“Children have an important work to do in the church. It is not reserved for when they make confession of faith someday in the future when the they get to be 16, 17, or 18. However, the work of the children in the church is now, and that important work is this: to obey all those who are in authority over you, especially obey your parents.”
This word of God was preached by Professor Gritters in a sermon at Peace Church August 22, 2007 entitled “Honoring Those in Authority.” The text was from Proverbs 13-26. I found this sermon to be especially suitable for our younger readers, and have quoted extensively and adapted many of the concepts for use in this article.
In Lord’s Day 39 we read, “What doth God require in the fifth commandment? That I show all honor, love, and fidelity to my father and mother and all in authority over me, and submit myself to their good instruction and correction, with due obedience; and also patiently bear with their weaknesses and infirmities since it pleases God to govern us by their hand.”
This commandment is this first under the section of the law to love your neighbor. We have learned from the previous four commandments that God is God that deserves all love honor, and fidelity. He is a God of holiness. A God who cannot be represented by images. A God who is jealous of his holy name. A God who sanctified a day to revere his holy name. Then God demands specifically that children are to honor their father and mother. By mentioning them immediately in the second table of the law, it shows that children definitely do have an honorable calling in the church.
Professor Gritters continued in the sermon: “How do we show this obedience to our parents? This command starts with the word honor. Honor means that you respect them, reverence them, fear them. Hold them up in high esteem. That you look at them the right way without rolling your eyes or casting a blank stare, and listen to them in the right way. Honor doesn’t mean fear, that you are afraid of them. If any of us parents raise our children in such a way that our children are afraid of us and terrified of us, we need to rethink fundamentally how we rear our children. They must not have a terror of us. Not only must we rethink the rearing of our children,… But we must repent so that our children fear us and respect us and are not terrified.”
This is where the world does not give us any help, and that’s where churches are falling apart at the seams. Children must reverence. What do we learn from worldly music, television programs? Blatant disrespect. Biting sarcasm. Parents must do everything in their power to see that their children respect them. Even if that means throwing away your child’s CDs or DVDs. Even if it calls for you throwing away the TV.
Children are to love their parents. That comes out from the summary of the law. Love God and love your neighbor. By obeying his first four commandments, you are loving God. This is not just an earthly love: that they feed you, provide your clothing, and a place to live. You love them as brothers as sisters in Christ. You pray for them.
You are also to exercise fidelity or faithfulness to them. “Like the relationship of husband and wife, there is a bond of friendship between a parent and child. Though there are differences between the spousal relationship and the child/parent relationship—they are tied together by God in friendship. Just as a man can be unfaithful to the covenant bond of marriage, so also children can be unfaithful to the bond with their parents. Children are called not to break that bond. The next time, children, you think about what you are going to do, and you know your parents will be very displeased, then you need to think about this is these terms. Will this dishonor my parents? Is this a disrespect of them? Am I breaking faith with them? Am I being unfaithful to them in the bond that God created between me and them? What I am doing to that relationship?
“Now it’s one thing to say that I honor my parents, and another thing to show that. The Lord’s Day states ‘And submit myself to their good instruction and correction….’ Submission means that I willingly, and consciously put myself under their authority. I see them as a God-given authority, and give myself to that authority. And I want to do that as well. That is submission. In the heart and mind, realizing the place I have in the family and realizing the place that God has given them in authority over me. God knows our inner motivations, and can see if we do not have a true submissive spirit.”
The catechism says that we are to submit to their instruction and correction with due obedience. “Obedience, young people of God, means that we are to physically carry out this instruction and correction and refrain from doing it again.” It means that we carry out your parent’s rules, even if it is unpopular amongst your friends.
Even before your profession of faith, you lead your lives as examples for others. Your younger siblings definitely pay close attention to you in what you listen to, in what types of clothes you wear. Your siblings especially notice what kind of respect you have toward your mom and dad. They often are spectators in the home if there is an argument. Take heed, therefore, that you watch your tongue, and obey as God has commanded you.
“Do you love God? If you say yes then, do you love your parents? If you don’t love your parents, then you really don’t love God. The relationship between first and second tables of the law—all of those commandments are proof that you love God (in commandments 1-4) and your neighbor (5-10). The evidence that we love God is that we also love our neighbor.”
“All in authority over me….” This part of the question and answer broadens the commandment to reach beyond the scope of the child/parent relationship. In all the other scripture passages that deal with this commandment, it also deals with the other areas of authority. Ephesians 6 talks about the parent/child relationship but then extends it also to servants and their masters. The end of Ephesians 5 speaks about the relationship between the husband and wife. Colossians 3 (a parallel passage of Ephesians) also speaks about those relationships. I Peter 2-3 are chapters that deal with all the spheres of authority which grow out of the parent/child relationship including the role of government in the lives of its citizens, employees in a business and such like. God ordained it in a way that all mankind is subject to one another through these different spheres of authority.
Children are subject to the direct authority of their father and mother. Most of us know what the Bible requires of their children in obedience to their father. This relationship should imitate the relationship between God the Father and God the Son. God the Father commanded, and it stood fast—especially in regards to creation and establishing the law. God the Son (Christ) obeyed by drinking the cup of humiliation, drinking death unto himself for his people. Though children rarely have to suffer that kind of sacrifice in their lives, yet their “cross to bear” while they are yet children is the obedience to their parents.
“It is important to say that because sometimes children respect their father, but not their mother. Sometimes it goes the other way too. They are willing to listen to their dad’s commands. Maybe that’s because their dad has a firmer hand. The word of God says to obey both their father and mother. Do you listen to her good instruction and correction?
“Secondly, this authority over children is given to the teachers in the school. God has placed teachers in the place of the parents as a substitute. Young people, your attitude in regards to your teachers should be this: that God placed them over me, and I must consciously obey their authority, and never rolls my eyes or whisper behind my hand about them. I shall see them as an authority over me.
“When you children learn how to respect your parents first and then your teachers, then that will put you in good standing as how to obey your employers that you should have Lord willing in the future.” You are called to respect him or her too. Even when he says to do this, or don’t do this…. You will obey. If you do not obey, you will have a hard time maintaining a job, apart from the fact you are disobeying God.
Young women, living in our feministic culture today, the last thing a woman would want to hear is that she is in subjection to her husband. This too, is something that is quite unpopular and shunned as narrow-mindedness by the media. Ephesians 5:24 is especially strong in explaining that “[even] as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.” Husbands, in response, must love their wives as themselves. Instead of an idea that each spouse gives half, wives are to respect and husbands are to love wholeheartedly, one-hundred percent; thus, living in and through each other as one.
“This idea of obedience also applies to the government. Young people, you are to obey the policemen, president, governor, and judges. You honor and respect them.” You don’t ignore those laws set up by the rulers of our land, even if they seem unfair. Pay your taxes. “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Mark 12:17). We may never forget the connection between our obedience to the laws of the land and the laws of God revealed to us in Romans 13:2 “whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God, and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.” That includes those who resist the call of the draft or ignore IRS regulations, and such like.
We are also called to submit to our elders in the church. When you make profession of faith, you submit to the government of the church. Before you make this profession, you still are under the authority of the church. The entire congregation is subject to their rule. They are tending the flock of God.
What if those in authority command something that I may not do? Here is where the due obedience part of the catechism comes in. “With due obedience” qualifies how, when, and why obedience should be administered. If I am commanded to disobey God, then I may refrain. If the government requires of us to disobey God by worshipping in his house on the Lord’s Day, we cannot obey that requirement. If your parents, children and young people, command you to lie to your teachers at school, you must not.
Acts 5:29 states that “we ought to obey God rather than men.” Despite the fact that Peter and other apostles in the early church would go to prison for preaching Christ crucified, they realized where their respect should be. We must obey God rather than man. There are things that are required of us that are hard to obey. Even though there may be unfair requirements of government and unjust treatment from employers, we must obey them as God has given them as authority figures over us. Only when we are called to disobey a command of God are we to disobey with a humble, submissive spirit. We are not to sue them for pain and humiliation. God is my authority over me.
“It is hard to do because our parents have weaknesses. That is why the catechism says that our children must bear with us patiently.” Elders aren’t sinless, neither are ministers of the word. We all have been conceived and born in sin. That’s what makes this command so difficult. Because we see the sin of those over us, we think that is some sort of justification for disobedience. However, God commands us to obey. Christ in obeying God, Christ obeyed completely righteous, holy God.
How can we do this? Only by the grace of God are we given the ability to obey. God gave you that husband. God gave you that teacher. God gave us these elders. God gave you that mother. It pleases God to govern us by their hand. All authority is God’s—every bit of it. See Christ in your teachers and your husbands. See Christ in your parents and employers. Though they may be full of sin, Christ put them over you.
What is our reward? “For thy days may be long in the land which to Lord thy God giveth thee.” Not an extended earthly life, but a heavenly reward with him in glory.
“For thou art my hope, O Lord God; thou art my trust from my youth. By thee have I been holden up from the womb: thou art he that took me out of my mother’s bowels: my praise shall be continually of thee” (Psalm 71:5-6).
“The father of the righteous shall greatly rejoice; and he that begetteth a wise child shall have joy of him. Thy father and thy mother shall be glad, and she that bare thee shall rejoice” (Proverbs 23:24).