Honoring Authority: H.C. Lord's Day 39

Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 39

Q 104: What is God’s will for you in the fifth commandment? 
A 104: That I honor, love, and be loyal to my father and mother and all those in authority over me; that I submit myself with proper obedience to all their good teaching and discipline; and also that I be patient with their failings—for through them God chooses to rule us.

The notion of honoring those in authority over us is not one that we would consider automatic in American culture anymore.  While the 5th commandment is indeed one that is still applicable to Christain life and family life in general, culture continually pushes towards autonomy, individualism, and self-determination.

While none of these things are bad, in and of themselves, when they take precedence over the God-given authority of parents, leaders, and other governing authorities, that can lead to problems.  Specifically, in families, children are given the ability choose things for themselves at ages much too young for the full ramifications of such a choice.  Children are not capable of governing themselves (think “Lord of the Flies”); that is why God set in place the parental authority and emphasized it so heavily in Scripture.

To be fair, parents and leaders in our culture have not necessarily done a bang-up job of exercising authority either.  Countless stories of parental abuse of authority coupled with the copious amount of blame shifting that seems to go on in our culture when things don’t go right (because apparently, it is always someone else’s fault) has led us to a fundamental mistrust of authority, not to mention a deep divide of ideologies when it comes to governmental authority.

However, Scripture does not give us a pass when it comes to honoring those in authority over us.  Neither does it give us excuses for the abuse of authority or the skirting of the roles we are given either.  Quite simply, parents are called to raise their children, to be the primary source of their learning, identity formation, and spiritual formation.  Parents are also responsible for teaching respect to their children through guidance and discipline.

Whereas it is often seen as natural for children to “rebel” from their parents in our culture, no such provision was given to children in the Bible.  Those who were unruly were cast out; the Law even says that such children are to be stoned.

Thankfully that is no longer the case.  We don’t live in a culture that threatens death for being unruly.  However, there is a way to exercise independence, learning to make decisions, failing every now and then, and gaining maturity and wisdom that can happen without casting aside the relationships we have or dishonoring the authorities in our lives.

Like all things that have provisions in Scripture, the paradigm of authority structures that is set up by God Himself is not meant to be burdensome, but to reveal God’s love for us.  Scripture says that God disciplines those He loves, thus setting the model for loving discipline between parents and children.  God’s goal, as ours should be as parents, is to see His children grow in wisdom, maturity, and identity.  This is not accomplished in Scripture by God allowing His people to do whatever they wanted.

This is not accomplished in Scripture by God allowing His people to do whatever they wanted.  In fact, every time we see that happen in the Bible, things go horribly wrong and they end up in bondage to someone or something.  God’s ultimate desire for His people is flourishing in the way He originally intended.  Flourishing, however, does not mean following our whims and wishes, following after things that we think will make us happy.  Indeed, a flourishing life often understands and respects both boundaries and authorities, understanding them not to be limitations but guides in the exercise of freedom.

When we do this well, whether it be exercising authority or honoring it, we begin to experience the freedom and flourishing that God has planned for us in life.  What’s more?  Those around us begin to experience this as well as the light and life of God spreads through us and our lives point back to Him.



Honor your Parents: H.C Question 104 (Part 2)

What is God’s will for you in the fifth commandment? 

Colossians 3:18-4:1 – Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.

Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.

Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.

Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.

Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for their wrongs, and there is no favoritism.

Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair, because you know that you also have a Master in heaven.

Proverbs 20:20 – If someone curses their father or mother, their lamp will be snuffed out in pitch darkness.

Proverbs 23:22 – Listen to your father, who gave you life,
and do not despise your mother when she is old.

1 Peter 2:18 – Slaves, in reverent fear of God submit yourselves to your masters, not only to those who are good and considerate but also to those who are harsh.

Matthew 22:21 – “Caesar’s,” they replied.  Then he said to them, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”

Ephesians 6:1-9 – Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise— “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”

Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.

Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people, because you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do, whether they are slave or free.

And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him.



Honor your Parents: H.C Question 104 (Part 1)

What is God’s will for you in the fifth commandment? 

Exodus 21:17 – Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.

Proverbs 1:8 – Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.

Proverbs 4:1 – Listen, my sons, to a father’s instruction; pay attention and gain understanding.

Romans 13:1-8 – Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.

This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.

Ephesians 5:21-22 – Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.  Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord.

Ephesians 6:1-9 – Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise— “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”

Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.

Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people, because you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do, whether they are slave or free.

And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him.

 



Day 342: Ephesians 4-6; Unity in the Spirit

Our reading today beings with a very important key word: “Therefore.”  I think that we have talked about this word before when we got to Romans 12, Paul is saying in this, “because of all that I have said to you in previously, now do this…”

“I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.  There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.”

This is the main thrust of the second half of Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus, Unity in the Spirit.  Interestingly, Paul asserts here what we hold as true for the whole church, the upholding of unity, even in the midst of the diversity of denominations.  Paul’s point is very important, and I think it even more important as we look at the church today.  There have been a considerable amount of splitting that has taken place, especially in the church in North America.  Denominations are at odds with each other over little things that are really peripheral in the life of the church.  Paul is saying that we need to make every effort to heal these divisions among us.  I’m not necessarily advocating for the end of denominationalism here because there is certainly room within the church for the diversity of worship styles and even peripheral theological beliefs.  The fact is though, that we all hold (or should be holding to) the same core principles: Salvation in Jesus Christ by the Grace of God alone through Faith.  Those that do not hold to this Gospel, as Paul has written elsewhere, are in essence, not Christians.

So then, putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another.  Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not make room for the devil.  Thieves must give up stealing; rather let them labor and work honestly with their own hands, so as to have something to share with the needy.  Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear.  And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption.  Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you. Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Keeping in mind that all of this falls under unity in Christ Jesus, Paul moves on from the greater faith community to that of the Christian house hold.  This passage of Scripture has often been misinterpreted to reference the subservience of wives to their husbands.  Sadly, people have used also to be proof that wives are somehow always to be submissive to their husbands in a sort of abuse of power way in which the husband dominates the wife.  This is truly not the case, and Paul says this outright. “This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.”  Marriage itself is a reflection of the relationship between Christ and the Church.  Jesus indeed left His Father in heaven to be united to His bride the Church, something that happened through His death and resurrection and something that will happen in its fullness when Christ comes again in His glory.

Finally, as Paul closes out this letter, he talks about the armor of God and Christian living.  Paul says again and again “put on” the whole armor of God.  This is not “armor” is not something that we use for special occasions, it is something we are to wear like clothing, putting it on everyday.  We are to clothe ourselves righteousness, guard our head with the salvation we have in Christ, be always ready with the Gospel of peace.  We have the Sword of the Spirit and the Shield of faith for our defense, and all of it is held up by the belt of Truth which supports all things at all times.  The best news of this whole passage is that this armor is not something that we create for ourselves, but like the salvation given to us by grace through faith, this armor is built up and given to us by God through the Holy Spirit.  These too are meant not just for our own protection, but for that of the protection of our neighbor, our brothers and sisters in the community of faith.  We defend each other and ourselves, fighting the good fight against the spiritual forces of evil that are at work against us.