Ephesians 6

Ephesians 6:1

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.

A legalist reads these words as law that must be obeyed: Children, obey your parents. But the apostle of grace is not preaching law. We are under grace, not law (Rom. 6:14). He is saying that obeying parents is the right thing to do. Having said that, he then quotes one of the Ten Commandments…

Ephesians 6:2-3

“Honor your father and mother” (which is the first commandment with a promise), “so that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth.”

Why is the apostle of grace quoting the Fifth Commandment? And why is he quoting it to a non-Jewish church? He is not doing it to put law on people, but to show that honoring our parents is a good and right thing to do. Treat your parents well, and your life will go well.

If Paul were preaching law, he would have to include the penalties for breaking the law. Under the law, the penalty for dishonouring or cursing your parents was death (Ex. 21:17). Paul never mentions that because we are not under law. However, Jesus mentions the penalty when he quotes this same law in Matthew 15:4. But the context was different. Jesus was talking to religious leaders and law-teachers living under the law.

Jesus and Paul preached different parts of the same law to different audiences for different purposes. There’s a wonderful symmetry here. One used the law to silence the self-righteous; the other used it to illustrate a timeless truth which is that honoring your parents is a good idea. Whether you’re under grace or law, it’s a good thing to do.

Further reading: “New Testament commands

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