The Fifth Commandment
There is a need for constant emphasis upon the relation of the law given to Israel and to us today. It is not merely dispensational, but it is the blueprint for happiness. Obedience always brings harmony with the purpose of God, and in relationships to others, for holiness and happiness are inseparable.
The law was given to Israel on the basis of redemption. Exodus 20:2, “I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.” Here was the basis of all further relationships with the Redeemer. No sooner had the law been given than it was broken, and the people stood condemned and proved guilty: “What things soever the law saith, it saith to them that are under the law; that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God” (Romans 3:19).
But the great revelation of New Testament truth comes shining through. “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth” (Romans 10:4). That is, He is the fulfillment of the law—our Deliverer. We can come to God through faith in Him alone, for He is made unto us righteousness. Our relationship with God is established (Romans 8:1), but now we are placed under another law (Romans 8:2-4).
He imparts life, and the Spirit is life because of righteousness (Romans 8:10). That life is imparted not to excuse our failures but to enable us not to fail. In Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything or uncircumcision, but faith which worketh by love, for the love of God is shed abroad by the Holy Spirit.
Now obedience is not legal but inspired by love, and empowered by the Holy Spirit. Does New Testament grace allow a lower standard of life than Old Testament law? God forbid! The tragic thing is that liberals are concerned more with ethics than evangelicals are. There is a great need for a display of ethical living on the part of those who believe the Bible.
We now apply all this to the Fifth Commandment. The first four had to do with relationships with God, and the remainder with relationships with men. It is significant that this particular command is where it is. The home was God’s first institution, and society is the home projected and amplified. It is in the home where each is prepared and trained to take the place of responsibility, and therefore the importance of the home cannot be over-estimated.
There are tremendous forces at work today to cause disintegration and to rob it of character. Much of the time of parents and children is spent away from home in the movies, parties, clubs, etc., and frequently, when the family is together, the radio does all the talking. Home to many people is merely a last resort when there is nothing else to do. This command strikes at the root of home life. It is not confined to children, but it has something to say to all the family.
The Law as it stands.
The word “honour” means reverence. The parent is regarded as being in the place of God to the child. Supreme facts concerning God will be impressed upon the child as he sees them in his parents, and what God is to the adult the parent is to the child—lawgiver, lover, provider, guide. A child who responds to that relationship will find it far easier to respond to the claims of Christ and vice versa. Happy is the child who learns from honoring parents to hallow the Name of God, and happy are the parents who so hallow the Name of God that it is easy for the children to honour them.
This word “honour” is not for children only. To honour means much more than to obey. Obedience is included, but the time comes when obedience ceases—honour never ceases.
To the child who is not yet of age to plan or to will, honoring parents means glad obedience. The very nature of the immature child life demands this; but the child is called to obey those he loves. The primary responsibility for child training can never be delegated outside the home.
When the time comes for the child to make decisions, he is never exempt from honoring parents, which will be revealed in kindness and in provision for declining years. Where obedience has been rendered, honoring never fails, and the older the child gets the more he appreciates the care of early years, and he is more eager to repay in loving care of his parents. How happy are the parents, who in the evening time of life are honored by their family and by those who have come to see how much they owe to their mother’s prayers and father’s guidance!
The promise of long life is given to a nation marching to the land of promise. It is nevertheless true that obedience to this law results in habits and character which tend to lengthen life, and disobedience results in the reverse. Obedience to earthly parents makes obedience to the Lord easier and so leads to everlasting life.
What a challenge to parents! If they would be honored, they must be honorable. The surest way for them to secure honor of their children is for them to honor God.
The Law as it is interpreted in the New Testament.
The Lord Jesus emphasized it both by teaching and example, e.g., Matthew 15:4-6. Jesus uses this command to expose the abuse of it at this time. Tradition was that a man might escape responsibility to parents by declaring that what he could give to them was dedicated to God, but Jesus made plain that duty to parents can never be violated in interests of duty to God. Do you remember that at home?
Nothing should be given to God which means neglect of duty at home—to do that is to break God’s law. This is emphasized again and again in Ephesians 6:1-4. Obedience is to be given to parents in the Lord. The lovely atmosphere of a Christian home: Fathers not to provoke their children to wrath, to nag or irritate! The whole responsibility is placed on the parents. Too often children are turned loose and spend time in the movies while the parents are in the taverns.
A recent Committee on Child Welfare reports: In 250 films: 97 murders, 51 adultery, 19 seductions, 22 abductions, 45 suicides, 176 thieves, 25 prostitutes, 35 drunkards. The Censorship Board eliminated from 780 pictures: 1811 scenes of assault with intent to kill, 231 scenes of hanging, 757 immoral attacks on women, 929 scenes of nudity.
No less than 120,000,000 people attend movies weekly. No wonder the average age of a modern criminal is 13! The responsibility lies at home.
Our Lord emphasized this command by example. He passed through childhood, and at the age of 12 Mary and Joseph brought Him to the Temple. What a lovely picture of a mother’s care in Luke 2 when “she sought Him sorrowing.” “Wist ye not that I must be in my Father’s house?” There was no rebuke; surely she knew only the affairs of His Father would keep Him!
Luke 2:51, “And He went down with them…and was subject unto them.” For Him the years of obedience ended; the years of honour never. Amid the darkness of the Cross He planned for His Mother, and commended her to the loving care of the disciple He loved. Yes, as in all things, “He left us an example that we should follow in His steps.”
The Law as fulfilled in the Christian life.
Matthew 10:34-37. Is there a contradiction here? No. He is Lord of every relationship; Lord of His own home, and also Lord of the Sabbath. Because He is Lord we enter into the rest of faith in the Cross. Our duty to God never conflicts with our duty to parents, but love to God must be first. A man must fulfill this law—he must honor his parents by crowning Christ Lord of his life, and parents must fulfill their responsibility who gladly give their children to service of the Lord Jesus.