The Nurture and Admonition of Your Children

March 26, 2013

The Nurture and Admonition of Your Children

            Nearly all parents profess to love their children, but not all parents love them enough to nurture and admonish them the way the Bible tells us to.  Ephesians 6:4 says “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” If we faithfully carry out the commands of this verse we will have fulfilled our obligation to our children.

It is becoming increasingly obvious that parents in our day are not having the success in child raising that our grandparents and great grandparents had.  We do well to ask ourselves, “What did they do different?  What steps did they take to fulfill the commands of Ephesians 6:4?”  I’m sure many of them took heed to Bible commentaries they read on this verse.  If they didn’t read them, they no doubt heard them expounded by their pastors.  For that reason, I have copied below the words of three men whose commentaries were often referred to.  Please take time to read what they say and make an effort to put their admonition into practice.

John Gill’s commentary on Ephesians 6:4 says:

“And ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath,…. Neither by words; by unjust and, unreasonable commands; by contumelious and reproachful language; by frequent and public chidings, and by indiscreet and passionate expressions: nor by deeds; preferring one to another; by denying them the necessaries of life; by not allowing them proper recreation; by severe and cruel blows, and inhuman usage; by not giving them suitable education; by an improper disposal of them in marriage; and by profusely spending their estates, and leaving nothing to them: not but that parents may, and ought to correct and rebuke their children; nor are they accountable to them for their conduct; yet they should take care not to provoke them to wrath, because this alienates their minds from them, and renders their instructions and corrections useless, and puts them upon sinful practices; wrath lets in Satan, and leads to sin against God; and indeed it is difficult in the best of men to be angry and not sin; see Col_3:21. Fathers are particularly mentioned, they being the heads of families, and are apt to be too severe, as mothers too indulgent.

But bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord; instructing them in the knowledge of divine things, setting them good examples, taking care to prevent their falling into bad company, praying with them, and for them, bringing them into the house of God, under the means of grace, to attend public worship; all which, under a divine blessing, may be very useful to them; the example of Abraham is worthy of imitation, Gen_18:19, and the advice of the wise man deserves attention, Pro_22:6.

Adam Clark’s commentary says:

Fathers, provoke not your children to wrath – Avoid all severity; this will hurt your own souls, and do them no good; on the contrary, if punished with severity or cruelty, they will be only hardened and made desperate in their sins. Cruel parents generally have bad children. He who corrects his children according to God and reason will feel every blow on his own heart more sensibly than his child feels it on his body. Parents are called to correct; not to punish, their children. Those who punish them do it from a principle of revenge; those who correct them do it from a principle of affectionate concern.

Bring them up,   literally, Nourish them in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. The mind is to be nourished with wholesome discipline and instruction, as the body is with proper food. Discipline, may refer to all that knowledge which is proper for children, including elementary principles and rules for behavior, etc.   Instruction, may imply whatever is necessary to form the mind; to touch, regulate, and purify the passions; and necessarily includes the whole of religion. Both these should be administered in the Lord – according to his will and word, and in reference to his eternal glory. All the important lessons and doctrines being derived from his revelation, therefore they are called the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

Albert Barnes has much to say about it.

And ye fathers – A command addressed particularly to “fathers,” because they are at the head of the family, and its government is especially committed to them. The object of the apostle here is, to show parents that their commands should be such that they can be easily obeyed, or such as are entirely reasonable and proper. If children are required to “obey,” it is but reasonable that the commands of the parent should be such that they can be obeyed, or such that the child shall not be discouraged in his attempt to obey. This statement is in accordance with what he had said Eph_5:22-25 of the relation of husband and wife. It was the duty of the wife to obey – but it was the corresponding duty of the husband to manifest such a character that it would be pleasant to yield obedience – so to love her, that his known wish would be law to her. In like manner it is the duty of children to obey a parent; but it is the duty of a parent to exhibit such a character, and to maintain such a government, that it would be proper for the child to obey; to command nothing that is unreasonable or improper, but to train up his children in the ways of virtue and pure religion.

Provoke not your children to wrath – That is, by unreasonable commands; by needless severity; by the manifestation of anger. So govern them, and so punish them – if punishment is necessary – that they shall not lose their confidence in you, but shall love you. The apostle here has hit on the very danger to which parents are most exposed in the government of their children. It is that of souring their temper; of making them feel that the parent is under the influence of anger, and that it is right for them to be so too. This is done:

(1) when the commands of a parent are unreasonable and severe. The spirit of a child then becomes irritated, and he is “discouraged;” Col_3:21.

(2) when a parent is evidently “excited” when he punishes a child. The child then feels:

(a)    that if his “father” is angry, it is not wrong for him to be angry; and,

(b)    the very fact of anger in a parent kindles anger in his bosom – just as it does when two men are contending.

If he submits in the case, it is only because the parent is the “strongest,” not because he is “right,” and the child cherishes “anger,” while he yields to power. There is no principle of parental government more important than that a father should command his own temper when he inflicts punishment. He should punish a child not because he is “angry,” but because it is “right;” not because it has become a matter of “personal contest,” but because God requires that he should do it, and the welfare of the child demands it. The moment when a child sees that a parent punishes him under the influence of anger, that moment the child will be likely to be angry too – and his anger will be as proper as that of the parent. And yet, how often is punishment inflicted in this manner! And how often does the child feel that the parent punished him simply because he was the “strongest,” not because it was “right;” and how often is the mind of a child left with a strong conviction that wrong has been done him by the punishment which he has received, rather than with repentance for the wrong that he has himself done.

But bring them up – Place them under such discipline and instruction that they shall become acquainted with the Lord.

In the nurture –      The word used here means “training of a child;” hence education, instruction, discipline. Here it means that they are to train up their children in such a manner as the Lord approves; that is, they are to educate them for virtue and religion.

And admonition – The word used here    means literally, “a putting in mind,” then warning, admonition, instruction. The sense here is, that they were to put them in mind of the Lord – of his existence, perfections, law, and claims on their hearts and lives. This command is positive, and is in accordance with all the requirements of the Bible on the subject. No one can doubt that the Bible enjoins on parents the duty of endeavoring to train up their children in the ways of religion, and of making it the grand purpose of this life to prepare them for heaven. It has been often objected that children should be left on religious subjects to form their own opinions when they are able to judge for themselves. Infidels and irreligious people always oppose or neglect the duty here enjoined; and the plea commonly is, that to teach religion to children is to make them prejudiced; to destroy their independence of mind; and to prevent their judging as impartially on so important a subject as they ought to. In reply to this, and in defense of the requirements of the Bible on the subject, we may remark:

(1) That to suffer a child to grow up without any instruction in religion, is about the same as to suffer a garden to lie without any culture. Such a garden would soon be overrun with weeds, and briars, and thorns – but not sooner, or more certainly, than the mind of a child would.

(2) people do instruct their children in a great many things, and why should they not in religion? They teach them how to behave in company; the art of farming; the way to make or use tools; how to make money; how to avoid the arts of the cunning seducer. But why should it not be said that all this tends to destroy their independence, and to make them prejudiced? Why not leave their minds open and free, and suffer them to form their own judgments about farming and the mechanic arts when their minds are matured?

(3) people do inculcate their own sentiments in religion. An infidel is not usually “very” anxious to conceal his views from his children. People teach by example; by incidental remarks; by the “neglect” of that which they regard as of no value. A man who does not pray, is teaching his children not to pray; he who neglects the public worship of God, is teaching his children to neglect it; he who does not read the Bible, is teaching his children not to read it. Such is the constitution of things, that it is impossible for a parent not to inculcate his own religious views on his children. Since this is so, all that the Bible requires is, that his instructions should be right.

(4) to inculcate the truths of religion is not to make the mind narrow, prejudiced, and indisposed to perceive the truth. Religion makes the mind candid, conscientious, open to conviction, ready to follow the truth. Superstition, bigotry, infidelity, and “all” error and falsehood, make the mind narrow and prejudiced.

(5) if a man does not teach his children truth, others will teach them “error.” The young skeptic that the child meets in the street; the artful infidel; the hater of God; the unprincipled stranger; “will” teach the child. But is it not better for a parent to teach his child the “truth” than for a stranger to teach him error?

(6) Religion is the most important of all subjects, and “therefore” it is of most importance that children on that subject should he taught truth. Of whom can God so properly require this as of a parent? If it be asked “in what way” a parent is to bring up his children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, I answer:

1.   By directly inculcating the doctrines and duties of religion – just as he does anything else that he regards as of value.

2.   By placing them in the Sunday school, where he may have a guarantee that they will be taught the truth.

3.   By “conducting” them – not merely “sending” them – to the sanctuary, that they may be taught in the house of God.

4.   By example – all teaching being valueless without that.

5.   By prayer for the divine aid in his efforts, and for the salvation of their souls. These duties are plain, simple, easy to be performed, and are such as a man “knows” he ought to perform. If neglected, and the soul of the child be lost, a parent has a most fearful account to render to God.”  (Words in Greek were deleted.)

End of quotations from commentaries

I can sympathize with those who say, “But our grandparents and great grandparents didn’t have to contend with all the evil temptations this world puts before our children.” That’s true.  I’m sure there were temptations back in the old days, but perhaps they weren’t as strong as they are today.

Some of the greatest temptations our children face today are encountered when they go to school.  Children need an education. Therefore we need to know what precautions to take.  Parents need to recognize that the education of their children is their responsibility and not that of the school system.  Even in the primary grades public school children are often exposed to, and even taught, illicit and immoral behavior.  They are also being taught ideologies that are in direct opposition to what the Bible teaches.  Some of the immoral values are:

  • Homosexuality
  • Abortion
  • Sex education

Some of the ideologies are:

  • All of creation is the result of blind chance (evolution).
  • There is no God and thus there is no divine moral standard.
  • Man is capable of solving all his problems by means of science and human reasoning (Humanism).
  • We should look to the government for the provision of our needs (Socialism).

If you don’t have confidence in the school, you will need to seek another alternative.  Sometimes there are private or Christian schools available.  You will need to be assured that they are properly supervised and that they aren’t teaching the false moral values and ideologies mentioned above.  Yes, that is going to cost money and it may demand some sacrifices.  How much do you love your children?  Another alternative is home schooling.  A growing number of parents are doing that.  There is an abundance of good material available to make that feasible.

Christian parents do well in being very selective in the choice of a college for their children.  Many colleges are cesspools of iniquity.  The goal of many professors is to convert their students to atheism or agnosticism.  There are still some good Christian colleges, but even these need to be carefully scrutinized to be sure their standards and ideologies are biblical.    Many vocations can now be learned by home study through the Internet.  It’s what you know that matters, not whether you have a college degree. In today’s world, a college degree doesn’t always assure you of getting the job you want.

The best you can offer your children is the “nurture and admonition of the Lord.” Start when they are young and be consistent.  There is a price to pay, but it’s one of the best investments you will ever make for your satisfaction and the wellbeing of your children.


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