What is the Fifth Commandment?


Introduction

The questions and answers below are copied from different catechisms. Please see the note at the end of each question for the reference.

Fifth Commandment

  • Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you (Exodus 20:12 ESV).
  • 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 (Deuteronomy 5:16 ESV).

Which is the fifth commandment?1

The fifth commandment is, “Honor thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.” (Exodus 20:12)

Who are meant by father and mother in the fifth commandment?2

By father and mother, in the fifth commandment, are meant, not only natural parents, but all superiors in age and gifts; and especially such as, by God’s ordinance, are over us in place of authority, whether in family, church, or commonwealth.

Why are superiors styled father and mother?3

Superiors are styled father and mother, both to teach them in all duties toward their inferiors, like natural parents, to express love and tenderness to them, according to their several relations; and to work inferiors to a greater willingness and cheerfulness in performing their duties to their superiors, as to their parents.

What does God require of us in the Fourth Commandment?4

God requires us

  • To honor our parents and other authorities by regarding them as God’s Representatives (Ephesians 6:2-3).
    • Bible narratives: Joseph honored his father (Genesis 46:29). King Solomon honored his mother (1 Kings 2:19). Elisha honored his teacher (2 Kings 2:12).
  • To serve our parents and other authorities by gladly providing what they need or require (1 Timothy 5:4; Romans 13:7).
    • Bible narratives: Joseph provided for his father (Genesis 47:11-12). Jesus provided for His mother (John 19:26).
  • To obey our parents and other authorities in everything in which God has placed them over us (Colossians 3:20; Titus 3:1; Acts 5:29).
    • Bible narratives: Jesus was subject to Mary and Joseph (Luke 2:51). Jonathan disobeyed his father in order to spare David’s life and thus obeyed God rather than man (1 Samuel 20:31-33).
  • To love and cherish our parents and other authorities as precious gifts of God (Proverbs 23:22).
    • Bible narrative: Ruth loved and cherished her mother-in-law, Naomi (Ruth).
  • To show respect to the aged (Leviticus 19:32).

What is the honor that inferiors owe to their superiors?5

The honor which inferiors owe to their superiors is, all due reverence in heart, word, and behavior; prayer and thanksgiving for them; imitation of their virtues and graces; willing obedience to their lawful commands and counsels; due submission to their corrections; fidelity to, defense and maintenance of their persons and authority, according to their several ranks, and the nature of their places; bearing with their infirmities, and covering them in love, that so they may be an honor to them and to their government.

What does God forbid in the Fourth Commandment?6

God forbids us to despise our parents and other authorities by not respecting them or angering them by our disobedience or by any other kind of sin (Proverbs 23:22; Romans 13:2).

Bible narratives: The sons of Eli grieved their father by their wickedness (1 Samuel 2:12, 23, 25). Absalom rebelled against his father and king (2 Samuel 15).

What is the reason annexed to the fifth commandment?7

The reason annexed to the fifth commandment is a promise of long life and prosperity (as far as it shall serve God’s glory and their own good), to all such as keep this commandment (Ephesians 6:2,3; Proverbs 4:3-6; 6:20-22).

Seeing this life is so full of troubles, why does God promise the long continuance of it as a blessing?8

How great so ever the miseries to which it is liable, yet there is a blessing from God upon believers, when he nourishes and preserves them here, were it only for this one reason, that it is a proof of his paternal favour.

But in so acting, how does he fulfil his promise?9

Whatever earthly good God promises we must receive under this condition, viz., in so far as is expedient for the good and salvation of our soul. For the arrangement would be very absurd if the care of the soul did not always take precedence.


Footnotes

  1. Baptist Catechism (1677), Question 69.
  2. Westminster Larger Catechism (1647), Question 124.
  3. Westminster Larger Catechism (1647), Question 125.
  4. Luther’s Small Catechism (1529), Question 50.
  5. Westminster Larger Catechism (1647), Question 127.
  6. Luther’s Small Catechism (1529), Question 49.
  7. Baptist Catechism (1677), Question 72.
  8. Geneva Catachism (1545), Question 189.
  9. Geneva Catachism (1545), Question 191.

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