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Ephesians 6:4

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

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, etc - Εκτρεφετε αυτα εν παιδειᾳ και νουθεσια Κυριου· 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. Παιδεια, discipline, may refer to all that knowledge which is proper for children, including elementary principles and rules for behavior, etc. Νουθεσια, 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
Notes on the Whole Bible

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 Ephesians 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;” Colossians 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 seem 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 - ἐν παιδεία en paideiaThe 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 - νουθεσία nouthesiameans 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 sceptic 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.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
The great duty of children is, to obey their parents. That obedience includes inward reverence, as well as outward acts, and in every age prosperity has attended those distinguished for obedience to parents. The duty of parents. Be not impatient; use no unreasonable severities. Deal prudently and wisely with children; convince their judgements and work upon their reason. Bring them up well; under proper and compassionate correction; and in the knowledge of the duty God requires. Often is this duty neglected, even among professors of the gospel. Many set their children against religion; but this does not excuse the children's disobedience, though it may be awfully occasion it. God alone can change the heart, yet he gives his blessing to the good lessons and examples of parents, and answers their prayers. But those, whose chief anxiety is that their children should be rich and accomplished, whatever becomes of their souls, must not look for the blessing of God.
Ellen G. White
Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, 329

Here the duties of parents are clearly set forth. The word of God is to be their daily monitor. It gives such instruction that parents need not err in regard to the education of their children; but it admits of no indifference or negligence. The law of God is to be kept before the minds of the children as the great moral standard. When they rise up, and when they sit down, when they go out, and when they come in, this law is to be taught them as the great rule of life, and its principles are to be interwoven with all their experience. They are to be taught to be honest, truthful, temperate, economical, and industrious, and to love God with the whole heart. This is bringing them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. This is setting their feet in the path of duty and safety. 5T 329.1

Youth are ignorant and inexperienced, and the love of the Bible and its sacred truths will not come naturally. Unless great pains is taken to build up around them barriers to shield them from Satan's devices, they are subject to his temptations and are led captive by him at his will. In their early years children are to be taught the claims of God's law and faith in Jesus our Redeemer to cleanse from the stains of sin. This faith must be taught day by day, by precept and example. 5T 329.2

A solemn responsibility rests upon parents, and how can the Lord bless them in the positive neglect of their duty? Children can be molded when they are young. But years pass when their hearts are tender and susceptible to the impressions of truth, and but little time is devoted to their moral culture. The precious lessons of truth and duty should be instilled into their hearts daily. They should have a knowledge of God in His created works; this will be of greater value to them than any knowledge of books. 5T 329.3

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Ellen G. White
Child Guidance, 259-60

Kindness to Be the Law of the Home—God's method of government is an example of how children are to be trained. There is no oppression in the Lord's service, and there is to be no oppression in the home or in the school. Yet neither parents nor teachers should allow disregard of their word to pass unnoticed. Should they neglect to correct the children for doing wrong, God would hold them accountable for their neglect. But let them be sparing of censure. Let kindness be the law of the home and of the school. Let the children be taught to keep the law of the Lord, and let a firm, loving influence restrain them from evil.5 CG 259.1

Have Consideration for Childish Ignorance—Fathers and mothers, in the home you are to represent God's disposition. You are to require obedience, not with a storm of words, but in a kind, loving manner. You are to be so full of compassion that your children will be drawn to you.6 CG 259.2

Be pleasant in the home. Restrain every word that would arouse unholy temper. “Fathers, provoke not your children to wrath,” is a divine injunction. Remember that your children are young in years and experience. In controlling and disciplining them, be firm, but kind.7 CG 259.3

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Ellen G. White
Counsels to Parents, Teachers, and Students, 109

For some reason many parents dislike to give their children religious instruction, and they leave them to pick up in Sabbath school the knowledge which it is their privilege and duty to impart. Such parents fail to fulfill the responsibility laid upon them, to give their children an all-around education. God commands His people to bring up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. What does this mean—the nurture and admonition of the Lord? It means to teach them to order the life by the requirements and lessons of the word; to help them to gain a clear understanding of the terms of entrance into the city of God. Not to all who would enter will the gates of that city be opened, but to those only who have studied to know God's will, and have yielded their lives to His control. CT 109.1

Parents, let the instruction you give your children be simple, and be sure that it is clearly understood. The lessons that you learn from the word you are to present to their young minds so plainly that they cannot fail to understand. By simple lessons drawn from the word of God and their own experience, you may teach them how to conform their lives to the highest standard. Even in childhood and youth they may learn to live thoughtful, earnest lives that will yield a rich harvest of good. CT 109.2

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Ellen G. White
Counsels to Parents, Teachers, and Students, 159

Our children are the Lord's property; they have been bought with a price. This thought should be the mainspring of our labors for them. The most successful method of securing their salvation and of keeping them out of the way of temptation is to instruct them constantly in the word of God. And as parents become learners with their children, they will find their own growth in grace and in a knowledge of the truth more rapid. Unbelief will disappear; faith and activity will increase; assurance and confidence will deepen as they thus follow on to know the Lord. Their prayers will undergo a transformation, becoming more earnest and sincere. Christ is the head of His church, and unfailing dependence of His people; He will give the needed grace to those who seek Him for wisdom and instruction. CT 159.1

God would have us consider these things in their sacred importance. It is the privilege of brothers and sisters and parents to co-operate in teaching the children how to drink the gladness of Christ's life by learning to follow His example. To the older children in these isolated families I will say: It is not necessary that all should drop the home responsibilities to attend our boarding schools, in order to obtain a fitting for service. Remember that right in the home there is a work to do for the Master. In the home there are younger children to be instructed, and thus relieve the mother's burdens. CT 159.2

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