The Fifth Commandment: Honor Father and Mother

Dr. Albert MohlerThis week is Heritage Week at Southern Seminary. As Dr. Russell Moore explained, Heritage Week reconnects us to the past so that we can be more effective in the future. In introducing Dr. Albert Mohler as the chapel speaker, Moore pointed out his admiration for the role Mohler plays as a theologian in his family. This was a fitting introduction as Dr. Mohler addressed the fifth commandment—to honor father and mother.

The fifth commandment is found in Exodus 20:12. The Bill Cosby paraphrase is ‘I brought you into this world, and I can take you out of it.’ Most people have a correct understanding of this passage but an incomplete understanding of this passage.

We live in an age of intentional orphans. Modern psychology teaches that we need to kill off our parents influence if we want to come into our own. It is inconceivable to scripture that we would intentionally orphan ourselves by dishonoring mother and father. Intentional orphanage is as old as the Fall, but it appears now in new ways.

The fifth commandment is originally given to Israel. If they want to be prolonged in the Promised Land they must honor their fathers and mothers. We treat this command as if it is only addressed to children. But this is not children’s church in the Ten Commandments. It is intended for the whole nation of Israel.

Children honoring their fathers and mothers is part of the fifth commandment but that alone is incomplete. This is also a command to adults – to honor one true god is to honor father and mother.

As children, we should be taught the Ten Commandments so that we may learn them as adults. The first part of the Ten Commandments deals with the relationship between Creator and created. The second part of the Ten Commandments deals with relationships with others that point to God.

The fifth commandment is not a recipe for happy families but a means to make God’s character evident. Living out covenantal faithfulness begins at home. If we can’t live it out there, we can’t expect it in all of life.

The family is not a sociological accident but the design of God. We are not seeking to evolve beyond the family structure but to mirror God in it. The relationship of parent to child is intended to demonstrate the relationship of God and His people. Our willingness to come under the authority of our parents shows our willingness to come under the authority of God.

The family is a gift from God. How does the relationship of child to father and mother permeate scripture? Israel is God’s firstborn (Exodus 4:22). The didactic literature points to how to rightly live out this relationship. The narratives show that to dishonor a parent is to bring dishonor to the whole nation. The wisdom literature demonstrates that this relationship is a means of learning obedience.

To abandon the father and mother is to dishonor the Creator who made us. The problem in Christian homes is that the vision of most parents is to take responsibility only until college. But a biblical vision includes transgenerational responsibility.

The Proper Role of Parents

The Bible describes the father and mother as a covenant pair who receives the gift of children. This first relationship of the child is highly influential of what will follow for the child. The responsibility of parent is to love, to teach, and to discipline. It is more than just biological preservation. It is raising children in the admonition of the Lord to bring glory to Him.

Every parent must be schoolmaster and magistrate. There is a teaching function – to didactically make learners of our children. Israel had this teaching expectation – to establish them in a relationship with God, to transfer historical memory of how God has worked in the past (Joshua 4), and to transfer knowledge of His laws. Teaching for Israel was primarily the function of the father. His role was to establish a pattern of habits designed to create greater understanding of the things of God. Mothers were also involved in this process (2 timothy 1:5)

Parents are crucial in the transfer or doctrine and the development of worldview. The home is to be the first school and the first government. It is the parents’ responsibility first for the children’s knowledge of scripture.

Most youth ministries don’t cast this vision but simply entertain children with a youth minister. Youth ministry should not just reach students but train parents how to do this. The transfer of doctrine does not just occur by osmosis but must be intentionally taught. Parents must immerse their children in the gospel.

Parents are not just school masters but also magistrates. This is countercultural. Right learning cannot occur without discipline. The worst curse on a family is an undisciplined child. Discipline is not practiced in many families because it is not taught in churches, and it is condemned by pop psychology. We cannot forget that children are born in sin and are planning treason.

We must be concerned with more than external conformity to focus on internal alignment of the soul. Bodily external discipline can help shape internal alignment of the soul. We live in an age of undisciplined children. Corporal punishment is outlined in scripture as a necessary and common function of raising children.

They must learn cause and effect – the pain of corporal punishment points to the ultimate Judge and justice. Hebrews 12 teaches that the loved son is disciplined by the Father and yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness. So, the discipline of an earthly father points to discipline of the heavenly Father.

The Proper Response of Children

The proper response of children is to honor father and mother. To honor means to know and desire the glory of the parent. To honor is more than external obedience and includes an internal desire of the heart that is consistent with that of the father. Those who dishonor parents will dishonor anyone else including God. The obedience of a child to parent points to obedience to other authorities which points to obedience to God.

In Ephesians 6, Paul universalizes the fifth command to all of God’s people everywhere – it’s not just for Israel and about the Promised Land. Honoring parents includes honoring their name. It should be our greatest honor to be the child of our mother and father. Most who were cared for by our parents when we were young will care for our parents when they are old. God’s glory is in a child honoring their parent because it points to the child honoring God.

The proper Reality of the Church

The Church is God’s new covenant people. The New Testament gives a rich picture of the people of God doing life like a family. No one in the church is an orphan because we are brothers and sisters in Christ with spiritual parents (Titus 2). The New Testament church demonstrates that we are not only to honor our biological family but also our spiritual family.

We must receive this responsibility to care for our spiritual family as a gift, including all people from children to elderly. Not honoring this responsibility as a church is not honoring God.

The fifth commandment is a command for us. It is a call to respect our patriarchs and matriarchs. If we dare look forward then we must look back. We desperately need to hear this command because God’s glory is in it.


Dr. Albert Mohler: The Third Commandment

Dr. Albert Mohler

At Southern Seminary Chapel, Dr. Al Mohler continued in his series on the ten commandments with a treatment of the third commandment–do not take the Lord’s name in vain. His scripture text was Exodus 20:7. You can listen to the audio of his message here.

The third commandment is presumed by evangelicals to merely be a list of words that can never be spoken. In my life, my mother was the keeper of this ever expanding list. Words are powerful because they can create such a swift response. The preached Word is one of the most powerful tools at our disposal.

Exodus 20:7 speaks to the idea of not taking the Lord’s name in vain. The general assumption about this command is far too superficial. People just want to create a list of do’s and don’ts. But this is the most routinely broken command by evangelicals.

The third commandment was a word to Israel from God that one of the distinctives of Israel was supposed to be its speech. God’s name must be spoken with reverence. God chose to reveal His name to Israel as ‘I am who I am.’ God gives Himself to Israel when He gives them His name. Though God gave Israel His name, it was quickly maligned by Israel. God’s revealed name should not be taken in vain because He is jealous about His name.

There is a pattern in scripture of God’s jealousy for His name. For instance, in Ezekiel 36:22-24, God brings salvation for His name’s sake…not because of who Israel is or who the church is. The kingdom of God will advance because of God’s zeal for His name. God’s zeal for His name vindicates His righteous actions in setting apart His name.

What if the third commandment wasn’t as simple as we thought? What if it was more than just a list of do’s and don’ts? How do we break this commandment?

Reductionistic theology

The name of God is taken in vain through reductionistic theology. Reductionistic theology takes what is implied in God’s name and marginalizes it to make it more palatable for a post modern age. The name of God implies a certain theology. But His name is taken in vain among many theologians. There are entire libraries of vanity because the books therein display a marginalized view of God.

The third command follows the second because taking God’s name in vain treats Him like an idol. It redefines our image of God when we reduce him in our theology. Subverting His name is nothing more than a deceptive way of idolatry that robs God of his glory.

Reductionistic theology is a masked form of self love. It redefines God in our image which creates an ideological idol in the church. Reductionistic theology exploded after the Enlightenment as people tried to treat an unreasonable God in reasonable terms. It is an attempt to cut God down to size that we might handle Him…to make him comfortable to us.

The god of reductionistic theology is nothing more than a dehydrated, domesticated and demythologized version of God. It compromises the ‘omnis’ of God to make him something less than Omni. Open theism is an example of this reductionistic theology that takes His name in vain. Process theology and John Shelby Spong are other examples. It use to take testosterone to deny God but not with the new dehydrated deity of reductionistic theology.

Triumphalistic piety

We take God’s name in vain through triumphalistic piety. You can see it in our bumper sticker theology. You can see it with athlete interviews after a game as they claim God’s authority for what they’ve accomplished. I have a challenge to all the athletes out there…I will stay off your football field if you stay out of theology.

The triviality of our triumphalistic piety has the appearance of wisdom but is folly before the Lord. We take His name in vain when we speak as if God has spoken when He hasn’t. Time magazine’s cover story this week was, ‘Does God want you to be rich?’ The answer is yes, but He wants us to be rich in the things of God not in material wealth.

Prosperity theology is just one example of triumphalistic piety. We may not go as far as to say that God wants us rich. But many of us expect happiness, health, safety and satisfaction. This is taking God’s name in vain. God wants us satisfied in him and dissatisfied in all else.

Superficial worship

We take God’s name in vain through superficial worship. God seeks worship in both Spirit and in truth. Evangelical worship misses the point of worship by assuming its end is to be fun and creative. As A.W. Tozer points out, ‘worship is the missing jewel of evangelicals.’

The horizon of our worship is too low. Our worship betrays us as we treat God like an invited guest to our services. While contemporary Christian music has its own set of problems, much of it is better than what it replaced. Some contemporary worship consists of 123 songs…1 word, 2 notes, 3 hours. But as John Piper has said, ‘a generation raised on ‘Do Lord, oh do Lord, oh do remember me’ is not in a position to give a critique.

Superficial worship betrays our view of God’s name. There is no clarity on musical taste in scripture, but there is a Name full of dignity and danger declared in scripture on which all worship should focus. This issue even includes feminist efforts to redefine God’s name in worship.

Manipulative God talk

We take God’s name in vain through manipulative God talk. God’s name is used more in the USA than anywhere else. Everyone is claiming God is on ‘their side’ in a way that seeks to manipulate Him for their purposes. It has the appearance of being theological. And the most concerning type is the manipulative use of God’s name by ministers who claim His authority in things He has not spoken about…like those claiming they know why Hurricane Katrina happened.

God has not given us license to explain His ways when He has not declared His ways. His thoughts are above our thoughts, and His ways are above our ways.

There is a threat in the third commandment…those who violate it will not be held guiltless. He will vindicate His name among the name breakers. This command includes–making oaths, forbidden words and taming the tongue–but it is so much more than that–it involves our worship, our heart, our obedience, our discipleship, our family, our parenting. Not taking the Lord’s name in vain involves the totality of our lives.

The third commandment is ultimately fulfilled eschatologically in Christ. Philippians 2:9 tells us, “at the name of Jesus, every knee shall bow of those in Heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.” There will, one day, be no more taking God’s name in vain as all of creation fully and finally confesses Jesus as Lord. Let us not take God’s name in vain today as we live in light of this glorious future reality.

Dr. Albert Mohler: No Idols

Dr. Albert Mohler

At Southern Seminary Chapel, Dr. Al Mohler continued in his series on the tenth commandment with a treatment of the second commandment–no idols. His scripture text was Exodus 20:4-6. You can listen to the audio of his message here.

Mohler took the pulpit deep in thought and anticipation. He began with a story describing an experience in which he had to remove an idol from a missions display on Southern’s campus. That idol is gone, but idols are always near to us.

There is a distinction between the first two commands in the ten commandments. The first declares that Israel is to worship God only. The second tells them how to worship Him. We are creatures who can create. So, idolatry is a perpetual problem.

All of us worship. The question is, what will we worship? In the text, the idea of ‘image’ and ‘likeness’ reinforce each other to point out that an idol is an object of worship designed to attract the eyes in order to seduce the soul. The second commandment is a categorical denial of all idol worship because God is a jealous God. The first commandment emphasizes God’s exclusivity, but the second commandment focuses on how that exclusive God is to be worshipped.

What is so dangerous about idols? Our worship reveals our theology. To worship the right God in the wrong way is not honoring to Him. The formula for worship begins with the right God (first commandment) and culminates in right worship (second commandment). Worship is the best indicator of what people believe. There are many reasons why the worship of idols indicates the wrong god:

Finitude. First, idolatry implies finitude. Idols are inherently finite because they are created. But God is infinite. Idols are things that contrast the ‘non-thingness’ of God. The omni’s of God (omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence, etc.) point to the infinitude of God’s perfection.

Fabrication. Second, idolatry implies fabrication. Idols are a made thing. They are fabricated by a people who love to make things. But God made us; we did not make Him. God made us in His image. We cannot make a god in our image. Idolatry occurs when we make an object and turn it into the subject of our worship. Isaiah 44:9-20 contains some of the best satire in scripture. In this passage, Isaiah reminds us of how delusional the fabrication of idols truly is. The one true God is uncreated.

Control. Third, idolatry implies control. If we make an idol, it is at our disposal. We get to devise the worship because we provide the God. But God will not forfeit His control. He is the uncontrolled who cannot be stayed. A god we can control is no god at all. We are the created, fabricated and controlled; not God. Idolatry is the reversal of true worship. Idols cannot capture the image of God. The only creature that displays His image is man.

Need. Fourth, idolatry implies need. Most idol worship revolves around meeting the needs of an idol. Elijah mocks the needs of gods in 1 Kings 18 when he suggests to the prophets that maybe Ba’al does not here them because he has gone to the bathroom. But God is in need of nothing (Acts 17:24-25). God is not an image formed by the artistic ability of man. So, our worship is not to bring a sacrifice to God as if He needed anything. Instead, it is to be a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1-2). God glorifies Himself not out of need but out of the natural outworking of His glory.

Procreation. Fifth, idolatry implies procreation. Idols often represent sexual perversion. They are worshipped for their procreative gifts. This perversion often manifests itself through sexually immoral worship experiences or through sexually perverse forms of the idol. On the other hand, God does not give birth. He creates. God creates out of nothing instead of procreating. He chose to create rather than to procreate. The procreative danger of idolatry is even found in feminist theology. This was clear recently as the PCUSA encouraged their denomination to adopt new names for the Trinity.

Physicality. Sixth, idolatry implies physicality. Idols have form, but the true God is formless.

Visual. Seventh, idolatry implies the visual. Idols are seen but not heard. God is heard but not seen. Idols appeal to us because we are visual people. God has chosen to reveal through verbal words, not visual images. Therefore, the verbal is superior to the visual. That is why preaching is central to the progress of the gospel. Our culture is driven by the visual and is consequently captivated by all types of idolatry. The problem with the visual occurs when it replaces the verbal–when we see, we no longer here.

There is a warning in Exodus 20:4-6. Idolaters will be judged. God announces His jealousy as a husband zealous for His wife. Throughout the Old Testament, Israel commits spiritual adultery through idolatry. Our theology has consequences. Idolatry, as implied by v. 6, can lead to the transgenerational impact of spiritual death. But there is also a promise in Exodus 20:4-6. God displays His love to those who obey.

What do we do with this passage? We need to recognize that we are natural born idolaters. There are only two loves–love of God and love of self. Every idol comes down to a love of self. We must also be careful that the visual never eclipes the verbal in our worship of God. God did not leave a visual image of Christ for a reason–every visual representation of Him is a lie. Icons are a lie. We are to avoid icons, but we are to have the one true Image as our worship…Jesus Christ (Hebrews 1:3, Colossians 1:15). Christ is in the second commandment and fulfills the second commandment as the true Image of God.

Dr. Frank Page: Change What Can Be Changed

Dr. Frank PageThis post kicks off a new feature for the blog. I will begin liveblogging the chapel services at Southern Seminary. After looking at the lineup of this semester’s speakers and after being edified by all who have shared so far, I wanted to share the love with you. Enjoy!

The anticipation was noticeable as Dr. Al Mohler introduced today’s speaker, Dr. Frank Page who is current president of the Southern Baptist Convention. Mohler announced that, while this was not Page’s first time to speak at Southern, it was his first time to speak at one of the Baptist seminaries since his placement as SBC president. Mohler mentioned some of Page’s accomplishments but left others unmentioned. Mohler called on everyone there to pray for Page as he serves in this capacity.

With a quiet confidence and charismatic poise, Page called us to turn to the morning’s scripture text–Philippians 1:12-20. The focus of Page’s message was to change what can be changed. It seemed to be more than a coincidence that the focus of Page’s message would be potentially contentious to a chapel full of students and faculty operating from a theological perspective more reformed than his. It seemed that he enjoyed creating the tension. You can listen to the audio of the message here.

There are some things that are not going to change. Despair results when we feel like we cannot make a difference. But are there things we can change?

Paul was not raised to be in the position that he finds himself in as he writes to the Philippian believers from a Roman prison. He was groomed for greatness among the Jews. But Damascus changed everything for him. Now, he is in prison dealing with a situation he never imagined. What were the things Paul could control within the providence of God? His mindset. His motivation. And His methodology.

Mindset — Philippians 1:12-14

Paul always wanted to preach in Rome, but he never imagined that it would be from a prison. The chains that were designed to bind him actually set him free for ministry. Though Paul couldn’t control his circumstances, he could control his mindset. The same is true of us. Our circumstances give us a unique chance to share the gospel. We should seek the reason why God has given us this opportunity for ministry.

Paul gave others courage to more fearlessly preach Christ in everyday circumstances. Most people spend all their energy trying to change circumstances rather than focusing on how to embrace them with the right mindset. Don’t complain about where you are, but pray that you bring glory to God wherever you are.

Motivation — Philippians 1:15-18

Paul faced opposition in the midst of ministry. This passage calls us to check our motives–why are we doing what we are doing? The SBC must constantly check its motives. We do not own it and cannot control it. Many churches also have people who think they own the church. We do not own the church or the convention; Christ does. For Wesley and Whitfield, their theological differences did not prevent them from realizing they are on the same team. Though Page has some differences with Mohler, they are on the same team as well.

Southern Baptists have been known for what we are against. But we should also be known for what we are for. We are for family supporting, life transforming ministry. This is a vision Dr. Page tries to share with every press member and presidential hopeful that comes to meet with him.

Methodology — Phillipians 1:19-20

When Paul’s circumstances changed, so did his method. Your method matters. There are some methods that don’t bring glory to Christ. We need to check and purify our methodology so that everything we do is done for Christ. In the end, we must assess our mindset, motivation, and methodology to ensure that they are directed for Christ’s glory.