“Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.” Exodus 20:12
This fifth commandment is a wonderful transition between the two tables of the Law of God. The first four are commandments given as man’s obligations toward God, as our Creator and the Sovereign Lord of the Universe. The last five are God’s Laws toward our fellow men as our neighbors, our equals. In this fifth we are given a commandment concerning those persons whom God has placed in authority over us. “Father and mother” are specifically mentioned, representing the rest, because they are our first and closest authorities.
When we rightly understand this Law of God, we learn why disobedience and rebellion to parents or other ordained authority is so hateful to God. It is because it is rebellion against God Himself, Who has ordained it. It is not simply rebellion against mom, dad, the police, or a boss but against God the Sovereign Lord Who has ordained them to be over us. Thus note God’s Law for the OT nation of Israel; “And he that smiteth his father, or his mother, shall be surely put to death. . . . And he that curseth his father, or his mother, shall surely be put to death.” Exodus 21:15,17 Note also this text of Holy Scripture, where rebellion is compared to the hated sins of witchcraft and idolatry, which were punishable by death under Old Testament Law. “For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.” 1 Sam. 15:23
For this reason, God’s Word often uses such words as “obey” and “submit” in reference to our attitudes toward those over us. For example, to wives it says, “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, …” Eph 5:22 & Col 3:18 To members of the Lord’s Churches He says, “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves:” Heb 13:17 To all of us as citizens we read, “Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him” 1 Peter 2:13-14 We also read, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right.” Eph 6:1 & Col 3:20 To the workman, God’s Word says, “Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh;” Col 3:22 “Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work, …” Tit 3:1
Friends, when we fail to submit ourselves in obedience to any God-ordained authority we sin against God. Children, when you do not obey your parents, it is a sin against God. Wives who do not submit to the God-ordained authority of their husbands sin against God. Likewise we sin by failure to submit to and obey teachers, pastors, police officers and governmental authority.
If we had a world of people who lived and walked in submission and obedience to those over them, it would be a wonderful and peace-filled world. Every God-ordained authority is to be in subjection to Him Who alone has the right to rule and reign. As the Lord Jesus told the Roman Governor, Pontius Pilot, “Thou couldest have no power (authority) at all against me, except it were given thee from above:” John 19:11 The inspired apostle likewise said in Romans chapter 13, verse one, “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.”
Allow me to say just a brief word about what we are to do when those in positions of delegated authority go beyond God’s revealed will in His Word. For example when Peter, John, Paul, or other believers in the New Testament times were forbidden to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ, they had the right and the obligation to obey God rather than men. Peter, by inspiration, spoke for all of us when he said, “We ought to obey God rather than men.” Acts 5:29 This principle will hold true when our own government forbids preachers to call sodomy a sin, or parents to spank their own children, or the passing out of Gospel literature. When this comes to pass (And I believe it will.), we must boldly obey God, the higher authority. CAUTION! We need to be very careful that our own sinful, rebellious nature does not misuse this truth simply because we do not desire to humble ourselves under God’s ordained authority. Listen to the inspired apostle Peter speaking to servants, “Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the forward (bad, crooked, or perverse).” 1Pe 2:18 If you or I ever think it necessary to disobey any legitimate authority, we had better have a plain verse of Holy Scripture, and the peace of God to support that action. If we do not, let us simply submit, obey, and pray for God’s strength and grace.
Let me return to our subject at hand. When we read in God’s Law about an obligation to honor, respect, and obey those in authority over us, and we fail to do so, we are rebelling against God, our Creator. Allow me also to point out that this fifth commandment condemns the modern practice of sloughing off our parents or grandparents into nursing homes rather than caring for them in our own homes. It is a shameful practice that costs families and our nation billions of dollars in wasted expenses. But more importantly it is a failure to honor our father and mother. The Lord Jesus condemned those of His day who abused religious piety to hide their wealth for themselves rather than using it for the care of their parents. See Mark 7:9-13. So are those today equally guilty of “Making the Word of God of none effect,” when they say “It is what my parents wanted” or, “They are getting better care.” The reality in most cases is that the decision is made of our own selfishness and love of self. [Note: There are some situations when it may become necessary, due to medical needs, to place them where they can obtain such care. But most of the time, if help is needed, the most economical and most loving way, would be to keep them in our homes and hire some help.] Allow me to quote the man of God, Adam Clark, from the 18th century, “We can scarcely suppose that man honors his parents who, when they fall weak, blind, or sick, does not exert himself to the uttermost in their support.”
Allow me to remind you that the Laws of God are not suggestions or opinions. They are the divine revelation, by grace, of the very nature of God, our Creator. It does not matter if one calls himself a Christian, Hindu, or Mohammedan these laws are that by which all will be judged. I would also remind you that it is the resurrected Lord Jesus Who will be the Judge of all men on that Last Day. Yes, my Dear Friend, one day you will stand before Jesus as your Judge, and His Word will condemn all who have broken it. When God has said He alone is God and that we are to worship no others, it means just that. When God says that it is a sin to bow before an image in worship, and you do so, you will be condemned by the Lord Jesus. No pope or religion of men has the authority to change God’s command. When God says “Thou shalt not covet,” and we lust after another woman, a bigger home, or new car, we will be found guilty.
Someone may object by saying that none of us can perfectly keep the Law of God, and so judgment can not be as exacting of perfection as I have described it. That person would be right and wrong. It is right that not one of us can have any hope of keeping the Law of God perfectly. Only the Lord Jesus could do or has done so. But that does not change the righteousness and justice of God that demands that all law breakers (sinners) must be found guilty and cast out of God’s presence forever.
My Friend, “… it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:” Heb. 9:27 And it is equally certain that not one of us has any hope whatever of being declared righteous or “not guilty” by God. Rather what everyone of us deserves to hear are the words that untold millions will hear, “Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:” Mtt. 25:41 This is what I deserve! This is what you deserve! “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;” Rom. 3:23 And “There is none righteous, no, not one:” Rom. 3:10 Do you, my Friend, know this to be true of yourself? Then praise God, Who has revealed this to you, as He did me.
The glorious Good News is, that we can have “the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ:” 2 Pt. 1:1 The Lord Jesus Christ perfectly kept every detail of the Law. He is the sinless and spotless Son of God. When He died, He did so not for His sins, for He had none. But He died for all the sins of all His people. He took our wrath, and our death. “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God,” 1Pe 3:18 We also read, “For he (God the Father) hath made him (God the Son) to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” 2Co 5:21 On Judgment Day we will all stand before the Lord either in our own “righteousness” or the “righteousness of God in Christ Jesus.” If we endeavor to stand before our God in our own, we will be cast out into Hell, because “all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags;” before a holy God. But if we have on the “robe of righteousness” of the Son of God we will be “accepted in the beloved.” Eph. 1:6 If you would be acceptable to God, you must do as Paul did when he took all of his own so-called “good works” and “counted then as dung.” Look to Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, Who died for sinners, “the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God.” Cast yourself on Him in faith. For He Himself said, “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” John 6:37
Let me ask you right now, if I know that Jesus Christ died in my place, taking away my sin and guilt, and if He rose again from the grave imputing to me His perfect righteousness, and pleading His own merits on my behalf, would I then not have all the certainty in the world of knowing that I will be accepted in Heaven? I answer, Yes, absolute certainty. (See Rom. 3:22-26 & 8:32-34) Dear Friend, I urge you to look to Jesus and be justified in Him that you also may be certain of your eternal soul. This is the hope and prayer in which this is written. Please contact us if we can help you to KNOW the peace of God in Christ Jesus.