Colossians 3:20, 21
Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing to the Lord.…
The family and the Church, the natural and spiritual home, are the two most sacred associations on earth, having as their Head. "the Father from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named" (Ephesians 3:15). The strength of the nation and the welfare of the world are inseparably bound up with families. Madame de Stael, asked by Bonaparte what was the greatest want of France, replied, "Mothers." The gospel brings to families the blessing of Abraham (Genesis 17:7) and of Jesus Christ (Matthew 19:13-16; Acts 2:39). It has messages to children and to parents.
I. THE MESSAGE OF THE GOSPEL TO CHILDREN. Children have a place in the kingdom of heaven (Mark 10:16), recognized by baptism into the Name of Christ, the Lord of all (Matthew 28:18-20). Hence they are addressed as called to be young disciples. The obedience of childhood to both parents (Proverbs 1:8) prepares for dutiful love in more advanced years (Proverbs 23:22), and teaches lessons of submission to the will of the Divine Father. Three motives are suggested in these messages.
1. "For this is right." (Ephesians 6:1.) There is a fine ring as of genuine metal in this motive - the supremacy of duty irrespective of reward. Obedience is but payment in part of a debt due to parents.
2. "This is well pleasing in the Lord." Remembering the one qualification suggested by "in the Lord," children may enjoy Enoch's testimony (Hebrews 11:5).
3. It has a special promise (Ephesians 6:2, 3), which was given to Gentiles. Illustrate from the national persistence of the Chinese; from the continuance of the Rechabites (Jeremiah 35:18, 19; and see Smith's 'Dictionary of the Bible,' 2:1008); and from the tendency of obedience and purity in youth to promote health and long life in maturity. But the complexity of natural laws forbids us to consider this an absolute promise to each individual. The most dutiful Child among men (Luke 2:51; John 19:25-27) died young under the law of obedience and sacrifice for others (John 12:24-26).
II. THE MESSAGE OF THE GOSPEL TO PARENTS. Combining ver. 21 and Ephesians 6:4, we are reminded of the following truths.
1. The grave responsibility of parents towards their children: who bear on them the image of God, though marred by evil; who belong to Christ and have a place in the kingdom of God, and yet are in a world of sin; who have to be steered through the perils of youth to a Christian manhood and womanhood, which we desire to be something better than our own.
2. The privilege of recognizing their relationship to Christ. They belong to him. They need not to be brought into, but to be brought up in, the nurture of the Lord. Christ (John 1:9) is nearer to them and speaks to them earlier than we can. If we are giving to them wise Christian nurture we should expect that they will grow up within the shelter of the fold, following the Shepherd's steps.
3. There is a treatment which discourages early piety. Anything calculated to provoke to anger tends to discourage children from believing they can be young disciples and seeking to live as such. Hence this caution to fathers (as heads of the home and as more likely to abuse their authority). From which caution and the precept in Ephesians 6:4, we may gather such hints on parental duty as the following. Make the character and temperament of each child a special study, employing moral principles impartially, but adapting treatment to individual cases. Rule by love and not by fear, avoiding the perils of over indulgence (1 Samuel 3:13; 1 Kings 1:6) and over commandment, never making false threats, nor hesitating to revoke a hasty command which reflection will not justify; nor punishing under the influence of passion. Seek to win the confidence of the children in regard to their spiritual history. Do not propose to them tests of Christian character unsuitable to their age, or visit childish faults as though they were grave moral delinquencies. In choosing for them companions, schools, occupations, "seek first the kingdom of God," etc. (As warning illustrations, cf. Genesis 13:10-13; Genesis 19:14, 31, etc.; 2 Chronicles 18:1; 2 Chronicles 21:6.) In every department of life seek to combine the needed discipline (παιδεία) and instruction (νουθεσία) with that personal influence and example which alone can make them "the chastening and admonition of the Lord."
4. Children are a most powerful and touching motive to parental piety. (Cf. John 17:19.) - E.S.P.
Parallel VersesKJV: Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord.