Colossians 3:20-21 / Obedience in the Home

Posted on October 11, 2015


This is the twentieth in a verse by verse exposition of the book of Colossians. This message was delivered at Hillcrest Baptist Church on the evening of October 11, 2015. This message deals with the command for children to obey their parents, and the role of discipline when they do not obey. This post contains an audio recording of the sermon, as well as my sermon notes (sermon notes are not necessarily a complete transcript).

Col 3:20



This command echoes the 5th commandment.

  • Exodus 20:12

“Obey” implies a readiness to hear and carry out orders. A child’s ongoing responsibility is to listen to and carry out the instructions of his or her parents. Paul says two things about this obedience. 

  1. It is to be complete:”in all things.” Paul, of course, sets this in a Christian context. He is dealing with the Christian home and assumes Christian attitudes on the part of parents. The only limit on a child’s obedience is when parents demand something contrary to God’s word, as with any commandment to earthly obedience. nSometimes, children will act contrary to their parent’s wishes by coming to Christ. (Luke 12:51-53) Apart from such circumstances, children are obligated to obedience.
  2. The obedience of children to their parents pleases the Lord. The obedience of children is an obligation grounded in the very nature of the relationship between parents and children.

obedience reflects God’s design for order in the home. As Paul wrote elsewhere, “It is right”.

  • Ephesians 6:1

Pleasing the Lord, of course, is what we should strive to do in all things.
This is also called the first commandment with promise.

  • Ephesians 6:2

 The promise of a long life is based upon the child obeying his parents and helping his parents as they require care or assistance in their later years.

  • Proverbs 6:20
  • 1 Timothy 5:8, 16

 The Lord Jesus submitted Himself to this authority.

  • Luke 2:51

Since He lived a sinless life (Hebrews 4:15), it would follow that He upheld this commandment and honored His earthly parents just as He honored His heavenly Father.

What happens when children fail to be obedient? Discipline becomes necessary, but we are admonished not to provoke our children to wrath. This seems to draw a fine line that parents must walk as children are disciplined.

In the pagan world of Paul’s day, and even in many Jewish households, most fathers ruled their families with rigid and domineering authority. The desires and welfare of wives and children were seldom considered. This Scripture makes clear that a Christian father’s authority over his children does not allow for unreasonable demands and strictures that might drive his children to anger. This could include constant fault-finding, or always nagging the children over petty things. 

Firm discipline may be necessary, but it must always be administered in the right spirit. Parents can be so exacting, so demanding, or so severe that they create within their children the feeling that it is impossible for them to please. Sometimes we seem to demand perfection from our children. Lets not forget that we serve a Lord who has forgiven our imperfections. Certainly we should strive to live Christ-like lives, and we should teach our children to do the same. However, lets never forget that sometimes we will fail. Though God may chastise us, He will also forgive us.

  • 1 John 1:9

We should apply this same principle to our children. Should we be harder on them than God is on us? I think not.

Ephesians 6:4 mirrors this verse. 

What does all this mean? Apart from the obvious things, such as caring for and providing for their needs, we are to instruct them in God’s Word.

  • Deuteronomy 11:19

We are not only to teach them the nice things, but also of God’s judgments. They need to know the entire nature of God, so that they learn to obey God.

  • Deuteronomy 32:46

We are to discipline.

  • Proverbs 19:18

What the bible does not tell us is exactly how restrictive or permissive to be with our children. The reason is because each child is different, there is no one size fits all answer. Parenting actually requires us to use our brains. It’s the same reason that we aren’t given specific evangelism procedures, because different people require different methods. Instead, the bible simply tells us to do it. In the end, you want the child to understand right and wrong, to know God’s way.

Discipline is more than punishment. It is part of training, and should be used to teach right and wrong. With older children you can explain your actions, but this may not be possible with young children. Have you ever tried to reason with a two year old? Young children simply need to learn the meaning of no. Remember, God doesn’t always explain Himself to us, either. 

Discipline requires consistency. Don’t allow tomorrow what you forbid today. Children need to know what to expect. As parents, we need to set a Godly example. We need to interact with our children regularly and teach them all of God’s Word. We need to be diligent in our discipline, and pray for our children on a daily basis. It’s a difficult task, but one that God will empower you to fulfill.

Posted in: Family, Sermons