Raising Our Children in the Discipline and Instruction of the Lord

May 17, 2009 Speaker: Allen Snapp Series: Ephesians

Topic: Parenting Passage: Genesis 6:1–6:4

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Raising Our Children in the Discipline and Instruction of the Lord



A friend was visiting Theodore Roosevelt at the White House. During their time together Roosevelt's daughter Alice kept running in and out of the room until the friend finally asked if there wasn't something Roosevelt could do to control her.


"Well," said the President, "I can do one of two things. I can be President of the United States or I can control Alice. I cannot possibly do both." 


Although Teddy Roosevelt was being humorous - in reality he was a loving and involved father even during presidency – his comment does remind us that parenting isn’t something we can “do in our spare time”. It requires a lot of time and training and work to raise children. And it requires wisdom – maybe in some ways more wisdom than to be the President of the United States! And for those of you who are about to have your first child soon, you’re gonna find out something right away about having kids: they don’t come with manuals! Not even a little brochure! You’re on your own!


But not really – for God gives us wisdom and instruction for raising children in His word, such as the wisdom we find in the passage we are looking at this morning. For our guests, we are in a series…


Title: Raising Our Children in the Discipline and Instruction of the Lord


Ephesians 6:1-4


In these four short verses Paul outlines two simple but very important biblical principles for the family, one principle addressed to the children and one addressed to the parents.


I.                   Children are to honor and obey their parents in the Lord


This isn’t new: parents have been saying this as long as there have been kids. But how do you motivate children to do this? How do you get them to want to honor and obey their parents?


As I’ve been helping coach my son’s little league team I think I’ve noticed an unusual dynamic in one child. For most kids, if you tell them to do something or not to do something (like “stop picking flowers” or “stop eating your glove”) they respond. But I think I’ve noticed that one child seems to respond by quietly doing the opposite of what he’s told to do. I don’t think he’s trying to be defiant (he might be), but question I’ve been asking myself is, how do we motivate him to want to listen and do what we’re asking?


Paul doesn’t just bark an order – “children, obey your parents or else!” He seeks to provide them with godly and inspiring motivation to listen to him (and ultimately to God). Shares two motivating thoughts:


  1. Honoring and obeying their parents is an expression of honoring and obeying Jesus


It doesn’t just say “obey your parents” but says, “obey your parents in the Lord”. This isn’t saying that you are to obey your parents only if they are Christians, but rather the child is to obey their parents as an expression of their obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ. To the child who is a Christian, it is a part of their Christian duty. It is right.

 This principle hit me right between the eyes as a teenager. At the age of fifteen, with a new stepmother in the home, I was getting pretty rebellious. But when I gave my life to Jesus Christ I began to realize that I could not say I follow Christ and continue in rebellion against my parents. I didn’t become the perfect kid, and we still had struggles after that, but my heart posture was totally different: I wanted to obey and honor.


Children, one of the ways that you demonstrate that your life is submitted to God is by submitting to your parent’s authority. This connection is illustrated in the ten commandments. The ten commandments were written on two tablets of stone – and have been split into two sections: our duty to God and our duty to our neighbor. The last five deal with duty to neighbor – do not steal, do not murder, do not commit adultery. The first four deal with duty to God – don’t worship any other god, don’t take the name of the Lord in vain. But what about the fifth commandment – honor your father and mother? Were the tablets split with four on one and six on the other. Possibly. More likely is that the fifth is on the side of “duty to God” because for the child, obedience to their parents is in effect obedience to God because parents are the authority God has placed over them.


As a child grows older and eventually leaves home, maybe get married, their relationship to their parents changes: it isn’t defined by obedience anymore. But a Christian child should always honor their parents!


  1. God will bless your life if you do


The fifth commandment contains a promise: if you honor you mother and father your life will be blessed. We often use the circle of blessing to illustrate to our children (especially when they were younger): when you obey your mom and dad you are in the circle of blessing – where God can bless your life. When disobey your mom and dad you step out of the circle of blessing and there will be consequences that can be painful.


Children: do you want God’s blessing? There is nothing more precious in life than to have God’s blessing and if you don’t have His blessing, nothing you can do will make up for it. Because honoring your parents is an expression of honoring God, He is pleased and blesses the child who honors his or her parents.


One simple principle: children are to honor and obey their parents in the Lord.


II.                Parents are to train their children in the Lord


Parenting is one of the greatest joys in life. I still am amazed that three kids call me “dad”. Love it. But it’s not easy. Takes a lot of work. Read recently that when a giraffe gives birth the baby giraffe drops about six feet to the ground, gets up (a little wobbly from the fall) and then is pretty much ready to get on with life. If you’re a parent I don’t need to tell you that’s not the way it is with human children. They are born helpless, weak, and in constant need of time and attention and training! Parents are to train their kids.


Paul builds in an important safeguard for our kids. While we train our children we need to be careful we don’t provoke them. Our role of authority isn’t to lord it over them nor is it carte blanche to make them do whatever we want them to do. God has given our children to us on loan – stewards, not owners, of our children. If we are raising them in an atmosphere of criticism or harsh commands we will tempt them to anger.


¨       Are we unreasonable in our commands or expectations?

¨       Are we hypocritical – expecting things of them we don’t do ourselves? For instance, do we fly off the handle and scream at them to have more self-control?

¨       Do we belittle or embarrass them to make them obey us?


God warns us to examine ourselves and how we are training our children. If we find we’ve been provoking our children, we should repent to the Lord and to them. Yes, confess where you’ve been convicted and ask them to forgive you. Use it as an opportunity to confess your need of Jesus. It’s important our children hear often that mommy and daddy need a Savior just as much as they do.


Two words Paul uses to describe how we are to train our children: discipline and instruction.


  1. parents are to train their children through discipline


The Greek word for discipline – padeira – accents the correction we must give our children. It carries the idea of punishment in it. Hebrews 12 uses the same word and says that discipline is never pleasant in the moment but painful, but it yields good and peaceable fruit in the lives of our children.


For younger children one common form padeira (discipline) takes is the rod. Spanking. The word paddle comes from padeira. Actually I made that up – don’t know that. But Scripture tells us how important loving correction applied to the seat of learning is to the child. Listen to the Word of God:


Whoever spares the rod hates his son ,but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him. Prov. 13:24


Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him. Prov. 22:15


Because of the hardening affect of sin on our children’s hearts, and the way that foolishness tightly wraps around the child’s heart, instruction without the discipline will probably not penetrate the heart. But it is important that we discipline in a biblical way. We’ve probably all seen it done “wrong”, and need to be very careful about how we administer discipline.


¨       Discipline is to be an expression of love and is never to be done in anger.


Loving biblical corporal punishment is very different than the angry hitting of a child which is abusive and wrong. Parents, when we respond to our children in anger – whether it’s spanking or yelling or cutting them down – it’s sin on our part and we need to repent and confess – first to God and then to our children.


¨       Discipline is to be an expression of our delight in our children.


Proverbs 3:12 says that a father disciplines the son he delights in. We should delight in our children and let them know we delight in them. Discipline should always be mixed with delight. We may not delight in what they are doing, but we delight in them.


Stop and ask ourselves the question: do my children hear my criticism or my delight more often? Actually, we should ask our kids that question. If our children feel our constant criticism it sends a message I’m not pleased with you rather than I delight in you.


One of my favorite stories about Teddy Roosevelt illustrates how much he delighted in his children and

let them know! His sons were attending a college and were very involved in football, and he writes a letter to his son Kermit about a recent big game the college had played and how he reacted when he got a telegram from his boys about the game:


Dear Kermit:


To-night while I was preparing to dictate a message to Congress concerning the boiling cauldron on the Isthmus of Panama, which has now begun to bubble over, up came one of the ushers with a telegram from you and Ted about the football match.


Instantly I bolted into the next room to read it aloud to mother and sister and we all cheered in unison when we came to the Rah! Rah! Rah! part of it. It was a great score.


I wish I could have seen the game.


An address to Congress? Problems in Panama? Nothing compared to his boys and what they were involved in. Expresses his delight in them. We should take the time to do that often.


¨       Discipline is successful when the child is “sweetened”. I’m talking to parents of younger children – under teenage years for the most part (although teens can benefit from spankings now and then!). I’ve made the mistake of giving some spanks and the child is angry and defiant and resentful as they leave. Effective spanking has this amazing effect on a child: sweetens their temperament. Can’t tell you how many times Janice has said “so and so was so sweet this afternoon”. Heb. 12 calls it the “peaceable fruit” of discipline. Amazing but true!


¨       Discipline should end with prayer and a hug. Prayer to ask God for forgiveness and grace to change, and a hug to say “I love you” to each other. Say to your child often that mommy and daddy discipline you because we love you.


  1. parents are to train their children through instruction


The Greek word for instruction - nouthesia – accents teaching and education. “Instruction of the Lord” would mean instruction of Jesus Christ. We use the term “Lord” today to refer to God generically – the Lord is watching out for you. But it was a Christological term in the early church. That is why in chapter 4 he can write, there is one Spirit, one Lord, and one God and Father of them all. Jesus is Lord was the confession of the first century church as it is to this day.


So we are raise our children in a distinctly Christian way. Point them to the gospel. We are to be careful we don’t raise our children moralistically – as if being a good Christian is someone who is honest and obedient and compassionate and responsible. Those are good qualities and we should seek to instill them in our children. But we must teach them that we are all sinners in need of a Savior. Not about being “good” it’s about being saved.


So as we “discipline” and “instruct” it is all to point our child to Christ. And we want to do that with faith in God. Faith that God will save them (and prayers for God to save them). Raising your child right will not save your child. Only God can save our kids – you cannot save your child by doing such and such or teaching such and such.


We have a large part to play – but we need to really believe that it is God and God alone that saves. So we do our part with faith and prayers that God will do His part and save our children. Call band up.


As we close, I want to give an opportunity to anyone here who has not been saved to ask Jesus to save them. We cannot save ourselves through our good works, or by attending church, or by doing religious things, or even by believing God is merciful and will forgive me cause that’s “what God does”.


Jesus said, “Father if there be any way, let this cup pass from me”. If there were any other way to be saved Jesus would not have had to die. He died for our sins, so that all who believe in Him, turn from their sins and follow Him as Lord will be saved. I’m going to say a prayer and if that expresses your heart, please pray it with me.


Pray. And pray for parents to receive grace (and kids too!)


Closing song: On Christ the Solid Rock


Recommended reading:


  1. Shepherding a Child’s Heart – Ted Tripp
  2. Age of Opportunity (for teens) – Paul Tripp
  3. Big Truths for Young Hearts – Bruce Ware

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