Saturday, June 03, 2023

2023.06.03 Hopewell @Home ▫ Ephesians 6:4

Read Ephesians 6:4

Questions from the Scripture text: To whom is Ephesians 6:4 addressed? What are they told not to do? To whom? To what are they in danger of provoking their children? What are they to do to their children instead? By what two means/activities are fathers to bring their children up? Whose training and admonition?

How can fathers help their children fight their sin? Ephesians 6:4 looks forward to another part of the morning sermon on the coming Lord’s Day. In this verse of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that since a child’s obedience must be in the Lord, fathers must use the Lord’s means, in dependence upon the Lord, to help their children fight against their sin. 

We are culpable before God for our reactions. Often, I have heard a parent unwittingly admit to having had grown-up temper tantrums by saying, “my children make me so angry!” No they don’t. Your children do what they do, and you respond with that intemperate anger. Even if anger is a righteous response, you have a duty to self-control, a duty to restrain unnecessary severity, etc.

But children aren’t parents. This verse implies that there is a duty of a parent to remember that the child is weaker, less mature, not having had as much training or instruction. Yes, the child is responsible for his response, but the parent is obligated to give that child every possible advantage for producing the right response. 

If the child is wrathful, certainly he breaks the commandment “honor your father and mother.” But if the parent’s behavior is provoking, the parent breaks the apostolic commandment in this verse. There is much that a parent can do that will make a difference in whether the child becomes wrathful or not. 

Sadly, I’ve heard parents say (and indeed, read “Christian” parenting books that say it!) that they provoke their children to test them. But our children give us many opportunities to see and respond to the sin that comes out of their hearts. There will be much opportunity for correction and instruction. We need not invent more of them. Indeed, we see here that the Lord positively forbids it!

But if we’re going to give them every possible opportunity to obey the Lord, there is more that we need to do than just avoid provoking them to wrath. It is very important that a father be gentle and kind and respectful, and watch against being illegitimately demanding. Even if we remove all provocation from their circumstances, our children have an enemy within them that they must war against. If they are going to honor and obey us, it has to be done “in the Lord” as Ephesians 6:1 says—in opposition to their remaining fleshliness. 

How can they do that? The answer Is in the second half of the verse: discipline and instruction. But not just any discipline and instruction. The verse specifies, “the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” Even an animal can be trained through discipline and instruction. But that animal doesn’t have a sinful nature. Your child is up against infinitely more. 

Thankfully, your child has been blessed with infinitely better help than is available to an animal. We are to give them not whatever discipline pleases us, but the discipline of the Lord! We are to give them the instruction of the Lord! Job number one in not provoking your children to wrath is the means of grace in the congregation, week by week, and the means of grace in the home, day by day. We owe them the whole counsel of God, proclaimed and taught, by God’s shepherds in the home (parents) and in the congregation (elders and pastors). 

This instruction includes all-day, every-day application of the Scriptures to everything they see and everything they do. God’s words need to be on your own heart, controlling your own life (Deuteronomy 6:4–6), then they need to be in your mouth and their ears continually (Deuteronomy 6:7), in away that shapes how they do everything (Deuteronomy 6:8a) and how they see everything (verse 6:8b), so that the family name on the mailbox and front door could read, “Scripture-saturated Family” (Deuteronomy 6:9).

Wrath is part of the folly that is bound up in a child’s heart. But, the reason the rod of Proverbs 22:15 drives it far from him is that it’s the rod of reproof—it’s a rod that comes in the context of a Bible-saturated, prayer-saturated, sacrament-receiving life. And the loving Redeemer Who provided these means will prosper them in His abundant grace.

He has laid out the means for combatting the source of wrath in the heart of your child. And, He has both commanded you to use His means and forbidden you to make yourself the occasion of your child’s wrath, if you can righteously avoid it.

What more/better use could you make of the means of grace for the children of your home and your congregation? What are some situations in which you could be less an occasion of their wrath? 

Sample prayer:  Father in heaven, we thank You for taking our children as Your own and marking them with Your Name. Thank You for giving us the means by which You make this external reality into an experiential and eternal reality for them. Forgive us for when we provoke them to wrath, or when we fail to employ Your discipline and Your instruction in fatherly love like Yours. So forgive us and our children, and cleanse us and our children, through faith in Jesus Christ, in Whose Name we ask it, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP128 “How Blessed Are All Who Fear the Lord” or TPH548 “Oh, Blest the House”

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