Ephesians 6:4 "Do Not Provoke Your Children…"


One question from the Children’s Ministry Forum was request for feedback on Ephesians 6:4, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord”
The introduction to Ephesians will serve us well in understanding the foundation of Paul’s instruction to Fathers (and by association, mothers as well). Notice the themes of Ephesians 1:3-9,

“3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.”

Paul wishes to communicate the plan of God to freely, and graciously save a people for his glory and their lasting joy in being saved by him and knowing him.

Notice the emphases and purposes of God’s plan:
v. 4 “he chose us in him”…”that we should be holy and blameless before him.”
v. 5 “he predestined us”…”for adoption”…”to the praise of his glorious grace”
v. 10 all this was a “plan for the fullness of time”…”to unite all things in him”

Paul sees one great, big, over-arching purpose for all of history and that is to reconcile sinful, rebellious, God-hating people to himself, transforming them by his blood, adopting them as his children and blessing them with the beauty and joy of his presence.

What does this have to do with Ephesians 6:4?
Well, it is, quite frankly God’s plan for his children. We see a plan, by God, to present children to himself, holy and blameless on the last day. Is your hope for your children any different? How does God intend to accomplish this plan for his children’s holiness? He does it in the most radical, servant oriented, committed way. He dies for them. What does this mean for Christian fathers? “

It means you do whatever you can, with all your might, to love your children the way God loves us. His love does not look like sarcastic, domineering, dictatoral, fathering designed to provoke us to anger as if that will endear us to his discipline and instruction.

Here are just a few examples of how we as parents can provoke our children to anger:
1. Harshly disciplining so as to shame/degrade them, yet demanding they respect us.
2. Consistently not following through on promises.
3. Not having clear boundaries in our homes.
4. Consistently not following through on consequences for crossing those boundaries.
5. Never admitting when we are wrong and asking for forgiveness.
6. Laying down rules but never teaching them why.
7. Always trying to change behavior without dealing with the heart (prayer required).
8. Not loving our spouses the way we should (breeds insecurity).
9. Not giving them adequate time and attention (there are no shortcuts).
10.Not having integrity—say one thing, do another— (kids see right through us).

The intention of all God’s Fatherly discipline, all his instruction, all his actions and words to us is to provoke our enduring affection for him and joy in him. Will we sometimes be frustrated and angry with God? We may. But it would be because we are still overcoming our sin day by day by the power of God’s Spirit, not because God has provoked us to anger as an end in itself. God’s actions, love and discipline move us toward holiness not by provoking us to anger but by blessing us in Christ and giving us his Spirit.

Trust Christ and his Spirit to help you, raise your children and instruct your children in the spirit of Ephesians 1.

To God Alone Be The Glory!

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