What You Must Do

Mrs. Jordan said, “Eat your eggs and memorize your Bible verse.” I was a twenty-year-old-kid living in the home of a godly couple for a month while I took a summer-intensive course in college. My life was pretty simple. I woke up, ate breakfast while memorizing Bible verses (because she made me), went to class for four hours, then worked on a landscaping crew late into the summer evening. Go to sleep. Wake up. Repeat.

I praise God for Mrs. Jordan’s example. She and her husband had raised several boys in the fear of the Lord. During that time, they had established a routine of eating breakfast and memorizing Bible verses with their boys. This routine was their way of discipling their sons and raising them in the fear of the Lord. The routine was set and I became a part of it. I memorized more Bible verses in that month than I ever had before. More importantly, I got a firsthand look into the effect that faithful parents can have in their day-by-day efforts with their children.

A faithful student ministry must partner with parents, not replace them.

Deuteronomy 5:16; 6:6-7; and Ephesians 6:1-4 gives parents the primary and God-given responsibility to disciple their children in the faith. A biblical student ministry will take this parental responsibility into account and ensure that they are supporting and partnering with parents rather than replacing them.

While the church is called to make disciples and equip the saints for the work of the ministry (Colossians 1:28; Ephesians 4:11-16; 2 Timothy 2:2), the parental duty to make disciples is even more paramount. Let us take a look at what the Bible teaches us about the parental role in discipleship.

The parent-child relationship is a picture of the God-worshipper relationship (Deuteronomy 5:16).

Deuteronomy 5:16 is the fifth commandment, directly following four commandments dealing with how one relates to God. It reads: “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.

The Ten Commandments are split into duties owed to God (1-5) and duties owed to man (6-10). One can observe the natural division between commands 1-5 and 6-10 by the fact that the former are all positive, and the latter are all negative. The important point to note here is where the fifth commandment is categorized. It is in the positive duties owed to God. This begs the question: How is “honor your parents” a duty owed to God?

First, a child’s posture toward their parents is indicative of their posture toward God. Commandments 1-4 ensure a posture of total allegiance, obedience, and worship toward God. The fifth command, to honor one’s parents, is intricately linked to this posture. The parent-child relationship is a picture of the God-worshipper relationship. The systematic theologian Charles Hodge put it this way: “Parents stand in relationship to their dependent children as, so to speak, in the place of God.”1 John Calvin offers a helpful explanation: “God calls us to Himself through our parents. We learn to be subject to God by learning to be subject to our parents, and parental discipline teaches us how to be disciplined by the Father”2 Faithfulness in parenting encourages children to have a right understanding of God and a correct posture toward God.

Parents are to teach, discipline, and oversee their children with love, faithfulness, and intentionality. Dr. Albert Mohler argues in his book on the 10 Commandments, Words from the Fire, that the “Christian home is the first school, the first church, and the first government.”3 The faith will not pass on to children by accident. Parents must teach the faith, emulate the faith, and as much as possible, encourage their children to believe and live out the faith. Obviously, parents cannot save their children, but they can point them toward God by ensuring that God is worshiped in their home on a daily basis. In addition, parents can prompt their children to serve others and to display godly attitudes and behaviors.

This truth is supported by the language of Deuteronomy 5:16. The imperative, “honor,” is the Hebrew verb kabbēḏ, which has the root idea of “give weight” or “make heavy.” When applied to God, it means “to glorify.” When applied to parents, it means “to honor.” Children are to give weight to their parents in a way that is similar to the way that we all are to give ultimate weight to God. A few ways children are to show their parents honor include respectful speech, careful listening, diligent obedience, eager submission, and a commitment to care for their parents in old age. Obviously, the obedience category tempers when children become adults. We all must be careful to not discount the authority our parents continue to have in our life. God has given authority to them for our own good and we should endeavor to see it that way.

Read part 2 and part 3 here.

Here is an overview post for this summer’s series—What You Must Do: A Biblical Philosophy of Student Ministry


  1. Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, vol. 3 (New York: Scribner’s, 1872-73; repr. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1940), 349 quoted in Mohler, Words from the Fire, 106.
  2. John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 2.8.35-38, ed. John T. McNiel, trans. Ford Lewis Battles, vol. 2 (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 2001), 401-404, quoted in Mohler, Words from the Fire, 106.
  3. R. Albert Mohler, Words from the Fire: Hearing the Voice of God in the 10 Commandments (Chicago: Moody, 2009), 101. I am indebted to the chapter “The Fifth Commandment” (95-111) in this excellent book for many of the general concepts that are argued in this blog post.