Himself.

For those of us who still have our children at home, our confessions of failure need to be as they happen and that may include setting our pride aside and asking our kids for forgiveness too. It sets a wonderful example for them. None of us are going to be perfect parents, but the Scriptures tell us we are responsible for our failures.

Here in Eph. 6:4, Paul addresses his command to “fathers.” The term “fathers” here does not mean that only dad is responsible for raising the kids. It should be immediately obvious that both parents are responsible for in the context, verse 1 states that children are to obey their “parents” – plural. In addition this same term for “fathers” is translated in Heb. 11:23 as “parents” because it refers to both of Moses’ parents. The father is emphasized here because he is the head of the home and therefore the one responsible to set the tenor and direction of the home including how the children are raised. The same idea can be seen in the Old Testament.

Psalm 78:5 For He established a testimony in Jacob, And appointed a law in Israel, Which He commanded our fathers, That they should teach them to their children, 6 That the generation to come might know, [even] the children [yet] to be born, [That] they may arise and tell [them] to their children, 7 That they should put their confidence in God, And not forget the works of God, But keep His commandments, 8 And not be like their fathers , A stubborn and rebellious generation, A generation that did not prepare its heart, And whose spirit was not faithful to God.” The dad is specifically mentioned, yet the responsibility falls on both dad and mom. The generation of “fathers” that were rebellious included all the women that died in the wilderness too.

So, while the responsibility is primarily on dad’s shoulders, that does not mean in anyway that you moms are not responsible. Dads and moms are both accountable for how the children are raised. Proverbs gives many statements concerning this. Let me give you a few.

Prov. 1:8,9 Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, And do not forsake your mother’s teaching; 9 Indeed, they are a graceful wreath to your head, And ornaments about your neck. Prov. 6:20-23 adds, 0 My son, observe the commandment of your father, And do not forsake the teaching of your mother; 21 Bind them continually on your heart; Tie them around your neck. 22 When you walk about, they will guide you; When you sleep, they will watch over you; And when you awake, they will talk to you. 23 For the commandment is a lamp, and the teaching is light; And reproofs for discipline are the way of life,” Both mom and dad are involved in the training of the child.

How the child turns – whether bad or good – reflects on both of them. Prov. 10:1, A wise son makes a father glad, But a foolish son is a grief to his mother.” Prov. 17:25, A foolish son is a grief to his father, And bitterness to her who bore him.” Prov. 23:22-25, “Listen to your father who begot you, And do not despise your mother when she is old. 23 Buy truth, and do not sell [it,] [Get] wisdom and instruction and understanding. 24 The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice, And he who begets a wise son will be glad in him. 25 Let your father and your mother be glad, And let her rejoice who gave birth to you.” Prov. 17:21, “He who begets a fool [does so] to his sorrow, And the father of a fool has no joy.” Prov. 29:15, “5 The rod and reproof give wisdom, But a child who gets his own way brings shame to his mother.”

Children are a gift from the Lord and they are to be a blessing (Psalm 127), but if we parents do not fulfill our God given responsibilities properly, those children will not be a blessing to us or anyone else. The future of our society depends on us raising our children according to God’s design. This is precisely why Diane & I periodically teach parenting classes and make parenting videos available. In more personal terms, my sons play with your children. It helps a lot when your children are good influences instead of negative ones. In addition, someday my sons will marry somebody’s daughters. We pray that her parents are raising her to be a godly woman.

Let me encourage you work together with other parents. There is no responsibility or privilege you will ever have greater than raising your children, and no parent has it all together. We still have room for improvement, and we should desire to be the best parents we can be. Proverbs 15:22 reminds us that Without consultation, plans are frustrated, But with many counselors they succeed. It has meant much to Diane and I to have other parents that we can both talk with about our children and even about areas we may be failing in our parenting. We are often blind to our own areas of weakness and are tolerant of our children’s mis-behaviors. We have purposely cultivated these relationships with other like minded parents for this purpose.

And finally, be bold enough to ask those who watch your children about their actions and attitudes. That includes Sunday School teachers and youth leaders as well as babysitters. You can learn a lot about your children from those who watch them when you are not around.

Humility in parenting, as humility in all areas of life, will go a long way in helping you to be successful. It is the proud parent that remains independent and continuing in foolish practices to the detriment of their child. It is the humble parent that is open to continually learn and change for the benefit of their child. I pray that each of us will be found to be humble instead of proud.

We will continue this subject next week and look at what it means to not provoke children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.



Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help. Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children – Do one or more of the following: 1) Write down all the verses mentioned in the sermon and look them up later. 2) Count how many times there is a reference to parents. Talk with your parents about what you can do to make their job of parenting easier.


Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others. What are some of the results that should occur when someone becomes a Christian? What consequences should their be in family life? How are these working out in your own life and that of your family? What is the Biblical role of the wife? The Husband? The Children? Why is it so important that children obey their parents? What is the result if parents do not require obedience from their children? What considerations should a parent make when giving directions to their children? Give examples. What is an “appeal” and how can that help children? What is the importance of attitude? What must be accomplished before attitudes will be good? Why is grumbling and complaining such a serious matter? If you followed proper Biblical training principles, what should your child’s attitude and actions be by the time they are 12 or 13? How is your child progressing? If a child turns out to be an ungodly adult, who is responsible? Why? What does a parent do about their failures and their guilt? What is the parents’ responsibility concerning their child’s salvation? How can parents help each other? What are you doing to get that help for yourself, and how are you helping others?


Sermon Notes

Holy & Free, Part 11 – Role of Parents: General Principles

General Principles – Ephesians 5:15-6:4


The Importance of Obedience


The Responsibility of Parents (Ephesians 6:4)

Individual Responsibility (Ezekiel 18:20)


Parental Responsibility


Dad & Mom Involved

Psalm 78:5

Prov. 1:8,9; 6:20-23


Proverbs 10:1; 17:25; 23:22-25; 29:3;15)

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