Monday, 10 April 2017

Honour your Father and Mother: The Fifth Commandment's Challenge to our Culture

We cannot deny that the culture of the day impacts the church. It impacts the attitudes of individual Christians and families. How has contemporary culture shaped your opinions in respect to the fifth commandment?

Exodus 20:12 "Honour your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you".

Deuteronomy 5:16 “Honour your father and your mother, as the LORD your God commanded you, that your days may be long, and that it may go well with you in the land that the LORD your God is giving you".

I like to take time to regularly read the Westminster Standards as part of my spiritual devotions, but also to sharpened as a minister and pastor. I recently read the questions and answers on the fifth Commandment from the Westminster Larger Catechism. The Larger Catechism is perhaps the best Christian document ever produced by the church in the history of the church, in my opinion. But what does it teach on this subject and why is it so relevant?

Questions 123-133 offer perhaps the most detailed explanation of any single doctrine in the whole of the Westminster Standards. These 11 questions are:

123 Which is the fifth commandment?
124 Who are meant by Father and mother in the fifth commandment?
125 Why are superiors styled father and mother?
126 What is the general scope of the fifth commandment?
127 What is the honour that inferiors owe to the superiors?
128 What are the sins of inferiors against their superiors?
129 What is required of superiors toward their inferiors?
130 What are the sins of superiors?
131 What are the duties of equals?
132 What are the sins of equals?
133 What is the reason annexed to the fifth commandment, the more to enforce it?

It is beyond the scope of this blog post to expound in detail all the points taught here. It is important to realise that superiors means those in authority and inferiors means those under authority. Authority structures are ordained by God, for the church through elders, in the civil realm with the government and police and our leaders at work, and in the home. In the home the husband is the head of the family.

Romans 13:1-2 "Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment".

1 Peter 2:18 "Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust".

Here are some sins of inferiors; these could be against your church elders or against your boss at work. The list of sins in question 128 includes: "contempt and rebellion against superiors". In question 127 some duties of inferiors includes "prayer and thanksgiving for them [superiors] ... bearing with their infirmities [weaknesses]". Do you do this? I think we all have need of reformation when we read this teaching.

I suggest a careful study of these questions. In order to please our heavenly Father, but also to humble us all. Being reformed is not simply a check box of doctrines, but a life-long pursuit of holiness and submission to the written truth of God's Word.

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