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What the Bible says about Long Life
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Exodus 20:12

Ephesians 6:2 states that the fifth commandment is the first commandment with promise. The second commandment contains a very general promise loosely tied to keeping all the commandments. The promise in the fifth commandment is not general but specifically tied to meeting a specific responsibility—honoring parents.

Notice that the commandment does not say, "Obey your father and your mother." This is because honoring not only includes obedience but also goes beyond it. Honoring suggests adding to, glorifying, embellishing, and decorating its object. Obedience can be given in a resentful manner, but honoring requires admiration, respect, even reverence. This quality must be within one's heart, and it is acquired and built upon through thoughtful consideration, even meditation, on the sacrifices and gifts that the parents give to the child.

Honoring is something that usually does not happen in the child until adulthood, when the child has his own experiences as a parent to draw upon to appreciate his parent's loving labors. This fact shows us that it is not too late to grow in honoring our parents, and that God is aware, noticing and rewarding with the blessing of long life. Obedience to parents as a child gets one started in the right direction and produces its own rewards.

Yet, the honoring of parents greatly increases the appreciation for them. The real rewards lie in the practice of honoring itself, rewards that affect our place in the Kingdom of God because we have transferred giving honor to our physical parents to giving spiritual and moral honor to God, our spiritual Parent.

Deuteronomy 6:4-9 declares this commandment's seriousness to us:

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on doorposts of your house and on your gates.

Notice that child-training is directly linked with the first and great commandment. The fifth commandment is aimed directly at parental responsibility. If children grow up not honoring God, the blame largely falls on the parents' shoulders. God intends this vital child-training responsibility to lead children to honoring Him.

That is its goal. It requires consistent and devoted attention. It cannot be accomplished by absent parents. If the parents do not know God, or if their knowledge of Him is shallow, and they are not practicing what they do know, what will they pass on to their children? Worldliness. Both parents must be dedicated and deeply involved in honoring God in their own lives, if their children are going to be prepared to perform the much more rewarding practice of honoring God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fifth Commandment

Deuteronomy 4:40

Obeying the fifth commandment automatically builds habits and character that promote long life (Proverbs 4:10-11). A child trained in biblical principles and God's way of life will avoid recklessness, violence, immorality, and rebellion against authority that often result in premature death.

Martin G. Collins
The Fifth Commandment

Ephesians 6:1-4

The context obviously addresses children and parents. Paul makes it clear that children have a responsibility before God and that keeping the commandment has definite benefits for them to anticipate receiving. This is in agreement with Deuteronomy 4:39-40.

One of the benefits he mentions is the prospect of long life, which also contains an implication of prosperity. Not the least of the additional benefits is the gradual development of understanding and wisdom garnered from the parents, which themselves help to produce long life and prosperity. Thus, in an overall sense, he is reminding children that obedience to truth has its rewards.

Is there an age at which or a circumstance under which the child's responsibility to honor his parents undergoes a change? The answer is both "Yes" and "No," which is why Paul qualifies his charge to children. His qualification is contained within the phrase "in the Lord." It connotes what is within the boundaries of the Lord's way. In all cases, the responsibility to honor one's parents diminishes when a child marries, and his first attention must be given to the spouse. Cleaving to the spouse trumps the honoring of parents. Paul qualifies this a step further by implying that, if the parents demand submission beyond the bounds of Christian conduct, that is, not "in the Lord"—such as commanding a child to give up the Sabbath, lie in their behalf, steal for them, or bow down to an idol—in such cases the child's choice should be to submit to Christ rather than to his parents. Submitting to God's commands trumps submitting to parent's commands that are beyond what God commands us to do in order to stay "in the Lord."

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fifth Commandment

Ephesians 6:4

The English word "nurture" (KJV) or "training" (NKJV) indicates caring for and providing supportive instruction. The underlying Greek word more specifically involves educational feeding or instruction, as if in school or for the purpose of learning a discipline. The word thus covers verbal instruction, chastening, and the use of drills needed to produce Christian character. It does not at all indicate that any of these approaches is even harsh, let alone cruel. However, it suggests that parents follow an organized and consistent plan.

The term "admonition" or "instruction" (NIV) means a warning, drawing specific attention to verbal instruction. In summary, Paul touches on three areas vital to child-training so that children keep the fifth commandment properly. "Of the Lord" touches on the standard or quality one is to strive for. "Nurture" indicates what is physically done to and with the child in terms of consistent, regimented training, including discipline. "Admonition" draws attention to what is said and how it is said to the child.

Taken together, then, Paul clearly teaches that child-training is something that can neither be left to chance nor sloughed off with a careless, resigned attitude, as if it were merely a necessary evil. The parents' vision must be long-range. From parents applying right principles consistently will come the gradual development of understanding and wisdom in the children. These are precursors that help produce the promised long life and prosperity in the commandment.

In I Thessalonians 2:7-8, Paul uses himself and his relationship with the Thessalonian congregation as an example:

But we were gentle among you, just as a nursing mother cherishes her own children. So, affectionately longing for you, we were well pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God, but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us.

He says he treated them with the tender affection of a nursing mother, striving hard so that no one could honestly charge him with taking anything from them. They personally witnessed how gently and consistently he dealt with them as a father does his children by appealing and encouraging them to live their lives to glorify God in their conduct.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fifth Commandment


 




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