Children, obey your 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 go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth." Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.
Paul, The Apostle of Grace
After teaching for the first 5 chapters of Ephesians that the law has been abolished and we now are members of the family of grace, which does not follow the law of Moses, but who follows Jesus, Paul now tells the children of Ephesus to obey commandment number 5, which is "Honor your father and mother." Before telling the children to obey commandment number 5, Paul told the children to obey their parents in the Lord, for that is what is right for children.
I have often wondered why Paul would tell the children of Ephesus to obey that commandment after he had told the people of Ephesus that the law, with its commandments and regulations, had been abolished at the cross, whereby Jesus made the two (Jew and Gentile) one family of grace (Ephesians 2:14-22). Wouldn't it had been good enough for Paul to have just told the children to obey their parents in the Lord without quoting commandment number 5? My thoughts on this are as follows.
Paul states the reason he quotes the commandment for children to honor their father and mother..."it is the first commandment with a promise." None of the other commandments have a promise attached to them. This is the only one. The promise God made to children was this..."If you honor your father and mother you will live a long life in the land."
The spiritual and relational principle of this law is that if children honor their parents through obedience, then they will live a long healthy and happy life on earth. But do children honor their parents through obedience? Of course the answer is no. No child has ever obeyed his or her parents as the law requires, both internal obedience in the heart, and external obedience with our hands. The Bible itself says that disobedience is bound up in the heart of a child.
How many times have we as adults said, "My parents were right. I should have listened to my parents. I should have obeyed my parents. Life would be so much better for me now if only I would have listened to my parents and obeyed them"? Many, many times!
The fact is children do not obey their parents. Even if they look like obedient children externally, internally they are disobedient. Many times children only obey their parents for two reasons, fear of getting in trouble or seeking to earn some type of reward...but rarely because "I love mom and dad and mom and dad love me!"
I believe the reason Paul teaches children to obey commandment number 5 is because the law is our tutor that makes us conscious of sin, convicts us of sin, and then leads us to Christ as our Savior. So in teaching the children of Ephesus to honor their mom and dad, this would lead children to see their sin and their need for faith in Jesus!
Parents teach their children about God, about lying, stealing, cheating, coveting, murdering, etc...Yet, children disobey their parents. Thus, the law does its work in the heart of the person who dishonors his parents by disobeying his parents.
In this dishonoring disobedience, the child, who may very well be an adult now, is convicted of his sin and is in desperate need of grace. He or she then cries out, along with the man in Romans 7 who the 10th commandment in the law has convinced and convicted of sin, and that has led him to Jesus! "What a wretched man that I am! Who shall save me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!"
The law would have done its work in the heart of the child.
Following Paul's instruction to children to obey the fifth commandment, Paul instructs fathers to raise their children in the training and instruction of the Lord. So what is the training and instruction of the Lord? What did the Lord instruct Paul in? What has Paul been instructing the people of Ephesus in? The good news of grace!
Our role as parents is to consistently (training) raise our children to understand grace, so that when the law tutors them about their sinfulness, they will have an understanding of the grace of God freely given to them in Jesus through his shed blood on the cross for the forgiveness of their sins. They will have an understanding that Jesus is their redemption, the forgiveness of their sins (Ephesians 1:3-8). They will understand the Father has blessed them with every spiritual blessing in Jesus.
Consequently, they will not live, as many adults have, in shame, guilt, and condemnation. Rather, they will experience the freedom of grace because their parents have raised them consistently in the instruction of the Lord...the teaching of the riches of the Father's glorious grace freely given to us in Jesus!