Heidelberg Catechism: Lord's Day #39


Welcome to the Cornerstone Baptist church podcast. My name is Justin Wheeler, I am the preaching pastor for Cornerstone and today we are in week 39 of our journey through the Heidelberg Catechism. Today, I will be talking to you about question 104. Only one question again this week but it too is a significant one so let’s get started.


This week our question deals with the fifth commandment,

Deut 5:16 Honor 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.

It’s no surprise to most of us that God wants us to take the parent-child relationship seriously.  Like many of you, I grew up with this commandment in mind and I have always generally accepted that it was right for children to honor their parents, even when I didn’t want to.  But for God to make it one of the ten commandments shows us just how important this command and the relationship it affects truly are.

This command is also restated in the New Testament and expanded a little bit.

Eph 6:1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

Paul tells us here that obedience to parents is right, that it comes with a promise, but he also points out that how parents relate to their children is important as well. All of that to say, there is plenty for us to consider in this fifth commandment and Heidelberg is going to help us to do just that.

Lord’s Day Focus...

Question 104: What is God’s will for you in the fifth commandment?

Answer: That I honor, love and be loyal to my father and mother and all those in authority over me; that I obey and submit to them, as is proper, when they correct and punish me; and also that I be patient with their failings – for through them God chooses to rule us.

First, notice that this answer extends the responsibility of submission to authority beyond the parent-child relationship. Honor, love and loyalty to parents is just the start but in general, submission to all those in authority is included. The church has understood and taught that the fifth commandment should be applied in this way.

“All the catechisms and confessions of the Reformation, for example, treated the command to honor father and mother as applicable to other ‘authority-subordinate’ relationships.”[1] When you read in the NT epistles and you come to the household codes as they are described, we see a series of relationships where there is an authority-subordinate structure and in each of these, the fifth commandment is contained.

What this means is that God has commanded that humanity ordered society in such a way that it reflects a proper respect for authority and for those in submission. Citizens should submit to governmental authorities (Rom 13:1), the church should submit to its leaders (Heb 13:17), wives should submit to their own husbands (Eph 5:22), servants should submit to their masters (Eph 6:5) and of course children should obey their parents.

It is important to point out there are clearly exceptions to these commands and there is even Biblical precedent for it. Authority can be abused. Parents can be abusive or make demands that violate God’s will. Leaders often command something that God forbids and in such cases our response should be to, “obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29).” But on the whole, it is God’s design that parents lead, guide and exercise authority while children obey their authority in a way that pleases God.

God calls children to obey their parents, to follow their parent’s instruction in everything and this type of relationship is right in the eyes of God. This obedience is something that pleases the Lord. But if we are honest, we don’t see this playing out in our culture in abundance. In fact, in my opinion we see the opposite.

Why don’t we see more of this? Part of it is that the mindset of our culture is so confused about all of these roles, but specially the role of children. We have overstressed the “rights” of the child and overemphasized the individuality of the child to such a degree that we see kids who trample on their parents and anyone else in their way.

It is more common in our culture to see children disrespect and dishonor their parents. We consider it the normal course of things for children to rebel against their parent’s authority and it has resulted in many parents simply giving up. When I was younger, teenage rebellion was celebrated. It was viewed as the throwing off of patriarchal oppression and this language has only become more commonplace over the last few decades.

Never before has our cultural ethos done more to allow for and encourage youthful immaturity. Kids are coddled and their preferences catered to, in the home and in the society at large. Contrary to the fears of some, most households are less patriarchy and more kindergarchy.[2]

But God’s Word holds out the standard and says that it is not right for children to break the fifth commandment. Nor is it right for parents to provoke their children to anger in such a way that it will naturally lead to rebellion.

Eph 6:4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

God wants us to know that the responsibilities within the parent-child relationship go both ways. Children are to obey their parents and parents are to lovingly encourage their children. The term “fathers” can refer to both parents, because after all, children aren’t commanded to obey their father’s only. But, it may be that fathers are being singled out for their role in overseeing the upbringing of their children as part of God’s design on the family.

Don’t provoke your children. Don’t lead them to discouragement. The phrase suggests that there is a way that we as parents can engage our children to the point that they take our leadership as a challenge to them. Instead of bringing them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Eph 6:4) what is happening here is that parents are nagging, irritating, demanding, and provoking their children in such a way that they just want to give up trying to obey and please their parents.

Sometimes this means that children feel like complete failures who are unable to please their parents. Nothing is ever good enough. No accomplishment will ever make mom and dad happy. And sometimes this means that children feel provoked/angry with mom and dad like they are being prodded into a fight or a competition. There are ways that we can interact with our children that have a tendency to crush their spirit and there is a way that we can interact with them that makes them want to fight back…and we need to seek to avoid both.

The goal is to teach them and instruct them in the truth through a growing relationship that reflects the love that God has shown us.

The fifth commandment also applies to those of us who are older and even parents ourselves. We still have a responsibility to honor our aging parents in a way that gives glory to God. We should work to maintain our relationship to them, help them, listen to their advice and seek to be a blessing to them even though our relational dynamics have changed since we’ve moved out of their home.

There are numerous ways that this fifth commandment still applies to us today. The focus is obviously the relationship between parents and their children, which is the first and most important relationship within society. But as we zoom out, we see that this principle of respect for authority extends throughout human civilization. No culture will flourish where there is no order, trust and mutual respect.

Oh, and by the way, God has commanded the ordering of society upon the foundation of truth and mutual respect in such a way that we get a glimpse of what it means to be in right relationship to Him, our Creator, God and King.

Thank you for joining me today to learn about the fifth commandment. Next week, we will continue to study by looking at the sixth commandment, which prohibits the taking of human life but also has some implications for how we are to treat our neighbors. I hope you will join me for that discussion as we look at Lord’s Day 40 and questions 105-107.


If you want to learn more about Cornerstone Baptist church, you can find us online at Cornerstonewylie.org. You can follow us on Twitter or Instagram @cbcwylie. You can find us on Facebook at facebook.com/cornerstonewylie. You can also subscribe to this podcast on iTunes or google play to stay up to date on all the new content.

Thanks for listening.

[1] Kevin DeYoung The Good News We Almost Forgot (Pg. 187)

[2] Ibid, pg. 186

Justin Wheeler

Pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Wylie, TX.