The Role of Parents, Pt. 1 – Colossians 3:21

Download MP3

(If you would like to receive Pastor Harris’ weekly sermons via e-mail, Click Here)

(Greek words can be viewed with symbol font)
(If you would like to download the PowerPoint presentation for this sermon, Click Here – Col 28 The Role of the Parents Pt 1 Col 3 21)

Pastor Scott L. Harris

Grace Bible Church, NY

April 3, 2011

The Role of Parents, Pt. 1

Colossians 3:21


This morning will be the fourth message in this section of Colossians 3:18-4:1. This passage deals with family relationships and arises as the direct application of all that Paul has talked about in Colossians 3:1-17. Let me read through with you Colossians 3:18-22 to review Paul’s commands to the immediate family.

18 Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. 19 Husbands, love your wives, and do not be embittered against them. 20 Children, be obedient to your parents in all things, for this is well-pleasing to the Lord. 21 Fathers, do not exasperate your children, that they may not lose heart.

Your ability to fulfill your role is directly related to how well you are walking with the Lord as one who has been “raised up with Christ” (vs. 1). While it is possible for a non-Christian wife to willingly submit to and respect her husband, that is difficult. While it is possible for a non-Christian husband to sacrificially love his wife, that is difficult and it is impossible for him to actually love her as Christ loves the church. It is required that all children obey their parents, but for wife, husband, and children it is a lot easier to fulfill these roles when they have the Holy Spirit within them to direct and empower. As you set aside the habits and attitudes that characterized you life prior to salvation and put on the habits and attitudes that belong to the new creature you have become in Christ, then it is no longer difficult to fulfill these roles. The same is true for parents which is the subject we will address this morning.

The Colossian Command – Colossians 3:21

Paul’s command here is interesting from the standpoint that it is only from the negative. “Fathers, do not exasperate your children, that they may not lose heart” (NASB) or as some versions express it, “Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged” (NKJV). Parenting would be very easy if all we had to do was avoid this one danger zone, but Paul and the rest of the scriptures have a lot more to say both positive and negative about the responsibilities of parents. The parallel passage in Ephesians 6:4 includes this negative “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger,” but it also adds the positive, “but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” Paul’s command here is only an additional specific instruction to parents that compliments all the other commands he has given to believers in verses 1-17.

Godly parenting requires that you put off the evil and put on good in both your own practice and in what you require of your children. Your own example has to match the instructions you give your children or they will see the hypocrisy and reject your teaching. In fact, your example will have a greater effect upon them than anything else you do. When a disciple (student) is fully trained, he will be like his teacher (Luke 6:40). If you are characterized by walking in the flesh with attitudes and actions of anger, wrath, malice, slander and abusive speech (Col. 3:8), then don’t be surprised when your children exhibit the same characteristics. The same is true of immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire and greed (Col. 3:5). If the evil practices of the old self characterize your life, then they will also characterize the lives of your children unless the Lord intervenes to save them despite your negative influence. At the same time, if your life is characterized as walking in the new self with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, bearing one another’s burdens, forgiving each other, being loving with the word of Christ richly dwelling in you, then your children will take on a lot of those characteristics even if they are not saved.

In recognition of the importance of parenting and that there is so much more in the Scriptures concerning it than this one passage, I want to spend the rest of this morning going over the more general principles of parenting, and then next week will concentrate on some of the more specific commands including this one in Colossians 3:21.

Before I do though, I want to point out that most of the Biblical commands, including this one here in Colossians, are directed specifically to the “fathers,” but the command is to be followed by both parents, not just the dad. The reason these commands are addressed to the father is because God has placed the husband as the head of the household, so he is also the one that is going to be held responsible for making sure the family carries out God’s commands. The practical reality is that a large portion if not the majority of the teaching of children will be done by the mother since she spends the most time with them in their daily care. The father has the responsibility, but the mother fulfills a large portion of it. Another reason for the importance of the wife submitting to the husband’s leadership and the husband actively leading.

The Importance of Biblical Instruction

God has given us plenty of instructions on how to raise our children, but as American society continues its flight away from Biblical values and to the vain philosophies and wisdom of men, then the family continues to disintegrate. When people reject the creator and His design, they prove the scriptures true that they have been blinded by Satan (2 Corinthians 4:4) and that in professing to be wise they have become fools (Romans 1:22). The proof of good parenting is in the children. As society has paid more attention to supposed experts than the Scriptures, the problems with children and youth have only escalated. Hard to believe, but among the top ten problems among High School students in the 1950’s was chewing gum in class and boys not tucking in their shirts. Compare that to today’s High School environment with metal detectors, undercover narcotics officers and sexually transmitted diseases being common.

To take this one step further, a supposed expert on parenting whose own children are out of control is not qualified, yet that is the common situation. If your wisdom and advice does not work for your own children, why would it be expected for it to work on the children of other people. That is why the qualifications for Elders in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 both include elements related to the family and parenting. Titus 1:6 states his character must include being “blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of dissipation or insubordination” (NKJV). 1 Timothy 3:3-4 states he is “one who rules his own house well, having [his] children in submission with all reverence 5 (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?).” A similar statement is made about the deacons. How a man does in leading his family is the evidence of how he will do in leading in the church.

We need to both know and follow God’s instructions concerning the family, and the instructions for parenting children begins with the role of the husband and wife. You cannot be a better parent than you are a spouse.

The Importance of the Marriage

As we saw in our study of Colossians 3:18, the wife is to be in submission to the husband. Ephesians 5:15-33 explains that this submission is first to the Holy Spirit and then to her husband and that she is also to show him respect. If she does not do this, she will resent her role and risk having her husband rule over her from a negative standpoint as part of the curse of sin (Genesis 3:16). In any case, she will not be the woman she could be and should be. (See: The Role of the Wife)

The role of the husband is to lead his family in godliness through a sacrificial, committed love. This also arises out of his own walk with the Holy Spirit, for it is impossible for a man to love someone else as “Christ loves the church” without the help of the Spirit of God. This sacrificial love includes leading her, protecting her, providing for her, and helping her to become holy and blameless. (See: The Role of the Husband)

Parents, let me stress again that your ability to properly raise your children is in direct relationship to your ability to be a godly spouse and that is dependent on your walk with the Lord. If you are unwilling to submit to the Spirit and follow the Scriptures in your role as a spouse, you will not do so in your role as a parent. You have already decided that you know better than God and that same basic belief will control your parenting. If you want to raise good and godly kids, then you need to work at having a good and godly marriage.

But, you say, your spouse is not a believer or you are divorced and 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 and attitude toward them reflect godliness and the love of Jesus Christ? If it does, you will be a positive influence for Christ on your children despite your spouse. 1 Corinthians 7:14 explains that the believing spouse sanctifies the unbelieving spouse and the children. If your example is ungodly, then you will fill your children with that ungodliness that is in your heart – whether that be resentment, bitterness, pride, revenge or anything else ungodly.

The Importance of Obedience

Last week we studied Colossians 3:20 and the role of children. God requires children to obey. This is the first principle of parenting. We are to require our children to obey us in the Lord. You are teaching your children to sin if you do not require them to obey. Obedience is to be the first time, right away, and with a happy face. Anything less than that is disobedience for obedience encompasses both actions and attitude. (See: The Role of Children)

Why is it important that the child obey the first time you tell them? Let me give you two reasons. The first will be theological and the second will be practical.

First, failure to obey the first time is delayed obedience and that is disobedience. The tragedy is that this is totally controlled by the parent. Why do I say that? Because a child will obey you when they know you are finally serious. That can be either the first time or whatever point it you finally mean it. That may be after you have said it three or more times depending on your normal practices. It may be when your voice reaches a certain pitch or tone. It may not be until the arteries in your neck stand out as your blood pressure skyrockets. You, not your child, have determined the point of obedience by what you actually require of them and when you require it.

Perhaps this scenario will sound uncomfortably familiar. You tell your child, “Junior, please put your toys away and get ready for bed.” Five minutes later you say, “Junior, I thought I told you to put those toys away and get ready for bed.” Five more minutes go by and you say, “Junior, I know I told you to put those toys away and get ready for bed, now please do it!” Another five minutes goes by before you say, “Look, I am not telling you again. Put those toys away and get ready for bed or your going to get it.” More time passes and now with your face read and your volume hitting 100 decibels, “This is the last time. Do what I said or I am going to spank you!” At this, Junior finally obeys for now he knows you’re serious.

This may not seem very important, but it is very important. When you do not require a child to obey right away the first time, then you have put them in the position of being the judge of what is and what is not important. That right does not belong to them – it belongs to you. You have actually trained them to disobey. Your children need to obey you the first time and right away otherwise you teach them to sin.

At the same time parents must also consider what the child is doing and be sensitive to that while giving their commands properly and clearly. It borders on being cruel to tell children to stop their game and go get ready for bed when they are only a couple of moves from the end. Neither is it very nice to tell them to wash up and come to dinner five minutes before the end of a program they have been watching. A loving parent will be sensitive to what the child is doing and take that into consideration when giving instructions. This is part of what Colossians 3:21 is talking about. We are not to exasperate or frustrate them with such things because it causes them to lose heart.

The second reason to require first time obedience is simply safety. There are too many situations in which the safety of your child is dependent on them doing what you say immediately. Only their immediate obedience will prevent them from injury or even death. No one wants to go through the grief of saying, “if they had only listened.” Teach them to listen and obey the first time.

We also need to require our children to obey with what I call a “happy face.” Children that grumble, complain or whine may be outwardly obedient to your commands, but they are rebellious in heart. Do not allow or accept it. I cannot stress enough that in parenting it is the heart that you are trying to train, not just behavior. Remember that God’s punishment of the children of Israel in the wilderness was because of their continued grumbling. They would grumble and complain and God would chastise them – plagues, poisonous snakes, the ground opening up and swallowing Korah and his followers, and then 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.

Obedience is the schoolmaster that gives the child the skills to pursue both Godliness and success, but do not stop with outward behavior. Frankly, outward behavior is the easy part and that should be largely accomplished by the time they are between 4-6 years old. Go beyond that to also instill within them the principles of God’s Word and train their hearts so that they will be internally guided rather than outwardly conformed. The real goal is that by the time they are 12 or 13 years old that they understand and are following the principles and precepts of God’s word so well that their primary submission is to the Lord. When that point is reached, the obedience to parents becomes secondary to submission to the Lord. They should have a willingness and desire to follow the parent’s guidance because it is right and best before the Lord and not because it is forced.

The Responsibility of Parents

Ephesians 6:4 describes the responsibility of parents very succinctly. “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” As I said last week, our children arrive in our homes as sinners and we have a responsibility to teach them discipline so that the bent toward sin does not overwhelm them. I also said that it was the job of children to learn and the job of parents to teach them. The most important lessons we can teach our children are those related to teaching them about the Lord and how He wants them to live. But that is no easy task.

When Harry Truman was president, he had a sign on his desk that said, “The buck stops here.” It seems there are few that have that mindset. Most people will 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. The serpent lost his voice and so also lost his legs. People are always trying to figure out where to shift the blame.

It is no different when it comes to parenting, and sadly, this is true even in Christian circles. If a child turns out pretty good, the parents are happy to point them out and claim them as their own with perhaps a little pride showing too. But if the child turns out rebellious and a problem in society, then the parents are quick to claim that it was not their fault. They claim they did everything they could and so bear no responsibility. There are quite a few Proverbs that contradict that idea. Proverbs 10:1, “A wise son makes a glad father, But a foolish son [is] the grief of his mother.” Proverbs 17:25, “A foolish son [is] a grief to his father, And bitterness to her who bore him.” Proverbs 19:26, “He who assaults [his] father [and] drives [his] mother away Is a shameful and disgraceful son.” Proverbs 29:15, “The rod and reproof give wisdom, But a child who gets his own way brings shame to his mother.”

While grief and bitterness can express the emotions experienced over negative things you could not control, shame is a negative emotion that is directly related to one’s own wrong actions or failures. A mother and father are shamed when their children behave in such ways that it exposes their parent’s failures. The reality is that all parents will fail to one degree or another which is why godly parents not only work hard in rearing their children, but they pray hard too.

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 were the child’s parents, the individual bears full responsibility for himself. Why? Because God’s call to everyone is to repent from their sins and follow Him. God’s grace is sufficient to change anyone that will do so. Remember, all of us were dead in trespasses and sin, but it was God who made us alive together with Christ (Ephesians 2). The effect of sin may have people in different stages of decay and corruption, but dead is dead. However, when we were made alive in Christ we became new creatures. The old passed away and the new was put on (2 Corinthians 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 will be based on each man’s 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 instructions. How your 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, and 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. That could never be because no man can save another. Salvation is the work of God Himself as the Holy Spirit brings the individual to conviction of sin, repentance and regeneration 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, that sin’s punishment is eternal death. Parents are to teach their children about God’s love and especially as demonstrated in Jesus Christ and His substitutionary death and resurrection. We are to teach our children about the life that God can give to us through forgiveness of sins through 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 may be true that your child has rebelled and is following his sin nature. It may be even true that you made a valiant effort, but did you really do everything you could do? Did you follow all of God’s commands to you as individuals and as parents? Did you demonstrate a perfect walk with God? Did you really bring your child up in the nurture and admonition if the Lord without provoking him to anger or exasperating him causing him to lose heart?

The reality is that no parent can really say they have done everything they could have done for that would require perfection and no parent is perfect. The solution for guilt of failure is not in trying to pass the buck, but rather in 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 there are two key things you need to do in further ministry with them – confess and intercede.

1) Confess. 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. Such humility and repentance can go a long way in restoring or maintaining a relationship with a prodigal child as well as point to them the way they need to deal with their own guilt and failures.

2) Intercede. Plead 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 who still have your children at home, your confessions of failure need to be as they happen and that may include setting your pride aside and asking your kids for forgiveness too. It also sets a wonderful example for them about how they should respond when they do wrong. There are no perfect parents, but all parents are responsible for their children since the Scriptures declare it to be so.


Children are a gift from the Lord and they are to be a blessing (Psalm 127), and they will be if we follow God’s instructions concerning them. If we do not, then they may well prove to be a curse to us and everyone around them. There is no responsibility or privilege you will ever have greater than raising your children, but no parent has it all together. That is why Diane and I periodically teach parenting classes, and we will probably be doing that again this Fall. We want you to know what God says about parenting and help you put those instructions into practice so that your children are a blessing and not a curse.

The major points of this morning’s sermon. 1) Children will generally become like their parents, so your example is crucial including your marriage. 2) The proof of good parenting will be the child, and good children are the result of following God’s commands. 3) God requires children to obey their parents, so parents need to require it or they teach their children to sin. Obedience needs to be the first time, right away and with a good attitude. 4) There is a dual responsibility for how a child turns out as an adult. The child is fully responsible for his own actions and attitudes. The parents are fully responsible for carrying out the Lord’s commands with the child being a reflection of how well they have done at that. 5) The solution for guilt is confession and forgiveness.

Next week I want to continue on this subject and expand on what the Bible says about both the positive and negatives of parenting. There are things parents are to do and things they are to avoid.


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 “parent(s)” is used. Discuss with your parents their role and what you can do to help them fulfill it.



Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others. Why is walking properly with the Lord so important in fulfilliong your role within your family? Paul’s command in Colossians 3:21 concerning parents is from a negative perspective – what to avoid – what does the context of this verse tell us about what parents are supposed to do from the positive perspective? What effect will your example have on your children? Why is this command directed to “fathers” and what part then do mothers have in parenting? What is the fundamental reason society has declined so much in the last 50 years? What is the proof of a parenting philosophy? What requirements concerning their family do Elders and Deacons have to meet in order to be qualified? Do you think most secular “family experts” could meet those qualifications? What is the importance of fulfilling marriage roles in raising godly children? What hope is there for divorced and single parents? Why is it so important that children obey? What does a parent teach a child if they do not require obedience? Why does obedience need to be the first time, right away and with a good attitude? By what age should most children be obedient in their behavior? What should be expected of children by the time they are 12-13 years old – toward God? Toward their parents? What is the parents responsibility concerning the salvation of their children. What is the responsibility of an adult child concerning his actions and attitudes? What is the responsibility of the parents in how a child turns out as an adult? What is the solution to guilt? What are the two key components of continued ministry by parents toward an adult child that is rebellious? What are you doing to make sure your children will be a blessing and not a curse?

Sermon Notes – 4/3/2011

The Role of the Parents, Part 1 – Colossians 3:21 & Selected


Colossians 3:18-4:1 is the direct application in the _______and work of the teaching in Colossians 3:1-17

Your ability to fulfill your role within the family is directly related to your walk with the _________

The Colossian Command – Colossians 3:21

Both Paul and the rest of the Bible says a lot more both positive and negative about parental __________

Godly parenting requires you to put off _____and put on the good that comes with walking with the Lord

Children become like their parents (Luke 6:40), so be careful of the _____________ you give them.

Commands to parents are directed to the ______as the head, but they are to be carried out by both parents

The Importance of Biblical Instruction

God has given parents plenty of instructions, but American society is __________them and disintegrating

The proof of good parenting is in the ________- society has declined under the influence of the “experts”

Titus 1:6; 1 Timothy 3:3-4 – Elders & Deacons have to be doing well in _____________ their children

The Importance of the Marriage

The wife is to be in ___________ to her husband and respect him – Colossians 1:18; Ephesians 5:15-33

The husband is to sacrificially _____his wife & lead, protect & provide for his family – Col. 1:19; Eph. 5

Parents, your ability to raise your children properly is in direct relationship to your _______with the Lord

You cannot be a better parent than you are a ___________ – to raise godly children you must be godly

Divorced & single parents – your _____________ to the Holy Spirit provides the needed godly example

If your example is ____________, then you will instill that ungodliness into your children

The Importance of Obedience

God requires children to _________ their parents – Colossians 3:20; Ephesians 6:1-3

Parents that do not require their children to obey teach them to ___________

Children are to be taught to obey the first time & right away, for __________ obedience is disobedience

The parent determines _________ the child will obey by when they get serious enough to require it.

Godly parents ________and are sensitive to what the child is doing when giving commands / instructions

First time obedience is necessary for the sake of __________

Obedience needs to be with a good ____________ – for grumbling, complaining and whining are sin

Obedience is the schoolmaster, but it must go beyond outward behavior and train the __________

By 12-13 years old a child should be trained to have a primary submission to ___________

The Responsibility of Parents

It is the parent’s responsibility to bring up their children in the _____________ and nurture of the Lord

Parents take pride in good kids, but usually try to shift the ___________ for bad kids

There is a dual _______________ in how children turn out as adults

Each __________________ bears full responsibility for their sin – Ezekiel 18:20

Parents are responsible for their ______________ to follow God’s instructions

Parents are not responsible for a child’s ________, but they are to set the stage for the Holy Spirit’s work

No parent can truly say they have done _______________ they could in raising their children

The solution for guilt is _______________ and receiving God’s forgiveness.

The two key components for ministry to rebellious adult children – Confession & ______________


(If you would like to receive Pastor Harris’ weekly sermons via e-mail, Click Here)

Grace Bible Church Home Page || Sermon Archives

For comments, please e-mail  Church office