Heidelberg Catechism 104

Q. 104. What is God’s will for you in the fifth commandment?

Aš 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.


Read Ephesians 6:1-3.  In this passage Paul reiterates the 5th commandment twice.  Honoring our parents brings great blessing for the attitude, which we display towards our parents, is the very attitude our children will display towards us.  If we love, cherish, care for and respect them then our children will learn these same things.  If, however, we disobey, belittle and turn our backs on them, it would not be unreasonable them to treat us the same way.


The interesting thing about biblical culture in both the Old and New Testament is that a child was never given the right to disregard his or her parents.  That is a profound difference compared to our culture.  While we exercise the belief that at a certain age one’s parents no longer need to be obeyed, the Bible always kept the position of the parent in high regard.  This is why it was so important to receive a parents blessing and to respect them in their old age, caring for them and fulfilling all their requests even after they have died.  Read Genesis 49:29-33 and 50:12-14.


But the catechism sees more at stake than just proper relations between a parent and a child, the authors of the catechism understood that the manner in which we interact with our parents will be reflected in the way we interact with all those in authority – civil, occupational and otherwise.  Read Hebrews 13:7, 17.


Our parents and our leaders in the church, government and workplace are called with shaping and encouraging us in the faith, but they are also charged with correcting us when we err.  Though this correction may not be pleasant, it is important to our continued growth and participation in the Kingdom of God.  We must look at every lesson we learn as an example to grow in our faith and holiness.  Read Ephesians 6:4-6 and Hebrews 12:9-11.


We have all experienced the failings of our leaders.  Maybe it is a parent who seems unfair, or even is unfair.  Maybe it is a boss who seems to have a bone to pick with our work.  Maybe it is a habitual sin our leaders struggle with that keeps us from being able to advance.  Each of these and many other failings exist in all people and they are not sufficient grounds for disrespecting those in authority.  We must honor then, serve them and seek to lift them up at all times and in all ways. Read 1 Peter 2:17-21 and Colossians 3:13.


Must we graciously submit to all these leaders simply because the Bible says so?  Yes, but there is more to it than that.  Read Romans 13:1-8.  God institutes the authorities that exist.  They have been delegated and appointed in order to fulfill the plans of God.  Though the Bible calls us to honor and submit to our parents and others in authority, we do it not just because of this command but because we recognize God’s hand behind all these earthly figures.


About Scott Roberts

pastor of Hope in Christ Church, Bellingham, WA
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