Col. 3:20-21 - Children and Fathers PDF Print E-mail
User Rating: / 1
News - Sermons
Written by Tim Black   
Monday, 16 July 2007 14:30

Colossians 3:20-21
Children and Fathers”
Tim Black

  1. Introduction

    1. Authority relationships in general. Paul continues in this passage to teach us the Christian way to live in our household relationships. More broadly, he teaches us our general obligations in any and every authority relationship. Those under authority must submit; those in authority must exercise self-sacrifice. Nothing less is worthy of a true disciple of Christ, who obeyed His own Father unto death on the cross, and in doing so sacrificed His life for the sake of the church.

    2. Other authority relationships. That Paul is giving the pattern we should emulate in every authority relationship is evident when we consider scripture’s teaching about those authority relationships not mentioned in our passage. Romans 13 requires that we honor and obey the civil magistrate. 1 Peter 5 requires members to submit to their elders in the church, and elders not to dominate but to rule in a willing, eager, and exemplary way. And in the context of a school Christ taught that “A disciple is not above his teacher” and The greatest among you must be your servant.

    3. The significance of the parent-child relationship.

      1. It influences the child’s whole future life. It should not trouble us that Paul does not address our relationships with the government, or with the authorities in the church or the school. Paul’s concern here is to instruct the Christians in Colosse primarily in the context of their households. For this reason Paul addresses the leaders of the household first—wives and husbands—and only then does he address children and parents, and then household slaves and masters. The spouses’ relationship has a decisive influence on the whole household. But the parent-child relationship on which Paul focuses in today’s verses exerts a decisive influence over a child’s whole life. It is for this reason that the Ten Commandments directly address only one human authority relationship in the 5th Commandment, which says “Honor your father and your mother.” You may never be a spouse, a church member, an employee, a student, or a citizen, but there is no one in the world who has never been a child. It is as a child that you learn to obey those in authority, and it is by obedience as a child that you will learn what is necessary to live long in the “land” the Lord your God has given to you.

      2. Its goal is to raise the child to be a mature adult. The 5th Commandment indicates the goal of the parent-child authority relationship. This relationship’s goal is to raise the child to be a mature adult. When that goal is accomplished, there is no longer a need for the parents to exercise authority over the child.

    4. Outline The form of vv. 20-21 is nearly the same as that of vv. 18-19. Paul structures his instruction to both children and parents as follows:

      1. Addressees

      2. Command

      3. Reason

  1. Body

    1. Children v. 20

      1. Addressees: Children

        1. First he addresses “children” in v. 20, saying

          • Colossians 3:20 Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.

        2. Who are these children? An important question to answer initially is whether this verse directly addresses only young children in the home, or whether it also addresses adult children. And more importantly, does it command adult children to “obey” their parents?

          • Text: Connection with parents. The fact that it addresses children who apparently are in direct interaction with their parents should call into question that this verse addresses children who live a long distance from their parents, as is the case with some adults like the apostle Paul himself. More likely these are children who live within their parents’ home.

          • Context: Ephesians’ “nourish” The parallel passage in Ephesians 6:1 exhorts parents to “bring them up” (evktre,fw - ektrepho), and the more literal sense of that word means to physically “feed” or “nourish.” This word refers to the work of parents who are caring for children who are not yet adults. This word’s connotations of feeding hint that the child’s inability to feed and raise himself to maturity is a primary reason for the parent-child relationship, and provides the warrant for the parents to have authority over the child.

          • Gen. 3:24 - Leave, cleave, and become one flesh. The point at which this authority ends is when a child leaves his parents’ household, and in doing so ceases to depend on them to provide for him. To the extent he still depends on his parents, he is still under their authority. To the extent he has “left” their house and provision, he is not under their authority. This act of leaving is clearly stated in Gen. 3:24:

            • Genesis 3:24 Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.

            • The key terms in this verse are “leave,” “cleave,” and “become one flesh.” In this word “leave,” scripture describes the reality that adult children are no longer rightly considered to be under their parents’ authority, if they have “left” their parents.

          • When he is old” This distinction between the initial time when parents have authority over their children, and the children’s later life as adults when they are no longer under their parents’ authority, is evident in Proverbs 22:6:

            • Proverbs 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.

            • This training is intended to be temporary; it is not its administration, but its impact, that should last for a lifetime.

          • Num. 30:16 – In the house. We see this principle in action in the rest of scripture, not only for men, but also for women. Numbers 30 teaches that a father may annul his daughter’s rash vow so long as she is a member of his household:

            • Numbers 30:3 3 If a woman vows a vow to the LORD and binds herself by a pledge, while within her father's house in her youth,

            • Numbers 30:5 But if her father opposes her on the day that he hears of it, no vow of hers, no pledge by which she has bound herself shall stand. And the LORD will forgive her, because her father opposed her.

            • Numbers 30:9 (But any vow of a widow or of a divorced woman, anything by which she has bound herself, shall stand against her.)

            • Numbers 30:16 These are the statutes that the LORD commanded Moses about a man and his wife and about a father and his daughter while she is in her youth within her father's house.

              • Here the authority relationship is bound up with the facts that the daughter is both in her youth and in her father’s house. If she were older and not in her father’s house, the father would not have authority to annul her vow, for this is true in the case of a widow or a woman who is divorced.

            • Psalm 45:10-11 - “Forget...your father’s house” We see a woman’s call to similarly leave and cleave when she marries in Psalm 45:10-11:

              • Psalm 45:10-11 10 Hear, O daughter, and consider, and incline your ear: forget your people and your father’s house, 11 and the king will desire your beauty. Since he is your lord, bow to him.

            • The umbilical cord. The practical difference between being under parents’ authority and having left it is seen in whether the child still receives material support—whether there is still an “umbilical cord” of any kind by which the child depends on the parents for his or her life. You can see this dependence in Lev. 22:12-13:

              • Leviticus 22:12-13 12 If a priest's daughter marries a layman, she shall not eat of the contribution of the holy things. 13 But if a priest's daughter is widowed or divorced and has no child and returns to her father's house, as in her youth, she may eat of her father's food; yet no lay person shall eat of it.

              • When the woman is not under her father’s authority, she does not receive her father’s food. But when she returns and truly comes under his authority again, she receives her father’s food.

              • Examples:

                • Dr. Krabbendam’s daughter – beautiful dependence and submission

                • Mother who commanded her son not to marry – ugly strife

          • 5th Commandment – honor. Lastly, the 5th Commandment does not command us to “obey” but to “honor” our parents. The 5th Commandment does not use the word “children” but rather addresses all people without exception. You must honor your father and mother, whether you are still a child in their household or not. But Col. 3:20 gives an exhortation specially and explicitly directed to “children” who are still within their parents’ household.

      1. Command: Obey

        1. That exhortation is that children must “obey” their parents.

        2. The nature of this obedience

          • Listen and do. The word “obey” here is based on the Greek word which means “listen,” which is akouo, from which we get our word “acoustics,” which is the science of sound. At the heart of what it means to obey your parents is to listen to what they say, and then do what they say. Listen, and do.

          • Commands.

            • Part of what this means is that your parents give you instructions which you must follow, and commands which you must obey. Paul tells you that you must obey them “in all things.” Not just in what you want to do when you are are happy and have lots of energy and really like your parents. But also when you’re tired and unhappy and unhappy with Mom and Dad. When you say “Do I have to?” and they say “Yes,” then you should say to yourself, “Ok, I’ll do it.”

            • Your parents give you instructions for good reasons. They do it because they care about you. They instruct you because you need to learn the truth and how to live. They instruct you to teach you about the things in life that are truly good and enjoyable. They instruct you because doing so will help protect you from errors and mistakes and dangers that would harm you.

          • Discipline. Another part of what this means is that when you don’t follow your parents’ instructions and you disobey their commands, you need to be corrected so that you will learn to do what is right and good. So to correct you they may give you another command, or they may spank you or take away a privilege.

        3. The results of this obedience

          • Even though it is often painful to obey your parents, and more painful to be disciplined because you disobeyed, the Bible teaches that obedience and discipline lead to very good results.

          • Respect. One is that you learn to respect your parents, and to respect everyone in authority, especially God.

            • Hebrews 12:9 Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live?

          • Righteousness and Holiness. You also grow in righteousness and holiness.

            • Hebrews 12:10-11 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

          • Wisdom. You also grow in wisdom.

            • Proverbs 29:12 The rod and reproof give wisdom, But a child who gets his own way brings shame to his mother.

      1. Reason: “For this is pleasing in the Lord

        1. But the wonderful result of obedience which Paul mentions in this verse is that it is “pleasing in the Lord.” It is pleasing. It is pleasant. It is beautiful. It is enjoyable. Obeying your parents pleases you, it pleases your parents, and it pleases the Lord. Did you know that?

        2. Text

          • The Greek says “in the Lord,” not “to the Lord,” making this reason very closely parallel to v. 18’s “in the Lord.” The difference is that Paul exhorts wives to do what is “fitting” in the Lord, and children to do what is “pleasing” in the Lord. Your mother should already know what is right to do; she can recognize whether her actions “fit” with the Lord and His standards. But as a child you have a different concern. You are still learning what God’s standards are, and a chief way you learn is by gaining or losing your parents’ approval. You learn what is “pleasing” to the Lord by learning what is “pleasing” to your parents. This is how you learn.

          • Parents, this also indicates what children need from you. They need approval, as well as disapproval. But approval, the positive side of discipline, is the greatest motivator for your children.

          • Ephesians says “for this is right,” appealing to the child’s conscience. But here the focus is not on a moral standard, but on moral delight within a personal relationship—on what is “pleasing.” If you are not yet an adult, what is truly pleasing to you, and what is truly pleasing to those who should matter most in your life, is to obey your parents.

            • One of the greatest things you can hear from your father is to hear him sincerely say “You did a terrific job on this project! I’m so proud of you!” Don’t you want to hear him say that? Give your Dad an opportunity to say it, by obeying him wholeheartedly.

              • Proverbs 23:24-25 24 The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice; he who fathers a wise son will be glad in him. 25 Let your father and mother be glad; let her who bore you rejoice.

            • And in doing so, one day you will also hear your Father in heaven say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your Lord.

          • Obeying your parents today is what is truly pleasing, and it will save you from bitter thoughts in later days when your parents are no longer alive, thoughts of how you wish you had honored them and obeyed them when you and they had the chance.

            • Proverbs 10:1 A wise son makes a glad father, but a foolish son is a sorrow to his mother.

    1. Fathers v. 21

      1. Paul also speaks to parents in this passage, saying

        1. Colossians 3:21 Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.

      2. Addressees: Fathers

        1. Paul has already told children to obey their “parents,” so both parents take the lead in the family. But he directs his exhortation here to “fathers” in particular rather than “parents” in general. The reason for this is twofold:

          • First, it is because fathers are more likely to provoke their children than are mothers. Fathers can be louder, stronger, bigger, harsher, and altogether more scary than mothers. They can abuse their strength, and their position of authority.

          • Second, it is because are the head of the household and shoulder the final responsibility for their children’s upbringing. If Mom can’t find the right answer to a question, she can say “Just wait until your father gets home.” And if Mom can’t deliver a punishment, she can say the same thing, though with a very different meaning!

        2. So fathers, listen up to what Paul tells you.

      3. Command: Do not provoke

        1. Fathers, Paul commands you, “do not provoke your children.

        2. This word “provoke” means to “irritate” or “stir up” to action. As the chief disciplinarian, provider, and decision-maker in your household, all of its unhappiness comes to its final resting place on you. If anyone is irritated in the family, very likely they will become irritated with you. Because, like it or not, you’re responsible for them.

        3. It is precisely when you don’t want to be the one who is responsible that you will provoke your children. You will deny responsibility and blame them rather than nurture and instruct and admonish them. Or you will give up on providing, disciplining, and making decisions. Or you will raise the bar of your expectations so high your children cannot possibly hope to please you. Or you will punish your children too severely in order to force them to conform to your instruction. Any one of these responses will provoke your children.

        4. But you are responsible for your children, and especially, for their care, upbringing, instruction, and discipline. Even for their happiness. And in this responsibility you will show them the best picture they have of their Father in heaven.

          • Matthew 7:9-11 9 Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? 11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!

        5. Consider, then, how your Father in heaven treats you when you have disobeyed Him. When you have not met His expectations. When you blame Him for your misery. His response is to bring about your justification and sanctification, forgiveness and new obedience, reconciliation and repentance. His instruction sets the course, His forgiveness leads the way, and His discipline surely follows. If we are stubborn He chastises us more severely, but never more than we need, and in fact always less than we deserve. What is more, His chastisement is never the punishment of a Judge before whom we stand condemned, but the discipline of our Father who has so graciously adopted us.

        6. It is for these reasons that Christianity softens the harshness of pagan parenthood, not by weakening the requirement of obedience, but by giving a greater prominence to love. It is also for these reasons that Christianity strengthens the power of pagan parenthood, not by forcing obedience, but by bringing our children to the abundant and free grace of Christ.

        7. And that is the most important aspect of Christian discipline worthy of the name—it leads a child to Christ. Ephesians says the opposite of provoking your children is to bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” This instruction and discipline is “of the Lord.” It teaches a child to say “‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.’ Please forgive me. And O Father in heaven, please forgive me, because Jesus died for my sins.” This kind of discipline does not serve to provoke, but to reconcile, both with God and man.

      4. Reason: “Lest they become discouraged

        1. The reason why you must not provoke your children is that when you do so you run the risk of ultimately discouraging them. The word “discouraged” here means “disheartened,” “dispirited.” It is avqume,w (athumeo), containing the same root as the word “wrath” (thumos) in 3:8 and “patience” (makrothumia) in 3:12. The root means to have a temper, passion, emotion, spirit. Wrath is to be short-tempered, patience is to be long-tempered, and to be discouraged is to have no temper at all. No emotion. No spirit. They just don’t care. The issue is that the more you provoke your children, the closer you bring them to having no motivation whatsoever to do what is right. This word almost literally means that you can kill your child’s spirit. You can snuff it out. What used to be alive with emotion is gone.

          • Alexander Maclaren describes the process well. “And what is sure to follow such mistreatment by father or mother? First, as the parallel passage in Ephesians has it, “wrath”—bursts of temper, for which probably the child is punished and the parent is guilty—and then spiritless listlessness and apathy. ‘I cannot please him whatever I do,’ leads to a rankling sense of injustice, and then to recklessness--‘it is useless to try any more.’ And when a child or a man loses heart, there will be no more obedience.”1

        2. What this warning should teach you is that your job as a parent is to fan into flame your child’s desire to obey you and the Lord. Set it on fire! Provoking them will lead to discouragement, but the nurture and admonition of the Lord will lead to a holy encouragement and zeal for serving the Lord. And this warning should teach you the great means of encouraging your children—their obedience must be fed by your love and praise. Show them what is pleasing to you and to the Lord by your words of approval, your appreciation for their performance, your rejoicing in their good behavior, and your unfailing love for them during and after their disobedience.

        3. Alexander Maclaren concludes, “So parents are to let the sunshine of their smile ripen their children’s love to fruit of obedience, and remember that frost in spring scatters the blossoms on the grass. Many a parent, especially many a father, drives his child into evil by keeping him at a distance. He should make his boy a companion and playmate, teach him to think of his father as his confidant, try to keep his child nearer to himself than to anybody beside, and then his authority will be absolute, his opinions an oracle, and his lightest wish a law.”2

1Alexander Maclaren, 342-343.

2Alexander Maclaren, 343.

Last Updated on Monday, 16 July 2007 14:33