Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Our Children's Faithfulness to The Gospel and Paul's Commandment With A Promise Part 3

Obedience Gives Hope To Longevity

Paul’s reference of the fifth commandment in Ephesians 6:3 reflects his belief that obedience to the law brings the blessing of long earthly life and disobedience will shorten life and bring death.  Paul would come to this conclusion by looking back at Moses and the giving of the law, with its blessing and curses, and Moses’ first sermon in Deuteronomy before entering the promise land.

The law was given to teach Israel how to dwell with a holy and righteous God.  God had already saved Israel and redeemed them for himself.  Therefore, the law was not a means of salvation.  Their eternal salvation was one that was given by faith in Yahweh and ultimately His provision of the promised Messiah; namely Christ.

However, the longevity of their temporal life was directly correlated with their obedience to the law.    If Israel obeys the law and keeps Yahweh’s statutes, then He would remove all dangerous animals from the land and no sword would pass through them.  They would pursue their enemies and they would prevail over them.  Yahweh promised to multiply them and make them fruitful (Leviticus 26:6-9).  Israel’s obedience to the law ensured they would receive life and prosperity.

Nevertheless, Moses warns the people that if they did not keep the law that they would be put out of the land and away from the presence of God (Leviticus 26:33).  He also warned in Leviticus 26:16 that if they did not keep the law that Yahweh would bring terror on them— wasting disease and fever that would cause their eyes to fail and their life to ebb away.  To disobey the law was to ensure devastation and death for Israel.

Paul alludes to this in the text in a couple of ways.  First, he leaves out the last phrase, “The Lord God is giving you” tagged at the end of both Exodus 20:12 and Deuteronomy 5:16.  Paul does this because he is universalizing the text to apply to the church.  The land is no longer the place where God dwells.  Through the work of Christ, God dwells in the hearts of men (Ephesians 1:20-23; 2:21-22; 5:18).  Also, the word for land could also be interpreted “earth” which would then make the verse read, “…that you may live long in the earth;” which I believe is a truer reading of the meaning of the text.

Understanding this principle, Paul then applies it to the Ephesian church, specifically to the family context.  His primary target is aimed at the children of the family.  He tells them to obey their parents because the Lord has put them in a position of authority to act as the mediator of his will, and to obey your parents is to obey the Lord.  Your obedience is a mark of your presence with the Lord.  Obeying the Lord always brings the blessing of life.

A secondary target could be towards the parents, particularly the fathers.  The reference to the Exodus 20:12 and its connection to Deuteronomy 6, would send a signal to the scope and depth of instruction that must take place in discipling ones children.  In Deuteronomy 6:4-9, Moses presented the people with the scope and sequence of instruction to be given to children.  Fathers were to repeat and teach the law in every aspect of human life.  This principle would easily carry over to the church as well.

Two Final Considerations

There are two things left to deal with in this text.  First, what does Paul mean when he says that it is the first commandment with a promise, and second, is Paul trying to implement the law in this text?   I will deal with these concerns in the order mentioned above.

It could be argued that the second commandment bears a promise in that God offers his faithful love to a thousand generations to those who keep his commandments.  However, this is not so much a promise as it is a description of God’s character.  We see the same kind of description in Exodus 34:6-7, when Yahweh passes before Moses.  Yahweh shows Moses His glory and describes Himself to Moses as a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in faithful love and truth, maintaining faithful love to a thousand generations, forgiving wrongdoing, rebellion, and sin. But He will not leave the guilty unpunished, bringing the consequences of the fathers’ wrongdoing on the children and grandchildren to the third and fourth generation.[1]  Yahweh is merely describing who he is as God in the context of the law.

As far as the second concern goes, I do not believe Paul is trying to implement the law in this text.  First of all, early on in the letter he had already stated that Christ made no effect the law consisting of commands and expressed regulations (Ephesians 2:15).  Paul would not want to put up a barrier that has already been torn down by Christ.  Second, the law does serve the church in that it provides many normative principles to the Christian life. Paul uses the law in other places in the New Testament to give the church a normative principle to follow; for example Gal 5:14, “For the entire law is fulfilled in one statement: Love your neighbor as yourself.”  Normative principles are morals or values that can be applied to the life of the Christian as a way of manifesting the “good works which God as prepared ahead of time” (Ephesians 2:10).  Because Christ has fulfilled the law and its demands, these principles are not commands expressed in regulations (Ephesians 2:15).


In the book of Ephesians, the apostle Paul gives a beautiful picture of how the God the Father is bringing all things under the supreme rule of Christ.  Through His Son life is given to sinners, dead in their trespasses, and the Spirit is given to dwell in the hearts of both Jew and Gentile, working to manifest the same kind of love and unity that is found in the Trinitarian relationship.  This unity is not confined to individualism, or the church as a gathered body, but is also seen in the home of every believing family.

Every member of the family testifies of their value of the supreme glory of Christ by their obedience to the Father and to one another.  Children are not exempt from this.  Children are not to be left on the periphery of the gospel, but are to be trained and brought up in the instruction of the Lord;  in hope that they will enjoy God’s presence in Christ, and not only enjoy the blessing of long life on earth, but in eternity as well.  The only way children can do this is if their parents are faithful in teaching them the glorious things of Yahweh and His Son Jesus Christ.  Therefore, it is vital that both parents and children cooperate with each other in the discipleship process so that they will be able to adequately testify of the supreme value and glory of Yahweh.    

[1] Obrien, Peter T. The Pillar New Testament Commentary: The Letter to The Ephesians. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1999.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Our Children's Faithfulness to The Gospel and Paul's Commandment With A Promise Part 2

The Torah: Holy Expectations and Paul's Understanding of Exodus 20:12

In Genesis 12:1-3, God promises Abraham that he was going to make him into a great nation, with a great name, and through him all of the nations will be blessed.  In Genesis 15, God solidifies this promise with a unilateral covenant with Abraham.  In the midst of that promise God tells Abraham that his offspring will be foreigners in a land that does not belong to them; they will be enslaved and oppressed for 400 years.  Then God will judge that nation and they will leave with many possessions (Genesis 15:13-14).

Exodus one affirms this promise and explains how it was partially fulfilled.  The Israelites were fruitful, increased rapidly, and multiplied and became extremely numerous so that the land was filled with them (Exodus 1:7).  The remainder of the chapter shows their enslavement and harsh conditions do to the Egyptians fear of Israel joining their enemies in war.  The following chapters explain how God miraculously delivers Israel from the hands of Pharaoh and provides for His people despite their unfaithfulness.  

Moses receives the Torah from Yahweh (Exodus 20)  instructing the people in how to dwell with God in the land He is going to give them.  It is here we find the reference Paul uses in Ephesians 6:3 to Exodus 20:12; “Honor your father and mother so that you may have long life in the land your Lord God is giving you.”

In the context of Exodus we see the faithfulness of Yahweh keeping his covenant promise to Abraham (Gen 15).  God desires to tabernacle with his people and live among them.  In order to continue the covenant the people must learn how to dwell with Yahweh.  In His mercy, Yahweh gives Israel the Torah.  The Torah is not a means to salvation, but a means of sustaining a proper relationship with Yahweh.  Just as the people could not break the barrier at Mount Sinai, unless Yahweh’s holiness break out and kill them (19:12-13, 24), Israel must learn the proper way to live with a holy God, lest His anger break out against them and they perish from the land. 

There were stipulations attached to the covenant between God and Israel.  For God to dwell among them Israel must obey the Torah they received.  In doing so, Yahweh promised that He would look on them with favor and give them peace in the land.  Their children would not die from sickness nor will they be threatened by the wild beast.  Israel would overcome their enemies and their bins of grain would never be empty.  Yahweh would be their God and dwell with them in the land (Leviticus 26:1-13).   In short, they would receive the blessing of longevity in earthly life. 

However, if they did not keep the covenant, Yahweh would bring terror and death upon them, and everything that He promised in the positive light would be reversed in horrific proportions (Leviticus 26:14-35).  If they disobeyed, they would be devastated with death and exiled from the land.  This is a major theme with the giving of the Torah; obedience equals life, disobedience equals death.

It is important to mention that the generation the Torah was given would eventually rebel against the Lord and would not be permitted to enter the promise land.  The promise was then given to their children (Numbers 14).  For forty years the old generation would wonder through the wilderness until they all died off (except for Joshua and Caleb).  This judgment highlights the theme of disobedience equaling death. 

The Shema: Teach Our Chidlren Well and The Weight of Deuteronomy 6:1-9 on Paul's Shoulders

Deuteronomy picks up with the new generation about to enter the land promised by Yahweh.  In the first five chapters, Moses gives a brief historical theology and a call to obedience.  Throughout these chapters Moses continuously calls the people to possess the land, keep the Torah, and teach it to their children.  Deuteronomy 6:1-9, emphasizes all three of these in what is known as the Shema, the Jewish confession of faith.[1]  Here Moses exhorts Israel to keep the law and to teach it to their children, so that they may know the Lord and not forget who gave them the land.  By faithfully passing the Torah on to the next generation, the land and its blessing of life, will be preserved for future generations.

When we look at Paul’s reference to Exodus 20:12 in Ephesians 6:3, we must also keep in mind Deuteronomy 5-6.  There are three reasons for this.  To begin with, in Deuteronomy 5:16, Moses reiterates the Decalogue and cites the commandment to honor your father and mother.  He is citing Exodus 20:12.  Paul’s wording of the commandment textually matches both Exodus 20:12 and Deuteronomy 5:16 almost verbatim.  The only difference is that Paul leaves out the phrase “Lord God is giving you.”  This would make sense considering the different audiences who are hearing the reference.  Moses was speaking to the generation who was about to enter the land and dwell with God.  Paul was speaking to those whom God already dwells in through Jesus Christ.  This textual clue points to both Exodus 20:12 and Deuteronomy 5:16.
 Second, both Testaments carry the theme of teaching children the things of God.  In the Old Testament, parents, particularly fathers, were instructed to teach the Torah and the works of God to their children.  Genesis 18:19, tells us that the Lord commanded Abraham to teach his children to keep the way of the Lord.  This is highlighted in Isaac’s understanding of the proper practices of worship in Genesis 22:7-8.  In Deuteronomy 4:9 and 11:18, Moses exhorts the Israel to make known the things of God to their children lest they forget what Yahweh has done.  Asaph, in Psalm 78:4, says that “they will not hide the glorious deeds of the Lord from their children, but with the law that was appointed the fathers would teach it to their children.”  Solomon devoted most of the book of Proverbs to instructing his sons about Godly living.  (cf. Joshua 4:22; Proverbs 3:1-4; 4:1-4; 22:5-6).

This theme picks up in the New Testament as well.   In the gospels, Christ rebuked the disciples from hindering children being brought to Him, and instead said “Let the children come to me for to such belong the kingdom of God.” (Mark 10:13-16; Matthew 19:13-14; Luke 18:15-16)  Timothy is commended by Paul as one who knew the scriptures as a child (2 Timothy 3:14-15) , which implies that he was taught them by his grandmother and mother (2 Timothy 1:5).  The theme of instructing children in the New Testament lands most directly on Paul’s words in Ephesians 6:4, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”

Paul recognizes this theme and applies it in the Ephesians context.  This is further seen in the echo of Deuteronomy 6:7, “You shall teach them diligently to your children,” in Ephesians 6:4, “bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”

Finally, building off the second point, with the significance of the parent-child relationship being so important in the Old Testament[2], and the significance of maintaining that relationship through the purity of the faith being passed down from generation to generation (Deuteronomy 6:4-25), Paul could have felt the weight of this imagery and would have had it in mind as he was speaking to the parents and the children in the Ephesian church.  Consider for a moment Yahweh’s relationship to Israel in the Father-son context.
Out of Egypt Yahweh called his son, Israel, to keep His commands (Hosea 11:1) and worship Him alone. The fathers of Israel neglected to teach their sons the Torah, and as a result, the nation as a whole became a prodigal son.   They intermarried with the Canaanites of the land, intertwining the worship of Baal, becoming wicked with every generation.   They failed to keep the purity of the faith for future generations.  Israel failed to model what Yahweh modeled for them.  As the Father gave the Torah to His son (Israel), the fathers were expected to give the Torah to their sons (Psalm 78:5), so that those sons would grow up to be fathers and faithfully pass it on to their sons. 

Paul, being a Hebrew of Hebrews (Philippians 3:5-6), would have understood this significance and could have had it in mind as he wrote the book of Ephesians.  The purity of the faith is handed down from parents to children.  The family is a divine institution that was designed to naturally fulfill this process.  Therefore, Paul commands that parents and children cooperate with each other in the giving and receiving of the discipline and instruction of the Lord

[1] Archaeological Study Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervon, 2005.
[2] Peter O’Brien points out in his commentary on the book of Ephesians that this imagery is so significant that it is applied to the relationship between Yahweh and his people (Deuteronomy 1:31; 8:2-5; Proverbs 3:11-12)

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Our Children's Faithfulness to The Gospel and Paul's Commandment With a Promise-Part 1

Yahweh created the institution of the family, one man and one woman in a monogamous covenantal commitment to each other for the duration of their life, for the glory and fame of his name.  After creating Adam and Eve in His image, He gave them dominion over all the earth (Gen 1:27) and commanded that they be fruitful and multiply (Gen 1:28).  It is at this point the family dynamic changed from merely expressing Yahweh’s glory to actively advancing His glory in all the earth.  Unlike their parents, Cain and Abel are introduced into the family by natural means and are in need of knowledge of their Creator; and so it will be for the rest of humanity.  From this point forward, children are to be brought up in the fear of the Lord so that when they become adults they will give Yahweh glory and teach their children to do the same. 

Yahweh has expressed in His word a method by which He desires the spiritual rearing of children in the family to be observed; namely that parents and children are to cooperate with each other in their suited roles in testifying to His supreme value and glory.

It is my contention that when Paul addresses the Ephesian church, specifically fathers and their children, that he is highlighting this cooperation giving instructions for both parents and children.  Paul speaks directly to the discipleship process of parents teaching their children the glorious works of Yahweh, and the child’s role in receiving that instruction and testifying to it in the world.  The child's obedience to their parents and the Lord's instruction is a mark of their commitment to the gospel, and shows they are in a rightful position to receive the blessing Paul pronounces in Ephesians 6:3, " that you may live long in the land."  I further contend that this blessing refers to the possibility to longevity on earth rather than actual inheritance.  Paul roots his instruction and blessing in the Torah and the sermon Moses gives to Israel just before Joshua leads them in inhabiting the promise land (Deuteronomy 1-6).

Original Context and Meaning of the Ephesians 6:1-4

Broad Context of the Book of Ephesians

Since the fall of man, there has existed a tension in his heart.  Man was created in God’s image with a will to obey his creator and enjoy life.  Sin entered the world through disobedience and broke the fellowship and unity with God and creation and brought death. 

The book of Ephesians is a revelation of the great mystery of how Yahweh is bringing a fragmented and alienated world, both things in heaven and on earth, together in the Messiah.  Christ is the centerpiece of Yahweh’s divine purpose in restoring everything that was lost and broken at the fall of man, and placing it under the supreme rule of Christ (1:9-10).  With the same power that raised Christ from the dead and seated Him at Yahweh’s right hand (1:20), Yahweh is going to not only raise sinners who are dead in their trespasses to life (2:1), but is also going to unify a bitterly divided people into one holy family (3:21).

Paul has structured the book of Ephesians in a way where he spends the first three chapters explaining how Yahweh accomplishes reconciling the world and uniting humanity in Christ (1-3).  He spends the remaining three chapters showing what it looks like to live reconciled and unified in Christ (4-6).

Obedience: A Divine Distinguishing Mark

Unity in the family is just as essential and God glorifying as it is in the church.  In 5:22-6:4, Paul explains how Spirit filled husbands and wives and children are to glorify God.  Wives are to submit to the husbands as to the Lord (5:22).  Husbands are to love their wives as their own bodies and how Christ loved the church (5:25, 28).  Children are to obey their parents in the Lord giving them the honor that is due to them (6:1-3).  Paul ends this section with an exhortation to the fathers to properly bring their children up in the training and instruction of the Lord; not recklessly with malice or neglect, but with intention and gentleness (6:4).  The family is to live out the Christian ethic before the world so that God will be glorified not only in the church, but also in Christ to all generations forever and ever (3:21).  In short, the family is to cooperate with each other in their suited roles in testifying to Yahweh’s supreme value and glory.

In Ephesians 6:1-4, Paul explains how parents and children are to cooperate with each other in their suited roles in testifying to Yahweh’s supreme value and glory.  He gives two imperative commands to both children and fathers.  Children are to obey and honor their parents (6:1-3), while fathers are to not exasperate their children, but bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.  In a general sense, these imperatives speak to the discipleship of children in the home.  Paul is speaking to believing parents and exhorting them to teach and instruct their children in sound theology; particularly of the law and how Christ fulfills that law (2:15-16).  The parents, predominantly fathers (6:4), are to take the lead role in discipling their children. 

Paul gives specific instructions in how this is to go about in the home. The father is not to parorgizete ta tekna umwn, or to provoke his child to anger.  The father is not to rear his children in such a manner that is demoralizing.  This involves using attitudes, words, and actions which would drive the child to angry exasperation or resentment.[3]   Parents must use discernment and care in disciplining the child and setting reasonable expectations, not subjecting the child to humiliation or misplaced shame. 

On the positive side, parents are to consistently bring up their children in the training and instructing of the Lord.  Paul uses the present active imperative of ektrefw (to nourish, to rear, to bring up) with the nouns paidea (training, discipline) and nouqesia (admonition, warning) to command fathers to continuously and intentionally live and teach the things of God before their children.  Fathers are to take every opportunity to teach the full scope and sequence of the law and how Christ fulfills the law to their children.  The father is also to correct transgressions of the law with the intent to point the child to Christ.

The children are not to be just hears of the word, but also doers of the word as well (James 1:22).   Just as the parents take an initiative to instruct, the children are to take an initiative to obey and honor their parents as they would to the Lord (6:1).  The obedience Paul speaks of here is upakoute, a term typically used to describe absolute obedience to Christ (Mark 1:27, 4:41; Romans 10:16; Philippians 2:12; 2 Thessalonians 3:14).   Paul seems to imply that to honor your parents is to honor Yahweh Himself; “as to the Lord.”

At this point it might be well to note the echo of Leviticus 19:3 in this text; “Every one of you shall revere his mother and father.”  As Moses is reiterating the Decalogue to the people of Israel, he is reminding them that a proper response of genuine love for Yahweh is to keep his commands (Deuteronomy 6:4-9). In short, they are to be holy for Yahweh is holy (Lev 19:2).  Obeying your parents was to be a divine distinguishing mark of Yahweh’s people.  Keeping this command also helped assure them that they would dwell with God in the land enjoying long life and prosperity (Lev 18:5, 24-30; 26).

 Parents are the chosen instrument of the Lord to arbitrate His will to the family.  Peter O’ Brien points out that “within the Ten Commandments, and even within the Pentateuch, the command to honor ones parents has pride of place among the ‘horizontal’ commandments.  It provides a hinge between the first four commandments to do with God’s holiness and the remaining commandments in that the parents to be honored stand in the place of God and mediate his will to the entire household.  Obedience to ones parents is mandated, to disobey your parents is tantamount to disrespect for Yahweh.  It is put on par with treason and idol-worship (Exodus 21:15, 17; Lev 19:3; 20:9; Deut 21:18-21; 27:16).[4]

The same idea seems to be intended here with Paul.  A child who honors and obeys his parents, in the Ephesians context, signifies their commitment ‘in the Lord.’  This is an example of submission that arises out of Godly fear (5:21), and this submission is a distinguishing mark of those who are filled by God’s Spirit (5:18).[5]   In other words, a defining mark of a child who is receiving the instruction of their parents and believing it unto faith is obedience to their parents.  Their obedience shows that they have life.

Paul further supports this instruction with a reference to Exodus 20:12 in Ephesians 6:2-3; “Honor your father and mother, which is the first commandment with a promise, so that it may go well with you and that you may have a long life in the land.”  Moses spoke of this when he gave the commandments at Mount Sinai and before Israel entered the promise land.  As they entered the land, Yahweh gave them the Torah and cautioned that if they kept the Law that it would go well with them and they would live long in the land and if they did not obey they would perish.  Paul is using this reference in Ephesians 6:3 to inform the children that their obedience to their parents is connected to their longevity on earth.

[1]Kostenberger, Andres J. The Cradle, The Cross, And The Crown. Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing, 2009.
[2]Jr., James Hamilton. God's Glory In Salvation Through Judgment. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2010.
[3] Cleon L Rogers Jr., Cleon L. Rogers III. The New Linguistric and Exegetical Key To the Greek New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1998.
[4] Obrien, Peter T. The Pillar New Testament Commentary: The Letter to The Ephesians. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1999.
[5] Obrien, Peter T. The Pillar New Testament Commentary: The Letter to The Ephesians. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1999.