Exodus 20:12. Honour your father and your mother
Applying this command to families and civic leaders does not exhaust the implications of this very foundational commandment which is fundamental to happiness in our homes and in our society. There is still another authority that should be honoured.
This commandment also includes those who are spiritual leaders. In the Bible, prophets and priests are sometimes described as fathers. For instance, Elisha cried out to Elijah, ‘My father, my father’. When Elisha took on the mantle of Elijah, he himself was described by his followers as ‘My father’ or ‘Our father’ (2 Kings 2:12).
The Apostle Paul takes up this thought in 1 Corinthians 4:15 when he says:
‘For though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel. Therefore I urge you, imitate me.’
The person who led us to Christ is in a sense our father or mother in Christ. We know that our conversion to Christ was ultimately brought about through God’s own Sovereign Grace but we still owe a debt to that person which we can never fully repay. Paul describes Timothy as ‘my son’; so too with Onesimus.
God places over us pastors and teachers who are fathers to us in God. These people also need to be honoured because of what they are commissioned to do for us in Christ and before God. In Malachi 2:7 we read:
‘For the lips of a priest should keep knowledge, and people should seek the law from his mouth; for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts’.
In Acts 26:18, part of the function of the ministry is to open the eyes of the gentiles and unbelievers, ‘… to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me’. That is the function of the ministry. This is why God places the high honour – the title of father – upon those who help us in the faith. In 2 Corinthians 5:20 we read that the apostles were ambassadors for Christ, imploring people to be reconciled to God. That is the work of the ministry.
The work of the ministry when engaged in with zeal and good conscience is a huge responsibility. It is almost impossible to explain to people what the true minister of the Gospel feels within. It is a great joy, yet also a great responsibility. Much is expected of them and often people forget they are only human. They have feelings. Sometimes they carry other great responsibilities in addition to the work of the ministry. But the weight of the responsibility of the spiritual welfare of the flock entrusted to them outweighs all else.
Do you pray for your pastors and their families?