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Ephesians 6:1-4

1. Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right.

1. Filii, obedite parentibus vestris in Domino; hoc enim est justum.

2. Honor thy father and mother, (which is the first commandment with promise,)

2. Honora patrem tuum et matrem; (quod est mandatum primum cum promissione:)

3. That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.

3. Ut bene tibi sit, et sis longaevus super terram.

4. And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath; but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

4. Vos etiam, patres, ne ad iram provocetis filios vestros; sed educate eos in disciplina et correptione Domini.

 

1. Children, obey. Why does the apostle use the word obey instead of honor, 167167     “Τιμᾷν properly signifies, ‘to perform one’s duty to any one;’ and here reverence must comprehend the cognate offices of affection, care, and support. The same complexity of sense is observable in the classical phrase τιμᾷν τὸν ἰατρόν [to reverence the physician.] — Bloomfield. which has a greater extent of meaning? It is because Obedience is the evidence of that honor which children owe to their parents, and is therefore more earnestly enforced. It is likewise more difficult; for the human mind recoils from the idea of subjection, and with difficulty allows itself to be placed under the control of another. Experience shews how rare this virtue is; for do we find one among a thousand that is obedient to his parents? By a figure of speech, a part is here put for the whole, but it is the most important part, and is necessarily accompanied by all the others.

In the Lord. Besides the law of nature, which is acknowledged by all nations, the obedience of children is enforced by the authority of God. Hence it follows, that parents are to be obeyed, so far only as is consistent with piety to God, which comes first in order. If the command of God is the rule by which the submission of children is to be regulated, it would be foolish to suppose that the performance of this duty could lead away from God himself.

For this is right. This is added in order to restrain the fierceness which, we have already said, appears to be natural to almost all men. He proves it to be right, because God has commanded it; for we are not at liberty to dispute, or call in question, the appointment of him whose will is the unerring rule of goodness and righteousness. That honor should be represented as including obedience is not surprising; for mere ceremony is of no value in the sight of God. The precept, honor thy father and mother, comprehends all the duties by which the sincere affection and respect of children to their parents can be expressed.

2. Which is the first commandment with promise. The promises annexed to the commandments are intended to excite our hopes, and to impart a greater cheerfulness to our obedience; and therefore Paul uses this as a kind of seasoning to render the submission, which he enjoins on children, more pleasant and agreeable. He does not merely say, that God has offered a reward to him who obeys his father and mother, but that such an offer is peculiar to this commandment. If each of the commandments had its own promises, there would have been no ground for the commendation bestowed in the present instance. But this is the first commandment, Paul tells us, which God has been pleased, as it were, to seal by a remarkable promise. There is some difficulty here; for the second commandment likewise contains a promise,

“I am the Lord thy God, who shew mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.”
(Exodus 20:5,6.)

But this is universal, applying indiscriminately to the whole law, and cannot be said to be annexed to that commandment. Paul’s assertion still holds true, that no other commandment but that which enjoins the obedience due by children to their parents is distinguished by a promise.

3. That it may be well with thee. The promise is — a long life; from which we are led to understand that the present life is not to be overlooked among the gifts of God. On this and other kindred subjects I must refer my reader to the Institutes of the Christian Religion; 168168     See volume 1 page 468. satisfying myself at present with saying, in a few words, that the reward promised to the obedience of children is highly appropriate. Those who shew kindness to their parents from whom they derived life, are assured by God, that in this life it will be well with them.

And that thou mayest live long on the earth. Moses expressly mentions the land of Canaan,

“that thy days may be long upon the land which
the Lord thy God giveth thee.” (Exodus 20:12.)

Beyond this the Jews could not conceive of any life more happy or desirable. But as the same divine blessing is extended to the whole world, Paul has properly left out the mention of a place, the peculiar distinction of which lasted only till the coming of Christ.

4. And, ye fathers. Parents, on the other hand, are exhorted not to irritate their children by unreasonable severity. This would excite hatred, and would lead them to throw off the yoke altogether. Accordingly, in writing to the Colossians, he adds, “lest they be discouraged.” (Colossians 3:21.) Kind and liberal treatment has rather a tendency to cherish reverence for their parents, and to increase the cheerfulness and activity of their obedience, while a harsh and unkind manner rouses them to obstinacy, and destroys the natural affections. But Paul goes on to say, “let them be fondly cherished;” for the Greek word, (ἐκτρέφετε,) which is translated bring up, unquestionably conveys the idea of gentleness and forbearance. To guard them, however, against the opposite and frequent evil of excessive indulgence, he again draws the rein which he had slackened, and adds, in the instruction and reproof of the Lord. It is not the will of God that parents, in the exercise of kindness, shall spare and corrupt their children. Let their conduct towards their children be at once mild and considerate, so as to guide them in the fear of the Lord, and correct them also when they go astray. That age is so apt to become wanton, that it requires frequent admonition and restraint.


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