February 2, 2023

God's Family Manuscript

SERMON TITLE: God’s Family
TEXT: Exodus 20:12 (ESV)
SPEAKER: Josh Hanson
DATE: 2-5-23

Watch the sermon here.
Take notes here.


As always it’s a joy to be with all of you this weekend at Gateway Church. And there’s one thing I want you to know — and this is true if you’re worshiping with us for the first time or are joining us at our North Main Campus — I want you to know that God loves you and that I love you too. 


We’re continuing our series in the Ten Commandments. Taking a closer look at how God’s top ten list is relevant and practical for our lives today. And — so far — we’ve looked at the first four commandments, which focus on our relationship with God. But — in this fifth commandment — we come to a bit of a transition as commandments five through ten shift our focus to our relationship with each other. 

So — before we go any further — let’s look at our commandment for today — it’s only one verse and — if you saw our video with kids last week — this is the commandment that every kid mentioned — though we’re going to view it from a bit of a different angle. So — if you have your Bible — please turn with me to Exodus chapter 20 — we’ll be looking at verse 12. We’re in Exodus chapter 20 — verse 12 — which states…

“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)

Now — right at the beginning — let me acknowledge that I’m aware that we all come from different types of family backgrounds. Some of us grew up in a home where we experienced love and care from a mother and father, which will be a great advantage for you as we look at today’s commandment. 

Others of us — though — grew up in homes where there was abuse and abandonment. You may have grown up not knowing your father or mother. Others of us have never known either of our parents. It’s become more common for kids to be raised by their grandparents as both mom and dad are out of the picture. And — if any of this rings true for you — know that I understand how this may be an incredibly difficult commandment for you. 

But if our Christian faith isn’t helpful and hopeful in life’s most difficult moments, what good is it really? A religion that’s only helpful in life’s easy moments — but lacks power in giving comfort or hope during life’s darker moments — is a pretty useless religion if you ask me. And the hope of the Christian faith is that it does speak to our most difficult circumstances. So if family life for you stirs up all sorts of bad memories, regrets, hopelessness, or maybe anger — bear with me until the end of this sermon — for my hope is that you’ll find great comfort and encouragement as we look at how this commandment points us to the joy and hope that are found in Jesus Christ.

Also — as we begin — it’s important for us to remember that the Ten Commandments were given to God’s people to distinguish them from the other nations. God’s people were called to live differently than the people of other nations. For they had been rescued by God — if you remember — from the land of Egypt where they had been slaves— chained down in bondage without freedom to live for God. 

But their story didn’t end in slavery. For God rescued his people through miraculous events — the Ten Plagues — you may have heard of them. Ten judgments on the nation of Egypt for the way they treated God’s people — the Israelites. And — as God’s people were being set free from Egypt — Pharaoh led his army in a chase after the Israelites. He decided he really didn’t want them to be set free. And God — again — miraculously rescued his people from the hand of Pharaoh’s army when — by the power of God — the Red Sea split in two. And after God’s people had crossed to the other side — finding safety and freedom from the hand of the Egyptians — God caused the waters of the sea to crash down on Pharaoh and his army — destroying them all. And — now — God’s people were finally free to live for him.

And it wasn’t until after this miraculous rescue — it wasn’t until after God had set his people free — that he gave them the Ten Commandments. You see — God sets people free first from the things they’re enslaved to — and then he gives them the expectations of what it means to live for him in the freedom they’ve been given. Let me say that again because this is so important for us to understand and is often misunderstood — even by sincere Christians. God sets people free first from the things they’re enslaved to — and then he gives them the expectations of what it means to live for him in the freedom they’ve been given. And — when we get these out of order — we really mess things up. Freedom first — then “obey my commandments.” Not — “obey my commandments and then I’ll free you.” 

Now — like last week — I want us to look at this fifth commandment by — first — seeing what it tells us to do. Then we’ll look at how we’re to do what the commandment tells us to do. And then we’ll see why we’re supposed to obey this commandment.

We’re going to discover what this commandment tells us to do. How we’re to do what it tells us to do. And then we’ll end with why this commandment is important for us.


So first…what does this commandment tell us to do? Look with me in our verse. This commandment begins by telling us to do what? We’re told to… “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)

What does this commandment tell us to do? It tells us to give honor to others — we’re to give honor to others.

Now this commandment is specific about who we’re to give honor to — our father and mother — and we’ll get into how we’re supposed to do that in just a minute. But — for now — I want us to consider what it means to give honor — what does it mean to give honor to others?

The word honor — in our verse — means to esteem highly. In the book of Isaiah — for instance — God tells the Israelites that they’re precious to him and that he loves them in a way that’s unique. And because they’re precious and loved by God, God says that he’s given them honor. That’s a picture of what it means to honor others. God considered the Israelites in a favorable way compared to people of other nations. 

The word honor also means to consider someone or something as worthy of respect. It means to show them reverence — meaning appreciation — and awe — which means a sense of admiration. To give someone honor has the idea of giving weight or a heaviness to them. And — to honor someone — is to treat them as significant. And — as we see in our verse — children are commanded to honor their parents.

Now if you’re not sure if you’d call yourself a Christian — or you’re maybe even hesitant to call yourself a religious person because of the abuses you’ve seen done in the name of religion — something interesting to take note of is how this commandment — the one we’re looking at — includes both fathers and mothers.

I bring this up because — often — Christianity gets a bad rap for being oppressive to women. The values of feminism seem to clash with what people think the Bible teaches in regards to the value of females. But something that may help you reconsider what Christianity actually teaches — when it comes to the value of women — is how mothers are included in this commandment. 

In the Old Testament world — the time when these commandments were given — it was a man’s world. And — that means — we find something that should surprise us in our commandment. What’s that? In this male dominant world — mothers are given equal recognition in our commandment. But even more surprises await us. In the book of Leviticus — we see this commandment recorded again — but in Leviticus we’re not told to honor our father and mother. What? No — in Leviticus chapter nineteen we’re told to honor our mother and father. The two are reversed — with mothers listed first.

And — in the Bible — we have other instances where the mother comes before the father in similar types of relational commands — and this is something quite unique about the Christian faith. In fact — this honoring and esteeming of women — mothers or otherwise — is something that’s an exception in the Ancient Near East religions — meaning the really old religions of the world like the Christian faith. And — of these old religions — Christianity is unique because of its teaching that women are to be honored just like men.

So — here’s what we’ve seen thus far — in asking “what does this commandment tell us to do?” We’re to give honor to others. Meaning we’re to consider people worthy of respect. We’re to treat others as significant. We’re to esteem them highly — considering them more important than ourselves. And this includes both men and women — both fathers and mothers. 


Now — as we transition to our “how do we do this” question — we’re going to have to look at some other verses in the Bible. Our one verse in Exodus doesn’t tell us how to give honor to others — but thankfully we have the whole Bible to help answer our question.

So how do we honor other people? To discover our answer, we’re going to look at a few verses from the Old Testament and a few from the New Testament. And — what we’re going to see — is that we honor others when we submit to them and care for them. We honor others when we submit to them and care for them.

For example — in the next chapter of Exodus — we read, “Whoever strikes his father or his mother shall be put to death.” (Exodus 21:15 ESV) 

So one way we dishonor our parents — one way we break this commandment — is by striking or hitting them. And I know death seems a bit drastic of a punishment — but that’s how seriously the Israelites were to take this commandment to honor others.

Likewise — just two verses later — we read, “Whoever curses his father or his mother shall be put to death.” (Exodus 21:17 ESV)

To curse — here — means to hope or pray or even cause the downfall of another person. It’s the attitude from which things like striking a person — from our previous verse — and murdering someone — spring forth from. And — again — notice how both father and mother — both male and female — were protected by these commands. 

The point — from these two verses — is that you can dishonor someone by physical actions — and you can dishonor someone by your attitude towards them. And this second one — in particular — is the part of our commandment that we don’t want to submit ourselves to. We get that spitting in someone’s face or calling them a derogatory name is dishonoring and unacceptable — so we’ve learned to control our actions and — most of the time — our words. But breaking this commandment is just as easily done by our thoughts about people. Hoping that their plan fails. Wanting to see them get what they deserve. Not even saying a bad word about them, but deep down — in the depth of your soul — desiring ill will towards them.

Now — in the New Testament — we see that the commandment to honor others continues. In fact — the apostle Paul quotes our commandment in his letter to the Ephesians — when he writes, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 (And look at how Paul justifies his command to children. He quotes our verse in Exodus twenty — as he writes…) “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), 3 “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.”” (Ephesians 6:1-3 ESV)

And this shows us that our fifth commandment — from Exodus chapter twenty — was still to be obeyed by the early Christians as their children are told by Paul to honor their parents by obeying them. 

In another letter, look at what Paul tells the Christians to do. He tells them to…“Honor widows who are truly widows. 4 But if a widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show godliness to their own household and to make some return to their parents, for this is pleasing in the sight of God.” (1 Timothy 5:3-4 ESV)

Notice that the same word — honor — is used in both Paul’s quote of our commandment — in his letter to the Ephesians — and in this letter he wrote to a young pastor named Timothy when he was pastoring the church in Ephesus. But — to Timothy — Paul adds the idea of caring for others under the umbrella of what it means to give honor. Yet — notice who has the primary responsibility to honor the widows by caring for them? Is it the church? No. Is it the government? No. 

If the widow has family — children or grandchildren — her family has the primary responsibility to give her honor by caring for her and meeting her needs. And how are we sure that this is what Paul means by giving honor? He makes it very clear a few verses later where he writes, “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” (1 Timothy 5:8 ESV)

To honor those in your family means to take care of their needs — to provide for them. For Christians — providing for their parent’s needs is a characteristic expected of them — just as is obedience to their parents when they are young children.

So — getting very practical here — to honor your mother and father means you make sure their needs are taken care of. Don’t depend on the church or the government to care for your parents. Honor them by helping take care of them yourself. If your parents are out of the picture or there’s a reason why it’d be unwise for you to engage with them — who has helped to raise you — who’s someone in your life that you’re to honor as our verse commands?

And — in our congregation — it brings me great joy when I see many of you honoring your parents as you care for them. Some have parents who are living with you. For others — they may not be under the same roof, but your parents have a higher priority in your life — right now — due to the season of life they’re in. It’s not easy. It’s not how you envisioned your life. But it’s a responsibility that all believers of God should not neglect as we seek to obey this commandment — a commandment that’s an opportunity for us to show that our faith in Christ is genuine.

But — something interesting — and I don’t want to go on too much of a tangent here — but something interesting about giving honor to others — that we also find in the New Testament — is that honor is to be given to all people — family or not — and honor is especially to be given to those who are part of the Christian faith.

Why is this? Why does the Bible give such priority on Christians giving honor to one another? 

One reason is because — of the many descriptions of the church that we find in the Bible — one is that we’re a family. The idea being — when you and I believe in Jesus — we become part of the family of God. And — in a sense — our commandment begins to take on a whole new meaning. Because — in this spiritual family — we see a parent child relationship in the context of a local church. What do I mean?

Well — for example — Paul describes himself as a spiritual parent to the Christians under his leadership. And just as children are to honor their parents — fathers and mothers being the leaders of the family — so to a local congregation is to honor its parents — the leaders of the church family. And this makes sense when you think of Paul’s words — a few verses later in his letter to Timothy — where he writes, “Let the elders (think pastors) who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching.” (1 Timothy 5:17 ESV)

This means that a congregation is to make sure that their elders are cared for physically, spiritually, financially, relationally, and emotionally. It means looking after your elders — your spiritual fathers — in a way similar to how you’re to look after your parents. We’re talking about actionable love, care, prayer, support, and encouragement. We’re talking about hoping the best for them, trusting them, and submitting to their leadership as they keep watch over your souls. 

For — just as children are commanded to obey their parents — so to Christians are commanded to “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this (give an account of your souls) with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” (Hebrews 13:17 ESV)

And the way you help your leaders give an account for your soul with joy is by obeying them — and submitting to them — as your pastors submit themselves to Christ and to each other. And this is not something to be taken lightly — neither on the part of the elders who will give an account to God some day for how they lead — nor on the part of you — the congregation — who will give an account to God some day for how joyful you made it for your pastors to lead you. Pastors are not to imitate ungodly, abusive authority just as congregation members are not to imitate rebellious, unsubmissive, ungodly children. 

I could go on here — but the point is that we honor our earthly parents — and this would include our biological or adoptive parents or whomever has helped to raise you — by caring for them in their times of need. And this command also has implications for our congregational life because we — the church — are described as a spiritual family — in the Bible — with spiritual parents who we’re to submit to and care for.


Now — I know at this point — some of us are in a difficult position because you now understand how you’re supposed to obey this commandment — but — as I said at the beginning — you come from a family where you were abused or abandoned by your parents — you may not even know them. My wife and I have previously been foster parents and have seen some of the heartbreaking situations many have experienced due to abuse from family members — so I get how understanding what this commandment teaches might be hard because you’ve experienced abuse by those who were supposed to care for and protect you.

I also understand that — when it comes to the church family — some of you have experienced abuse by leaders in the church. Maybe you’ve had a pastor who’s abused you — or someone else in leadership has taken advantage of you. And these experiences make it incredibly hard for you to obey this commandment — you may even feel like you have justification to disobey this commandment.

But let me tell you why you can and should obey this commandment no matter your experience. Why are you to obey this commandment when you may have experienced the abuse of those who had authority over you? Why should you obey this commandment — when — you feel that your past gives you justification to not obey it? 

Here’s why: You’re to obey this commandment because Jesus obeyed it. “Well what does that have to do with my situation?” Let’s remember some things about Jesus and see how they should help define for us what it means to follow him.

For example — as you may or may not know — Jesus had an earthly family — and his family mocked him. They thought he was crazy. They thought he was absurd. They thought he was a lunatic. His own mother even doubted him. Yet — on the cross — Jesus made sure that his mother would be taken care of after his death. He honored her with some of his last words — spoken as he was dying on the cross — when he looked at the apostle John — one of his disciples — and said, “John. She’s your mother now. Take care of her for me.” So Jesus can relate to you if your family hasn’t demonstrated care for you. He knows what it means to be betrayed by family — even to be mocked as the religious weirdo in the family.

Others of us have been abandoned. You’ve experienced the abandonment of your father — he just walked out on your family. Or maybe you’ve had both parents leave you. And — as I’ve said — others of us have experienced the abuse of church leadership that’s crushed you. “Surely Jesus didn’t experience anything like I’ve experienced.”

Not so fast. When Jesus hung on the cross — he experienced the abuse of the church leadership of his day. It was — after all — the religious leaders who stirred up the crowd to have Jesus murdered. He also experienced the abandonment of his Heavenly Father after being crushed by the weight of the punishment for all of our sin — including yours and mine. So if you’ve ever been abandoned by your family — or if you’ve been abused by people in the church — Jesus can relate to you. He’s experienced abandonment. He’s experienced abuse by church leadership. 

So why you can and should obey this commandment is because you look to your Savior — Jesus Christ — who’s already obeyed the commandment for you — even in the midst of abandonment and abuse. And — in looking to him — you find Jesus to be the source of your strength as you receive a wonderful promise as you follow him in obedience. 

Look with me in Exodus chapter twenty — verse twelve — one last time. We’re told to… “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)

The Israelites had just been rescued out of Egypt and the slavery they’d endured for hundreds of years. And — now — they’re headed to the Promised Land. A land of freedom and rest — a land that would be their own — a land where the chains of slavery would be no more. And the promise to the Israelites — if they obeyed this commandment — was long days in this new land of freedom. A promise to God’s people as a whole — as they distinguished themselves as his people — by separating themselves from the other nations who did not give honor to others.

And — in obeying this commandment today — we demonstrate that we’ve experienced freedom and are part of the family of God. For obeying God’s commandments demonstrates to the world that we love God because he first loved us and demonstrated his love through his Beloved Son. Even the commandments that are hard to obey — like this one — where we’re commanded to honor our father and mother no matter how difficult our family life has been. 

Yet — as we’ve seen — this is a commandment that influences how God’s people interact with their spiritual family. It guides how we’re to submit ourselves to — and obey — our spiritual fathers — the pastors of our church — the men who are keeping watch over your soul.

You see — ultimately — we’re to honor others because it sets us apart as a child of God. It distinguishes us from people who dishonor their parents. It separates us from people who don’t care for their aging relatives. It makes us different from our culture — which elevates the young over the aged. The new over the old. The youth over the elderly. 

Our honoring of others demonstrates that we’re different — as we submit ourselves to the pastors in God’s church. The spiritual fathers that God’s placed in our lives to watch over our souls. The spiritual parents in the local church that we’re part of who have authority over us — just as a parent has authority over their child. 

And this fifth commandment gives God’s people an opportunity to demonstrate the life changing power of the gospel. For it changes how we respond to abandonment and abuse. It shapes how we love and care for those who are in need. It influences how we submit ourselves to God and to the people he’s appointed to be our spiritual fathers. It dictates how we interact with all people — for we’re to be people who give honor to all.


“Honor your father and mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.” The Israelites heard this commandment and thought of the Promised Land that they were about to enter. A land of freedom and hope. A land of joy and prosperity. 

But — for those who believe in Jesus — the land we’ve been promised is a better Promised Land — for it’s the land where Heaven and Earth will meet for all eternity. A land of no more sorrow and no more pain. No more death and no more disease. No more abandonment and no more abuse. A Promised Land where our days in the land will not just be long — but will be eternal. Because we’ve shown ourselves to be people who have been set apart as the family of God. Let’s pray.


Most gracious Father, what Good News for us today as we’ve been reminded that — through faith in Christ — we’re part of your family — the family of God. And — through our faith in Christ — we’ve been given everything we need to honor all people. Our fathers and mothers. Our pastors and elders. Our fellow Christians. Even our enemies. 

Holy Spirit, help us to live differently than people who don’t have faith in Jesus. May our obedience to this commandment set us apart as your people. Children of a Heavenly Father. Members of your family. 

And — Jesus — may our obedience to this commandment show the world that we’ve been set free by you to live for you. May people notice how distinct our lives are because of our faith in you — not for our glory — but for yours. For this is how you — our older brother lived. You lived honoring your earthly family — your mother, Mary — your adoptive father, Joseph. And everything you did — in life and in death — was for your Heavenly Father’s honor. And — through faith in you — we’re set free to now live for your honor. Set more people free today we pray — and do so for your glory. In your name we pray. Amen.


We give thanks to God the Father that our Savior — Jesus Christ — before he suffered — gave us this sacrament of communion to remind us of his sacrifice until he comes again.

On the night he was betrayed, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me." In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me." For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes. (1 Cor. 11:24-26)

With these words our Lord commands all believers to eat this bread and to drink this cup in true faith and in the confident hope of his return in glory. In this supper God declares to us that our sins have been completely forgiven through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, which he declared was finished on the cross.

Come, therefore, all of you who are truly sorry for your sins, who believe in the Lord Jesus as your Savior, have confessed his name, and desire to live in obedience to him. Come eagerly and joyfully, with the assurance of faith. For Christ — our risen Lord — invites you as guests to fellowship with him — and each other — at his table.


At this time, I’d like to invite forward those who are going to be serving us. And — while they make their way forward — know that as the bread and cup are passed down your rows, you’re to take the bread on your own — but save the cup — which we’ll drink together. Also — in the trays with the bread — there’s a gluten free option in the center of the tray. Eat the bread on your own — but save the cup — which we’ll drink together.

The blood of Christ, shed for you.


Father, we give you thanks for your Son, Jesus Christ. For his willing obedience and suffering during his life on earth — and especially for his giving up of his body and blood on the cross. Give us assurance that our sins are forgiven through his blood and may your perfect love drive out all fear. Fill our minds with your peace and turn our eyes to Heaven where Christ is at your right hand interceding for us. Give us the strength and faith we need to offer ourselves in service to Christ and may no trouble or sorrow distract us from this loving service. And unite us with each other through your Spirit so we continue in the living hope of our Savior's return which is sure to come. Hear us now through our Lord Jesus, who taught us to pray, saying these words — which are on the screens if you need them…

Congregation: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. 10 Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread, 12 and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.” (Matthew 6:9-13 ESV)


May you go giving honor to others because you are part of God’s family. Amen.

God loves you. I love you. You are sent.

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