The Fifth Commandment


The Fifth Commandment

November 14th, 1971 @ 10:50 AM

Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;) That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth. And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
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Dr. W. A. Criswell

Ephesians 6:1-4

11-14-71    10:50 a.m.



This is the pastor bringing the message entitled The Fifth Commandment,  honoring our fathers and our mothers.  We are preaching through the Book of Ephesians; this is the last chapter.  And when all of the messages are done, there will be about seven more of them now, there will be about forty some of them in all, they will be published in a volume, and we can read them and review them this spring when it comes out, and from thenceforth.  The reading of the text and the message is mostly an exposition of the passage, the first four verses of the sixth chapter of Ephesians:


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

Honor thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise;

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

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

[Ephesians 6:1-4]


There is hardly a word used in the passage but that is fraught with deep and significant import.  “Children, hupakouō your parents.”  Hupo is the preposition for “under.”  You call it “hypo,” beneath, under.  And when it is used in composition such as this, akouō is the word “to hear”; so hupakouō, hupakouō means to hear with submission, with bowing, with yieldedness,” and hence was come to mean “obey.”  “Children listen in submission, in yieldedness, in obedience to your parents” [Ephesians 6:1].

“Honor thy father and mother” [Ephesians 6:2].  And this is one of the most beautiful words in the language:  “timaō thy father and mother.”  Timē is the word meaning “preciousness and dearness,” referring to something that is of great value and of great price.  They use the word timē, timē, timaō, the verbal form of the substantive, timaō from the word “timē, preciousness, dearness, of great value and price, came the word finally “to honor, to reverence, to hold in infinite respect and esteem.”  “Timaō thy father and mother” [Ephesians 6:2].  You see, a child could obey his parents out of fear, recalcitrant, reluctant, unyielded and unwilling; but rather, God says that the child is to obey the father and the mother in respect, in endearment, in honor, in reverence [Ephesians 6:1].  And when you see that, it is like a breath of heaven in any child before any father or any mother.

I was preaching one time in Jacksonville, Florida.  And the pastor there took me to the most famous restaurant on the eastern seaboard, on Highway One, south of the city.  When we went out there and walked into the lobby I saw beyond the cashier’s desk a large portrait of a fine looking woman.  As we stood there the pastor said to me, “When we’re seated, remind me to tell you the story of that woman.”  As we were seated at the table I brought to his memory his promise to tell me that story.  And it was this:  on a poor farm in south Georgia there was a father and a mother and a boy.  The father died, and the mother took the boy to Jacksonville, and downtown in the city opened a little eating place.  They were such fine people, God blessed them and their restaurant flourished.  So they were persuaded to go outside on the edge of the city, and on Highway One to build there a very spacious and luxurious eating place.  Before the restaurant was completed the mother died.  And in her death she called her boy to her side and said, “Son, I want you to promise me one thing:  when the beautiful restaurant is opened, will you promise me that in it you will never sell alcoholic beverages nor wine nor beer nor liquor?”  And the boy replied, “Mother, I promise.”

When the luxurious restaurant was completed and the customers began to come, there also came the representative of the brewery and of the winery and of the distillery.  And they said to that boy, “You can’t run a luxurious restaurant like this unless you sell beer and wine and liquor.”  And in each instance the boy took the representative to the lobby and pointed to the picture of his mother, and said to the representative, “I promised my mother before she died that I would never sell alcoholic beverages in this beautiful place.  And before I break that promise I’d go back to the plow handles on that poor farm in Georgia.”  And God blessed the boy.  It is the finest restaurant on the eastern seaboard, has the finest reputation, and serves the most delectable food.  “Honor, timaō, hold in reverence and respect, in endearment and preciousness, thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise” [Ephesians 6:2].

There are, of those five, the first commandment, “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me” [Exodus 20:3]; the second commandment, “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image…neither shalt thou bow down thyself before it” [Exodus 20:4-6]; the third commandment, “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain” [Exodus 20:7]; the fourth commandment, “Remember this holy day and keep it sacred” for the worship of God [Exodus 20:8]; and the fifth commandment and the first one with a promise, “Honor thy father and mother [Exodus 20:12], reverence in endearment thy parents, which is the first commandment with promise” [Ephesians 6:2].  What is the promise?  “That it may be well with thee, and that thou mayest live long on the earth” [Ephesians 6:3, Exodus 20:12].  This is a magnificent illustration of the value that the Lord God places upon filial duty and devotion.  For the commandments were given for the shaping of the nation.  And the Lord could see, as only God can see, that the prosperity and perpetuity and permanence of the nation lies in the filial devotion and respect of the children in the home.  If there is want of respect in the home for the authority of the parents, there will be want of respect in the nation among the citizens for the laws of the country.  Bad children make bad citizens.  The dissolution of the home and the decimation of the family ultimately leads to the dissolution and decimation of the state.  So the Lord wrote, “Honor thy father and mother” in filial reverence,” the first commandment with promise;  that it may be well with thee, and that thou mayest live long on the earth” [Ephesians 6:2-3].

“And ye fathers,” a generic meaning, like the Bible will use “meat” referring to all food; fathers in the sense of parents, fathers and mothers, “Ye parents, parorgizō, para,” an intensive, “orgy, anger, wrath, hatred, bitterness, orgy.”  Make it into a verb orgizō, paraorgizō, translated here, “provoke not to wrath [Ephesians 6:4]; not to exasperation drive your children, where in frustration and despair they turn, they do most anything.  You know, in my experience as a pastor one of the strangest things that I find repeated so much, a girl in a home, and especially a girl, will be so frustrated and in such despair that she runs off and marries anything just in the hope, and a vain hope, of getting away.  And many times a boy, of course, is driven out because of the uncompromising and sometimes uncaring attitude of his father and his mother.

“Ye parents, parargizō, driving them to extremities, to bitterness, provoke not your children to wrath; but rather ektrephō”  [Ephesians 6:4].  You know it’s strange how they translate words.  In the twenty-ninth verse of the chapter above the passage I preached on last Sunday, ektrephō is translated “nourish”; “The Lord nourisheth and cherisheth His church, ektrephō, nourisheth” [Epheisans 5:29].  Here it is translated “bring them up, bring up; but bring up the children, nourish the children in the paideia, the discipline of act, the corrective instrumentality of bringing up, paideia, discipline; but bring them up in the discipline and nouthesia,” nouthesia [Ephesians 6:4].  The word for “mind” is nous, “mind, understanding, intellect, intellect.”  So nouthesia is by word, by appeal, by exhortation, by word of wish and appeal, to plead, to say, to guide.  One paideia by discipline, by act; and the other by word and by appeal, there are then two things here in this passage that Paul has written.  One, authority and respect in the home, reverence for our parents; and the other, authority and respect before the Lord, reverence for our Lord:  “Children, obey your parents in the Lord [Ephesians 6:1], and ye parents bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” [Ephesians 6:4].

First then, the authority and the discipline in the home; and the answering, respect and submission on the part of the children [Ephesians 6:1-4].  The home defeats itself and the end for which the home was created is decimated, it is destroyed when there is lack of discipline on the part of the parents, and when there is no concession to that authority on the part of the children.  I spoke a moment ago of the Lord giving this to the nation, to the state.  As it is in the home, so it inevitably spills over into the state.  Now I can illustrate the disciplinary necessity in the home by the disciplinary necessity in the state.  As the ends of the home are frustrated for the lack of discipline and the concession of authority on the part of the child, so the ends of the state are destroyed, hopelessly so, when there is lack of authority and the enforcement of law on the part of the magistrates, and when there is refusal to obey the law on the part of the citizens.  That’s why I could never enter into the psychology, the thinking, of these desperate and violent and revolutionary militants who seek to burn and to destroy, to overwhelm, to root up.  They offer nothing in place of their sarcastic remarks concerning the establishment, they just destroy, they just ruin; they plunge the nation into anarchy. 

Now what I cannot understand about it is this:  if they destroy the establishment and they were successful in uprooting the order of our civilization and society, would it not be the same thing in what they substituted in its place, that also they would destroy, they would burn, they would uproot.  Without authority and the application and the disciplinary administration of law on the part of magistrates and government, and without the obedience to that law on the part of the citizenship, no national life is possible; nothing takes its place but stark, dark anarchy.  Now that’s why I’m saying that God said that in the home.  If there are to be obedient, law abiding citizens in the state, there first must be yielded, obedient, submissive children in the home who reverence their parents and who accept the discipline and the authority of father and mother as a part of the law of God and the way of the just and blessed life.

And the parents, “ektrephō, nourish them” [Ephesians 6:4].  It’s one thing to beat a child, that’s one thing in a thousand years I could never understand.  You know I read a statistic last week, how many children, and they number by the thousands, how many children are killed every year by brutal disciplinary beating on the part of father and mother.  “Ektrephō, to bring up the child, to nourish the child” in infinite patience and love and sympathy and compassion, “ektrephō, to nourish the child, in the paideia, the discipline, the firmness, and nouthesia, the appeal, the word of exhortation of the Lord” [Ephesians 6:4]

The child that is placed in your arms is so helpless, so immature, without experience; and without your guiding and loving hand the child could perish.  You can do with the child as you choose, anything.  It’s like a polished piece of metal on which you can engrave anything.  It’s like a page in a book upon which you can write anything.  The child is like malleable molding clay; you can shape it into anything.  Now I am not saying that environment is everything; for heredity has a vast control over all that we do and all that we become.  But I am saying that you can take a child and in teaching you can make the child a cannibal, you can make him a communist, you can make him a convict, teaching him how to cheat and how to steal and how to lie.  You could make him a Baptist or a Catholic or a Buddhist or a Shintaoist or a Hindu.  You can make him a Republican or a Democrat.  You can take the child and make anything of him.  And this bears the responsibility, what that child becomes is so largely you.  I’m not saying all together you, for heredity, the spirit in the child, the makeup of the child, the background of gene in the child has a lot to do with the children; but under God what that child becomes is largely what is taught the child.

This is why that the Lord said to Eli, “There will be destruction in your house because you refuse to restrain your sons Hophni and Phinehas,” the two boys [1 Samuel 2:27-36].  Isn’t that an unusual thing that that message should have been given to the little child Samuel.  “Samuel, Samuel”; and when he said, “Speak, Lord, Thy servant heareth” [1 Samuel 3:10] that’s what God said:  “I will destroy the house of Eli the high priest at Shiloh, I will destroy the house of Eli because he did not discipline and he did not restrain his sons, Hophni and Phinehas” [1 Samuel 3:11-13].  Both of the boys were killed by the Philistines [1 Samuel 4:11], and as you read through the Scriptures, in the years that follow the entire house of Eli was utterly destroyed [1 Samuel 2:31-34, 22:13-20].  Oh, the responsibility that God lays upon the father and the mother when the child is born in the home!

And not only authority and discipline in the home, but authority and discipline before the Lord.  Twice is that emphasized:  “Children, obey your parents in the Lord” [Ephesians 6:1], and, “Bringing them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” [Ephesians 6:4]; both times, “of the Lord, in the Lord.” 

There are two facts that are so salient in American society today, and I wonder if they are related.  Fact number one:  the FBI tells us that practically all of the crime in America is done by young people; practically all of it done by youngsters below twenty-five years of age, and most of it done by boys eighteen years of age and under.  Isn’t that an astonishing thing, that the criminal element in America should be youngsters?  Last year alone more than a million boys and girls entered careers of crime.  That’s the first fact; the criminal element in America is mostly youth, it’s young people, it’s boys and girls.  Second fact:  between the ages of four and fourteen there are something like twenty million children in America who have no religious education whatsoever.  They’re not Mormons, they’re not Catholics, they’re not Jews, they’re not Baptists, they’re not anything; twenty million of them in America between the age of four and fourteen without any religious instruction whatsoever.  Is there any correlation or congruity or relevance between those two facts?  The criminal element in America is youth.  And the young people of America, by the millions, have no religious instruction whatsoever.  Is it not the pertinency of the wisdom of God when He addresses the father and mother to nourish the child, and to bring up the child in the paideia, the discipline, and the nouthesia, the words of admonition and direction, of the Lord, in the Lord? [Ephesians 6:4].

So many times do I see parents who say, “It is not my proposal to influence my child God-ward, or upward, or Christ-ward, or heavenward.  I will just let the child choose for himself whether he loves God or not, or reads the Bible or not, or goes to church or not.  There will be no part on my….there will be no inclination on my part to influence the child.”  Coleridge one time had a friend, and they were looking at Coleridge’s garden; it was full of weeds.  And the man said to Coleridge, “Well, why don’t you dig up those weeds and plant flowers?”  He said, “Well I don’t want to prejudice the garden in favor of flowers.  We just let it grow up as it is.”  That is an identical thing with our children.  Listen, listen, listen!  If you do not guide your child heavenward, God-ward, Christ-ward, church-ward, you will be the only one who is neutral.  Don’t you think otherwise but that the world will have its say.  The infidel will have its say.  The criminal element will have their say.  The mafia will have its say.  The pimp and the procurer and the book maker and the chiseler and the pusher and the dopester, they’ll all have their say. 

The streets of the city offer no diplomas; they confer no degrees.  But they educate with terrible precision.  And if there’s any hope for the citizenship of the nation, and for the future of the government, and for the very fabric of society itself, it lies in the godly nurture and admonition of these children under the loving, endearing hands of their fathers and their mothers [Ephesians 6:4].  Taking the child and encouraging the child to pray, to love God, to read the Bible, to attend church.


You ask me why I go to church? 

I give my mind a careful search.

Because I need to breathe the air

Where there’s an atmosphere of prayer;

I need the hymns the churches sing—

They set forth my faith and hope on a wing;

They keep old truths in memory green,

Reveal the worth of things unseen.

                        . . .

You ask me why I go to church?

Because my boy is watching me

To note whatever he can see

That tells him what his father thinks,

And with his eager soul he drinks

The things I do in daily walk,

The things I say in daily talk;

If I with him the church will share,

My son will make his friendships there.

. . .

[from “Some Reasons Why I Go To Church,” Anonymous, c. 1936]


Not out yonder in the dive and the den and the joint, where the dopester is peddling and pushing his nefarious trade, and where the whole world is compromised in a downward swing; but upward, and God-ward, and heavenward his friendships in the circle of the family of God.

And one other: when we deal and work and minister and help and pray and guide and teach and nourish and admonish and appeal in the area of the life of the child [Ephesians 6:4], literally, literally you are touching eternity.  For the life and the soul of that child is immortal.  When it began back there, it never ends out there.  The soul and the life of a child is forever, immortal, eternal.  And I feel that when we deal and work with the life of a little child.

Could I read for you a letter I received, dated the eighth of October, this year of 1971?  It is written by a grandmother.  Addressing me, she says,


Dear Dr. Criswell,

In January this year of 1971, I was in Baylor Hospital with my little six year old grandson who was fighting a losing battle with leukemia.  We were listening to your Sunday morning message on television, and you referred several times in the message to a new world and a better world up there, which made a great impression on the little boy, Kerry Lee.  So much so that it caused him to ask many questions.  He asked how anyone would get to this better world, and I explained as best I could.  Later he asked how he might talk to God all by himself.  The next day, he said God had talked to him and asked him not to be afraid, and that He would be coming for him soon.  The lad smiled as he told me how warm and soft God’s arm felt around his shoulders as God spoke to him.  He wanted me to tell his mother, quote, ‘Mommy, please don’t cry when I go away’; and asked that we give his clothes to his little friends, his art supplies to the church, and, ‘Please don’t give my little shoes away.’  He assured me everything was all right, and talked about God coming for him, calmly and unafraid.  He was laid to rest Easter Sunday in Palmer, Texas, after a two years and two months battle with pain and suffering.  Thank you so much for that message, and I am thankful for a loving God who is able to help a little boy understand and accept God’s plan for his life.  If you have a copy of that Sunday’s message, I would appreciate one very much.  May God continue to bless you in your work.  Sincerely yours, signed Ethel Davis.


There are many letters that come to me, as you would know, from this television and radio service.  “We have found the Lord.” “We have given our lives to God.” “I have entered the ministry.”  “I am now being appointed as a missionary”; so many things as God shall bless the outreach of this word over television and radio.  But I have never received a letter that humbled me more in all of my life than that letter.  A little boy, a little boy, facing death and finding in the message that assurance and that comfort and that hope that, if he looked up in faith and trust to Christ [Ephesians 2:8], the Lord would see him through; and calmly and unafraid accepted that sentence from heaven as the will of God for his life.  Am I not correct in that judgment?  When you hold the life of a child in your hands, you are holding eternity and destiny, immortality, forever [John 3:16; 10:27-30].  And that’s why the inspired Word, “And ye parents, ektrephō, nourishing, bringing up the children, do it in the paideia, in the discipline, in the nouthesia, in the words of appeal in the Lord, in the Lord” [Ephesians 6:4].

We’re going to stand now and sing our song of invitation.  A family you, to come; a couple you, to respond; or just one somebody you, to give your heart and life and days and forever to God [Romans 10:8-13], would you come and stand by me?  In the balcony round, down one of these stairways; on the lower floor, into the aisle and here to the front, “Here I come, pastor.”  Make the decision now in your heart; make it now.  And in a moment when we stand up to sing, stand up coming.  On the first note of the first stanza, “Here I am, pastor, here I come.”  Do it now, make it now, while we stand and while we sing.