JUNE 7 2015

The Fifth Commandment


[I. Introduction] We are in the midst of a series on the ten commandments. Thus far we have seen that, because the commandments are moral in nature, they are perpetual. That is, they are still for us today. In fact, although they were originally given to the nation of Israel, the commandments are written on the consciences of all men and are, therefore, for all mankind. The written commandments make clear what is already known by all.


We have also seen that those who possess the law, love the law, and follow the law become the recipients of the blessings of God. This is because God Himself loves His law, it being a reflection of His own character. These blessings are both natural and supernatural.


There are natural blessings that come because the commandments are for our good. God made us and he knows what is best for us. When we obey the commandments we discover that:


  • our minds are at peace,
  • our consciences are at rest,
  • we avoid many turmoils of life,
  • our emotions are stabilized,
  • and even our bodies experience health.


God’s laws lead to the good life simply in the natural order of things.


There is a story I like to tell to those who avoid God because they think there is too much evil in the world or because things just haven’t gone well for them. A girl of 18 is going off to college out of state and is given by her wealthy father a new car as a gift. She is thrilled to receive it and thanks her father profusely. He has a talk with her before her departure and says, “Honey, this is your first car and I know that you don’t know much about cars so let me tell you some things that you must do. You have to change the oil every three to five thousand miles. You have to check the oil level regularly. You have to put new tires on about every 35 – 40,000 miles. I’ll send you some extra money for that.” And he tells her other maintenance services that need to be done and instructs her to read the car manual to remind her of these things. She agrees. The daughter took her studies seriously and didn’t party. She got so involved with keeping her grades up that she studied right through Christmas break and spring break and did not come home for a visit the first year away. One day her car broke down. She takes it to the repair shop and the engine was irreparably damaged for there was no oil left in the crankcase. She had neither ever changed the oil or checked the oil for a whole year! She call her father and says, “You don’t love me! You gave me a car that broke down the first year!’ Then she refused to speak to her father again. It is easy to see how foolish this young lady was. Her misery was due to her own neglect of the directives of both her father and the owner’s manual. This is the way people are. They live contrary to the owner’s manual and then blame God for the things that go wrong in their lives. God’s directives are for our good!


There are also supernatural blessings that come to the one who possesses the law, who delights in the law, who obeys the law. There are blessings that come that go beyond the mere natural order of things. We saw this in the life of Obed-Edom and, if we had the time, we would also see it in the lives of David, Solomon, and many other men and women of God. God commands the blessing to the lover of His law.


There is a reason the Lord records the blessings and even promises His blessings to the keeper of His commands. It is to motivate us to pursue them, to enjoy them, to live them!


In order to live them we must understand them. To this we now turn.


READ Exodus 20:12. PRAY.


The fifth commandment is unique among the commands in two ways: It is the first command that has a promise attached to it. It is not the only command that has a promise attached to it, bit it is the first one. We saw last week that the fourth commandment had two promises associated with it. However, those promises were not given until the days of Isaiah about 700 years after Moses was given the ten commandments; whereas the fifth commandment has a promise associated with it from its inception.


The other way that it is unique is that it divinely straddles the two greatest commands. When Jesus was asked what the greatest command was he quoted Deuteronomy 6:5:          And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.

(Matthew 22:37-38 ESV)

Jesus goes on to say: “And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”


The ten commandments rest upon these two great commandments. Modern scholars typically categorize the first four commandments as under the great commandment – as being vertical. By living out the first four commandments we show our love for God. They categorize the last six as under the second greatest commandments – as horizontal. By living out the last six we show our love for our fellow man.


But Jewish scholars did not divide them this way. They understood the first five as being directed towards God and the second set of five as being directed towards others. We shall see why.


The fifth commandment is unique in that it divinely (by God’s design) reflects both our love to God and our love to people.


[II.] Why is this command so important? Did you know that some commands are more important than others? Jesus said they were. This is why he did not correct the question put to him by the Pharisees as he often did. Rather, he answers it by telling them which two commands were the most important. There are no unimportant commands. Man shall live by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God. But some are more important than others. The fifth commandment is of great importance because it reveals something about our hearts as no other command does with the possible exception of the first commandment. While the first commandment, having no other gods, does reveal something about our heart, it can be covered up. But the commandment about honoring our father and mother makes it something easier to see. By God’s grace this will be made clear.


A number of years ago a brother and I were talking and, being baby boomers, we had made an observation about our culture that was quite revealing. Us older folk have seen how much society has changed. We observed this: In movies and television shows made before about 1970 or so children were portrayed as respectful and generally obedient. When they disobeyed they got into a lot of trouble. In more recent movies the children are invariably, I mean almost without exception, portrayed as disrespectful, talking back, and self-willed. This is true of even the best movies where, in the end, the child has a change of heart where he or she finally recognizes that they need and love their parents. Take Home Alone, a classic. There are many good things to be said about this film as well as its sequel. (Trivia point: It was the highest grossing comedy for 19 years!) But at the beginning of the movie the main character, Kevin, talks back to his parents and wishes them ill. Of course, he sees the error of his ways by the end of the film; but all movies with children in them seem to be this way with rare exceptions. Sometimes, the children never repent but keep their disrespect throughout the film. It is a reflection of our culture. Our culture tends to be hostile to the most important commands.


Why is this commandment so important? In order to answer this question we need to become aware of an essential principle that the Scriptures reveal but of which many Christians are unaware.


The principle that is often overlooked or neglected is Headship.


            Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.

(1 John 4:11-12 ESV)

In verse 11 the apostle John commands us to love one another. In the church we ought to love each other in a higher way than our other relationships. The church is not a social club. It is a family. Then in verse 12 he writes, “No one has ever seen God.” Why does John write this?


He tells us to love one another and then he says that no one has seen God. He connects these two thoughts because God, in one sense, is invisible and it can be difficult to measure our love for Him. God is invisible but our brothers and sisters are visible. In other words, John is saying our love for one another in some measure reflects our love for God.


John says it even more plainly in verse 20: If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.


While in a general way people represent God because they are made in His image, there is a more specific representation of God that is possessed by certain people. This is known as Headship.


The word “headship” describes the principle of being a head over someone else. A head is a person who exercises authority over others. Everyone has a head except God the Father. Even Christ has a head. The principle of Headship is this: The person who is a head exercises authority that comes from the one who is their head. Here is a vital part of the principle: The head also represents the person above them.


Look at I Corinthians 11:2-3 where the reality of Headship is made plain.       “Now I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you. But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.”


  • Here we see that God the Father is the head of Christ.
  • Christ is the head of man. Christ exercises authority from God the Father and represents God the Father.
  • And, a husband is the head of his wife. A man exercises authority from Christ and represents Christ to his wife (not just any woman).



Relating the truth of headship into the Trinity itself shows that it is not merely a traditional or cultural matter. It is part of tradition and should be a part of the culture, but it is deeper than these. It is rooted in the very nature of our beings.


Paul reaffirms Headship in Ephesians 5. READ Ephesians 5:22-25, 28. (there were no chapter divisions in what the apostles wrote; these were added in 1200 years later). When we get to chapter 6 Paul is carrying forth the same idea. He includes the relationship of parents and children. READ 6:1-3. In the way that Christ is the head of man and the way that a man is the head of his wife, both father and mother are the heads of their children.


Why is this commandment so important? Because the way children treat their parents reveal how they really feel about God. A child can go to church and read their Bible. They can say their prayers at night. But how they truly respect God will be revealed by how they respect their parents. This is so because, according to revelation, parents represent God. And this representation is known in the deepest part of who we are whether we know it consciously or not. Learning it, as we are doing right now, helps us to live it. But our current disposition regarding this matter reveals where our heart is.


Children! Do you want to love God? Do you want to respect God? Then love your parents. Respect your parents. The way you treat your parents and grandparents reveals what you really think about God.


Have you found yourself failing in respect and obedience? Then, today, get on your knees and confess it to the Lord and ask Him for forgiveness. Ask Him to change your heart. In realizing the truth of headship, seek to give your parents the respect and obedience that the Lord says they should have.


And children are of all ages, are they not? When we become adults we do not cease being a child of our parents.


There was a family that had come to America in the 1600’s by the name of Hazard. Robert Hazard was a Rhode Island landowner who used the labor of slaves in the 1700’s to amass a great fortune. He was also influential in both church and government as wealthy people tend to be. He had a son named Thomas and, as he grew, he came to understand that he was destined to follow in his father’s footsteps, inheriting land, wealth, and power.


As a young man, Thomas experienced a deep conversion to Christ which led him to a sincere conviction that it was against God’s law to enslave other human beings. With a small band of other Christian young men, he drafted petitions that asked New England slaveholders, including his own father to free their slaves. Slaveholders were outraged and the young men’s fathers felt humiliated and betrayed. How could their own sons dishonor them and question their moral and spiritual bearing? Wills were rewritten, some sons were banished from their families.


Thomas humbly asked for forgiveness. He told his father that he could not change his convictions but that he had sinned in the manner in which he went about his goals. He had sinned by dishonoring his father. His father forgave him. Their relationship was restored and Thomas took measures to restore his father’s integrity while at the same time continuing to work towards abolition.


Although he was never able to persuade his father, they had a mutual respect for one another that lasted until their deaths. Some would ask, “How could he honor his father while seeing the wrong that his father was doing?”


Today, some will ask, “How can I honor my father when he gets drunk?” “How can I honor my mother when she is mean?” “How can I honor my parents when they take drugs?” “How can I honor my parents when they are bigots?”


But for Thomas Hazard the question was, “How can I see the wrong my father is doing and still find a way to honor him? How can I obey God’s fifth commandment?”


You see, the commandment is for people not for angels. And people sin. Children, you will see sin in your parents. But seeing sin does not relieve us of the commandment. That is because all sin and fall short of the glory of God, including your parents.


“How can I see the wrong my mother is doing and still find a way to honor her?” It is by recognizing that she is still God’s representative, though she may fail often, and that God still commands you to honor her. You do not have to honor some of her actions or attitudes. You have to honor her.


We should not, either as young children or adult children, use the observance of sin as an excuse for our own disobedience to the commandment.


Why is this commandment so important? Because it reveals what are hearts are really like.


The principle of Headship behind the commandment applies with equal force in our marital relationships. Wives, do you want to know how you really feel about God? Look at how you treat your husbands. How a wife treats her husband reveals what she thinks of God. Husbands, do you want to know what you think of God’s love for the church, that is, God’s love for you? Look at how you treat your wife. How you love her is how you think God loves you.


[III.] What is the result of obeying this commandment? There are three. And I will only list them without examining them because they are self-evident.


[A.] The most obvious result is the fulfillment of the promise that is explicitly stated in both Exodus and in Ephesians 6. In Ephesians 6 we read that when we obey this command it will go well with us. There is a commercial on the radio that is cute and funny. It’s for a supplement called Texas Superfood. In it people are complaining about being so healthy and full of energy. It makes me smile whenever I hear it because it is so obvious that people want to be healthy. Well, have you ever heard anyone say, “Things are just going too well for me. I wish things would go wrong once in a while. Why can’t I have more catastrophes in my life?” Of course, we want things to go well! Then honor your parents! It is a promise of God!


[B.] The second promise is that we will live long. Similarly, do you hear people say, “I hope I die young at the hands of a murderer or maybe by a disease.” Of course, we want to live long if our heath holds up. Then honor your parents! It is a promise of God.


[B.} Thirdly, by obeying this commandment our love for God will grow. C.S. Lewis said this about loving our neighbor: Do not waste time bothering whether you “love” your neighbor; act as if you did.  As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets.  When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him.  If you injure someone you dislike, you will find yourself disliking him more.  If you do him a good turn, you will find yourself disliking him less.

In this quote Lewis reveals a principle that is powerful. It is this: While it is true that our beliefs and feelings direct our actions, it is also true that our actions will transform our beliefs and feelings. When we respect and honor our parents we will discover that we will begin respecting and honoring God more than we do. The same can be said about husbands and wives. When we live out obedience, respect, and love to our spouse we will discover that:


  • wives will obey their husbands more easily,
  • that they will respect them more than they do,
  • and that husbands will love their wives more, but also that
  • wives will obey God more
  • wives will respect God more
  • and husbands will love God more as they love their wives more.


As we obey this commandment things will go well with us, we will live long, and our love and obedience to God will grow.


[IV. Conclusion] Let us not be like that whiney college girl who blamed her misfortune on her father. Let us listen to what our Father above has spoken and see the results.


The fifth commandment is so important because it reveals where our heart is with respect to God. The Jewish scholars were right when they listed this commandment as our duty to God. It is also attended to with blessings from God Himself. And God lists those blessings for us so that we will seek after this commandment.