Advice to Children
SUNDAY September 3
Advice to Children
What advice does Paul give to children, and how does he support that counsel from the Old Testament? Eph. 6:1–3. (See also Matt. 18:1–5, 10; Mark 10:13–16.)
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To appreciate fully Paul’s counsel to children, we must imagine it being read out in the house churches of the thriving metropolis of Ephesus. The word “children” (Greek, ta tekna) could refer to a wide range of ages, since children remained under the father’s authority until the father was 60 (in the Greek tradition) or until his death (in the Roman one). These children, though, are young enough to be under parental training (Eph. 6:4) but old enough themselves to be disciples in their own right.
We hear Paul appealing to children, who were worshiping in Christian congregations, to obey and honor their parents “in the Lord,” that is, in Christ (compare Eph. 5:22; Eph. 6:4, 5, 7–9). We are invited here to respect children as themselves being disciples of Christ and to include them as active participants in worship. This makes the passage a foundational one for parenting and for ministry to children.
Paul’s command to obey is not absolute. When the commands of parents “contradict the requirements of Christ, then, painful though it may be, they [children] must obey God and trust the consequences with Him.”—Ellen G. White, The Adventist Home, p. 293.
Paul completes his exhortation to children by quoting the fifth commandment, bearing witness to the high value he places on the Ten Commandments as a source of guidance for Christian believers (an obvious feature of Eph. 4:1–6:9; especially Eph. 4:25, 28; Eph. 5:3–14). He begins the quotation (“ ‘Honor your father and mother,’ ” Eph. 6:2, NKJV), breaks into it with an editorial comment (“which is the first commandment with promise,” Eph. 6:2, NKJV), and then completes the citation (“ ‘that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth,’ ” Eph. 6:3, NKJV). The fifth commandment bears witness that honoring parents is part of God’s design for human beings to thrive. Respect for parents, imperfect though they may be, will help foster health and well-being.