The Fifth Commandment
May 8th, 1988 @ 8:15 AM
THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT
Dr. W. A. Criswell
5-8-88 8:15 a.m.
And thank you. Once again, welcome to the throngs of you who share this hour on radio. This is the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and I am the pastor delivering the message on Mother’s Day.
Our passage from God’s Word is in the last chapter of Ephesians, Ephesians chapter 6, the first four verses:
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, provoke not your children to stand in the wrath of God: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
"Obey your parents in the Lord." "Honor your father and your mother." He says, "This is the first commandment with promise" – it is the only commandment with promise – "That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long in the earth." What a precious assignment God has given to us; to revere, to respect, to love and to honor our fathers and our mothers.
In speaking in one of the largest cities in Florida, the pastor said, "I want you to go with me to a world-famous restaurant on the edge of the city." I went with him. And when I walked into the foyer of that large establishment, there was a picture of a woman. She looked to be a noble representative of the finest creation of God; a large, large picture.
And the pastor said to me, "I want you to look at that woman. I want you to look at that picture." And when we sat down at the table, he said, "On a poor farm in Georgia, there was a farmer and his wife and a little boy. And the father died, and the mother took the little boy and came to this city; secured a place as a cook in a little dump of a restaurant and reared that little boy. As time passed, she owned the little restaurant, and her cooking became so famous there wasn’t room for the patrons. So as it continued to grow, she went on the edge of the city and built this beautiful establishment. But just at the time of its completion, she died. Before she died, she called her son to her bedside and said, ‘Son, I want you to promise me that you’ll never serve liquor in this restaurant. There’ll be no wine; there’ll be no beer; there’ll be no intoxicating beverages. Son, you promise me that.’ And the lad promised his mother. When the restaurant was opened and the people thronged to that beautiful place, there came the emissaries from the liquor industry and the wine merchants and the beer peddlers. And these that sold intoxicating beverages said to the young man, ‘You can’t succeed unless you sell liquor.’ And he took them to the picture of that mother, and he said to the representatives of the liquor industry, ‘You see that picture? That’s my mother. I promised her, before she died, we’d never sell intoxicating drinks in this place.’ And he said to the men, ‘Before I break that pledge and that promise to my mother, I’ll go back to Georgia and plow in those fields once again.’"
"Honor thy father and thy mother." What a wonderful commitment on the part of a worthy son and a worthy daughter. In this passage from which I am preaching, you have a poignant understanding, presentation of God’s dependence upon the family and upon the home. It is the foundation of the church. It is the foundation of the state. It is the foundation of the nation. It is the foundation for the kingdom of God.
In the early 1800’s, the whole world was wrapped up in those Napoleonic wars. From 1804 to1815, they watched Napoleon overrun Western Europe. He conquered Spain; he conquered Austria; he conquered Germany; he threw his legions against the vast empire of Russia. And men waited with bated breath for the latest news concerning Napoleon. Strange, in the very midst of those Napoleonic wars, in the year of 1809 – in 1809 Gladstone was born in Liverpool, England. In 1809, Alfred Lord Tennyson was born in a rectory in Somersby. In 1809, Oliver Wendell Holmes was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts. In 1809, Abraham Lincoln was born in a little tiny log cabin in Hodgenville, Kentucky. In the world of music, Frederic Chopin in 1809 was born in Warsaw, Poland. In 1809 Felix Mendelssohn was born in Hamburg, Germany.
While the whole world was talking about battles, God was talking about babies. That’s the Lord. And in His admonition and His appeal to bring up this child in the love of Jesus and in the will and parameters of God’s kingdom [Ephesians 6:9], there is a time when we must do for the child what the child cannot do for itself; otherwise, it will perish.
A child is like a burnish tablet,
Engrave on it what you will.
Like open sheets of paper,
Write on it what you will.
Like clay in a potter’s hand,
Mold it as you will.
I heard the president of a great university say one time, "I’m not avowing," he said, "that environment, that teaching and training is everything, heredity has a great deal to do with the child. I’m not saying," He said, "that environment is everything. But I am saying that whether the child is a cannibal, or a communist, or a goose-stepping Nazi, or a Catholic, or a Baptist, depends upon its upbringing, its teaching and its training. And in the failure of parental guidance, lies the tragedy of so many boys and girls.
The first four chapters of 1 Samuel is the story of Eli, the high priest. God sent a messenger to him and said, "Because you have not restrained your sons from evil, I have blotted out your house forever, and those two boys shall perish in one day" [1 Samuel 2:30-34; 3:13]. And because of the failure of Eli their father, Hophni and Phinehas were slain in one day [1 Samuel 4:10-11]. And the house of Eli perished forever.
In a little tiny village where I was pastor, there was one drugstore. And the man that owned it and ran it, bootlegged on the side, happy in the money that he made selling liquor. But the day came when he looked upon his boy, his only son, who became a hopeless and a helpless alcoholic. Parental failure finds its repercussion in those children that are growing up in the home.
The FBI said that practically all of our criminals are below twenty-one years of age and most of them are boys below eighteen years of age. How vital and how necessary, how fundamental this admonition we rear the children in the love and nurture of the Lord. All the years of my pastorate have I heard fathers and mothers say, "We’re not going to influence our children for God or for Christ. We’re going to let them grow up. Then when they come of age, they can choose for themselves whether they want to be Christians or not." What an amazing reply and response to the life of the child!
I one time heard of a man, who having heard that, took him to his garden and there was a part of it growing up with weeds. And the man said, "Why this part of the garden growing up in weeds?" And he replied, "Because I didn’t want to influence in favor the flowers." The child, the child, the child, the child, if you don’t influence the child, the world will! The streets of the city offer no diplomas. They confer no degrees. But they educate with terrible precision. Somebody will influence that child. It will be either you for God, or it will be the world for the disaster of the lad or the girl.
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 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.
And not only in this life are we accountable to God for our children, but they are immortal souls. Our responsibility reaches into the eternity, into the forever that is yet to come.
There was a man who was married to a godly woman, and he had no place in his heart or life for religion. With contempt, he looked upon it. Into their home was born a little, precious baby girl. And the mother, when the child was small, took the precious little babe to Sunday school and reared her in the church.
But when the child became a teenager, the father maliciously and purposely took the child away. With fiendish delight, he would take her to the bar, to the dance, to worldly pleasures and entertainment. Then when the mother would seek to call the little girl, trying to get up Sunday morning for Sunday school, the child would say, "Mother, I was out so late last night. I just can’t get up."
And the father would give the child money to go to the beach and to anywhere to keep the youngster away from God and away from the church. And in one of those things that so often happen, riding back into town with a group of teenagers, a tragic accident, and the girl had a few moments to live.
They called the father and he rushed to the hospital and held her hand. And she said, "Daddy, I have a few moments to live. You tell me, Daddy, mother said that I ought to give my heart to the Lord, that I ought to love Jesus, that I ought to walk in His way. But Daddy, you said there was no reason in religion; that we ought to live it up in the world. And you took me away from God and from church. Now, Daddy, I have a few moments to live. Tell me, Daddy, shall I take your way or Mother’s way?"
And the father replied, "O God in heaven, child; sweet child, take mother’s way; take mother’s way!" But by the time he said the words, her hand was limp and she had gone.
Later, before the church, when he’d given his heart to the Lord, he told them that story and raised his arms to heaven and said, "I’d give my life, I’d give my life if I only knew whether, in that moment of time, she had taken mother’s way."
To live in the world is fine for a season. But someday we’ll stand at the judgment bar of Almighty God. And when we do, what shall we say?
Here’s a letter I received:
In January, 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, a better world, which made a great impression on Kerry Lee.
That, and several petitions in prayer, caused him to ask me 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. He smiled as he told me how warm and soft God’s arm felt around his shoulder as God spoke to him.
He wanted me to tell his mother, "Mommy, please don’t cry when I go away," and ask that we give his clothes to his little friends, his art supplies to the church, and to keep his little shoes."
He assured me everything was all right and talked about God coming for him. And he’d talk calmly and unafraid. He was laid to rest last Easter, after a two year 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.
In the love of Jesus,
– signed by that sweet grandmother.
This is the day and the time and the hour to give your family to God. "Lord, I receive as from Your hands this precious life, immortal." "Dear God, if You will help me, I’ll be responsible for the child in the days of this life and someday in the judgment of Almighty God."
Oh, father and mother, what a responsibility we have when that child is laid in our arms! And that is our appeal to you this solemn and sacred and holy hour. "Pastor, I’m bringing my family into the fold of God, into the circle and circumference of the Lord’s people. And this is God’s day in which I pledge to rear my children in the love and admonition of the Lord, and here I stand." Bring the child with you. If the child is in the nursery, go get the youngster. Stand here with us. "Pastor, we’re marching to Zion. Our faces are heavenward and we’re not going alone; we’re taking our children with us." Oh, what a precious commitment, to give your life to the Lord, to come into the family and fellowship of our dear church, to rear the child in the love of Jesus! "Pastor, this is God’s day for me, and here I stand." In that balcony round, down a stairway, to the throng of this lower floor, down one of these aisles, "God has spoken to my heart, and I’m answering with my life." Do it now, make it now, while we stand and while we sing.