Ephesians: In the Heavenly Realms

Childen Obey Your Parents

Ephesians 6:1-4

– The Bible Teacher's Commentary –

Paul J. Bucknell

Ephesians 6:4 ~ "Obedience requires training" is part 4 of 5 of The Bible Teacher's Commentary series on Ephesians 6:1-4 which outlines the parents' responsibility before God in three parts: 1) Not provoking the child to anger, bringing them up in the (2) discipline and (3) instruction of the Lord. Bible Study Questions are provided at the end.

Obedience requires training (Ephesians 6:4)

“bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord”

“And, fathers, do not provoke your children to anger; but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4).

Ephesians 6:4 continues on in the same topic of obedience. It is similar to what was done in a previous section when commanding the wife to subject herself to her husband. Afterwards, Paul wrote to the husbands, the one that is in authority over the wife. In this case, Paul writes to the father, the one in authority over the child. Many a father does not know how to be a good father. A good father is committed to observing three parenting hints. Let’s look at each one.

(1) Do not provoke to anger (Ephesians 6:4)

The first qualifier is that the father is not to provoke his children to anger. This is obviously a negative trait. Provoking his child to anger is something that he is not to do. The reason Paul spoke to fathers about this issue without mentioning mothers is not because wives do not occasionally provoke their children to anger, but that a dad can provoke his child to anger and not even know it!

Perhaps it is because dads as head of the home expect to be obeyed and are themselves more easily provoked. Or perhaps because Moms are more sensitive to the impact of their mistakes upon the children and will correct them while dads will justify their overreaction. In any case, the action of the dad holds back from the kind of discipline that the father should exercise.

Paul did not say, “Withhold chastisement.” Many would correct abuse with other forms of abuse such as providing no physical correction.

All of you have dads. Just think. Has your father provoked you into anger by something that he did or say? Did he earn disrespect because he didn’t want to hear your side of the story or that his demands were just too overbearing? This is possible true. Some children have a real problem with their parents!

I would recommend that parents neutralize the ‘unfair’ sting. Where we have made mistakes, we should apologize to our children. It is extremely difficult to do but necessary if we want to work on building back up a trust network. Usually children overreact because of two reasons: (1) they are guilty of their own sin, and (2) they feel offended. If a dad is inconsistent, apparently misunderstanding the child or the situation, or unjustly implementing correction, then a child can get very angry inside. This anger will turn into rebellion if not corrected. If you are a child find yourself in this way, you ought to take steps to correct it or you will continue to disrespect your father.

Whose problem is it? parent or child?

The apostle is not legitimizing a father’s irresponsible behavior, but if you are on the bad side of such a dad, then unless you learn to respond rightly, you will continue in developing a bad situation. Both fathers and children should make effort to correct the offensive and maintain good relationships. This is how the Holy Spirit wants to work through our lives.

(2) Bring them up in discipline (Ephesians 6:4)

This word ‘paideia’ is the root word for several words regarding children such as pediatrics. This word describes the whole process of training including physical discipline called chastisement. Usually, when we use the word discipline, we think of only the physical punishment. This word does not have that sense and for that reason discipline is not an ideal translation. But what word shall we use? If we translate paideia as ‘training’ then it eliminates the aspect of discipline. This is a great word, but we lack a comparable word for it.

There are two important principles from this. First, discipline must go along with real training. We cannot properly train our children without discipline. If our children choose to disobey, then they need to be brought back in place. Discipline provides the necessary correction to keep children on track. It is wrong for parents to rule out physical punishment for young children. They need it. Hebrews 12 says that a parent does not love his child if he withholds discipline.

The reason is quite obvious. Without chastisement, children become arrogant and stuck up. They get demanding and do not learn the basic rules of society.

Second, we should recognize that there is a purpose of training. Many times physical discipline is given only to punish children. Chastisement needs to be part of a larger training program to be effective. We are not just training our children not to do something but to do something positive, good and lovely.

Many parents have become ‘no’ parents. They negatively train their children. “Don’t do that.” “You can’t do this.” “Stop it.” Everyone hates this. Parents know it is wrong but do not know how to correct it. They at least have enough sense to say ‘no’ (some parents do not know how to do this now), but they lack the wherewithal to positively train their children. This can and should be corrected. Fathers need to take the lead. Start by thinking through what you would want children positively to do. How do you want them to talk to you? Or what things should they do when going to bed? What should they do if they break something? Train them and then they are more likely follow through. At least, in these cases they know why they need discipline. Parents are not just trying to keep children quiet but positively trained and full of God’s Spirit.

(3) Bring them up in instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4)

Paul also exhorts fathers to instruct their children. This goes along with what has just been said. It is the positive side of training. Words guide children. This goes against the tendency in our modern society which believes it is important to allow our children to be free to choose what they want. This wrong thinking is based on the presupposition that children will make the best decisions without the influences of parents and society. This is one of modern philosophy’s black holes. This runs flat against Ephesians 2:1-2.

“And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.” (Ephesians 2:1-3, NASB).

Most Christian parents have never examined their modern mindset. They believe it is more biblical than what the Bible says. Of course, they think they are doing what the Lord says but in the end they are going right against what the Lord teaches.

Parents are responsible to instruct their children. The Greek word for this is ‘noutheo.’ This word has a strong sense of admonish but combined with verbal instruction. Again, it is reproving but positive in the sense that we ought to positively set forward what is to be done. We are to influence our children. Parents must not let the children have a blank mind where the world will be stained on their minds.

Instruction has several ramifications. Instruction means that we need to teach them the way of the Lord, both the grace found in Christ as well as how that faith is lived out. We need to shape our schedules and our time to informally and formally train our children the Word of God. We are not to depend upon Sunday School teachers or even the pastor, though we are thankful to them for reinforcing the truth.

We are to shape how they think. Parents are to create a mindset where they know of the Lord’s love. Think of the alternative. Why would you ever put them in a situation or frame of mind where they believed that the truth was not important or that they could not tell error from truth? It is incredible that many Christian parents think they are serving their children by allowing them to be instructed by the world but give little of their own time in instructing and warning them.

A parent’s instruction should be backed up with their life and convincingly shape a child’s mind and heart so that God’s truth as found in Christ is desirable and obvious. I am afraid that when parents both are busy working, children begin to lose that sense of home and love. The parents are too busy outside the home to properly care for problems in the home. They make up their lack of time by giving gifts. Even if parents are at home, that, though, does not mean that God’s love is there. Parents need to go out of the way to provide a home where the child knows he or she is loved. If the parents watch movies, busy with their jobs, manage their internet relationships but never get around to consistent formal and informal instruction of the children of God’s Word, they have failed their children. They have failed God and society around them.

Conclusion on Proper Parenting

So let’s look through at the mistaken notions mentioned above and state why they are wrong based on what we have today studied in God’s Word.

False: My main responsibility as a parent is to give my children the best education possible.

True: The apostle says nothing about education except that they should be trained in God’s ways. If the parent fails here, it will have eternal impact both on the parents as well as the children. Education falls into a distant second place here. We will probably not even be asked what university we graduated from in heaven. Have we instructed our children in the way of the Lord?

False: Children know what they should do. I do not need to interfere with their lives.

True: Children are born sinners. They need to be instructed to obey and need their lives to be shaped by outward constraint and instruction in the word of life.
I can’t understand my children so I don’t get involved.

False: It is the duty of parents to be closely involved in the child’s life so that these children obey them.

True: How can we teach them if we do not know them? How can we live together and not know them? If we do not understand them, we will provoke them to anger. Know them so that you can instruct them in the Lord’s ways.

False: Physical discipline is unfair and can be abusive. I don’t use it.

True: One aspect of training is discipline which includes chastisement. It is used at strategic times to help the children learn how to avoid doing wrong things and prepare them to embrace instruction. Fathers are commanded to discipline them as needed in order to accomplish a greater and glorious goal.

False: Parents and children should be able to make the best decisions together.

True: Children are to obey their parents. They are not to make independent decisions that in any way counter their parents’ decisions. There are many decisions where voting does not work and therefore ‘voting’ should not be used. Parents are the authority.

False: Parents have a right to get real angry at how their child disregards their wishes.

True: Fathers often exasperate their children when they burst out in anger. This shows that the parent is not really seeking the well-being of the child but is self-seeking and seeking to solve his own irritation. If a father sees his children as constantly misbehaving, he should look and see if he is neglecting what is here instructed.

False: Children need to learn independence early in life. We need to give them that freedom.

True: It is critical that children learn to obey their parents, not to make decisions independent from their parents. This is the opposite to wisdom. True freedom accompanies responsibility. As children show obedience, then they can gain more freedom.

False: If you make children do what they don’t want, they will be emotionally scarred.

True: Emotionally scarring might come from a father who provokes the child to anger. This is completely different than how a father through correction, positive training and instruction in the Lord shapes the child in a way that they can do well in their lives.

False: I like to give my child his own choice so I don’t tell him what he should believe.

True: We must instruct our children in the way of the Lord. Why would we not memorize God’s Word and plant it deep in their hearts? If we are corrupted with a modern mentality, we might neglect to give our children one of the greatest assets that we have as Christian parents. We want them make wise decisions, not to follow the world into hell. We want them to love the ways of the Lord, not to have a liking for what God considers as evil and wrong.

False: We know what our child watches is not best, but what can we do about it?

True: We shape the child’s experiences so that God’s truth and love are lived out to them. We protect them from the norms of the society which are a mass of advertisements to love and die with the world. We train them. We have great goals of righteousness, godly fear and a heart of love as a goal for our children.

False: That is the way children are nowadays. (sigh)

Obedience is great!True: Children are the way they are not because of our complex urban society, but because we have not abided by the commands that Paul the Apostle has set for us. We need to start thinking what kind of children we want and so train them. Hold back other things so that you can make time for what is good and lovely. For example, why not have your child make something with you for another sick person rather than just having him or her play computer games or involve themselves in Instant Messaging (IM).


The disease of modernism has entered the church. Paul shows how we can clean it out of our parenting perspectives. We are wise if we do it. Children, don’t believe that the world’s ways is better. The apostle has set before you the great way to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Learn by faith to trust God’s judgment here and you like David will be highly favored by God. I wish for each of you to prize God’s commands and find that they are swords for battling the evil one so that we can live out the ways of our gracious Lord. Few people have delighted in obedience as Jesus. The world needs more of them. Be one.

Next => Study the free Bible Study Questions for further applying and discussing this topic.

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For further reflection on these topics with BFF article:
Appreciating God's Discipline - Jacob's Life
Building Respect for the family
Discipline (chastisement) in the Bible
Balanced authority and discipline
Is all truth God's truth?


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    Biblical Foundations for Freedom

    Paul J. Bucknell

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