The Role of the Parents, Part 2 – Colossians 3:21 & Selected Scriptures

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Pastor Scott L. Harris

Grace Bible Church, NY

April 10, 2011

The Role of the Parents, Part 2

Colossians 3:21 & Selected Scriptures


For several weeks we have been looking at what Paul says in Colossians 3:18-21 about the family and the role of the individuals within it – wife, husband, children and parents. This week I want to continue our examination of the role of parents for there is much more that the Bible says about parenting than just Paul’s brief prohibition in Colossians 3:21 – “Fathers, do not exasperate your children, that they may not lose heart.” This command is an additional specific instruction to parents that is dependent on the parent carrying out all the other commands he gave in verses 1-17. A godly parent must put off actions and attitudes that characterized them before being saved and put on the attitudes and actions that are in keeping with the new self that comes with being redeemed, regenerated and raised up with Christ. Put off things such as immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, greed, anger, wrath, malice, slander and abusive speech and put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, bearing one another’s burdens, forgiving each other, being loving and having the word of Christ richly dwell in you. The godly parent is to then correct their children of wrong behaviors and attitudes while instilling into them these same virtues.

My purpose last week was to lay a simple foundation for parenting. My major point boils down to the fact that you as the parent are responsible to raise your children. It is not something you can pass off to other people. Their care, education, medical care, and spiritual development are your responsibility, not that of the government, school district, counselors, doctors or church workers.

This does not mean you have to do it all, and in fact the wise parent will have others help because no one is an expert on everything or capable, even in logistical terms, of doing everything. However, everything is to be done under your direction. You do have to know what is going on when, where and why. And if you are not satisfied with the help you are getting with your children, then find new or additional help whether a teacher, a doctor or whoever else is needed.

My major points last week were 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 God’s grace and parents that will follow 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.  (See: The Role of Parents, Part 1)

That last point is extremely important in both continuing to mature yourself and being able to have a continuing influence on your adult children. Since none of us have yet reached perfection, every parent will have failings. The humble parent that will humbly recognize their own failings, confess them, receive God’s forgiveness and be freed from guilt while becoming more like Christ in the process. Such a humble parent will be in a better position to give advice and have that advice received by their adult children. It should be the great desire of every godly Christian parent that their children will go beyond them in every way, but especially in virtue, by building on their parents’ legacy. You be careful to leave such a legacy to your children and grandchildren even if they do not yet recognize its value.

This week I want to concentrate on some of the specific commands God has given to parents concerning the rearing of their children, both positive and negative. Since Colossians 3:21 is a prohibition, let us begin with the things parents are to avoid.

Prohibitions on Parents – Colossians 3:21, Ephesians 6:4

Colossians 3:21 sates, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children, that they may not lose heart.” As already mentioned this morning, this command is simply a specific instruction to parents that assumes they will already be fulfilling the commands given in the 20 previous verses. Ephesians 6:4 makes a similar statement, “fathers, do not provoke your children to anger.” This is also based on the assumption the parent will be following all the other commands given earlier in the letter, and specifically walking as wise men who are filled with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:15-21).

But why these specific prohibitions? The answer lies in the abuse that can easily arise from being in the superior position. The children have just been commanded to obey their parents, and if the parent is not careful they can easily become authoritarian and arbitrary in their commands without the proper thought in what is being taught to the child and the difficulties the commands place on the child. All of us are too prone to selfishness to not need this warning.

The idea of exasperation (ejreqivzw / erethizô) is to stir up, stimulate, provoke. This is a response to something that is happening. Such a stirring up could be good or bad depending on what is being stirred up, but in this case it is bad. The father is provoking the child to a response of being disheartened. The word here, (ajqumevw / athumeô), is the negation of spirit, courage. This is an interesting juxtaposition in the words for we usually think that something that stimulates will provoke action, but this does the opposite. The child is provoked to give up. How can that be? Because when something is prodded too long, callous builds up and it then no longer responds. Like a sliver embedded in the skin, it irritates and provokes at first, but eventually callous tissue forms around it so that it is no longer noticed. So it also is with children. This negative stimulation will at first cause anger, as Ephesians 6:4 warns, but eventually it discourages and disheartens creating indifference or even despondency.

There are many things parents can do to provoke their children to an angry response which when continued could eventually lead to discouragement and giving up. Let me suggest a few things that you need to be careful about, but first let me be clear that you are not to parent based on the response of your children. Children can be, and probably are most often, angry when they do not get their way. You do not stop what you are doing just because they get angry, but you should give careful consideration to why they are angry and then proceed with godly wisdom to parent according to the principles of God’s word.

1) Abuse: Physical and verbal. Generally, those who abuse, whether physically or verbally, are those who cannot control their own anger, and such anger only breeds more anger. Proverbs 30:33, “For the churning of milk produces butter, And pressing the nose brings forth blood; So the churning of anger produces strife.” Proverbs 15:1, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” This is true for kids as well as adults. This kind of anger is never godly and it cannot produce godly results. James 1:20 tells us that “the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.” Parents should never take out their anger on their children. Even if you have suffered at the hands of someone else, you need to remember that revenge belongs to God, not you, and you are to overcome evil with good (Romans 12:19-21).

A simple definition of child abuse is striking out at a child, either physically or verbally, out of anger. That is never proper for any parent, and even more so the Christian parent. You must not even discipline your child in anger, but must calm down before administering proper chastisement. Such abuse only produces anger in the child as they respond by lashing out at you or others, or they may internalize it out of fear you. If it goes on long enough, the child can become despondent and severely depressed, or that anger may burn internally as resentment waiting for the time when it can be expressed.

2) Inconsistency. This is a great cause of frustration to children.

If the rules of the home change according to your whim, then you are going to provoke your children to some form of anger. Consider it from the child’s perspective. One day you write on the wall and your considered “cute,” The next day your little bottom is spanked for the same thing. One day mom says to do something five or six times before she actually gets serious, the next day she says it once and then comes in with a paddle. One meal you play with your food and dad laughs, at the next meal dad is angry with you for doing the same thing. The child is confused and is uncertain of what is expected, and children will gamble when you are inconsistent being optimistic they can get away with it. This is one of the reasons that first time obedience is so important. Children know what is expected when parents are consistent and so it is easier on both of them.

Inconsistency causes frustration which in turn leads to anger. If such inconsistency is continued long enough, even an optimistic child can become pessimistic and quit trying out of fear they will do the wrong thing no matter what they try to do. Aren’t you glad that the Lord is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8)? He is consistent so that His commands remain the same and you can trust His promises. Pity those following a god such as Allah who is arbitrary and changes his mind on his own whims so that there is no surety in his promises.

3) Parental Selfishness. This is another provocation to anger. This is the opposite of the child centered parent – which is a whole different problem. The degree of selfishness will vary, but for these parents the world revolves around themselves and children are an intrusion. The result is that they do not take the time needed to really know their children and what is on their hearts. While this may be more common among dads since their work usually takes them away from the house and the children to begin with, it also occurs among moms. The parent may even be physically present, but their mind is somewhere else and only rarely on the children, and then only enough to keep them out of their way.

The child with a selfish parent will not usually be angry with the parent, at least while they are small, but they will be angry at whatever takes the parent away from them. As they get older that will change to an anger, resentment or indifference because there was not practical demonstration the parent cared about them. The old pop song “Cats in the Cradle” illustrates this last point well. The son wanted to be with his dad, but dad never had the time. When the dad became old and wanted to be with his son, the son did not have the time. As the song writer put it, “My son was just like me.” The selfish indifference was passed to the next generation.

4) Favoritism. This is a danger for every family with multiple children. Each child is different and will need different amounts and types of attention. Add to it that you might just like the personality of one of them more than the others. If you allow yourself to favor one and are not fair to the others, you are showing both favoritism and your own selfishness. You will be the cause of increased sibling rivalry and the resulting anger and resentment

The anger and rivalry that existed between Jacob and Esau was directly caused by their parents favoritism. Rebekah favored Jacob and Isaac favored Esau. Jacob followed his parental example and his obnoxious favoritism of Joseph caused all sorts of problems for Joseph, himself and his other eleven sons.

5) Excessive Expectations and Discouragement. I put these two together because they are so often associated with each other. This is the parent that continually demands more of their child than they are capable of and then castigates them when they fail. Such parents usually fail to make allowance for childishness which is the simple fact that the child does not yet have the skills to do certain things. It takes practice to learn to hold a cup with out spilling it, to color between the lines, to write the alphabet legibly, to throw and catch a ball, or to read. The same will continue to be true as they get older and take on more difficult skills – riding a bike, driving a car, cooking, school lessons, household chores and repairs, etc.

In addition, the reality is that we are neither born with nor develop with equal ability. Every child will be different. Some will have great intellectual capacity, others will not. Some will have great physical ability and others will not. Don’t compare your children to others including siblings either way. The proper expectation and requirement is that your children do their best, whatever that may be.

If your child is advanced, there is nothing wrong with complimenting them on their achievements. However, do not brag on them about how superior they are or you will feed their pride to their detriment. As Proverbs 16:18 warns, “Pride goes before destruction, And a haughty spirit before stumbling.” You also want to make sure they are doing their best and do not fall into the trap of slacking off because they are ahead of others their age. Your goal is to train their character. Learning the academic lessons and gaining particular skills are secondary to character development.

If your child is behind the other children in their skills, abilities, and achievements, then you still compliment them on what they are able to do while encouraging them to press on to do their best even if it is not as good as others. Again, the goal is to train their character, not learning academic lessons and gaining particular skills within some particular time frame. If you complain or make disparaging remarks about their lack, you will discourage them. If you compare them to others, especially siblings, you foster resentment. Be very careful of put downs and sarcasm. Ephesians 4:29 is clear that we are to speak in ways that will encourage and build up, giving grace according to the need of the moment. Don’t let your parental pride become a detriment to your child through excessive expectations and discouragement.

6) Using affection to manipulate. Making your affection conditional is a sure way to destroy your children. We are to be reflections of God’s love toward us who loved us when we were yet sinners. Certainly when your children disobey there is a strain in the relationship the same way there is in our relationship with God when we disobey Him, but He still loves us and tells us so. You need to do the same with your children. They need to know that when they have done wrong, the correction and chastening they receive is because you do love and care for them. You are not rejecting them, but only striving to train them for their own good. You are to always stand ready to forgive and reconcile with them. Hebrews 12:6 says that is the way God loves us. “He chastens whom He loves,” but those without His discipline are illegitimate and not His sons (12:8).

Trying to manipulate the child’s behavior by making your love conditional upon it will not only distort their understanding of love, but it will bring upon them frustration and discouragement. Why? Because there will always be another area in which they fail to meet the standard. Winning love becomes achievable only in the short term and so there is never security in it. The insecurity of not feeling loved is only relieved temporarily before it returns with the next failure and its frustrations. The goal becomes unreachable resulting in discouragement.

Parents have a great responsibility. You must be careful to not provoke your children to anger or exasperate them causing them to lose heart. If that becomes the pattern in your parenting, you will damage your children in ways that can hinder them throughout their lives. The reality is that you will do these things on occasion, at which point you need to confess your own failures and seek forgiveness and reconciliation with them. This should be done as quickly as possible after you realize your error and failure. If you do not recognize what you have done wrong until long after you have done it, it is never too late to confess and seek God’s forgiveness, and if those you have wronged are still alive, it is not too late to confess and seek their forgiveness too. That even lays a foundation for either reconciliation or a closer relationship than you might have thought possible.

There are a lot more Scriptures that direct parents about things they are to avoid in raising their children. The Proverbs have many such statements which are also often contrasted with what should be done. If there is enough interest, perhaps next week I will continue on this subject, but for what little time remains this morning, I want to balance out these prohibitions with some of the general prescriptive commands of what God wants parents to do.

Prescriptions on Parents – Ephesians 6:4

Let me contrast the prohibition we have just looked at in Ephesians 6:4 with God’s prescription given in the same verse. Parents are to “bring [their children] up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”

Bring them up. To “bring them up” is the idea of caring for them. The word here (ejktrevfw / ektrephô) is primarily used of children and means to “to nourish” as in “to feed, provide,” “nurture,” “rear.” And as we are all aware, feeding is an on going action. It seems we have hardly finished one meal when we are already starting to plan for the next. The same idea is inherent in bringing up a child. It is on going. One task is done and the next one starts and often the first task has to be repeated several times. You get them to crawl and then start on walking which is followed by running, riding a bike and then driving. You teach them the alphabet, and then putting letters together to make words, then reading and writing at ever increasing levels. They learn to count, then simple addition, then subtraction, which is followed by multiplication, division, fractions, proportions, scientific notation, logarithms, geometry, algebra, calculus, etc. You teach them to talk, then you have to teach them to be quiet!

Paul speaks of two aspects of bringing up a child. Discipline and instruction.

Discipline. This is discipline in sense of training. The word used here (paideiva / paideia) specifically refers to the various aspects of training a child and so it is also translated as chastening, nurture, instruction, discipline and training. There is a tendency to think of child training, especially discipline, from the negative side of teaching them lots of prohibitions – what they are not to do – and then bringing on the consequences of violating them. Certainly that negative training is included, but most of discipline should be positive training. This is the education of the child in all aspects – morally and spiritually as well as about the world and society. It involves example, lecture, reading, observation and discovery. It sets up opportunity for practice, gives reminders as well as correction back to the standard to reinforce a lesson. It is both formal and informal, for it is to occur throughout the day in every circumstance.

A good explanation and example of what it means to discipline in this manner is seen in Deuteronomy 6 where Moses is concerned about how to teach the next generation the commandments of the Lord in a way that the generations following them will also be taught.

In verse 4 Moses condensed the Law into a succinct statement – “Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” Jesus called this the great and foremost commandment (Matthew 22:38). Moses took that which was fairly complex and simplified it so that it could be easily remembered. He took the law to its foundational general principle, which if adhered to would lead a person back to most of the specifics God asked of them.

In verse 5 he explained how this important lesson would be transferred from generation to generation: “And these words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart; 7 and you shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.”

You are to teach your children about God and the principles by which they are to live. This is hard work and involves pointing out and explaining things over and over in many different situations. Your goal is that they will both understand and have many examples to transfer to their own situations. Proper parenting is on going and teaches a child to think for himself according to the principles of God’s word and instilled through proper training.

Instruction. This is the second aspect of bringing up a child. The word used here (nouqesiva / nouthesia) gives more stress on the mental aspect of teaching in that the root word means “to set in mind.” Instruction sets in the mind both the spiritual and societal truths of life in how to live with God and with man. This would be exemplified by the book of Proverbs which was written, according Proverbs 1:2-6, “To know wisdom and instruction, To discern the sayings of understanding, 3 To receive instruction in wise behavior, Righteousness, justice and equity; 4 To give prudence to the naive, To the youth knowledge and discretion, 5 A wise man will hear and increase in learning, And a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel, 6 To understand a proverb and a figure, The words of the wise and their riddles.”

There is also a strong element of correction in this element of child rearing which is why the word is also translated as “admonition,” “warning” and “exhortation” as well as “instruction.” In this sense it is instructive correction given without provoking or embittering the child.

Of the Lord. A final point I want to make from Ephesians 6:4 is that the parental discipline and instruction given are to be “of the Lord.” The primary task of parents now is really the same as what Moses gave to the children of Israel. Our children are to understand who the Lord is, what He has done for them and what it means to love Him. Parents who fail to do this have failed regardless of how much time and money they have spent on their children. Too many dads think they are successful if they can purchase lots of stuff for their kids. Too many moms think they are successful if they give lots of time to their kids. However, if time and materials are not used to help your child understand God, what He has done and how to love Him, then it was all wasted.

Nurturing a child in the discipline and instruction of the Lord should encompass all that 2 Timothy 3:16,17 says the Word of God is to accomplish in us. It provides the teaching, reproof, correction and instruction in righteousness that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. Teaching points out the path of life. Reproof warns you have gotten off that path. Correction gets you back on the path. Instruction tells you how to stay on the path. That is what you will do for your children as you nurture them in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

This is no easy task. It is one of awesome responsibility. There is no responsibility or privilege you will ever have that will be greater than raising your children. No parent has it all together, which is why you are to be humble and always looking to the Lord in your own life so that you can succeed by both following His instructions, and relying on His mercy and grace upon your children to bring them to maturity despite your own failings. Commit yourself to bringing your children up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord while avoiding provoking them to anger or exasperating them causing them to lose heart. If you do so, your children will become a blessing to both you and others, which is the real mark of successful parenting.


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. What is the relationship between Paul’s command to fathers in Colossians 3:21 and all the verses preceding it? What is the nature of the responsibility of a parent for their child? What should you do when you find out you have not followed all of God’s instructions concerning raising your children? Why is that important? What does it mean in Colossians 3:21 to “exasperate” and why would that cause a child to “lose heart?” What is the relationship to this and provoking to anger (Ephesians 6:4)? Define child abuse? What are the short term and long term effects of physical and / or verbal abuse on a child? What harm does parental inconsistency cause a child? How does parental selfishness affect a child? What is the cause of parental favoritism and what is its result among siblings? How can you keep the balance between having expectations that are too high and too low? How should you treat an exceptionally gifted child? How should you deal with a child that is a slow learner or has poor physical abilities? What effect does conditional love have on a child? How is a parent to show love to a child that is disobedient and rebellious? How should you respond when you find out you have exasperated your child or provoked them to anger? What does it mean to “bring up” a child in Colossians 3:21? What are the positive and negative aspects of discipline? Why should most discipline be positive in nature? What should be your goal in training your children? How can Deuteronomy 6:4-7 help you reach that goal? How does instruction differ from discipline? What are its positive and negative aspects? How will a parent know if they are being successful in their parenting?

Sermon Notes – 4/10/2011

The Role of the Parents, Part 2 – Colossians 3:21 & Selected


Colossians 3:21 is an additional specific command to parents founded on the commands of verses 1-20

Parents are ________________ to raise their children – others can only help with that responsibility

Children will follow the parents’ example, be sure your example is ____________

The proof of good parenting will be the child

God requires children to ____________ their parents, so parents must also require it

The parent and the child are responsible for their own sin and failures, not for that of the other

The solution for guilt is ____________ and forgiveness

Prohibitions on Parents – Colossians 3:21, Ephesians 6:4

Due to their ________position, it is easy for a parent to become authoritarian and arbitrary with their kids

Exasperation (ejreqivzw / erethizô) = to stir up, ____________ , provoke

Lose heart (ajqumevw / athumeô) = the negation of _________, courage

This negative stimulation will often at first cause anger (Ephesians 6:4) but eventually it _____________

    1) Abuse: Physical and verbal – Anger breeds ___________- Proverbs 30:33; 15:1; James 1:20

Child abuse occurs when __________ strikes out either physically or verbally

    2) Inconsistency – The rules keep ______________ according to the parent’s whim

Inconsistency causes _____________which in turn leads to anger and then eventually to disheartenment

    3) Parental Selfishness – The self centered parent treats the child as an _______________ into their life

Young children become angry at parental neglect, older children become ________________

    4) Favoritism – showing preference for one child while being ___________ to the others

The anger and ____________ between Jacob and Esau was caused by the favoritism of their parents

    5) Excessive Expectations and Discouragement – demanding more than the child is ____________

Allow ___________ for the child to develop skills

Every child is ______________ in innate abilities and the rate at which they develop and learn

Compliment, but don’t feed the __________ of the superior child and don’t let them rest on their laurels

Compliment and encourage the slower child to do their _________ – whatever that may be

The goal is ___________development, not gaining skills and learning lessons within some set time frame

    6) Using affection to manipulate – making your love _______________ will destroy your children

Like God, ___________ them even when they sin, and correct them out of that love (Hebrews 12:6-8)

When you realize you have provoked or exasperated your child, ___________ it and reconcile with them

Prescriptions on Parents – Ephesians 6:4

    Bring them up, (ejktrevfw / ektrephô) = the ____________action of feeding, providing, nurturing a child

    Discipline, (paideiva / paideia) = _______a child with both the negative and positive aspects of teaching

Deuteronomy 6:4 – a succinct summation of ______________ of all of God’s laws

Deuteronomy 6:5-7 – the ____________ by which parents are to train their children to love God

    Instruction, (nouqesiva / nouthesia) = emphasis on the _________aspects of teaching – “to set in mind”

It teaches know ___________ to live with God and man – Proverbs 1:2-6

This includes instructive ________________ that is given without provoking or embittering the child

    Of the Lord – the primary task of parents is to know, love and walk with God

2 Timothy 3:16-17 – Use the _______________ to teach, reprove, correct and instruct on the path of life

Commit yourself to bringing up your children in this manner and they will be a ________to you & others


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