THE FIRST COMMANDMENT WITH PROMISE
Ephesians 6:1-4 Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honor thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;) that it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth. And, ye fathers provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
Beginning with verse 22 of chapter five, Paul restates, to the Ephesian Christians, the responsibilities of both the husband and wife in a marriage. This institution did not originate in the New Testament era, but rather was ordained by God at the beginning of time, has remained in effect to the present day, and will continue in existence until the end of time (See Gen. 2:24). The lesson text begins chapter six, and relates the responsibilities of children to their parents, as well as the duties of parents to their children.
The text first tells children to obey your parents. In the home is where obedience is to begin. Unless begun in their early years at home, the chances of children learning obedience in their school years, or later in society, is greatly diminished. A child that develops proper subordination to Christian parents at home will be able to distinguish between right and wrong and have more respect for law and order throughout their life. More importantly, a child that is obedient to faithful parents is more apt to become a faithful and obedient child of God - a Christian with a hope of eternal salvation.
The text told the Ephesians, as well as us today, how obedience of children is to be carried out - in the Lord. How one is to obey, is very significant to God. Notice in the previous chapter, that Paul told the Christians at Ephesus to submit to one another in the fear of God, and then told them that the submission of wives to their husbands was to be as unto the Lord (Eph. 5:21-22). Also, immediately after the lesson text, Paul admonishes servants to be obedient to their masters as unto Christ (Eph. 6:5). Obedience to any ordinance, law, government, or to any specific individual always carries this condition: it must always be right and it must always be in the Lord, ...in the fear of God, ...as unto the Lord, ...or as unto Christ.
Leaders of the church, parents, husbands, masters, or any other person, in a position of authority, does not have the right to require another to commit an act that is contrary to the will of God. Neither do they have the right to deny anyone the privilege of worshiping God, reading His holy word, the bible, or demonstrating their love and devotion to God, through prayer and acts of kindness to others. These are God-given rights that no one has the authority to deny to another. To obey a law, command, demand, or requirement of another that is contrary to the will of God, is sin. Both the obedient children of parents, or obedient children of God, will always conduct themselves submissively in the Lord: for this is right.
Verse 2 of the lesson text repeats this commandment of God, Honor thy father and mother (which is the first commandment with promise). Referring back to the "ten commandments", we note that this is not the first commandment given by God; rather in sequence, it is fifth in number. As you read about the giving of these commandments, the first four require love, honor, devotion, and reverence to God. The last five commandments are specific in nature, and are preceded with Thou shalt not... The fifth commandment is different. It is unique in that it is the first commandment with promise.
At the time given, the fifth commandment, Honor thy father and thy mother, was followed with this promise, that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee. To the Jewish nation this was the "Promised Land" (See Exodus. 20:1-17 & Deut. 5:6-21). As restated to the Christian, in the inspired teaching of the apostle Paul, this commandment carries with it this promise as noted in the lesson text, That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth. The obedient child will, no doubt, have a more virtuous life, will be more useful to others, and will come nearer finding happiness throughout their life. An obedient child will be more apt to avoid narcotics, vices, and crimes that, in general, shorten one's life. Certainly we can say that an obedient child will have a better life here on earth.
Although verse four indicates the duty of fathers toward their children, both fathers and mothers are indicated or else verse one would not have said, Children, obey your parents. This is a two-part commandment. First, parents, as they carry out their parental responsibilities, are not to provoke, stir up, or cause wrath in their children. If extreme anger is demonstrated by parents as they teach, correct, or punish their children, wrathful anger may result, rather than instruction, and godly discipline. It is necessary for children to see and understand the need for any action taken by parents, involving their instruction or correction, before it will achieve a beneficial result. Otherwise, wrathfulness may occur resulting in vengeful anger.
Secondly, parents are to bring their children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. The nurturing process of a child includes providing for its entire well-being. With regard to children, the most common use of the word "nurture" carries with it the meaning of providing food and proper nutrition. In its complete sense, it also includes providing a proper environment in which the child is reared; its health and welfare, as well as its training and education. From this text we find that the nurturing of a child includes the most important part of a child's upbringing; providing spiritual education in the Lord - spiritual guidance as approved by God through His Son, Jesus Christ.
The admonition of a child includes advising, exhorting, reproving, and warning them in all spiritual matters as found in the word of God. Children are to be taught about God, and the plan of salvation that is available through His Son Jesus Christ, at the earliest possible age. It is sinful on the part of parents to allow their children to "learn about religious matters on their own." Preparation for eternal life in heaven should begin at infancy, and continue throughout every child's formidable years. "Bringing up" a child begins at birth and is to include physical food to nourish the body, as well as spiritual food to nourish the soul.
The first commandment with promise is this; honor thy father and mother. The promise is, that it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth. In order to attain this promise, children need, deserve, and by God's decree, are required to have godly parents that bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.