The Fifth Commandment
November 14th, 1971 @ 8:15 AM
THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT: HONORING OUR FATHER AND OUR MOTHER
Dr. W. A. Criswell
11-14-71 8:15 a.m.
On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the message entitled The Fifth Commandment: Honoring Our Father and Our Mother. As you know, we are preaching through the Book of Ephesians, and when the messages are all delivered – and we are now in the last chapter, the sixth chapter – they will be published in a volume. We read these first verses of chapter 6 in 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 thou mayest live long on the earth.
And ye fathers –
That is generic, like the Bible will use "meat," the word meat for all food –
Ye parents, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
These words are fraught with deep, heavenly, beautiful meaning, and we shall look at them first.
"Children, hupakouo your parents." The preposition hupo – we call it hypo – the preposition hupo means "under"; and akouo is "to hear." When the preposition is used in contact, in connection, it has the meaning of subservience and submission. So literally, "Hear in submission, in subservience, your parents." So the word came to mean "obey": "Hear in submission, in deference, your parents."
"Honor thy father and mother" [Ephesians 6:2]. Timao, time, the word that refers to anything that is precious and dear and priceless. Time, timao, so the word came, "to hold in great honor as of tremendous worth and price." "Timao, time, honor thy father and mother." This is something that God wrote with His own hand, and to see it in the filial love and devotion of a child is like a breath of heaven. For a child could obey his father and his mother out of fear, or with reluctance, or in coercion; but to honor, to hold as priceless in great respect our parents, and thus to obey them is a benedictory virtue from heaven itself.
I remember preaching in Jacksonville, Florida, and the pastor took me on Highway number 1 to a very famous and elaborate restaurant. When we walked into the lobby of the restaurant, there beyond the desk of the cashier was a large portrait of a fine looking woman. The pastor said to me, "Remind me to tell you about that picture when we’re seated." After we were seated, I reminded him to tell me about the picture of that fine looking woman. I’d never seen such a display, so prominently, in a restaurant before. This is what he said: that in southern Georgia, on a poor Georgia farm, there was a family, a man and his wife and a boy. The father died, and the mother took the son and moved to Jacksonville, and downtown they started a little restaurant, a little eating place run by the mother and her boy. They were such fine and devoted and devout people that God blessed them; and because of their growth in that food business, they were encouraged to go out, south of the city, and there on Highway 1 build this beautiful and elaborate restaurant.
Before the establishment was completed, the mother died. She called her boy, and said to him, "Son, I’m not to live to see our beautiful restaurant. But I want you to promise me one thing: that you will never serve alcoholic beverages in that place. There’ll be no beer, no wine, no alcoholic beverages." And the boy said, "Mother, I promise." When the restaurant was completed, he placed the picture of that mother there in the lobby in that most prominent place. And when the restaurant opened, immediately there came to see him the distributors of the breweries, and of the wineries, and of the distilleries. And the beer men said to him, "You can’t succeed in a restaurant like this unless you serve beer." And the winery said, "You can’t succeed in a restaurant like this unless you serve wine." And the distiller said, "You can’t succeed in a restaurant like this unless you serve alcohol." And in each instance, he took the representative to the lobby and said, "Do you see that picture? That’s a portrait of my mother, and before she died, she made me promise her that no alcoholic beverages would ever be served in this place." And then the boy added, "And before I break that promise, I’ll go back to the plow handles of that poor farm in Georgia." And the pastor said to me, "There is no restaurant in the eastern part of the United States that is as famous and as patronized as this."
"Timao, honor thy father and thy mother,that it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth" [Ephesians 6:2-3]. Somehow this commandment in itself is an emphasis of the value God places upon filial duty and responsibility. For the commandments – this is the fifth one – for of the commandments were given to the people for the prosperity and the perpetuity and the well-being of a nation, and God could see, as only the Lord in wisdom could see it, that the well-being of the nation depended upon the filial respect of the son and daughter for their parents. For if there is disintegration and disorganization in the house and in the home, there is disintegration in the nation. If there is lack of respect on the part of children for their parents, there is lack of respect for the government on the part of its citizens. If there are bad children, then there will be bad citizens. And the Lord wrote it, that we are to honor our parents, our fathers and our mothers. There is a filial duty and respect and responsibility that children always have for them.
Then the apostle, by inspiration, turns it around: "And ye fathers and mothers, parorgizo." Para is the emphatic preposition used here, orge is "wrath, anger, indignation"; put them together parorgizo, it means "to exasperate exceedingly." It is possible for parents to do that with their children. Here translated, "Provoke not your children to wrath" [Ephesians 6:4], to drive them to extremities, "but rather ektrepho." Here in the passage I preached out of last Sunday in Ephesians 5:29, it is translated "nourish," ektrepho, "nourish." Here it is translated "bring up, bring them up in the paideia, nurture and in the nouthesia, admonition of the Lord." Paideia refers to the discipline of act; nouthesia, nous is the word for "mind, intellect, understanding," so nouthesia would be "by education, by words, by counsel, by appeal, by advice." Bringing them up, nurturing them in the paideia, in the discipline, in the act of correction, and nouthesia, by word and appeal in the Lord.
There are two things here then in this passage. One, it speaks of authority in the home, reverence for our parents. And then it speaks of authority before the Lord, reverence for the Lord. "Children obey your parents in the Lord. And ye fathers, bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord"; both, reverence for our parents, authority in the home, and reverence for the Lord, devotion before God.
The authority in the home: the home loses its meaning before God when it disassociates itself from that stability that comes in the disciplining of the child and when the child does not concede the authority of the father and the mother. For the perpetuity and the prosperity of the home lies in the discipline of the father and mother on the one hand, and the concession of that authority, the obedience to it, on the other hand. You have an identical illustration of that in the government and in the nation. As I spoke a moment ago, God could see that, and that’s why He addressed the commandments to the nation, to the people. You see, no nation can subsist where the rulers do not enforce the law and where the citizens do not obey it. The nation immediately disintegrates; anarchy overwhelms the people.
That’s why – if I may parenthesize a moment – I have never been able to enter into an understanding of these revolutionary militants. They want to burn, they want to destroy, they want to uproot; they particularly have nothing to take the place of what they call, in spurious, sardonic criticism, "the establishment," but they want to burn it down, they want to tear it up, they want to destroy it. But what I can’t understand, when they do that, the same spirit of anarchy and violence will burn down what they do, and will tear up what they do, and will destroy what they do. The stability and permanence of the nation lies in the authority of the magistrate on the one hand, the enforcement of the laws of the nation on the one hand, and the obedience to those laws on the other hand. This is what God says in the home, and this is what God says in the nation.
So Paul uses that word ektrepho: "Bring them up, nourish them in the nurture and the admonition of the Lord" [Ephesians 6:4], the authority in the hands of parents on one side and the respectful reverential obedience of the child on the other side – this is vital for any child. The child is helpless, immature, without experience; and without the care, and correction, and discipline, and nourishment, and admonition of the father and the mother, the child literally perishes. A child is a beautiful piece of metal upon which anything can be engraved. The child is a blank page in a book on which anything can be written. A child is molding clay, malleable, plastic, to be formed into any direction. A child can be taught – and I say this knowing that environment teaching is not everything, heredity has its vast, vital contribution to make in the life of a youngster; but saying that, realizing that, that environment is not everything – yet, a child can be taught to be a cannibal, a communist, a convict that’s taught to steal and to lie and to violate, can be taught to be a Baptist, or a Catholic, or a Mormon, or a Buddhist, or a Shintoist. The little life is literally in the hands of the teacher. And that first primary teacher is the father and mother in the home.
Now the hurt of the lack of that parental responsibility reaches into the very decimation of the soul of the child. You know I’ve often thought how strange it is, in the third chapter of 1 Samuel is the story of the Lord appearing to the child. "Samuel, Samuel" – you remember the story – and old Eli said, "The next time He calls, answer, Thy servant is listening" [1 Samuel 3:9]. Do you know what the message was that God gave to that little boy, that small child? "Samuel, Samuel," it was this: that the house of Eli, the old pastor of the church, the high priest at Shiloh, the house of Eli should be forever destroyed because he restrained not, he disciplined not the wayward violence of his boys Hophni and Phinehas [1 Samuel 3:11-14]. What a tragedy! Not only were the boys destroyed, and both of them killed by the Philistines [1 Samuel 4:11], but the entire house of Eli was rejected for his lack of discipline in the lives of Hophni and Phinehas [1 Samuel 2:31-34] – ektrepho, to bring them up in the paideia, the discipline, and the nouthesia, the admonition of the Lord. And it is to be done in the Lord. "Children obey your parents in the Lord" [Ephesians 6:1]. Not only reverence for father and mother, but deepest humility and submission before God: "Obey your parents in the Lord,Bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord" [Ephesians 6:4].
I wonder if these two facts have any relation one to another. First fact, the FBI says that practically all of the crime in America is done by young people. They are below twenty-five years of age, and most of it by boys under eighteen years of age. Most of the crime in America is wrought by young people. Second fact: there are something like twenty million children between the ages of four and fourteen who have no religious instruction whatsoever, none, none! Is there a relationship between the two? The tremendous incidence of crime occasioned by our boys and girls – last year more than a million boys and girls entered careers of crime – is there a relationship between the two that they are without religious instruction and they fall into every kind of violent life that is in the Decalogue of evil and hurtful and criminal activities?
This is admonition of God: that the father and the mother is to impress upon the malleable mind of the child the God-wardness of life, the reverence of the Lord, the worship of God. Listen to Solomon as he says in the twenty-third chapter, "My son, if thine heart be wise," [Proverbs 23:15]. Isn’t that a strange nomenclature? You’d think your thinking mind is in your head. "My, son, if your head be wise, if your mind be wise, if your understanding be wise," no. "My, son, if thine heart be wise," then he says in the twenty-sixth verse, "My, son, give me thine heart" [Proverbs 23:26]. The head, the mind, the understanding, yes; but mostly and significantly the heart, which is the seat of all of life and being: "My, son, give me thine heart."
Sometimes our parents have strange attitudes toward their children. They will say, "I don’t want to influence them God-ward or Bible-ward or church-ward or Christ-ward, religiously. They can make up their own minds." But listen, you’re the only one that is neutral in that shaping of the attitude of the child toward God. Don’t you worry, the world will have its say, and the infidel will have his say, and the criminal will have his say, and the streets will have their say. The streets confer no diplomas, and they bestow no degrees, but they educate with terrible precision! How infinitely better for the father and the mother to accept from God and as of God that chiefest of all responsibilities, "My first obligation to this child is to bring up this boy and to rear this girl in the love and discipline and admonition of the Lord." That first and above all. We shall take the child and rear the child heavenward, God-ward, Christ-ward:
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 my faith and hope a-wing;
They keep old truths in memory green,
Reveal the worth of things unseen.
Because my boy is watching me,
To note whatever he can see
That tells him what his father thinks,
And with his eyes 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 The Baptist Messenger, September 23, 1943]
This first: "I shall take this child and bring him to the Lord that he might grow God-ward, upward, heavenward, Christ-ward."
And last: I can never forget, nor can you, that the child has an immortal soul. The life that began back there is a life that will extend forever. And when we’re dealing with the life of the child, we are dealing with an immortal soul; forever and ever and ever.
Could I share with you a letter I received and kept? It is dated October 8, 1971, written to me last month. After I answered it, I kept it. Addressed to me,
Dear Dr. Criswell,
In January of this year, 1971, I was in Baylor Hospital with my little six-year-old grandson – written by his grandmother – 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, which made a great impression on the little boy, Kerry Lee – 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 me how he might talk to the Lord all by himself. The next day, he said God had talked to him, and asked him to not be afraid, and that He would be coming for him soon. He 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, "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 two years and two months of 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 His plan of 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.
Mrs. Ethel Davis.
I don’t know why that humbled me. I receive so many letters from people; they have found the Lord listening, watching. They’ve given their lives to be preachers, listening, watching. But that little boy who found God – and it brought to my soul the deepening of the responsibility of what we do.
You feel as though you are holding eternity in your hands, life, heaven, God, when you accept the responsibility of the life of a little child. "And ye parents, ektrepho, nurture, bring up your children in the paideia, the discipline, the corrective discipline, and nouthesia, the words of admonition and counsel, bring them up in the Lord" [Ephesians 6:4].
We sing our hymn of appeal. And while we sing it a family you, to come and to be with us in the service of Christ; a couple you, or just one somebody you, in the balcony round, on the lower floor, down a stairway into the aisle, in any way God shall say the word of appeal, come. Make it today. Do it today. It may be the finest decision you ever made in your life will be that step you take right now. Make the decision in your heart and on the first note of the first stanza, come, come, while we stand and while we sing.