Fathers, do not exasperate your children;
instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.
Families are to be educational centers for children to learn about God's grace. Specifically, fathers are to be to the first ones in the family to teach the children about God's grace.
In seeking to properly interpret and apply Ephesians 6:4, we must first understand Ephesians chapters 1-5. In these chapters, Paul goes into great detail about the glorious riches of God's grace freely given to us in Jesus. Paul's instruction of grace to the church in Ephesus came directly from the ascended Jesus (3:1-3). Jesus gave Paul the revelation of grace (Acts 20:24, Galatians 1:11-12). Paul, then, instructed the families within the church in Ephesus about grace. In teaching the church families about grace,
Paul teaches in Ephesians 1 about the wisdom of God in giving grace to mankind. In the Father's wisdom, he has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in Christ. We have been redeemed, or fully forgiven of all our sins through the shed blood of Jesus. Through his blood, we have been made holy and blameless. It gave God great pleasure to lavish his grace upon us.
Paul prays in Ephesians 1 that the church, the families of the church, would experience an internal awakening to see how much the Father loves them and how glorious the riches of his grace are.
In Ephesians 2, we are instructed by Paul about how it is by grace through faith that we are saved from being objects of God's wrath. We learn that God in his great love, mercy, kindness, and grace has provided salvation for us as a gift, and that through faith in Jesus we receive his free gift of salvation. We do not work for salvation, we receive it only by faith. Furthermore, Paul tells us we have been seated with Christ in heavenly places.
Paul continues in chapter 2 to instruct the church by telling them that God has prepared good works for them to walk in, and then tells them that grace, the blood of Jesus shed for them and the Spirit of Jesus in them, has made all the families in the church one big family of grace with God as their Father.
In Chapter 3, Paul tells us that his understanding of grace, his insight into Christ, was by revelation, meaning Jesus gave Paul the insight into the good news of grace. Also in chapter 3, Paul prays that the families of the church would come to know how much they are loved by Jesus, so they may be filled with the measure of the fullness of God. With this revelation of the love of Jesus, God then would do more in them they could ever hope, ask, or imagine!
In Chapter 4-5, Paul begins instructing the families on how to live out grace in their daily lives. He teaches on how to relate to one another in humility, patience, kindness, compassion, and forgiveness. He instructs them about speaking to one another using words of grace. Paul instructs the church families to live morally pure lives, just as Jesus lived a morally pure life.
In Chapter 6:1-3, Paul instructs children to obey their parents by honoring their fathers and mothers so they can have a long, enjoyable life on earth. Now, Paul encourages fathers to raise their children in the training and instruction of the Lord.
The instruction of the Lord is the revelation of grace by the ascended Jesus to Paul that he has instructed the families of the church about in Ephesians 1-5. Paul now encourages fathers to train, or consistently model before his children everything he instructed the church families about. Fathers would train their children in grace by consistently modeling before them the unearned blessings and unconditional love their heavenly Father had so freely given them in Christ. Through humility, he would consistently model before his children mercy, compassion, kindness, and forgiveness, thus leading to peace and unity within the family. In addition to modeling before his children the life of grace, he would demonstrate the Father's grace freely given to us in Christ by making his children the object of his grace. A father would consistently model before his children Christ's love and care by loving and caring for his wife the way Christ loved and cared for his family, the church. Only after training his children in grace by consistently modeling grace before them, would he then instruct his children in grace.
Once children are recipients of their father's grace, then the father can be a teacher of that grace to his children. The father would instruct his children about the glorious riches of God's grace that have been freely given to us in Jesus. He would teach his children about Ephesians 1-5.
By modeling before his children grace, and by demonstrating grace to his children, then the father would not exasperate his children, meaning the father would not cause his children to get down, give up, and go away by being overly hard on his children. Instead, his children would be drawn to him because of the overflowing grace of God coming through the father to his children. Therefore, creating a home of grace.
By creating a home of grace through consistently modeling the Lord's grace before his children, and then teaching his children about the Lord's grace, fathers make the teaching about our Lord and Savior attractive to their children (Titus 2:10), which then helps lead them to salvation by grace (Titus 2:11). Once experiencing the salvation of grace, then children experience the transformation of grace (Titus 2:11-14).
So often in some Christian homes, parents want to have perfectly obedient children, and when they are not perfect, they get mad at their children. Children become the objects of their parent's anger, punishment, and wrath. Yet, it is actually the imperfection of children that create their need for grace. It was our imperfections that made us the objects of God's grace that he so lovingly, kindly, compassionately, and mercifully lavished upon us. Now, as fathers and mothers, we demonstrate the same grace to our children that our Father has demonstrated to us. In a home of grace, our children become the objects of our grace rather than our wrath.
There is a popular parenting curriculum used by many churches today called Growing Kid's God's Way. It focuses on getting children to behave right. Please know Focus on the Family does not recommend this curriculum because it can be harsh and abusive, causing the exasperation of children. They may behave correctly externally, but much damaged can be done in the heart of the child internally
If we truly want to grow kid's God's way, then know that God's way to grow children is the way of grace, raising them by consistently modeling before them his grace, demonstrating his grace to them, and then by teaching them about his grace.
Some will ask me, "So, in raising kids with grace, do we not discipline our children?" The answer is yes, we do discipline our children. But we do it by having first created a home of grace, an environment of grace in our homes. We discipline with an attitude of patience, kindness, compassion, mercy, and gentleness, rather than impatience, anger, harshness, and rudeness.
Something I did to teach my children about grace from an early age was to periodically take their punishment for them, and then bless them by giving something good to them that they did not earn or deserve. I would take upon myself what they deserved, such as taking their "time-out" and then give them what they didn't earn. Isn't that would Jesus did for us in grace? He took the punishment we deserved for our sins, and in exchange he blessed us with the gifts of forgiveness, righteousness, sonship, and eternal life. How could we do anything less for our children?
So let's follow the instruction Paul gave to the church in Ephesus. Let's raise our children in the grace of the Lord by consistently modeling grace before them, demonstrating grace to them, and teaching them about our Father's glorious grace freely given to us in Christ Jesus.
Let's create homes of grace!