Ephesians 6v1-4
Our portion of Ephesians today raises the issue of children in the church.
A news story about children caught my eye this week, the one concerning actress
Katie Holmes splitting from her husband Tom Cruise, apparently over the sinister
intentions of the Church of Scientology for which Cruise is a passionate spokesman.
Scientology teaches that humans are eternal alien beings called Thetans. This is no
surprise since the founder was L. Ron Hubbard a science fiction novelist. Children
are treated as adults and families are disposable. One man who left the cult found
out later that, unknown to him, his wife had been coerced into an abortion. He said
this: “It’s a toxic organisation. If you come into it, if you expect to raise your children
in it, someone is going to get hurt.” Young children are said to be subjected to
invasive personal questioning while they hold a sensor (an e meter) which
supposedly acts as a lie detector. It seems Katie Holmes understood that their 6 year
old daughter Suri was being lined up for this and she decided she was getting out.
I ‘m pleased to say that nothing like this is going on in County Kids this morning and
that we believe passionately in the family. So what about children in churches like
ours? Our aim is to be thoroughly biblical in all that we do, so let’s see what our text
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father
and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise — “so that it
may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” I
understand this promise to be about personal well-being and about social stability in
the community when there is godly order in family life. Fathers, do not exasperate
your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the
First, who does the apostle class as a child? How old would these children have
been? The word in the text for children is tekna – meaning true, genuine offspring.
This doesn’t help us with the question of age. It is not a word about childhood as
opposed to adulthood. Of course in our culture you cease to be a minor at 18 and
you are no longer under parental authority. But in Paul’s day the power of the Roman
father extended over his sons & daughters for as long as he lived. This was the pater
familias, the authority of the father as head of a Roman family. John Stott writes. “A
Roman son never came of age. In some countries today, especially in Asia, a similar
custom still prevails.” We will come back to this issue but for the most part we will
understand the words child or children in their contemporary western sense.
Children in the Church
v1: Children….. The first thing to notice is that children are present in the gathering
as Paul's letter is read out publicly. They are there for worship and teaching. I
wonder how they coped with the early sections of the letter; they probably found
them heavy going.
There has always been a debate in our churches about children: should they be in or
out of the meeting on Sundays? Some churches go for one of two extremes – kids
out all the time or in all the time. But most of our churches go for in and out as we do.
One thing is clear - children are a vital part of our church family. They are not extras.
They are not a nuisance. They are not tomorrow’s church – they are today’s church.
Children are a blessing from God.
They bring delight & laughter & keep us feeling young.
They bring down barriers between people & open doors with others
Children can know Jesus from a very early age
They ask great questions (especially at bedtime)!
They pray great prayers & God hears them! Heidi Baker gets kids to pray for
the sick.
They can be prophetic as they were in the temple when Jesus entered.
They enrich single people’s lives & as well as marrieds without children
The elderly need children around - albeit in small doses.
They keep us humble with their honesty & the way they reflect back on us!
Children bring things to church life that adults cannot, even from being small babies.
As the church in Ephesus gathered children were not only present, they were
addressed directly, even appealed to. This was remarkable at a time in history when
young children were considered of little consequence. Yet this was completely in
tune with Jesus; he welcomed little children. At times this perplexed his disciples and
annoyed his enemies.
So, let’s see what Paul has to say to the children.
Children in the Family.
Children, obey your parents. This has a strange ring when you consider the lot of
sons and daughters in the 1st century Roman world. They had no choice but to
obey. If they didn’t they could be treated with terrible harshness. William Barclay
writes: "A father had absolute power over his family. He could sell them as slaves,
he could make them work in his fields even in chains, he could take the law into his
own hands, for the law was in his own hands, and punish them as he liked, he could
even inflict the death penalty on his child.” But here children are instructed to obey
their parents, not out of fear but, for other reasons.
First, because of their relationship with Christ: children obey your parents in the
Lord. Having Jesus in your home and at the heart of family life affects everything even when everyone in the family is not a believer. One person coming to faith in
Christ can change the culture of a home. The presence of the Holy Spirit brings
love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness & selfcontrol. Living to please Christ changes the nature of a parent's authority and a
child's obedience.
Second, because it is inherently right: children obey your parents in the Lord for
this is right. This is sometimes referred to as "natural law", i.e. something
universally acknowledged. When it goes haywire it’s a bad sign. John Stott writes:
“Virtually all civilizations have regarded the recognition of parental authority as
indispensable to a stable society. We experience no surprise therefore when Paul
includes ‘disobedient to parents’ as a mark both of a decadent society which God
has given up to its own godlessness and of ‘the last days’ which began with the
coming of Christ.”
Next Paul quotes a scripture that applies whatever our age or the stage of our
relationship to our parents. 'Honour your father and mother'. Notice this is not so
much about obeying parents, as honouring them. This applies whether we are under
or over 18; whether you are a single adult or married. When we become adults our
parent’s authority over us ceases. We need to stand on our own feet and, when
married, develop our own family identity. Our parent’s responsibility for us also
comes to an end - we should not expect them to keep bailing us out! But we are still
to honour our father and mother. But how? Here are a few pointers:
Keep in regular contact but don’t be at their beck and call
Show respect – speak to and about them with courtesy
Listen to their advice but don’t allow them to control you or interfere
Pray for them regularly
Express gratitude and appreciation when appropriate.
Allow them to help you and be generous from time to time.
Offer help when there is a special need
Be thoughtful. e.g. small acts of kindness
Be aware of their needs as they get older
v4. Fathers, do not exasperate your children; Earlier Paul has reminded the
Ephesians that God's Fatherhood is behind all fatherhood (3v14-15; 4v6). Their
current models of fatherhood should be abandoned; God himself is to be their model.
God's fatherly authority is built more on promises than on threats. The cruelty that
characterized so many fathers at that time (and still does even today) has no place in
a Christian family. A father’s authority is one which should win love and respect.
Instead bring them up (the word means to nourish or feed; it speaks of tenderness
and care, recognising that a child’s early years are delicate; they need love and
security) in the training and instruction of the Lord. The first word (training) is
about correction of young children and the second (instruction) more to do with
educating their minds of children as they grow up. What does mean for us?
 A Christian home should be different from an unbelieving home. When
parents become Christians (even one of them), it should make a difference.
 We mustn’t leave our children’s instruction to the local church. As parents we
are responsible for this.
 New parents need help! Personal help from those with experience and
Parenting Courses.
 In our culture men need to be more involved with their children together with
their wife.
 Children need to be taught to obey. It doesn’t happen naturally.
 Parents can go to two extremes : either be too directive and controlling or take
a non-directive approach to their children letting them discover their own way;
we need to find a mid course, giving them clear teaching and modelling what
we teach. Our children need to know what they are embracing or what they
are turning away from.
 Discipline, when it is needed, should never be administered in anger. i.e. you
need to discipline yourself before you discipline your children.
 Where single mothers are bringing up children they need support and good
male role models. This is where the church family really works well.
 Learning to honour and obey their parents trains a child to honour God-given
authority in adulthood. It is good for society at large.
This morning what is God saying to us?
1. Appreciate what a great gift children are.
2. Our homes and our family life are to be distinctively different because of
3. Pray for more young families to come among us; be invitational.
4. Take another look at your relationships as adults with (a) your parents (b)
your grown up sons and daughters.
John Wilthew. July 2012