Biblical Parenting – Ephesians 4:1-2

Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord,
implore you to walk in a manner
worthy of the calling with which you have been called,
with all humility and gentleness,
with patience,
showing tolerance for one another in love,
being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit
in the bond of peace.
Ephesians 4:1-2

Paul wrote this letter to the Christians in Ephesus around 60 AD, but the truths that it contains are invaluable treasures for us as Christians today.  Let’s examine these verses from Ephesians chapter 4 through the lens of its implications for us as parents.

The word translated as “implore” in this passage is the Greek word “parakaleo.”  It means “to beg, to encourage, to teach or instruct.”  Paul is literally begging believers to live in a way that will honor God.  While it is important that we live honorably before the world, it is often our biggest struggle to truly live in a way that honors God with those in our own homes.

We have been called by God to follow in the example of Jesus.  He gave His life for us so that we could live for Him.  How did Jesus live?  How can we reflect the attitudes and actions of Jesus before our children?  Paul gives four specific ways that we can live in a way that is worthy of the calling we have received:

  1. With all humility and gentleness
    How can we show humility in our parenting?  One of the easiest (and ironically, most difficult) ways to show humility is through asking our children for forgiveness.  When we can take responsibility for our own sinfulness, we are modeling for our children that asking and granting forgiveness is a normal part of our human existence.  Everyone sins.  Everyone makes mistakes.  I can humble myself and ask my child to forgive me when I am angry, impatient, rude, yelling, etc.The word “humility” in this passage is the Greek word “tapeinophrosune.”  It literally means “a deep sense of one’s (moral) littleness.”  While we may be physically bigger than our children, it is definitely a sanctifying experience for us to consider ourselves as lowly and be acutely aware of our own “littleness” before our little ones.  While this concept may be the exact opposite of what we have seen and experienced, we can look to the example of Jesus who humbled himself by coming as a man and dying for sinful men (Philippians 2:8).Notice that our humility is also connected to our gentleness.  These two traits work together.  We cannot be gentle without being humble, nor can we be humble without being gentle.  How different would our relationship be with our children if we consistently modeled for them these two traits: humility and gentleness.
  2. With patience
    The word “patience” is the Greek word “makrothumia.”  It means “endurance, constancy, steadfastness, perseverance, forbearance, long-suffering, and slowness in avenging wrongs.”  What would it look like to consistently model for my children this kind of patience?Forbearance is not a word we typically use in our daily life.  It means “abstaining from the enforcement of a right.”  In essence, forbearance is self-control.  Whey my son is rolling around in the mud, what would it look like to abstain from enforcing my “right” to yell?  When my daughter is taking foreverrrrrrrrrr to put on her shoes, what would it look like to demonstrate “long-suffering” patience?  When my children are arguing for the thousandth time today, what would it look like to demonstrate self-control?
  3. Showing tolerance for one another in love
    Our postmodern society is obsessed with the concept of tolerance, and most Christians vehemently fight against the idea that we are to tolerate things, ideas and people that we deem to be sinful.  It is important that we can understand what this verse means when it says we are to “show tolerance.”
    This phrase is actually summed up in one Greek word, “anechomai,” which means “to hold one’s self erect and firm; to bear; to endure.”  This word is even used to describe Christians who had to endure persecution.  Let’s be honest, at times, parenting can feel like enduring persecution!We are not called to tolerate sin or sinfulness, but we are called to endure difficulty with humility, gentleness and patience.  We are called to bear the burdens of another in love.
  4. Being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace
    Be diligent.  This word in Greek is “spoudazo” and means “to make haste; to exert one’s self; eager; to make every effort.”  Parents, we are commanded by God to eagerly make every effort to preserve unity and peace in homes.
    This does not mean that our families will always be unified and peaceful.  In reality, the presence of this command is proof that we should expect times where there is a lack of unity and peace.  If we always had unity and peace, we would not need a command to make every effort to preserve unity and peace.

This is going to take work.  This is going to take effort.  It is not easy to fight our sinful nature to respond to our children with humility, gentleness, tolerance, and diligence.  In fact, it is utterly impossible to obey this verse apart from the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit.  Praise God that He promised to finished the good work that He started in us (Philippians 1:6)!



  1. When you were growing up, did you see your parents asking each other for forgiveness?
  2. When you were growing up, did your parents ever ask you for forgiveness?  If yes, how did you respond?  If no, what would that have been like for you if they had been humble enough to ask for your forgiveness?
  3. Have you ever asked your children for forgiveness before?  If yes, how did they respond?  If no, why not?
  4. What is the most difficult aspect of humbling yourself before your children?
  5. What do you need to ask your children for forgiveness for today?
  6. What do you need to ask your spouse for forgiveness for today?
  7. When was a time that you were impatient with your children?  How could you have responded with patience and self-control?
  8. Would your children characterize your family as one that is unified?  Ask them!
  9. Would your children characterize your home as peaceful?  Ask them!
  10. Have you been making every effort to maintain unity and peace in your home?
  11. Have you taken time to pray and ask God to help you apply this verse to your family and your life?


biblical parenting, Parenting

Biblical Parenting – 1 Corinthians 4:21

What do you desire?
Shall I come to you with a rod,
or with love and a spirit of gentleness?
1 Corinthians 4:21

In Paul’s first letter to the church of Corinth, he writes the verse above.  He asks them if they would prefer that he comes with a “rod” or with “love and a spirit of gentleness.”  

The rod, as studied before, is obviously not a literal one.  And this question is obviously a rhetorical one.  

Paul was not asking the church if they wanted him to beat them with a literal rod.  The rod was a symbol of his authority as a spiritual father to them.

In Greek, “rod” is the word “rhabdos.”  A “rhabdos” symbolized the harsh and severe rule of a harsh and severe ruler much like the Roman rule of the day.   The Romans would often use rods as a method of corporal punishment for crimes committed.

While the Jewish law prohibited a man from being beat more than 40 times (Deuteronomy 25:3), the Roman law had no such prohibition.  Under Roman law, a person could even be beat to death with rods!  This is why Paul makes a distinction between the Jewish beating with the whip and the Roman beating with rods that he received:

Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one.
Three times I was beaten with rods… 

2 Corinthians 11:24-25a

These public beatings were not administered as “spankings for children,” but rather as a punishment for criminal offenses.  They were carried out by order of a judge for breaking the law – either Jewish law or Roman law.

So when Paul asks the church which they would prefer – that he come with the rod or with a spirit of love and gentleness, it is obvious that if given the choice, we all would prefer to be treated with love and gentleness – especially by those with authority over us.

Paul is making the point that we can live under the law (and the punishment that comes from the law) or we can live under grace (and the love and gentleness), and of the two, grace is greater!

By giving the choice between the two, we see that they are mutually exclusive.  We can come with a rod or with love – but not with both.  If we come with a rod, we are not coming with love.  If we come with love, we cannot come with a rod.  Which will you choose?


  1. How do I usually come to my children: with a rod (rules and punishment) or with grace (love and gentleness)?
  2. In Paul’s view, was the rod a positive tool that we should use in our parenting?
  3. Would my children say that our relationship is characterized by love and gentleness?  Ask them!
  4. Would my spouse say that our relationship is characterized by love and gentleness?  Ask him/her.
  5. Does God come to us with the rod or with love and gentleness?
  6. The opposite of the word “gentle” is: rude, rough, violent, harsh, severe, unkind, and uncontrolled.  In what ways have I been rude, rough, violent, harsh, severe, unkind, and/or uncontrolled with my children?
  7. How can I repent for my lack of love and gentleness?

Biblical Parenting – 1 John 4:18

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear,
because fear involves punishment,
and the one who fears is not perfected in love.
1 John 4:18

As we examine this passage through the lens of Biblical parenting, we can learn four foundational truths that will transform our relationship with our children, but also our relationship with God:

  1. There is no fear in love.
    Fear and love are mutually exclusive.  This is just as true in our relationship with God as it is with our children.  When love is present, fear cannot be found.  When I am fully aware of God’s love for me, I will have no reason to fear.  Likewise, when our children are fully aware of our love for them, they will have no reason to fear.  If there is fear in our hearts or in the hearts of our children, that should be a warning sign that there is either a lack of love or a lack of awareness of that love.
  2. Perfect love casts out fear.
    The love that is referred to in this passage is the Greek word “agape.”  Agape love is a willful delight, goodwill and benevolence towards someone.  While this verse states that perfect love casts out fear, the only one who truly loves perfectly is God Himself because He is love (1 John 4:8).  How can imperfect people possibly love with a perfect love?  In order to answer this question, we must understand the meaning of the Greek word “teleios.”  Teleios – while translated as “perfect” – does not mean flawless, but rather it means a love that is mature, finished and complete. Only God can love with a flawless love, but we can absolutely love our children in a way that is mature and complete.  The result of that kind of love will be that fear will be cast out.  Just as the presence of light makes darkness disappear, the presence of love makes fear disappear.
  3. Fear involves punishment.
    The word translated in this phrase as “involves” is the Greek word “echo.”  Ironically enough, this word is used 648 times in the Bible, but is only translated as “involves” one time.  It means “to have; to possess; to be closely joined to a person or thing.”  Fear is closely joined to punishment.  Punishment is purposefully causing pain (whether physical or emotional) and produces fear within our hearts.  When you think about going to Hell or being punished by God for your sins, how do you feel?  Fear.  When a child is about to be punished with a spanking, what does he feel?  Fear.  However, we do not need to fear punishment anymore because Jesus Christ took the punishment for our sin when He laid down His life for His sheep on the cross.  There is NO MORE PUNISHMENT for us!  This is the beauty of the Gospel.  If there is no more punishment for us, then why do we insist upon punishing our children?  What if we interacted with our children based on the truth that all of their punishment for all of their sins has already been satisfied by the blood of Jesus Christ?
  4. The one who fears is not perfected in love.
    Do you fear?  When was the last time you felt afraid?  Think back on that moment.  How differently would that moment have been if you were fully convinced and aware of God’s deep love, care and affection for you?  We do not need to fear anything anymore!  Sickness, poverty, death, the Devil, Hell – Jesus has overcome it all through His blood on the cross!  His love has been perfected for us and in us.  Again, any fear in my heart should be a red flag that I am not living in the reality of the truth that I am fully forgiven and fully loved by God.  Imagine what it would be like to parent from that reality – that my child is fully forgiven and fully loved by God (and by me).


I pray that the power of these truths would be evident in your relationship with God and in your relationship with your children.  Within this verse, we see the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Jesus has taken all of our punishment on the cross.  Because of His sacrifice on our behalf and in our place, God no longer relates to us according to our sins (Psalm 103:10).  Are there consequences for our sin?  Of course.  But there is no longer any punishment for us.

What would it be like to parent your child without punishing them?
Are you worried that they would never obey and just run around wild?

Notice the heart behind this worry – “if there is no punishment for them to fear, they will never obey.”
Again, we see the connection between fear and punishment.

However, God does not want us to obey Him because we fear punishment.  God wants us to obey Him because He loves us, we know that He loves us and because we love Him.  The fact that God loved us enough to pour our punishment out upon His Son, Jesus, on the cross is what motivates us to obey.  We can trust that His perfect love will perfect us.

God wants our obedience to be motivated by love and not fear of punishment!

As parents, we should desire the same for our children.



  1. What do you fear?
  2. What aspect of God’s love are you doubting in that fear?
  3. Are you obeying God out of love or fear of punishment?
  4. Do your children obey you out or love or fear of punishment?
  5. How does God relate to you now that Jesus has fulfilled all your punishment?
  6. How does it feel to know that because of Jesus, there is no more punishment for you?
  7. What would it be like to parent without punishment?
  8. What concerns do you have about living out the reality of the Gospel that Jesus has taken all of our punishment on the cross?
  9. What attitudes do you have that cause fear in your children?
  10. What actions do you take that cause fear in your children?
  11. How can you repent of those attitudes/actions?
  12. What could you do instead of punishing your children?  (If you’re not sure, pray about it and check back here soon!)



Part 10: What Scriptures should inform my parenting?

While many Christians mistakenly apply the four passages from Proverbs believed to support spanking, there are explicit commands for parents in the New Testament.


Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.
Colossians 3:21

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


The first thing that we observe from these passages is that they are both addressed to fathers.  This is not to say that mothers are excluded or exempt from this command, but it is interesting to note that God directs this command to fathers specifically.  As the head of the family, fathers are held accountable and responsible for the way that they lead and shepherd the hearts of their children.  Beginning with Adam, God has given specific commands to men that they are expected to obey as an example for others.

Not only is this command given to fathers, but it is the Greek word “pater,” which not only applies to biological fathers, but also is used to refer to anyone who stands in the place of a father and cares for someone in a paternal way.  So whether you are a single mom or a step-father or simply someone who mentors and cares for the youth that God places in your life, this command is also for you!

The second thing we observe from this command is that it is a negative command.  I do not mean “negative” in the sense that it is a bad command, but rather it is a command to NOT do something as opposed to a positive command with an instruction to do something.  Of all the things that God could command parents to do, He chose instead to command us to NOT do something.

It is clear that we need this gentle reminder to not provoke our children.

While the command in both verses is “do not provoke,” it is actually two different Greek words.  In Colossians 3:21, the word is “erethizo” which means to exasperate, to stimulate or to stir up to anger.  In Ephesians 6:4, the word is “parorgizo” which means to provoke, to rouse to wrath, to exasperate or to anger.  

The dictionary defines the word “provoke” as: to anger, enrage, exasperate, vex, stir up, arouse, call forth, incite.

These verses teaches us that provoking our children will result in two things: ANGER and DISCOURAGEMENT.

Another interesting thing to note about these verses is the word “discouraged” in Colossians 3:21 is the Greek word “athumeo” which means to be disheartened, dispirited or broken in spirit.  It’s ironic because many spanking proponents teach that this is exactly what we should do – break their spirit/will.

For example, Michael and Debi Pearl wrote in their book To Train Up A Child and wrote this regarding disciplining a 3-year-old: “She then administers about ten slow, patient licks on his bare legs. He cries in pain. If he continues to show defiance by jerking around and defending himself, or by expressing anger, then she will wait a moment and again lecture him and again spank him. When it is obvious he is totally broken, she will hand him the rag and very calmly say, “Johnny, clean up your mess.” He should very contritely wipe up the water.”

This is clearly the exact opposite of the commands we have received in Scripture.

Ephesians 6:4 not only gives us the initial negative command “Do not provoke your children to anger,” but it also gives us a positive command: “Bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the LORD.”

We have already explored the true Biblical meaning of “discipline” and “instruction.”  We have also already shown extensively why there is NO Biblical basis for hitting a young child with a rod.   We know now what we should NOT do, but we still haven’t fully answered the question of what we should do. Let’s continue to explore other passages of Scripture that would revolutionize our families and our lives if we applied them to our parenting.



  1. What kinds of attitudes and behaviors make me feel angry?
  2. What kinds of attitudes and behaviors make me feel discouraged?
  3. What kinds of attitudes do we have as parents that make our children feel angry and discouraged?
  4. What kinds of behaviors do we do as parents that make our children feel angry and discouraged?
  5. How can I repent of sinful attitudes and behaviors that I have had with my children?  Parents, take time today to have a conversation with your children ask them for forgiveness.
  6. What kind of reaction do you think hitting a child will produce?
  7. Who can I share with about the things that God has been teaching me?