A worthy, Spirit-filled walk yields a warm and joyful relationship between parents and children.

Paul describes the reality of relationships between children and parents when both are in Christ and Spirit-filled. Saved people who desire to obey the Spirit will just live this way. Obedience to these instructions requires growth in Christ-likeness on both sides.

If the Christian home isn’t a warm and joyful place, then our culture is lost.

Warm and Joyful Christian Children (verses 1-3)

Paul’s first instruction to children is simply to obey their parents. This applies to children within the home and is a sign of righteous behavior – it is what godly children do. This cannot happen without a child first being saved and subject to Christ, for it is an outgrowth of submission to God.

Paul’s second instruction to children is to honor their parents. This is a lifelong command for every Christian and is repeated from the fifth commandment in Exodus 20:12. The best way children can honor their parents is by living what they were taught. This command also has a promise attached to it: when a child lives in this way, they will experience a stable, joyful, and spiritually fruitful life.

Warm and Joyful Christian Fathers (verse 4)

This instruction is specifically directed to dads, who are responsible for the spiritual leadership of their homes. As they live a worthy walk as described in Ephesians 5, this is how they are to parent their children. The first is not provoking to anger. Fathers must not cause their children to be in a continual state of sin, violating the earlier instruction of Ephesians 4:26. When children continually go to bed angry with their father, the relationship becomes fake. There are 3 general ways a dad can provoke his child to anger: unreasonable demands; outrageous punishments; and an inconsistent spiritual example, rules, and controls. Dads must remember that their children are little souls.

Fathers are responsible to discipline their children. They must oversee their spiritual and academic training, consistently teaching them about authority, work ethic, proper treatment of others, relationship to local church and its mission, scholastics, etc. Instruction specifically refers to the teaching of Bible truth. To know how and what to teach your children, you’re going to have to spend a lot of time with God! When a father is Spirit-governed and Christ-like, kids will want to be at home because they see their Savior right behind their dad.

Paul’s instructions are a sharp contrast to the time in which he wrote, when dads ruled their homes as despots and inflicted discipline on their children that would be called child abuse today. God, not dad, gets to set the rules in a Christian home.

A Note to Children with Unsaved Parents:

Although this passage is directed to entire families who are saved and does not specifically address children with unsaved parents, there is still something for you to learn from this passage. No Christian is exempt from God’s command to honor our parents, but it is more difficult to show reverence to parents who don’t reverence God. Remember that any person in a position of authority has been given that title by God. Just as we may not agree with all of our political leaders or approve of their moral choices, so with unsaved parents – we still must show honor to their position.

Application Points

  • Children with Saved Parents: If you’re in the home, are you obeying your parents? Is there an area you need to repent of in order to follow this command fully? If you’re out of the home, are you honoring your parents? Are you living the way you were raised? Re-evaluate your obedience to this instruction and ask God how you can do this even more.
  • Children of Unsaved Parents: Ask God to show you the principles you can apply from this passage. How can you obey His command to honor your parents?
  • Christian Dads: Do you show a Christ-like disposition in your home, or do you parent as an angry, distant tyrant? How can you be more intentional in the discipline and training of your children in the Lord? Perhaps the best thing you can do for your kids is to spend lots of time with God yourself!

Tools for Further Study

Cross References to Explore:
  • Proverbs 1:8-9, 2:1-8, 3:1-2, 4:1-27, etc. – How children are to learn from their parents.
  • Luke 2:49-51 – The only passage about Jesus’ obedience to his parents.
  • 1 Peter 3:1-6, 1 Timothy 2:1-4 – How to honor unsaved authorities.
A Quote to Ponder:

“The parent who studies to subdue the self-will in his child works together with God in the renewing and saving of a soul. The parent who indulges the self-will of their child does the devil’s work, makes religion impractical, salvation unattainable, and does all that in him lies to damn his child, soul and body, forever.” – Susanna Wesley

A Hymn to Encourage: “Chosen As His Children”

Chosen by the Father’s mercy,
Set apart to serve His Son,
Sanctified by His own Spirit—
Praise the Holy Three in One!
Saved by resurrection power,
Shielded in His faithful love;
Now, no enemy can tarnish
My inheritance above!

I’m Born again!
I’m God’s own chosen child of mercy!
Born again! What love and grace!
Father, keep me walking worthy
‘Til I look upon Your face.

Led by wisdom into suff’ring,
Grieved by many trials below,
Yet rejoicing in His purpose,
That my faith as gold may glow.
Granted faith for overcoming,
Filled with love for Christ unseen;
Even angels cannot fathom
What salvation God will bring!

Fixed upon this hope completely,
As obedient children fear;
For the Holy One who called you
Purchased you with blood so dear.
Born anew from seed eternal,
By His lovingkindness spurred,
Lay aside all tasteless yearnings—
Crave the true and living Word!

Built on Christ, the sure foundation,
We are free from guilt and shame;
He is fitting us together
As a house to praise His name!
We are chosen as God’s people,
Called from darkness into light;
O what mercy now entreats us
To proclaim His glories bright!