The First Commandment with Promise
March 3rd, 1957 @ 10:50 AM
THE FIRST COMMANDMENT WITH PROMISE
Dr. W. A. Criswell
3-3-57 10:50 a.m.
These are the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the morning message at 11:00 o’clock entitled The First Commandment with Promise.
In our preaching through the Word, last Sunday night we closed with the fifth chapter of Ephesians. This Lord’s Day morning, we begin with the sixth chapter of Ephesians, and the message is built on the first through the fourth verses:
Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right.
Honour thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise;
That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.
And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
"Children, obey your parents." Children, hupakouō. Akouō is the word "to hear." Your English word "acoustics" is built upon it. Hupakouō means "to listen to, to hearken to" and thus, to obey your parents.
"Children, hearken, listen to, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right" [Ephesians 6:1].
"Honor thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise" [Ephesians 6:2]. "Honor" – tima – "honor thy father and mother."
That word tima, "honor," has in it something beyond and something more than just mere obedience. A child could obey his parents reluctantly. He could do it out of fear. But the word "honor" goes beyond just an obedience. That word "honor" carries with it a sense of deep respect. It carries with it a graceful acquiescence and yieldedness. It carries with it a deference to the wishes of our parents. It would carry with it a resentment to any defamation or innuendo. It carries with it a rising above a notice of their faults and their failures. "Tima, honor, thy father and mother" [Ephesians 6:2].
When I was preaching some while ago in Jacksonville, Florida, some of the ministers there invited me to share with them a meal in what they described as being the finest restaurant on the Atlantic seaboard. So we went out to the edge of the city, and there on the south side of town on Highway 1 is a beautiful restaurant, and it deserves its splendid reputation.
While we were seated there waiting for the waiter to bring the orders, one of the preachers said to me, "Do you see that magnificent portrait above the cashier’s desk?" I had noticed it when I first walked into the establishment. There was a portrait of a magnificently-looking, fine, matronly woman. And they said, "That picture has a story. There came to the city of Jacksonville a mother and her son from a poor farm in Georgia, and they ran a little, small, eating joint in downtown Jacksonville. And as the Lord prospered them, they planned this beautiful new restaurant on the edge of the city.
"But before it was consummated, the mother died. So the boy continued with the plans and built that beautiful place. And when he did so, the beer man and the liquor man came to see him and encouraged him and invited him to sell their products in the beautiful restaurant. But the boy, with a sweep of his hand to the picture of his mother said, ‘My mother made me promise before she died that I would never sell beer and I would never sell liquors in our beautiful new restaurant. And gentleman, it is my purpose to keep the promise I made to my mother.”’ And God wonderfully blessed him.
Sir, this is a paid, political announcement.
"Tima: honor thy father and thy mother" [Ephesians 6:2]. Respect their memory and their wishes. Diligently pay deference to their memory. Overlook whatever faults and failures they may have had or do possess. "Honor thy father and thy mother." This, says Paul, is the first commandment with promise. He’s referring to the twentieth chapter of the Book of Exodus:
First commandment: "Thou shalt have no other gods before Me" [Exodus 20:3].
Second commandment: "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image" [Exodus 20:4-6].
[Fourth] commandment: "Thou shalt remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy" [Exodus 20:8-11].
And the [fifth] commandment: "Honor thy father and thy mother" [Exodus 20:12].
Then the promise as Paul says: "That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth" [Exodus 20:12; Ephesians 6:3].
I would think that Paul is pointing out that in the Decalogue, in the words written by the finger of God [Exodus 31:18], this commandment, especially, God emphasized to show what weight God places upon obedience and authority in the home.
Back there in the days of the giving of the Law, God was using Moses to build a great nation [Exodus 19:1-6]. And the wisdom of God seems to indicate that if there is a reverence in the home, there is a reverence in the state. If there is lack of authority in the home, there is lack of authority in the state. If there is disobedience and violence in the home, there is disobedience and lawlessness in the state. But reverence in the home means respect in civic life, and order in the home means prosperity and stability in government and in state [Proverbs 22:6, Proverbs 2]. This, says Paul, is the first commandment with promise [Ephesians 6:2].
"And, ye fathers . . . " [Ephesians 6:4]. Now, so many times in the Hebraisms, they’ll use a word for all of the category. For example, "meat": sometimes meat to eat, it will refer to food generically – all food. So he means here "parents." "Ye fathers" – ye parents – "provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord" [Ephesians 6:4].
"Bring them up in the paideia and the nouthesia of the Lord." The paideia: that’s the act of discipline and chastisement – training by act and discipline. And nouthesia is training by admonition, by teaching, by word. We could say it like this: "And, ye parents, bring up the children in discipline and chastisement and in exhortation and admonition. Training by act and discipline, training by word and appeal, bring them up in the Lord."
Now, there are two things that Paul says here in the Spirit: one, authority and obedience in the home, and, second, authority and obedience in the Lord. "Children, obey your parents in the Lord," and then, "Ye parents, bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord" – in both instances [Ephesians 6:1, 4].
Now, let’s take the first. This thing of authority and obedience in the home. "Children, obey your parents . . . and, ye parents, bring them up . . . " [Ephesians 6:1, 4]. That’s an interesting word – ektrephō you have it here. "But no man ever yet hated his own flesh" – but there it is again, ektrephō – "he nourisheth and cherisheth it" [Ephesians 5:29]. So here, "Ye parents bring them up" – ektrephō.
The end of a family is lost if there is not authority and discipline and training in the home [Proverbs 1:8-9, 13:24; Hebrews 12:7, 9]. That’s what God’s Book says. I do not say that the psychologist says that or the human behaviorist says that or progressive education says that. I’m not saying they say that. I am saying God says that. God says that there is to be authority and discipline and admonition and chastisement in the home. That’s what God says. And the ends of a family are defeated where there is no authority and no discipline and no bringing up in this ektrephō, this bringing up in the nourishment and the admonition of the Lord.
It is the same and identical thing as the ends of a state are defeated if those in office do not assert and enforce the laws and if the citizens are not obedient [Romans 13:1-7]. They are alike. God says that our parents are to ektrephō [Ephesians 6:4]. They are to nourish. They are to bring up the children in the home.
Now, a child is immature; a child is without experience. And for parents to leave to the direction, to the choice, of an immature, inexperienced child all of the problems that he shall face in life is colossal, unintelligible folly. A child is like a polished tablet upon which somebody can inscribe anything. A child is like a blank sheet of paper upon which someone else can write anything. A child is like pieces of clay that, soft in the potter’s hand, can be molded into anything. So a child needs – in his immaturity and inexperience, he needs the direction and the training of his father and his mother [Proverbs 1:8-9].
I one time heard the president of Baylor, Samuel Palmer Brooks [1863-1931], the president when I was there. I one time heard him say in a chapel talk, just kind of a digression, he got to talking about heredity and environment, and he said a sentence that I remember. He said, "I do not say that environment is everything, but I do say that whether a child is a Communist, or a cannibal, or a Catholic, or a Baptist, or a criminal, or given to vice and debauchery, or taught to be a fine citizen, whether he’s that or the other is because he has been trained by those around him."
That is everlastingly true. A child is a blank piece of paper. He is soft clay. He is in tablature without inscription, and what is written on his face and in his soul and in his mind are the things that somebody writes there who are surrounding him. And on the inside of the hearts of parents who fail in this high duty, I think there is an acquiescence to the judgment of the sentence when the life of a child is ruined.
God said about old Eli his sons Hophni and Phinehas shall be destroyed because in their bent to do evil – listen – their father "restrained them not" [1 Samuel 3:13]. And God said the boys shall not live [1 Samuel 3:14]. The father restrained them not. And when that announcement was made by the child Samuel through a vision to old Eli, Eli replied, "It is the Lord. Let Him do what seemeth Him right" [1 Samuel 3:18]. You cannot help that secret acquiescence, admitting of the justice that comes, when parents turn aside from that training and that authority that God hath given them – the Lord hath made it that way – and looks to them to exercise in the home.
Now, the second thing in this passage is that this is to be exercised in the Lord. "Children, obey your parents in the Lord . . . And, ye parents . . . bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord" [Ephesians 6:1, 4]. It is to be done in the Lord, of the Lord.
I wonder if there is a connection between these two things. The FBI says that the greatest group, the largest segment, of the criminal population of America is youngsters in their teens below twenty-one years of age. The FBI says that one-half of the burglars and one-third of the robbers and one-sixth of the murderers are children who are in their teens: youngsters below the ages of twenty and twenty-one. I wonder if there is a relation between that fact of the FBI, that statistical report of the Federal Bureau of Investigation – is there a relationship between that fact and this other fact?
Our churches say, their reports declare, that there are between seventeen million and twenty million boys and girls in America between the ages of four and fourteen who receive no instruction in God, in faith, in religion, in church, in Christ whatsoever. They receive no religious education of any kind neither Protestant or Baptist or Catholic or Buddhist or Mormon or anything. There are between seventeen and twenty million children in our country who never go to Sunday school, who never go to church, who are never taught the Bible, and who are never introduced to the Lord Jesus Christ. I wonder if there is a relationship between the two.
Upon a day there came to see me here in this church, in my study here at the church, there came to see me a mother, and she had with her a teenage boy. I had never seen the mother. I had never seen the boy. She said, "My name is Mrs." and introduced herself. And she said, "This is my boy" and his name, and she called it.
I did not realize, still I didn’t understand, but as she began to talk, I broke in. There had been headlined in the newspapers of our city a terrible and heinous crime.
And I broke in, and I said, "Mother, is your name?" and I called it.
She said, "Yes."
I said, "This boy’s name is" and I called his name.
I said, "Mother, is this the boy?"
She said, "Yes, he’s the boy."
I had been reading about him in big, black headlines in the newspapers in the city of Dallas. This is why she had come. She said, "My boy came to me after the enormity of his crime. He began to realize it, and the awful sentence that he faces, the boy came to me and cried, saying, ‘Mother, I need God. Where can I find God?’"
And the mother said, "Back yonder when I was a child, a small girl, I went to Sunday school, but it was so long ago, I could not remember." So she went to the neighbor and said, "My boy wants to find God and I do not know what to say. Can you say?" And the neighbor replied, "I do not know what to tell him. But you do this. I listen to the pastor of the First Baptist Church on the radio. You take your boy to him, and he can show the boy how to find God."
So I turned to the boy, and I said, "Son, were you born here in Dallas?"
"You were reared here in Dallas?"
"All my life."
I said, "Son, were you ever in Sunday school?"
He never was.
"Were you ever in church?"
Not one time.
"Did you ever hear a sermon?"
"No," he said, "I never did. I never did."
And when I looked at the mother, already crying, she began to sob and to lament. There is a first duty, a first duty, of parents. It is this. Their first duty above all other responsibilities and all other duties, their first duty is to bring up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. You have many others, but there are none comparable to this commandment from God’s Book.
The wisest man, Solomon, in the twenty-third chapter of his Proverbs says, "My son, my son, if thy heart be wise . . . " [Proverbs 23:15] – not "if thy head be wise." "My son, if thy heart be wise." Head wisdom is one thing, largely immaterial. Heart wisdom is another thing. It is of eternal significance. Heart wisdom is the deposit of God. Heart wisdom carries everything before it. Heart wisdom is religion. Heart wisdom is Christ.
In that same Book of Proverbs, in the same chapter, the same Solomon said, "My son, give me thine heart . . ." – give me thine heart [Proverbs 23:26].
Some of our parents have the strangest response to this appeal of God. It is not an uncommon thing for me to hear a parent say, "I do not seek to influence my child religiously. I want them to make up their own minds."
My dear, listen to me. You may not try to influence your child to God, and to the church, and to Christ, and to the Bible, and to our Savior, the Lord Jesus, but if you do not, you will be the only one that does not try to influence him.
On the radio and on the television, you’ll hear false faiths. You’ll hear counterfeit churches and counterfeit preachers and counterfeit religions, and they’ll be pleading for the mind and the love and the allegiance of the soul of your child! And the church and the world and I don’t know what else – the corrupting, vicing, iniquities and influences on every side – they will try to influence your child! And if you do not, you’ll be the only one that does not. Under God, there is a commandment laid upon you. You are, by the help and in the wisdom of the Father, you are to bring up your children, nurturing them, teaching them in the love and admonition of the Lord [Ephesians 6:4].
There is no finer thing that a man can do than to introduce his boy to the Lord, and to introduce his son to the church, and to introduce his growing little family to Christ.
You ask me why I go to church.
I give my mind a careful search
Because I need to breathe the air
Where there’s an atmosphere of prayer.
I need the hymns the churches sing,
They set my faith and hope awing.
They keep old truths and memory green,
Reveal the worth of things unseen.
Because my boy is watching me
To note whatever he can see
That tells him what his daddy thinks,
And with his eager soul he drinks
The things I do in daily walk,
The things I say in daily talk.
If I with him my church will share,
My son will make his friendships there.
Not out there in the dive, and the den, and the joint, and the underworld, but in the church, the true church, in the faith of the Lord Jesus Christ. I repeat, the first obligation of a parent to his child is to introduce him to the Lord, to bring him up in the love and nurture and admonition of the Lord [Ephesians 6:4].
Now, I have a second and brief thing else. A parent is to receive into his home the soul and life of a child not as for this world alone, not as for the immediate now, but he is to receive that child also as a ward, a deposit, a trust for another world that is yet to come [Psalm 127:4] for a child is an immortal soul. This may be of this time and these other things may be of this hour and these other things still maybe of this world, but the soul of a child is for eternity. It’s forever and forever. It has in it the flame and the image and the seeds of immortality, forever and forever. The life that begins, created by the hand of God and placed in your arms, is a life that never dies. It lives forever and ever and forever [Matthew 25:46]. I say that is why when parents receive children from God, they ought carefully and earnestly to receive them as gifts of heaven [Psalm 127:3-5]: immortal lives, a flame that never perishes but burns forever and forever. How then shall we do? If it’s not for this world only but for another world that is yet to come, what shall we say and how shall we do?
When I was a youngster, I heard an evangelist. They used to tell melodramatic things that somehow we feel sort of overemphasized the truth. I don’t know. Our preaching today is watered down and washed up and poured out. It includes, for the most part, incipient nothings, pusillanimous platitudes – little old nice things that whether you said them, whether you didn’t say them, you could read them in a book just as well. You could find them in Confucius or Zoroaster or Mahavera or Seneca or Shakespeare, but there we are prating and mouthing all of those platitudinous things. That’s the modern minister.
I tell you, when I was a boy, the way those preachers preached, they’d scare me to death sometimes as I saw into the pit of hell. And then they’d carry me to glory itself as with Jesus I entered the pearly gates and walked on the golden streets. Those things were so real; and, I say, some of the things they said stay in my soul forever pointing a great and a tragic truth. And here’s one.
This preacher was up there preaching, and he said there was a lawyer of great distinction who stood up to tell the people why it was he became a Christian. And he said this, "I married when I was twenty-four years of age a beautiful, devout, and Christian girl. As for myself, I was a half-infidel and other half atheist."
And he said, "I did everything I could to break the spirit of my wife, to win her away and pull her away and force her away from her church and her faith and her religion." He said, "I didn’t succeed. If anything, she became more devout. In the passing of the while, there came," he said, "into our home a little girl – a little baby girl born to her mother and to me."
Now he said, "When the little child was small, her mother took her to all of those things they have down there at the church – took her to the missionary society; took her with her to Sunday school; took her with her to prayer meeting; took her with her to church. Mother did that when the child was small."
But he said, "When the child grew older and was able to go with me, I took her with me." He said, "I took her with me. I took her with me on weekend parties. I took her with me on the yacht. I took here with me to the club. I took her with me." And he said, "I did everything I could to woo the child away from any such faith as did her mother have." And he said, "Many, many times, I’d be lying in bed on Sunday morning, and I’d hear her mother talk to the child, Come, sweetheart, come. Get up and dress and let’s go to Sunday school."
And he said, "I’d evil and chuckle to myself as I’d hear my child reply, ‘O Mother, daddy kept me out so late last night. I don’t feel like it. Let me lie in bed this morning, and I’ll go some other morning.’ And it was always that."
Then said the man, "In the course of time, she blossomed into full womanhood and was to be married. And then out in a party, she was suddenly ill. And then in the days past, the physician, despairing of her life and finally unable to help, came to me and said, ‘Shall I tell your daughter she cannot live, or shall you tell her?’"
And the father said, "I will try to tell her."
So he said, "I sat down by her bedside, and I had to tell her that the doctor said she had just a little while to live."
Then as they talked, asking her mother if she could be buried in her wedding dress – yes; if it would be all right for the ring of her fiancÃ© to remain on her hand, yes. Then she turned to her father and said, "Daddy, there is one all important question I want to ask you, and facing this last trial, Daddy, you must answer me right. Tell me, Daddy: Mother says if I don’t know Jesus, and if I’m not saved, and I’m not converted, Mother says I’ll not be with God. I’ll be lost! You say, Daddy, that it doesn’t matter, that that’s stuff and rubbish – that Mother is an old fogey, and that religion doesn’t matter, and church doesn’t matter, and God doesn’t matter, and Christ doesn’t matter! And now, Daddy, as I face this long and final journey, which shall I choose? Shall I go Mother’s way, or shall I go your way?"
That man said, "I cried, ‘Oh, my child, take Mother’s way! Don’t take my way! Take Mother’s way. For God’s sake, take Mother’s way! Take Mother’s way.’" And in his testimony, the distinguished man replied, "Oh, if I just knew, if I just knew in the little time that remained that she took Mother’s way, God’s way, Christ’s way."
That’s the kind of preaching I used to hear when I was a boy, and the great truths of those old-time preachers sank deep into my soul. You can’t go both of them. It’s with Mother and Christ and God or it’s with the evil admonition of these who say, "Pass Him by, trust Him not." That’s good, fair-weather philosophy. It’ll do at the dice. It’ll do at the ballroom. It’ll do in health and strength. It’ll do in the tavern. It’ll do in the nightclub. It’ll do in the world, but it doesn’t do in the great day of the Lord: " . . . for who shall be able to stand?" [Revelation 6:17].
O Lord, shall these parents not receive their children as from God? Shall they not bring them up in the love and admonition of the Lord? Is it not God’s holy way of light and life and salvation? And shall it not be our heart to respond?
Some of you been listening on this radio. If you are a father, if you are a mother, if you’re not a Christian, today would you give your life in trust to Christ for your own soul and for the soul of the child? Would you? In this great audience this morning, for your sake and for the sake of somebody who loves you, would you give your life and your heart in trust to Christ? Would you? Somebody you into the fellowship of this church, a family or one, while we sing this song, while we make this appeal, out of the balcony, down the stairwell to the front, from over this lower floor into the aisle, down here to the front, while we make appeal, while we sing the song, would you come? And would you make it now while we stand and sing?