Opening Prayer: Gracious Father, we thank you that you have called us to be priests and kings. We thank you that you have given us your Word to teach us wisdom, to equip us for ministry to one another. We ask that you would empower your Spirit now that your people might be built up, and that our families in particular would be glorious testimonies of your gospel, through Christ our Lord, Amen!
As we meditate on the way of the cross, following Jesus to Jerusalem during these weeks leading up to Easter, we have particularly considered our calling to be priests in our families. Today, we apply this to the relationship between children and parents. Paul’s instructions are first to children and then to fathers: Children honor; fathers nurture. These are priestly callings and ministries.
To Children of the Covenant:
Paul begins by exhorting children to obey. For support he cites Deuteronomy 5:16, where Moses has re-given the law and given a promise with it. The promises are long life and a good life in the land. Notice that Paul equates honor and obedience. Children are to obey by honoring and honor by obeying. We know from Scripture that first born sons received a double portion of their father’s inheritance because that “honor” would later become support for their parents (cf. Mk. 7:11-13). This establishes the principle that honor is always required but it can and does look differently throughout a lifetime. Children must grow up understanding this; and parents must not put obstacles in the way of children fulfilling this calling. And Paul says that this obedience is “right/just/righteous.”
The second promise is a good life in the land that God is giving us. This promise is empty if you do not believe that we are being given this land or if you don’t think the land is worth inheriting. This is directly related to eschatology, your expectations of what the world is going to come to look like over the next centuries and millennia. And this entails recognizing the emptiness of much of modern culture. Covenant children, we are being given this land (Mt. 28:18-20, Rom 4:13-16, 1 Cor. 15:24-25). That is why we gather here for worship. That is why we celebrate the Eucharist; that is why you were baptized. We truly believe that we are being brought through another great Exodus in Jesus Christ.
Paul exhorts fathers in particular here not because mothers do not have an important role to play in the raising of faithful children but because fathers are held responsible for their families. This means that fathers must recognize this responsibility. This does not mean that fathers are held liable for the guilt of their children’s sin, but it does mean that father’s are held responsible for it (Ez. 18:20, Ex. 34:6-7). This means that fathers must be sin confessing warriors. You must confess your own sins and the sins of your household. You must do this not as nit-picking cranks, but as honest, faithful fathers and husbands following the example of faithful Job (cf. Job 1:5).
Further, you are called to raise your children up not provoking them or making them angry, but in the nurture/culture/lifestyle and instruction/warning/admonition of the Lord (Eph. 6:4). This means that you must raise your children up in the spoken and unspoken ways of the faith. You must show them and tell them. Proverbs 22:6 says that the training of a child stays with him even when he is old. The proverb is intentionally ambiguous referring both to the specific “instruction” and the “way”. But the point is that there is a “way of life” and a “way of the mouth” that make up the training.
Application & Conclusion
Fathers, rather than angering your children, imitate God the Father in delighting in your children (e.g. Mk. 1:11, 9:7). This means that you must imitate the Father by saying this out loud. And teach them how to honor by how you honor their mother.
In our text, the word Paul uses for “bring up” or “raise” primarily means to “feed” or “nourish” (e.g. Eph. 5:29, Rev. 12:6). Are you feeding your children with the nurture and admonition of the Lord or are you starving them? Are you feeding them or are you stuffing it down their throats?
Covenant children, you are called to be priests too. Regardless of how your parents are doing or will do, your calling is to joyful obedience in the Lord that you might inherit the land and take possession of the spoils of our King.
And I want to close by tying all of this together: all of us have crosses to bear, difficulties to endure, hardships to suffer. And this is why God has given us his spirit and called us to priestly ministry to one another. Because remember, you cannot love as a priest until you have been loved by the Priest. And the love of our High Priest is to offer us as sacrifices. As we are sacrificed through sufferings, hardships, and pain, we are equipped to love as Christ. But the goal of all of this is to turn our stories of suffering and pain and hardship into stories of grace and salvation and victory. And the command of the gospel is repent and believe. God has determined to turn our crosses into glory, and the proof of that is in the cross of Christ. And it’s the resurrection that makes all the difference. And it’s our promised resurrection that makes all the difference for us. And this is our priestly calling one to another, to follow Jesus to Jerusalem, and our ministries of grace to one another are the means by which God begins to reveal how he will turn our crosses into glory.
In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen!
Closing Prayer: Our great God and Father, your grace is boundless and free. Your goodness is infinite and your mercy is steadfast and immoveable. We praise you, we worship you, and we bow before you. We give you all thanks and praise. We love you, and we commit ourselves once again to believing you and believing your promises for us. Give us grace to drop our unbelief, and pour out your Spirit that we might know you more and know the power of the resurrection. Through Jesus Christ our Lord who was crucified but has been raised from the death, who taught us to pray, singing…