Sermon on The Fifth Commandment

by Pastor Keith Graham

Please keep your Bible handy, so you can refer to it as you read. Thank you!

"Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee." (Exodus 20:12)

"Honour thy father and thy mother, as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee; that thy days may be prolonged, and that it may go well with thee, in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee." (Deuteronomy 5:16)

The pulpit of Locktown Church is not a political platform. In some churches today, a preacher's analysis of current events is presented as food for the soul. You can go to many places that appear to be houses of worship, and hear diverse opinions on current events and trends in religious and profane realms, instead of the eternal, changeless Gospel. This pulpit exists to proclaim the whole counsel of God by expounding the Scriptures, by "rightly dividing the word of truth". It is the goal here that Christ's sheep be fed, and the unconverted awakened and pointed toward the Christ Who is mighty to save.

Nevertheless today the "lead of Providence", so to speak, will be followed. In God's Providence today's message is one in a series on the Ten Commandments. Also in the Providence of the Almighty God Who ordains whatever comes to pass, several tragedies occured this past week in our nation. We will begin today's message by considering those tragedies in the light of the Fifth Commandment, as we have it above from the books of Exodus and Deuteronomy.

The apostle Peter wrote that no prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation. Our Westminster Confession of Faith asserts that the true and full sense of Scripture is not manifold but one. Therefore, the objective today is not to give a private interpretation of these tragedies, but to set forth that one, true and full sense of Scripture. In doing so, we will relate the teaching of the Bible to the tragedies.

I am referring to the murder and mayhem that took place at the hand of a young boy in Oregon, along with at least two apparent "copy cat" incidents that took place elsewhere. These atrocities gained the attention of a stunned nation. As we bring those stunning atrocities under the light of God's word, consider these matters of FACT - again, what follows is not private political opinion:

In a 1980 U.S. Supreme Court case, "Stone vs. Graham", the court ruled that -

"It is unconstitutional for students to see the Ten Commandments since they might read, meditate upon, respect, or obey them."

Here also are two excerpts from recent press releases, courtesy of the Christian ladies' organization, Concerned Women of America -

1) "District Judge Ira DeMent issued a permanent injunction against the enforcement of Alabama's 1993 "student-initiated" prayer law after Americans United for Separation of Church and State and the American Civil Liberties Union filed suit..."

2) "...a county circuit court ordered Alabama Circuit Judge Roy S. Moore to remove a replica of the Ten Commandments from his courtroom wall -- or combine it with secular decorations. Judge Moore refused to comply with the lower court decision, so the case is going to the Alabama Supreme Court, which is expected to rule in the next few months."

More recently, another judge, the Honorable John Devine in Houston, Texas has been embroiled in a similar battle on account of the artistic rendering of God's Ten Commandments which adorns his court room.

The early 1960's were a spiritually crucial time in our nation. It was then that prayer and the public honoring of God began to be rejected by state school systems. Consider the dramatic increases in the following and other statistics, as recorded in David Barton's book "The Original Intent" -

In 1963, .3 million.
In 1983, over 1.3 million

In 1963, 14 cases per 1,000.
In 1984, 50 cases per 1,000.

God is not mocked!

In Oregon last week, a young teenager wantonly killed his parents and some schoolmates, and wounded many. On the same day, similar acts of violence were perpetrated by other children against their peers. Through our national sin of abortion, parents are killing children.

But God's eternal Law commands parents to nurture children who will grow up to be HONORABLE people. God's eternal Law commands children to HONOR their parents! God's eternal Law commands that schoolmates and other groups of peers respect and honor one another! The Fifth Commandment speaks not only to children and their relationships to mothers and fathers, although it does speak to you young ones: At Colossians 3: 20 Paul writes, Children, obey your parents in all things. At Luke 2:51, we see the Lord Jesus as a boy submitting to Mary and Joseph.

But the Fifth Commandment also speaks to the rest of us, of whatever age and social circumstances. In making application of this commandment we look not ONLY at the parent/child relationship, but to three basic kinds of relationships a person may have -

1) As an authority over others - father, mother, spiritual leader, civil ruler
2) As one under the authority of another
3) As the peer, or equal of another, as regarding authority

All of these relationships are under God, the great Authority over all. Let's take a moment to show that this broader understanding of the Fifth Commandment stands in Scripture. If any religious teaching is not established by God's word the holy Bible, don't believe it...have nothing to do with it.

1 Timothy 5:1 gives a broad Bible perspective on various kinds of relationships, as touching the matter of authority: Do not sharply rebuke an older man, but rather appeal to him as a FATHER, to the younger men as BROTHERS, the older women as MOTHERS, and the younger women as SISTERS, in all purity.

Even as the expression "town fathers" refers to local government leaders, so Scripture designates rulers and judges in human society as fathers, for example in Isaiah 49: 23 we read Kings shall be thy nursing FATHERS.. At Job 29:16, referring to the golden days before his great afflictions, when he lived as a revered elder among his people, Job says: I was a FATHER to the needy, and I investigated the case which I did not know..

The Law itself says that the aged are to be honored. It aligns that gracious disposition toward the elderly, which has all but vanished from our society, with reverence for God Himself: You shall rise up before the grayheaded, and honor the aged, and you shall revere your God; I am the LORD.. (Leviticus 19:32)

Puritan divine Thomas Watson wrote, "If you see an old man fearing God, whose grace shines brightest when the sun of his life is setting, O honour him as a father, by reverencing and imitating him."

Spiritual leaders are also regarded as fathers, as authorities, in the Bible. The apostle Paul called himself Timothy's father in the Gospel, and the father of the Corinthians. To the Galatians, he wrote as if he were a mother to them: My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you..." (Galatians 4:19).

Thomas Watson also wrote, "The spiritual fathers are to be honoured in respect of their office. Whatever their persons are, their office is honourable; they are the messengers of the Lord of Hosts."

So, at the heart of the Fifth Commandment is the issue of AUTHORITY. God the final and ultimate Authority has appointed that under Him be various secondary authorities. He commands obedience to His appointed authorities by those under them. We are living in a society in which respect for authority has been trampled underfoot. Christians, we are appointed by God to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world, and it is our place to set an example of honoring authority!

What does it mean to be under authority? How are authority holders to behave toward those under them? How do we relate to one another when we are equals?

The Westminster Larger Catechism answers, according to the three kinds of relationships mentioned earlier -

1) One in authority is to love, pray for, instruct, provide for, and reward those in his charge, and preserve his God given authority - in order to promote the glory of the God who gave that authority.. (W.L.C. # 129, paraphrased)

Here is a Biblical illustration of this sort of godly authority. In Matthew 8, we find the encounter of a Roman centurion with the Lord Jesus. The centurion - a military officer - had a servant who was dear to him. Acting in faith, the centurion sends for the Lord Jesus, asking Him to come to heal the servant. "For I am a man under authority", says the centurion, "having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it." (Matthew 8:9). Jesus responds, wonderfully displaying His Divine majesty, and heals the servant by remote control, so to speak! Without even going to his home, Jesus honors the centurion's faith by causing the healing at the very moment.

What we want to emphasize from this Gospel account, however, is the centurion's love and provision for his servant, the one God had placed under his authority. A person of faith is a person who sees himself or herself as under the authority of God, which authority God wields for the good of His servants, for "...we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose." (Romans 8:28). Therefore, the person of faith imitates God by loving, praying for, instructing, providing for, and rewarding those in his charge, as well as guarding the sanctity of his own authority - not in jealous pride, but for God's glory and the good of others.

A contrasting illustration of the abuse of authority is found in 1 Kings 12. Newly crowned King Rehoboam is approached by an influential leader (Jeroboam the son of Nebat) and "the whole congregation of Israel". The petitioners desire that the king lighten the burdens that were on their shoulders as subjects under Rehoboam's father Solomon. King Rehoboam sends them away for three days in order that he might deliberate. He seeks counsel from both the old men who "stood before Solomon his father", and from his own younger companions. The older, wiser counsellors advise King Rehoboam to honor the petitioners' request, and thus win the hearts of the people forever. The younger crowd tells Solomon to INCREASE the load which his subjects must bear! Sadly, Rehoboam caves in to peer pressure and takes the advice of his companions.

King Rehoboam's decision dishonors the older men, AND fails to behave in a righteous way as king over subjects. He answers roughly "and spake to them after the counsel of the young men, saying, my father made your yoke heavy, and I will add to your yoke: my father also chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions." (1 Kings 12:14). Rehoboam failed to be godly authority as the centurion was, and he failed to honor the aged counsellors as fathers. Rehoboam had a problem with authority...both wielding it and submitting to it! God's Fifth Commandment has a promise: those who keep it will receive length of days. He who has regard to this commandment hears God voice affirming "that it may go well with thee" (Deuteronomy 5:16). Rehoboam did not seek to keep this commandment...

Whereas God lengthened the life and reign of the latter, godly King Hezekiah by fifteen years (Isaiah 38:5), King Rehoboam's entire reign lasted only seventeen years.

What about a second of the three kinds of relationships, that of equals, or peers?

2) The duties of equals are, to regard the dignity and worth of each other, in giving honour to go one before another; and to rejoice in each others gifts and advancement, as their own.. (W.L.C. # 131)

The attitude of Jonathan, the son of Israel's first king Saul and heir apparent to the throne, beautifully adorns this type of relationship. David was Jonathan's friend. God's will was that David be "promoted" before Jonathan; David was God's chosen man to rule over the kingdom. Yet, Jonathan did not become jealous and resentful of David. Though it eventually cost him not only his fine prospects for life in this world, but even an ignoble death, Jonathan remained the faithful friend of David and the dutiful son and subject of his father Saul.

In this matter also the Scriptures provide a contrasting negative illustration. The book of Esther (chapter 6) gives us the account of King Ahasuerus and his desire to honor Mordecai, Esther's relative and guardian.

Troubled by sleeplessness one night, King Ahasuerus asked for the chronicles of the kingdom to be brought to him. Perhaps the king thought hearing some boring records read aloud would put him to sleep! However, Ahasuerus learned that Mordecai had once foiled an assasination attempt, yet had never been recognized or honored for his faithfulness to his king. Ahasuerus determined to right that wrong, and honor Mordecai. In the providence of God, Mordecai's fellow subject and vicious enemy Haman was in the king's court at that moment. Haman had come there to speak to the king about HANGING Mordecai, in accordance with the evil plot which Haman had hatched against God's people!

As the matter unfolds, King Ahasuerus bids Haman come to him and asks, "What shall be done for the man whom the king delights to honor?" Now Haman thought in his heart, "to whom would the king delight to do honor more than to myself?" Haman therefore suggests quite a recognition spectacle: that the man to be honored be decked with king's clothing and a king's crown, and be placed on the king's horse, then led through the city with the proclamation going before him, "Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delights to honor."

To Haman's chagrin, King Ahasuerus immediately commands Haman to personally see to it that these very things be done for Mordecai! Haman renders outward obedience, as hypocrites often do. But when the ceremonious honoring of Mordecai is done, "Haman hasted to his house mourning, and having his head covered." (Esther 6:12)

Haman's immediate response to the "gifts and advancement" of his fellow subject Mordecai, as well as his continuing response, was certainly not one of honoring his peer by rejoicing with him! When we see a fellow worker promoted, or a neighbor gains some new possession that we might desire, is our reaction similar to Haman's...are we GRIEVED at the blessings of others? The Fifth Commandment prohibits this sort of behavior.

Sadly, a Haman-like reaction is all too common to us, for we are all people corrupted by sin. In fact, one purpose of God's Law, His commandments, is to reveal our sin, and lead us to the Savior. Only He - the Lord Jesus - was able to live a life in perfect obedience to the Fifth and all God's commandments. When we are made sensible of our guilt, uncleanness, and failures, we turn to Him Who kept the Law on behalf of His people! The Lord Jesus Christ both bore the penalty for His peoples' sins on the cross, and gives them His perfect righteousness. If the exposition of the Fifth Commandment makes you aware of your hopeless standing before God, flee to Christ!

Let us now consider the duties that those under authority have.

3) Those under authority are to show reverence in heart, and by word and behavior. They are to offer prayer and thanksgiving for their authorities, imitate the virtues and graces we see in them, submit to their correction, and look out for their interests.. (W.L.C. # 127, paraphrased)

I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.1 Timothy 2:1

We turn again to the Bible for illustrations of honoring authority. Sold into slavery, Joseph rose to a very high position of authority in Egypt. Joseph himself testifed that God "...hath made me a FATHER to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt." (Genesis 45:8) Later, as the process of reconciliation and reunion with his family began, Joseph showed exemplary honor toward his actual father, Jacob. Joseph sent gifts to Jacob, and saw to it that his aged father could be comfortably settled in Goshen - a place safe from the famine. Once again a man of faith, in fact one of the Bible's greatest heroes of faith, shows us how to honor authority (and how to justly exercise it, which he did as Egypt's "prime minister".)

In Proverbs 31:28, we see an example of honor in the form of PRAISE. The children of the godly mother and wife rise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he PRAISES her.

Sons and daughters, when was the last time you consciously took pains to give praise to your mother? Husbands, when was the last time you consciously took pains to give praise to your wife? This is a way of honoring.

Even as Jonathan continued to honor his father Saul, so Jonathan's friend David honored Saul, "the LORD's anointed", though Saul was unworthy and against David to the point of trying to murder him. David still respected and honored an authority of poor character, in the fear of God the great Authority Who had given Saul his derived authority.

A final illustration comes from1 Kings 2. There, Bathsheba the wife of David approached her son King Solomon, to speak to Solomon on behalf of his brother Adonijah. The result of this interview was not profitable for Adonijah, but that's a matter for another message. The application for this message is the Bible's example of the respect which even a man who had become king showed to his mother. King Solomon rose up to meet Bathsheba, then bowed down to her. Then Solomon sat down on his own throne, and had another throne set at his right hand for his mother!

There is yet a higher application of the Fifth Commandment, one that addresses our privilege and duty to honor the Parent of parents.

At Exodus 31:18, God tells us that His Law, His testimony, was given on two tables of stone, written with the finger of God. Many have assumed that Commandments One through Four constitute the first table, while the Fifth Commandment along with Commandments Six through Ten constitute the second table. The popular concept is that the first four Commandments deal with one's "vertical" relationship - one's relationship with God in heaven, while the remaining six commandments deal with one's "horizontal" relationships - one's relationships with his neighbors...his near ones...on earth: parents, other family, friends, all the various human relationships.

However, the Bible itself doesn't tell us where to draw the line between the two tables. In Colossians 3:5, the apostle Paul writes that covetousness, the sin prohibited in the 10th Commandment, is idolatry. Yet, the delightful duty of worshiping and serving the true God alone, with the corresponding prohibition against worshiping false gods (idolatry) is addressed by the First and Second Commandments.

In John 8:44, the Lord Jesus equates Satan's tempting lies to murder. One who seduces a married person is rightfully judged as having stolen the mate of another; King David committed at least the sins of murder, adultery, and theft in the one matter of his heinous acts with regard to Uriah and Bathsheba. Like David who found Divine forgiveness, to meditate upon the depths of sin's depravity, (especially as we see it in our own hearts) is spiritually very profitable. It enables us to more fervently abhor sin, and resolve to flee from it and wage war war against it. In contempating sin's stark horror, we begin to see what James meant when he wrote, "...for whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all." (James 2:10). In other words, in breaking one commandment, we break them all.

This preacher has no great quarrel with the popular division of the two tables of the Law. He only asks if it is wise to insist on a marked division in the applicaton of the Commandments, when the Bible doesn't even tell us where the division occurs? Would it not be wiser to seek to apply all Ten Commandments to both the "vertical" and the "horizontal"? The higher application of the Fifth Commandment is one that brings its force to bear on that "vertical" relationship.

In Malachi chapter 1, God proclaims to His love for His people, and appeals to the honor a son is to have for his father or a servant for his master. Then God asks in verse 6, "If then I be a father, where is mine honour? And if I be a master, where [is] my fear?"

What is the chief way in which we are to honor God?

We honor God the Father by honoring Jesus the Son. So Jesus Himself said: He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father Who sent Him (John 5:23B). Jesus is the radiance of the eternal Father's glory, the exact representation of His nature. He is the second person of the Divine Trinity, God Almighty come in the flesh. No man comes to the Father except by Him. From all eternity, the Father and Son, with the Holy Spirit, planned the glorious salvation that is freely offered to all. The plan was that the Father would send the Son into the world as a Man for the express purpose of giving His life for the salvation of sinners. As has been said, Jesus accomplished this by living a perfect life and dying a substitutionary death. When He rose from the dead after three days in the grave, it meant that the Father had "set His seal" upon this great mission of the Son. That is, the mission was accomplished! A once-for-all sacrifice for sin had been offered by the Son to the Father through the Spirit. Full Divine satisfaction was attained. Sinners can now have full forgiveness because Jesus paid the full penalty for their crimes (sins) through His death. Moreover, sinners can now be clothed with the faultless righteousness of Jesus Who lived a sinless life on their behalf.

The way we honor the Father is by putting our full reliance upon Jesus the Son. We honor the Father by trusting in what Christ has done, turning away from all other confidences as ways to salvation, whether they be our own attempts to keep the Law, our worldly standing, our family background, or a vague belief in the "love of God" which knows nothing of how God's love comes to us: by this Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. When we honor God by believing on the One He has sent, our creed becomes, "Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ."

Last week a young man in Oregon through away his life by taking the lives of his own mother and father as well as the lives of others. The regard for authority that once stopped them is no longer before the eyes of other CHILDREN who are shooting, maiming, and destroying! Through disrespect for authority, lawlessness rages in our land and countless lives are being ruined. God's way is better...

Earlier, the promise of the Fifth Commandment was mentioned. Indeed, as the apostle remarks at Ephesians 6:2, this is the first commandment with a promise. The promise is length of days, and that it may go well with you. God promises no one any SPECIFIC "length of days" in this world. But He makes good on His promise in overwhelming abundance when we honor the heavenly Father by believing the Gospel of the Son as the Holy Spirit brings it with power to our hearts. Honoring the heavenly Father in this way results in ENDLESS days: the promise here is eternal life!

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)

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