The Fifth Commandment is “Honor your father and your mother” (Ex 20:12). The Ten Commandments may be divided into two sections: One through Four speak to our relationship with God and Six through Ten speak to our relationship with one another. It is not coincidental that the first commandment regarding our relationships with one another concerns honoring our father and mother. The Lord gave this command because of the importance of children submitting to authority and showing the proper respect to their parents. Children who do not honor their parents become adults who do not honor their boss, the police, the governing authorities, or God. The Fifth Commandment is very important because it is the first building block for a person to recognize and submit to God’s authority. Let’s first discuss God’s ordained authority, then discuss the role of parents in a person’s life and end with how we properly honor our father and mother.
God’s Authority is Fully Granted to Jesus Christ
God is the ultimate authority and ruler. He is our Creator. As we learned in the First Commandment, He is all-powerful, He has no rival or equal, and He reigns supreme over all the universe. We fully obey God by surrendering first and foremost to Jesus Christ. Jesus told His disciples, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth” (Matt 28:18). Jesus said in Matthew 11:27, “All things have been handed over to Me by My father.” John 3:35 says, “The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into His hand.” God’s ultimate authority is given to Jesus and it is before Him “every knee shall bow” (Phil 2:10). Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:10, “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ.”
God’s Right and Left Hand on Earth
Paul wrote in Colossians 1:16-17, “For by [Jesus] all things were created…whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through Him and for Him. He is before all things; in Him all things hold together.” All authority has been given to Jesus and through Him all other authorities exist. The Protestant Reformer Martin Luther “confessed that God works in and through all arenas of life. God governs the spiritual dimensions with His right hand through the church’s proclamation of law and gospel; God rules temporal affairs with His left hand through civil law and worldly institutions.”
God’s Left Hand: God has Granted Social Authority to Governments
An aspect of Jesus Christ’s rule over all things is that He has granted limited authority to governments to restrain evil in society. Governments are authorized by God to punish the mistreatment of others. Paul wrote, “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God” (Rom 13:1). He told Titus, “remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient…” (Titus 3:1). Government’s authority is granted by God and they are a “minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil” (Rom 13:4). They are not to be a “cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil” (Rom 13:3).
God’s Right Hand: God has Granted Spiritual Authority to the Church
An aspect of Jesus Christ’s rule over all things is that He has granted spiritual authority to the Church. Jesus told Peter (and by extension the Church) “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven” (Matt 16:18-19). All authority has been given to Jesus and He commissions the Church (Matt 28:18-20) to make disciples. He also grants authority (Matt 18:20) to hold one another accountable to walk worthy of the Gospel (Phil 1:27).
God has Granted Special Authority to Parents
As a part of Jesus Christ’s rule over all things, He has granted special authority to parents to “bring [children] up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph 6:4). It is common to interpret this verse as a call to take your kids to church, but it means so much more. God calls fathers (and mothers) to bring up their children in the paideia (discipline) and nouthesia (instruction) of the Lord. Parents are to instruct their children about Jesus and what is required of them but must not stop there. Parents must bring up their children in the discipline of the Lord. According to Pastor Doug Wilson, “In the ancient world, the paideia [discipline]was all-encompassing and involved nothing less than the enculturation of the future citizen.” John MacArthur recently said, “Family is the divinely created institution for the formation of restrained sinners who by generations of morality, discipline, love, virtue, and obedience, become a benefit to society, enjoy God’s gifts, and are grateful.” Parents have the moral obligation to raise their children to love God and love others.
Honor is Required
The Apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians 6:1-3, “Children obey our parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother (which is the first commandment with a promise), so that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth” (Eph 6:1-3). He also wrote, “Children be obedient to your parents in all things, for this is well-pleasing to the Lord” (Col 3:20). How do you honor your parents? Honor means to show them respect since God chose to use them to bring you into this world. This includes obeying them while under their care and speaking of them with reverence. This also includes caring for them as they become older and more dependent. God is pleased when we honor our parents.
But what if you do not believe your parents are honorable? Regardless of what your parent(s) have or have not done, God calls you to honor them and to love them. This doesn’t mean you excuse or approve of any sinfulness, but that you honor them because you honor God. You recognize that regardless of how poorly they have functioned as authority figures, you know that God is the ultimate authority, and you submit to His authority. So even if you do not believe your parents are honorable, you honor them out of honor for God.
Children, God commands you to honor your parents. You may not like their rules but honor and obey them. God is pleased with this honor. Adults, God commands you to honor your parents. Pray for them and care for them. Show them honor as you honor and glorify God. Take care of them. Protect them. Care for them. God is well pleased with this honor.