Online Bible Commentary
Honor Your Father and Mother
Ephesians 6: 1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 "Honor your father and mother," which is the first commandment with promise: 3 "that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth." 4 And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord. (NKJV)
The key to this passage lies in the commandment just preceding it. In Ephesians 5:18 Paul commands “be filled (controlled) with the (Holy) Spirit.” It is this filling with the Holy Spirit that gives us the power to obey the Lord. It is dying to self and allowing the Holy Spirit to control us rather than our own selfish desires. Once we are filled with the Holy Spirit, instead of self, we are more able to please God.
We are not filled with the Holy Spirit until we become Christians, and we do not become Christians until we are able to understand and make our own decision. This hopefully happens from the age of six through twelve. Until then children do not have the Holy Spirit to help them obey God, and more discipline is required from fathers.
Paul begins this passage by addressing children. He writes that children should “obey your parents in the (ways of the) Lord for this is right” (V.1). Paul defines “right” by referring to the ways of the Lord, the Bible. So, just as in all submission, if the child is asked to do something that clearly is not biblical he should always obey God first and politely refuse the parents. The parents should not punish the child in this case.
Paul then writes “Honor your father and mother” (v.2). The word “honor” used in the passage on the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20:12 is the Hebrew word “Kabedl” which means to glorify, to reward. To glorify also means to lift up, to exalt. And we see in the Hebrew that the word “honor” also means to reward.
So children should lift up, exalt, and reward their parents. The main way a child can reward their parents is to obey, which is the word Paul first used. However, children should not obey grudgingly or because their parent is going to reward them if they do. Children should obey their parents because it makes their parents look good, it lifts them up and exalts them. This is how you honor your father and mother.
Paul adds that he is referring here to the “first commandment” (v.2). Paul does not mean that this is the first of the Ten Commandments, it is actually the fifth. What he means is that this is the first of the ten that has to do with our relations with other humans, and not God.
Paul concludes his message to children by citing a promise from God for those who honor their parents. God’s promise is “that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth” (v.3). So the promise is that the child will be rewarded in general, but there will be exceptions.
Obviously, a child could honor their parents but could make other, poor, choices for which they pay consequences. In general though if a child is brought up to honor their parents they will make good choices that will make their life easier and they will not make poor choices that might prematurely end their life.
Now Paul turns to address Fathers regarding training and instructing their children in the Lord (v.4). Paul addresses fathers, and not mothers, because they are the ones God has ordained to carry this out. This prepares children for obedience to their Father in Heaven.
Paul first warns fathers not to “provoke your children to wrath” (v.4a). This is why, before the father hands down “training and admonition of the Lord” (v. 4b), he should always calmly explain what he is going to do and the reasons behind his actions, so that the child has an understanding of things.
The word translated “training” is the Greek noun “paideia” which means discipline, training. The verb, which is the action part, is the Greek word “paideuo” which means instruct, train, educate, discipline, punish. Thus the action to carry out training may require punishment.
Fathers should also admonish their children in the ways of the Lord. Fathers should teach their children the Bible and should live it out themselves as Godly examples to their children. Our children learn more from what we do than from what we say.