Famed 19th century preacher Charles Spurgeon was known for saying that mother’s will give a sad account on the last day if all they can say is, “Lord, here are my children. I raised them as gentlemen and left them wealthy.” He felt it was a mocking witness to people’s “foolishness” that they would leave children with what rusts on earth and nothing which lasts in heaven.

An Obedient Home

The apostle Paul wrote, “Children, obey your parents…” (Ephesians 6:1). This is an imperative command in the original Greek text, “Children, you must be obeying mom and dad!” A study of the New Testament reveals seven significant things about the word “obedience,” hup-ak-oo-o in the Greek.

  1. Obedience means to cease evil behavior (Mark 1:25-27)
  2. Obedience means to respond immediately to instruction (Acts 12:13)
  3. Obedience means an internal change (Romans 6:12-16)
  4. Obedience is a basis for judgment (2 Thessalonians 1:7-8)
  5. Obedience requires trust (Hebrews 11:8)
  6. Obedience determines friendships (2 Thessalonians 3:13-15)
  7. Obedience offers peaceful security (1 Peter 3:5-6)

These seven statements help us build a more comprehensive definition of biblical obedience:

“Biblical obedience heeds counsel, making an internal decision, for external change, in order to avoid consequence and live in spiritual peace with appropriate people.”

mother-and-daughter-writing_tlpsynIn Ted Tripp’s book Shepherding a Child’s Heart (the book I recommend more than any other outside the Bible) he writes, “The law of God is not easy for natural man. Its standard is high and cannot be achieved apart from God’s supernatural grace. God’s law teaches us our need of grace. When you fail to hold out God’s standard, you rob your children of the mercy of the Gospel.”

What a powerful truth! When a mom (or dad) rob children of God’s law, they rob them of the grace in Christ allowing they satisfy that law. This is what the Puritan’s used to call “law work” where a child was early and often presented with his wickedness before God. Based on these truths, a true Christian home should consist of much more than surface level obedience. What must moms (and dads) teach their children?

  1. Immediate consequences for disobedience. Based on our biblical definition it is perfectly acceptable to expect that children obey their parents after the first instruction, without delay or back talk. Friends, if your children won’t obey you to eat their veggies when they’re little why will they suddenly listen at sixteen when you tell them to not sleep around? Every home front will have multiple battlefields – bedtime, eating vegetables, schoolwork, etc. Regardless of the battlefield, it is unacceptable for a parent to retreat.
  2. God’s full judgment and full solution. Most modern parents have never told their children about hell. This is sad because who will desire good news unless he is aware of the bad news? All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, including your child, and unless they come to know Christ they will suffer eternity in burning blackness apart from all hope. It is stunning that parents will avoid the topic of “hell” with their children (feeling it too graphic) but allow they watch Marvel comic movies full of fake gloom and death. Why allow they observe fake death while keeping them from real death?
  3. Choose friends with ultimate care. Show me your friends and I’ll show you your future! Christians are called out from the world to be set apart for God’s usefulness (2 Cor 6). Young people must be highly selective of their friendships and parents must be highly involved. Technology has allowed the world of sin to rush directly at the eyes of your child through various portals. The depravity that only a generation ago existed on the “other side of the tracks” now rushes into your living room, or child’s bedroom, or all day at school via their phone. You must begin developing their own conscience early so that they have defenses against the world of evil lurking one swipe away.

In his book Parenting Isn’t for Cowards, Dr. James Dobson explains the vital nature of teaching these lessons while your child is young:

“A child can be brought into submission later in life… but the cost becomes much higher every year that goes by. Perhaps we can explain the process this way: Have you ever wondered why young children can learn to speak perfect Russian, Chinese, Spanish, Hebrew or any other language to which they are exposed? No trace of an accent will be manifested. But twenty or more years later, most individuals will only be able to approximate the sounds made by natives of the particular region. Researchers now know why this is true. It is explained by a process known as “phoneme contraction” (sound dropout). The larynx of a young child assumes a shape necessary to make the sounds he is learning to use at the time. It then solidifies or hardens in those positions, making it impossible or very difficult to make other sounds later in life. Thus, there is a brief window of opportunity when anything is possible, linguistically. A child’s attitude toward parental authority is also like that. He passes through a brief window of opportunity during late infancy and toddlerhood when respect and “awe” can be instilled. But that pliability will not last long. If his early reach for power is successful, he will not willingly give it up – ever.”

A Worshipful Home

In Ephesians 6:1 Paul writes that children are to submit to their parent’s authority, “Children obey your parents in the Lord…” The prepositional phrase “in the Lord” is used multiple times in Ephesians and emphasizes the ultimate obedience as unto Christ. This is a grave reminder that teaching children to obey parents is ultimately teaching them to obey God.

In the Wood home, our children discuss this concept with us almost weekly… After we’ve made a decision that they don’t like or don’t understand, we sit and discuss what they’ll do in that same situation someday when on their own in college or when rearing their own children. Present-real-world challenges for your children. (i.e. When your friends mention staying out past curfew to attend a party, what will you say?) Invariably we’ll end the conversation reminding them that once they leave our home, they stand accountable before the Heavenly Father who sees all.

If you’ve ever wondered why your family always seems to be under the assault of confusion, distraction, frustration, or separation, this is one major reason. The family is God’s base institution for order and worship in the world, therefore Satan works very hard to topple it. From the very beginning we see that Satan goes after the family. In the book of Genesis, the wheels fall off as Noah’s sons abused him (Gen. 9:25), Abraham sleeps with the help (Gen. 16:4), Sodom and Gomorrah celebrate homosexuality (Gen. 19:24-25), Shechem rapes a girl (Gen. 34:3), Tamar feigns prostitution to get pregnant (Gen. 38:15-18). The very first peek at human history is full of polygamy, adultery, fratricide, fornication, rape, incest, prostitution, seduction, and murder.

Sadly one of the things entirely lost in modern culture is family worship. A hundred years ago many families would gather on certain nights to read from the Scriptures and sing songs together. With the advent of the radio, then the television, and now all forms of private media devices the family has slowly disintegrated into members stuffed away in private rooms, coming out of the cave only for meals. Mom and dad, it is your responsibility to bring worship back into the home! At first, it may feel odd (especially if the children are older) but you must elevate Christ in the home:

  • Are your family values clearly presented on living room walls?
  • Do you have daily family devotions?
  • Do you pray openly?
  • Do you sing together?
  • Do you play worship songs around the home?
  • Do you have times where all phones are turned off?
  • Do you share prayer requests?

There is one last element about a worshipful home that I must touch on and it may be the most convicting portion of this entire book. It’s best described by an old proverb, “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” Yes, the greatest image of God your children will see is by observing your relationship with Him. Therefore, if you do not worship God don’t expect it of them. A Swiss study stated that if a father is not spiritual, there is a 98% chance his children will not be spiritual either. Dr. Dobson writes:

“I must remind you that children miss nothing in sizing up their parents. If you are only half convinced of your beliefs, they will quickly discern that fact. Any ethical weak spot – any indecision on your part – will be incorporated and then magnified in your sons and daughters. Like it or not, we are on the hook. Their faith or their faithfulness, will be a reflection of our own. As I’ve said, our children will eventually make their own choices and set the course of their lives, but those decisions will be influenced by the foundations we have laid. Someone once said, “The footsteps a boy follows are the ones his father thought he covered up.”

A Blessed Home

When a home is obedient and worshipping what flows out of it? To explain what comes of doing right, Paul urges us back to the Old Testament Decalogue and attaches a relative clause, “Honor your father and mother (which is the first commandment with a promise)…” (Ephesians 6:2). The point he’s making is that one of the Ten Commandments comes with a specific promise, based on a specific act. Paul goes on to share the promise of this blessing, “…So that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth.” The promise is that life for the obedient will be more “stable” and “longer” than for those who are disobedient. So, what comes from an obedient and worshipful home? Blessings!

Paul has taken an Old Testament command and turned it into a New Testament principle, basically saying that those who are obedient will most likely have better stability, better work ethic, less crime, better health, and longer life. Whereas those who don’t obey, normally end up in rebellion, gangs, debt, drugs, and disease.

This is huge! According to Paul, the first ten years of your parenting will dictate the last 60 years of your child’s life! Every parent leaves a HUGE legacy. For 18 years day-in and day-out a family unit discusses things, reads things, laughs at things, and yells at things; what ultimately leaves that home is either a legacy of holiness or a legacy of hurt and hatred.

Years ago a clinical psychologist named Richard Dugdale noticed one New York crime family kept ending up in prison. He took the time to trace back their family heritage some 300 years to a man named Max Jukes. Of the 1200 ancestors studied, it turns out 310 were vagrants, 130 had been in prison, 100 had become alcoholics, 7 had committed murder, 190 had been prostitutes, and the family cost New York 1.5 million dollars. Conversely, for the same study, Dugdale observed the family tree of famed preacher Jonathan Edwards, also from the New York area. Of his ancestors: 300 went into church work, 100 became college professors, 100 became attorneys, 60 became physicians, 60 became authors, 30 were appointed as judges, 14 presided over a university, 3 became U.S. congressmen, and one became Vice President of the United States.

Every mother (and father) leaves a legacy.

Posted by Anthony Wood

Anthony is Pastor of Mission Bible Church in Tustin, CA, and has authored the books Defining Church & Defining Family. He’s married to Bre, and they have three children. More @AnthonyGeneWood

One Comment

  1. Certainly obedience is a truth of the bible, but it is not a relevant truth of the new testament in the same sense of the word and its use in the old testament after the law was given or in its most common use in the English language. For the English iterations you may use Webster’s or any other modern dictionary to derive the meaning of the word “obey” or “obedience” – but when looking for the biblical application – then we must allow the Bible to interpret the Bible. Looking at Ephesians 6:1 – 4 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother,” which is the first commandment with promise: “that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.” And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord. So the very first word is the Greek “Teknon” which can mean a child born of a man and a woman – but in this case Paul is referring to all children who are old enough to reason (In the Mishnah and Talmud you will find that this is the age of 13 for a boy and 12 or 13 for a girl). This first line is not referring to little children, but we will get to that in a moment. Now, Paul is not stating to blindly obey ones parents or you must obey your parents – what he is saying is that you must obey “hypakouō” (which means listen attentively) to your parents in the Lord. The second part of this is key: parents in the Lord. Meaning your parents who are joined, as one, within, the Lord. These are parents who teach their children, under the authority of the Lord God through Christ Jesus because of the last words in the sentence: For this is right – the word used for right is the Greek “dikaios” meaning not just right – but righteous. So what Paul is saying to the children at the age of reason is that you can trust your parents in the Lord who are righteous to teach you and to reveal the Lord Jesus Christ to you in a loving manner with the authority given them as parents by God. You must listen to them (your parents) to provide you the truth about the Lord Jesus Christ and when you get the revelation of the Lord, you will embrace Him and not the world. The Bible is not an instruction manual, it is not a how to, or a do it yourself – it is an invitation for a meaningful relationship with God. Then Paul says: Honor your mother and father, which is the first commandment with promise. Now why on earth would Paul quote the very law he had publicly called a curse, a yoke, bondage, and the power of the law was to strengthen sin? Was he advocating the law for children of any age? Hardly. Paul is referring to the Law being our guardian which would lead us to Christ – the law that would reveal to all Jews that they needed a Savior. What was the promise of the first commandment of the law? That Christ would come – that Christ would fulfill the law in our place, that He would be obedient when we could not be – this is the IT that may be well with you and you may live long on earth because you have faith in Christ and the best news of all – so do your parents – who learned from their parents in the Lord – and they learned and listened to their parents in the Lord. More about blind obedience and why your Savior is not demanding blind obedience from you. The story in Luke 8 about the woman with a bleeding issue for 12 years. You can find this in Matthew, Mark or Luke, but I like Luke because he was a healer/physician. Of course the woman was a Jew and therefore subject to the Mosaic Law. In those days a woman with a bleeding disorder would be seen by a priest and would be deemed unclean until the bleeding stopped. Because of the unclean nature the woman would be forced to live outside the tribe, or in this case the city as law dictated. To come back into the city would not only be a sin against God, but would also make the city, where she traveled unclean and any person who touched her or she touched unclean. This woman, who had suffered for 12 years and spent all of her money on treatments which did not stop her bleeding or ease her suffering had heard of Jesus who was performing miracles about the city and she recognized Him for who He was – Lord God and realized that if she were to just touch His robe, she would be healed. However, in order to touch His robe she would need to disobey the Mosaic Law – which could mean death by stoning for her. Clearly she disobeyed the Mosaic Law and you know by scripture that if you disobey one law you have disobeyed them all – including murder. So clearly Jesus admonished her for being disobedient to His law – after all He wrote the law and gave it to Moses and she clearly was a disobedient child who not only broke the law but made Jesus – the Rabbi – unclean when she touched his robe, not to mention the parts of the city she traveled in to touch Jesus. Certainly He brought her into submission for such an act – wait – no – you say He did not!?? He turned to her and said “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace.” Wow, what a loving Father who speaks intimately with His child to alleviate her fears or doubts about what just happened. Imaging if more fathers would tell their children – your faith in me as your father fills me with joy just like our faith in the Lord brings Him joy. Go in peace or Shalom. Also in Luke you will find the prodigal son – again the point is blind obedience. The son definitely was disobedient to his father and left to squander his inheritance from his father in lasciviousness. Now after the son had squandered the money and was eating and living in a pig pen the son decided to return home – not because he missed his father, or he wanted to obey, or he loved his father – but because he was hungry for good food and a dry place to live. So, even his motive was not pure of heart. But he did return with the intent of appealing to his father’s mercy and asking that he be allowed to come back not as a son but as a slave. So what happened when the son returned? The father berated him and spurned him – he admonished him with a good tongue lashing and made him immediately repent…no – what do you mean no – he didnt do that – but…. No the father ran to him and he hugged and kissed him. The son asked to be his father’s slave and the father said nonsense and he asked his servants to bring him sandals. This is a big deal among the Jews – it signifies nobility – only servants run around barefoot and he place the ring of sonship on his son – this signified that the son was now the rightful heir of the father – another big deal for the Jewish people. The father was so elated that his son had returned that he killed the fatted calf and made merry. Now think about this – how many times did you tell your children that they are nobility in the eyes of God when you helped them put their shoes on? That they have sonship and are heirs to the Kingdom of God through faith in Jesus Christ? Beginning to see the point – that it’s not about demanding obedience from your children – its about sharing a loving relationship that reveals their Savior and his tender heart which loves us all and when your children, like you, embrace Jesus they will no longer embrace the world – they will listen – they will mind what you ask of them because they understand what a relationship is rather than a demand. And guess what – God is not demanding that you be obedient to Him – Jesus did that for us – God is asking that you believe in His Son and when you do you are immediately seen as righteous by God – how do we know this – it is a biblical promise by God with no other qualifiers. As you develop your relationship with Jesus and teach your children about relationship the fruit of this teaching is obedience out of love not demand. Wives – think about it – you were created from the rib – not the head so you would have authority over men and not the feet so men could trample you – but the rib – the middle so that you would be the equal of man – a helper – meaning someone to assist in the job not do the job while man lays around lazily. God, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ commanded woman obey her husband and He commanded man to love his wife as He loves the church (the body of Christ) Let me tell you – if man truly loved his wife as Jesus loves the church – then any wife would have no issue in obeying her husband because the husband would have such a loving, intimate, honoring relationship with his wife that his wife would obey out of sheer love in a relationship beneficial to both. This and only this is the new testament obedience – it is a fruit of the Godly relationship – not the product of demand. I am the vine and you are the branch – without the vine the branch may not produce fruit.

    Hell is not for Christian children – it was created for satan and for those that reject Jesus as Savior. It was not intended to scare children into submission – this is not Gospel and it is not how our Lord and Savior would want you to develop a relationship with Him. During the Passover, God commanded the men to paint the blood of the lamb over the door frame or lintel. This was a sign to the Angel of Death to pass over your house and those within it. As parents you utilize the perfect sacrifice – Jesus Christ – and by your righteousness through Christ Jesus your household and your children are protected – eventually they will need to accept Jesus as Savior, but once saved you nor your children can lose your salvation – this is another promise of God. Jesus is the only shepherd that would leave 99 of His sheep to get the one stray and carry it back to the fold and all of Heaven will rejoice. There are 3 categories of people on this earth: The Jew – the favored people of God who will be redeemed but have rejected Jesus as Messiah. The Gentile are those that have rejected Jesus as Savior. The Christian who has accepted Jesus as their Savior, have their rightful place as heir and sonship with God who are made ready for the Bridegroom. If you are the 3rd – the Christian – hell is not for you nor your family. And as far as blessings – read Ephesians 1:3-7 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace. You see – the obedience had no bearing on His blessings – Why? Because He has already blessed us with every spiritual blessing and He chose us before the foundation of the world – so how could we qualify – as you suggest through obedience – before the world was made? Also – Mothers and Fathers please do not put your faith in psychology – it’s a product of a fallen world – not the word of God. Your children do not have to fit in a mold of psychology – and if they are rebellious – remember the love and revelation of Jesus Christ will give you wisdom to cope and deal with the rebellion – and even if your child is like the thief on the cross – he too, found salvation in the end and was promised to enter the Kingdom with Christ.
    So to sum up – I agree with you – it’s good to be obedient – but its not a demand it is a fruit of the relationship and a healthy, loving, caring, Christian relationship with the parents – who just like the old testament are a type and shadow of our Lord Jesus – the “I am” Yaweh. Think about it. Only the marriage of a man and a woman can produce life – that which was spoken into existence by the Trinity – Let us create man in our image – Elohim plural in Hebrew for God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And what we speak has power because our spirit was spoken into us by almighty God or El Shaddai – but in the end El Shaddai wants you to call Him Abba or Father because He wants relationship with you and the fruit of that relationship is good works such as obedience – it is a fruit of an intimate relationship not a demand.

    Kind regards,
    Rabbi J Arnn
    Jewish Studies for Christians


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