Ephesians 6:4
And, you fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(4) Provoke not your children to wrath.—The word is the same as in Ephesians 4:26. It denotes the exasperation produced by arbitrary and unsympathetic rule.

Nurture and admonition of the Lord.—In this phrase we have the two elements of education. “Nurture” is a word signifying generally “the treatment due to a child,” but by usage appropriated to practical training, or teaching by discipline; while “admonition” is the “putting children in mind” by word of instruction. It may be noted that in accordance with the characteristic sternness of ancient education, both words have a tinge of severity in them. The “nurture” of this passage is the same as the “chastening” of the famous passage in Hebrews 12:4-11. (Compare the cognate verb in Luke 23:16; 1Corinthians 11:32; 2Corinthians 6:9; 1Timothy 1:20; Revelation 3:19.) The “admonition” is used in Titus 3:10 for rebuke, and, inasmuch as it implies warning, is distinguished from teaching in Colossians 3:16. In this, as in other cases, Christianity gradually softened this stern authority of the father—so strikingly exemplified in the old Roman law—by the idea suggested in the addition of the phrase “of the Lord.” The children belong not to the parent only, but to Christ, taken into His arms in baptism, and sealed as His little ones. Hence the “reverence,” which Juvenal enforced in theory as due to children’s natural purity, become realised in Christian practice, and gradually transformed all Christian education to greater gentleness, forbearance, and love.

6:1-4 The great duty of children is, to obey their parents. That obedience includes inward reverence, as well as outward acts, and in every age prosperity has attended those distinguished for obedience to parents. The duty of parents. Be not impatient; use no unreasonable severities. Deal prudently and wisely with children; convince their judgements and work upon their reason. Bring them up well; under proper and compassionate correction; and in the knowledge of the duty God requires. Often is this duty neglected, even among professors of the gospel. Many set their children against religion; but this does not excuse the children's disobedience, though it may be awfully occasion it. God alone can change the heart, yet he gives his blessing to the good lessons and examples of parents, and answers their prayers. But those, whose chief anxiety is that their children should be rich and accomplished, whatever becomes of their souls, must not look for the blessing of God.And ye fathers - A command addressed particularly to "fathers," because they are at the head of the family, and its government is especially committed to them. The object of the apostle here is, to show parents that their commands should be such that they can be easily obeyed, or such as are entirely reasonable and proper. If children are required to "obey," it is but reasonable that the commands of the parent should be such that they can be obeyed, or such that the child shall not be discouraged in his attempt to obey. This statement is in accordance with what he had said Ephesians 5:22-25 of the relation of husband and wife. It was the duty of the wife to obey - but it was the corresponding duty of the husband to manifest such a character that it would be pleasant to yield obedience - so to love her, that his known wish would be law to her. In like manner it is the duty of children to obey a parent; but it is the duty of a parent to exhibit such a character, and to maintain such a government, that it would be proper for the child to obey; to command nothing that is unreasonable or improper, but to train up his children in the ways of virtue and pure religion.

Provoke not your children to wrath - That is, by unreasonable commands; by needless severity; by the manifestation of anger. So govern them, and so punish them - if punishment is necessary - that they shall not lose their confidence in you, but shall love you. The apostle here has hit on the very danger to which parents are most exposed in the government of their children. It is that of souring their temper; of making them feel that the parent is under the influence of anger, and that it is right for them to be so too. This is done:

(1) when the commands of a parent are unreasonable and severe. The spirit of a child then becomes irritated, and he is "discouraged;" Colossians 3:21.

(2) when a parent is evidently "excited" when he punishes a child. The child then feels:

(a) that if his "father" is angry, it is not wrong for him to be angry; and,

(b) the very fact of anger in a parent kindles anger in his bosom - just as it does when two men are contending.

If he submits in the case, it is only because the parent is the "strongest," not because he is "right," and the child cherishes "anger," while he yields to power. There is no principle of parental government more important than that a father should command his own temper when he inflicts punishment. He should punish a child not because he is "angry," but because it is "right;" not because it has become a matter of "personal contest," but because God requires that he should do it, and the welfare of the child demands it. The moment when a child seem that a parent punishes him under the influence of anger, that moment the child will be likely to be angry too - and his anger will be as proper as that of the parent. And yet, how often is punishment inflicted in this manner! And how often does the child feel that the parent punished him simply because he was the "strongest," not because it was "right;" and how often is the mind of a child left with a strong conviction that wrong has been done him by the punishment which he has received, rather than with repentance for the wrong that he has himself done.

But bring them up - Place them under such discipline and instruction that they shall become acquainted with the Lord.

In the nurture - ἐν παιδεία en paideia. The word used here means "training of a child;" hence education, instruction, discipline. Here it means that they are to train up their children in such a manner as the Lord approves; that is, they are to educate them for virtue and religion.

And admonition - The word used here - νουθεσία nouthesia means literally, "a putting in mind," then warning, admonition, instruction. The sense here is, that they were to put them in mind of the Lord - of his existence, perfections, law, and claims on their hearts and lives. This command is positive, and is in accordance with all the requirements of the Bible on the subject. No one can doubt that the Bible enjoins on parents the duty of endeavoring to train up their children in the ways of religion, and of making it the grand purpose of this life to prepare them for heaven. It has been often objected that children should be left on religious subjects to form their own opinions when they are able to judge for themselves. Infidels and irreligious people always oppose or neglect the duty here enjoined; and the plea commonly is, that to teach religion to children is to make them prejudiced; to destroy their independence of mind; and to prevent their judging as impartially on so important a subject as they ought to. In reply to this, and in defense of the requirements of the Bible on the subject, we may remark:

(1) That to suffer a child to grow up without any instruction in religion, is about the same as to suffer a garden to lie without any culture. Such a garden would soon be overrun with weeds, and briars, and thorns - but not sooner, or more certainly, than the mind of a child would.

(2) people do instruct their children in a great many things, and why should they not in religion? They teach them how to behave in company; the art of farming; the way to make or use tools; how to make money; how to avoid the arts of the cunning seducer. But why should it not be said that all this tends to destroy their independence, and to make them prejudiced? Why not leave their minds open and free, and suffer them to form their own judgments about farming and the mechanic arts when their minds are matured?

(3) people do inculcate their own sentiments in religion. An infidel is not usually "very" anxious to conceal his views from his children. People teach by example; by incidental remarks; by the "neglect" of that which they regard as of no value. A man who does not pray, is teaching his children not to pray; he who neglects the public worship of God, is teaching his children to neglect it; he who does not read the Bible, is teaching his children not to read it. Such is the constitution of things, that it is impossible for a parent not to inculcate his own religious views on his children. Since this is so, all that the Bible requires is, that his instructions should be right.

(4) to inculcate the truths of religion is not to make the mind narrow, prejudiced, and indisposed to perceive the truth. Religion makes the mind candid, conscientious, open to conviction, ready to follow the truth. Superstition, bigotry, infidelity, and "all" error and falsehood, make the mind narrow and prejudiced.

continued...

4. fathers—including mothers; the fathers are specified as being the fountains of domestic authority. Fathers are more prone to passion in relation to their children than mothers, whose fault is rather over-indulgence.

provoke not—irritate not, by vexatious commands, unreasonable blame, and uncertain temper [Alford]. Col 3:21, "lest they be discouraged."

nurture—Greek, "discipline," namely, training by chastening in act where needed (Job 5:17; Heb 12:7).

admonition—training by words (De 6:7; "catechise," Pr 22:6, Margin), whether of encouragement, or remonstrance, or reproof, according as is required [Trench]. Contrast 1Sa 3:13, Margin.

of the Lord—such as the Lord approves, and by His Spirit dictates.

Provoke not your children to wrath; viz. by unreasonable severity, moroseness, unrighteous commands, &c.

But bring them up in the nurture; or correction, as the word signifies, Hebrews 12:6-8.

And admonition; this denotes the end of the former; instruction in their duty must be, as well as correction to drive them to it.

Of the Lord; the Lord Jesus Christ; and so it is either that admonition which is commanded by him, or whereby they are brought to be acquainted with him. And ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath,.... Neither by words; by unjust and, unreasonable commands; by contumelious and reproachful language; by frequent and public chidings, and by indiscreet and passionate expressions: nor by deeds; preferring one to another; by denying them the necessaries of life; by not allowing them proper recreation; by severe and cruel blows, and inhuman usage; by not giving them suitable education; by an improper disposal of them in marriage; and by profusely spending their estates, and leaving nothing to them: not but that parents may, and ought to correct and rebuke their children; nor are they accountable to them for their conduct; yet they should take care not to provoke them to wrath, because this alienates their minds from them, and renders their instructions and corrections useless, and puts them upon sinful practices; wrath lets in Satan, and leads to sin against God; and indeed it is difficult in the best of men to be angry and not sin; see Colossians 3:21. Fathers are particularly mentioned, they being the heads of families, and are apt to be too severe, as mothers too indulgent.

But bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord; instructing them in the knowledge of divine things, setting them good examples, taking care to prevent their falling into bad company, praying with them, and for them, bringing them into the house of God, under the means of grace, to attend public worship; all which, under a divine blessing, may be very useful to them; the example of Abraham is worthy of imitation, Genesis 18:19, and the advice of the wise man deserves attention, Proverbs 22:6.

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

(6) It is the duty of fathers to use their fatherly authority moderately and to God's glory.

(c) Such information and precepts which are taken out of God's book, and are holy and acceptable to him.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Ephesians 6:4. The duty of fathers, negative and positive.

καὶ οἱ πατέρες] and ye fathers, so that καί quickly subjoins. Comp. Ephesians 6:9. Paul does not address the mothers, not because he is thinking of the training of grown-up children (so quite arbitrarily Olshausen), nor on account of an Oriental depreciation of the mothers (Rückert), in opposition to which view—even apart from passages like Proverbs 14:1; Proverbs 31:10 ff.—the whole teaching of the apostle concerning the relation of husband and wife in marriage (Ephesians 5:25 ff.) is decisive; but because the husband, as the head of the wife, has, even in the bringing up of children the rule, and the wives join in prosecuting the work of training ὑποτασσόμεναι τοῖς ἰδίοις ἀνδράσιν (Ephesians 5:22 ff.).

μὴ παροργίζετε] by injustice, harshness, hastiness of temper, undue severity, and the like, whereby the children are irritated against the fathers; at Colossians 3:21 there is subjoined as motive ἵνα μὴ ἀθυμῶσιν.

ἐκτρέφετε] not as at Ephesians 5:29, but of the bringing up, and that on its moral side. Proverbs 23:24; 1Ma 6:15; 1Ma 6:55; Plato, Gorg. p. 471 C; Polyb. vi. 6. 2. See Wyttenbach, ad Plut. de educ. p. 66; Lennep. ad Phalar, p. 350b.

ἐν παιδείᾳ καὶ νουθεσίᾳ κυρίου] ἐν denotes the regulative element, in which the training is to take place. Comp. Polyb. i. 65. 7: τῶν ἐν παιδείαις κ. νόμοις κ. πολιτικοῖς ἔθεσιν ἐκτεθραμμένων. Hence: in the Lord’s training and correction. παιδεία is the general term, the training of children as a whole, and νουθεσία is the special one, the reproof aiming at amendment, whether this admonition take place by means of words (νουθετικοὶ λόγοι, Xen. Mem. i. 2. 21) or of actual punishments (οἱ μὲν ῥάβδοι νουθετοῦσι κ.τ.λ., Plut. Quaest. Rom. p. 283). See Gellius, vi. 4; Kypke, Obss. ad 1 Thess. v. 14. With regard to the form, in place of which the better Greek has νουθέτησις, see Lobeck, ad Phryn. p. 512. κυρίου means neither to the Lord (Luther), nor according to the doctrine of Christ (Erasmus, Beza, Vatablus, Menochius, Estius, Zachariae, Koppe, Morus, Rosenmüller, Bisping, and others, including Holzhausen, who, however, takes κυρ. of God), nor worthily of the Lord (Matthies), or the like; but it is the genitive subjecti, so that the Lord Himself is conceived as exercising the training and reproof, in so far, namely, as Christ by His Spirit impels and governs the fathers therein. Comp. Soph. Electr. 335: ἅπαντα γάρ σοι ταʼ μὰ νουθετήματα κείνης διδακτὰ, κοὐδὲν ἐκ σαυτῆς λέγεις. Rückert is unable to come to a decision, and doubts whether Paul himself had a distinct idea before his mind.Ephesians 6:4. καὶ οἱ πατέρες, μὴ παροργίζετε τὰ τέκνα ὑμῶν: and, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath. The καί continues the statement of this second of the relative or domestic duties, presenting now the other side. The duty is one not only of children to parents, but also of parents to children. The parental duty is set forth in terms of the father’s obligation without particular mention of the mother’s, not because children of maturer age are in view (Olsh.), but simply because the father is the ruler in the house, as the husband is the head of the wife; the mother’s rule and responsibility being subordinate to his and represented by his. The parental duty is given first negatively, as avoidance of all calculated to irritate or exasperate the children—injustice, severity and the like, so as to make them indisposed to filial obedience and honour. παροργίζειν, a strong verb, found again in Romans 10:19, with which cf. μὴ ἐρεθίζετε in Colossians 3:21.—ἀλλʼ ἐκτρέφετε αὐτὰ ἐν παιδείᾳ καὶ νουθεσίᾳ Κυρίου: but nurture them in the discipline and admonition of the Lord. For ἀλλʼ TTrWHRV prefer ἀλλά as before. We have now the statement of parental duty on the positive side. ἐκτρέφειν has here obviously the sense of bringing up (cf. Proverbs 23:24), not that of nourishing as in Ephesians 5:29 above. ἐν is not instrumental here but local, denoting the ethical sphere or element in which the παιδεία and the νουθεσία take place. παιδεία in classical Greek means education, the whole instruction and training of youth, including the training of the body. In the NT as also in the OT and the Apocrypha παιδεία and its verb παιδεύειν mean education per molestias (Aug., Enarr., in Psalm 119:66), discipline, instruction by correction or chastening (Luke 23:16; Hebrews 12:5; Hebrews 12:7-8; Revelation 3:9; cf. Leviticus 26:18; Psalm 6:1; Isaiah 53:5; Sir 4:17; Sir 22:6; 2Ma 6:12). Of the general Greek sense there is but one instance in the case of the verb in the NT (Acts 7:22); and as regards the noun the passage in 2 Timothy 3:16 suits the idea of disciplinary instruction. There is no reason, therefore, for departing from the usual biblical sense of the word here, or for giving it the wide sense of all that makes the education of children. The term νουθεσία, not entirely strange to classical Greek (e.g., Aristoph., Ranae, 1009), but current rather in later Greek (Philo, Joseph., etc.) in place of the earlier form νουθέτησις (νουθετία also appearing to occur occasionally), means admonition, training by word, and in actual use, mostly, though not necessarily, by word of reproof, remonstrance or blame (cf. Trench, NT Syn., pp. 104–108). The Vulg. translates very well, “in disciplina et correptione”. The distinction, therefore, between the two terms is not that between the general and the special (Mey.), but rather that between training by Acts and discipline and training by word (Ell.). The Κυρίου is taken by some as the gen. obj., = “about Christ” (so the Greek commentators generally); by others as = “according to the doctrine of Christ” (Erasm., Est., etc.), or as = “worthy of the Lord” (Matthies). But it is best understood either as the possess. gen. or as the gen. of origin, = “the Lord’s discipline and admonition,” i.e., Christian training, the training that is of Christ, proceeding from Him and prescribed by Him.4. fathers] We may equally well render, parents. Moses’ parents are called (Hebrews 11:23, Gr.) his fathers. The expression is found in the classics, Greek and Latin.—The father is the head of authority in the home, but the oneness of husband and wife, to speak of that only, secures the high authority of the mother also. This is assumed in the Fifth Commandment.

provoke not … to wrath] The same word occurs Colossians 3:21, and the cognate noun above, Ephesians 4:26, where see note. In Col. the suggestive words follow, “lest they be discouraged.” The precept and the reason are both full of holy wisdom.—Here, as in the section on Marriage, observe how the two parties are reminded each exclusively of his own duties.

At the present time, undoubtedly, parental authority is at a low ebb in English Christendom. Its revival will depend, under God, on the active recognition of the whole teaching of such a Scripture as this, full of the warrant of parental government, and of the wisdom of parental sympathy.

bring them up] The Gr. conveys the idea of development (here in the sphere of character and principle) by care and pains. The same word has occurred Ephesians 4:29, with reference to bodily development.

nurture] Better, discipline. “Chastening” (R.V.) seems to us too narrow a word, at least in its ordinary sense of punitive discipline. It is true that in the leading N.T. passage of the kind (Hebrews 12:5-10; and cp. Revelation 3:19) the word (or its kindred verb) obviously conveys that idea. And the verb is used of the terrible “chastisement” of the Roman scourge (Luke 23:16; Luke 23:22). But a wider meaning is, by usage, quite lawful, and it is certainly in point here. All the wholesome restraints of a wise early education are in view; all training in the direction of a life modest, unselfish, and controlled. Such will be the discipline of the true Christian home, and of its partial extension, the true Christian school.

admonition] The Gr. noun recurs 1 Corinthians 10:11; Titus 3:10. For the kindred Gr. verb, see Acts 20:31; Romans 15:14; 1 Corinthians 4:14; Colossians 1:28; Colossians 3:16; 1 Thessalonians 5:12; 1 Thessalonians 5:14; 2 Thessalonians 3:15. It will be seen that the noun relates to the warning side of instruction, a side too often neglected.

of the Lord] On His revealed principles, learnt of Him, and for His sake. He is everywhere in the Christian home.Ephesians 6:4. Καὶ οἱ πατέρες, and ye that are fathers) And is also prefixed at Ephesians 6:9, and ye masters. It is not put before husbands, ch. Ephesians 5:25. Parents and masters more readily abuse their power than husbands. He spoke of parents, Ephesians 6:1; he now addresses fathers in particular, for they are more readily carried away by passion. The same difference in the words, and the same admonition, occur, Colossians 3:20-21.—μὴ παροργίζετε, do not provoke) lest love be extinguished.—ἐκτρέφετε, but bring them up in the nurture) kindly.—ἐν παιδείᾳ καὶ νουθεσίᾳ, in the nurture [instruction] and admonition) The one of these counteracts (obviates) ignorance; the other, forgetfulness and levity. Both include the word, and all other training. So among the lawyers, νουθέτημα, and admonition, is mentioned, even such as is given by stripes. Job 5:17, מוסר, admonition; 1 Samuel 3:13, Eli οὐκ ἐνουθέτει, did not admonish his sons.Verse 4. - And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath. "Fathers" is inclusive of mothers, to whom the practical administration of the household and training of the children so much belong. The first counsel on the subject is negative, and probably has respect to a common pagan habit, against which Christians needed to be put on their guard. Irritation of children was common, through loss of temper and violence in reproving them, through capricious and unsteady treatment and unreasonable commands; but more especially (what is still so common) by the parents being violently angry when the children, inconsiderately, perhaps, disturbed or annoyed them, rather than when they deliberately did wrong. All this the apostle deprecates. But bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord. The words παιδεία and νουθεσία are not easily defined in this connection; the former is thought to denote the discipline of training, with its appropriate rewards and punishments; the latter, instruction. Both are to be "of the Lord," such as he inspires and approves. Instilling sound principles of life, training to good habits, cautioning and protecting against moral dangers, encouraging prayer, Bible-reading, church-going, sabbath-keeping; taking pains to let them have good associates, and especially dealing with them prayerfully and earnestly, in order that they may accept Christ as their Savior and follow him, - are among the matters included in this counsel. Nurture and admonition (παιδείᾳ καὶ νουθεσίᾳ)

Πας δείᾳ from παίς a child. In classical usage, that which is applied to train and educate a Child. So Plato: "Education (παιδεία) is the constraining and directing of youth toward that right reason which the law affirms, and which the experience of the best of our elders has agreed to be truly right" ("Laws," 659). In scriptural usage another meaning has come into it and its kindred verb παιδεύειν, which recognizes the necessity of correction or chastisement to thorough discipline. So Leviticus 26:18; Psalm 6:1; Isaiah 53:5; Hebrews 12:5-8. In Acts 7:22 παιδεύω occurs in the original classical sense: "Moses was instructed (ἐπαιδεύθη) in all the wisdom," etc. The term here covers all the agencies which contribute to moral and spiritual training. Discipline is better than Rev., chastening. Νουθεσία admonition occurs only here, 1 Corinthians 10:11, and Titus 3:10. The kindred verb νουθετέω to warn or admonish, is found only in Paul's letters, with the single exception of Acts 20:31 (see note). Its distinctive feature is training by word of mouth, as is shown by its classical usage in connection with words meaning to exhort or teach. Xenophon uses the phrase νουθετικοὶ λόγοι admonitory words. Yet it may include monition by deed. Thus Plato, speaking of public instruction in music, says that the spectators were kept quiet by the admonition of the wand (ῥάβδου νουθέτησις, "Laws," 700). He also uses the phrase πληγαῖς νουθετεῖν to admonish with blows. It includes rebuke, but not necessarily. Trench happily illustrates the etymological sense (νοῦς the mind, τίθημι to put): "Whatever is needed to cause the monition to be laid to heart." Admonition is a mode of discipline, so that the two words nurture and admonition stand related as general and special.

Of the Lord

Such discipline as is prescribed by the Lord and is administered in His name.

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