And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:4—NKJV)

Every spiritually minded man who desires to be a good father constantly hears this verse echoing in the back of his mind. Though the direct interpretation of the verse is specifically to men, it cannot be denied that there are applications readily drawn and applied to anyone who desires to teach others, whether male or female.

It is the nature of the young and immature to be provoked when anything gets in the way of his own self-directed actions. This being the case, the verse cannot mean that fathers must never correct their own. This kind of provocation at wholesome correction arises within the immature and is an unavoidable consequence of inexperience. It is not something for which the instructor or the instruction retains fault.

As is often the case with Paul, he first gives us the negative and then the positive view of this subject. The negative provides the black cloth upon which the diamond is placed so that all its positive glories may be seen.

The form of anger spoken of here as out of bounds for a good father is suggestive of an intermittent wrath, though it may grow quite hot. It can be an anger which may quiver with rage temporarily and then subside. Fathers are not to ply, goad and egg-on their children, drawing forth outbursts of anger. Wisdom demands that fatherly interaction with children is with a good-hearted, faithful design which resembles the lovingkindnesses of the heavenly Father with His own.

Our verse continues with practical advice on the teaching methods of fathers. A father’s job is to bring the young ones to maturity. The Greek term ektrephete means to nourish, to rear, to feed out from oneself. It is a nourishing that becomes a nurturing. It is a training which becomes upbringing. It implies a comprehensive plan in which you invest and into which you lose yourself for the sake of your main task, to bring them up.

Fatherly nurturing falls into two categories in this verse. The first is the Greek word paideia which connotes discipline. It is best thought of as training by act or action. Correcting by discipline should not be assumed to be all negative instruction or corporal action. Discipline necessarily includes all that but it also includes all positive instruction in action. We speak of the discipline of studies, finances, or athletics. These three things surely retain the original intent of this very positive action.

The second Greek word nouthesia connotes admonishment. It means to put into the mind. The first word was a word of activity while the second is a word of instruction or warning. It is a training by word—whether encouragement or, if necessary, reproof.

Finally, fatherly teaching is tethered to the anchor of the Lord. Be sure there is a direct connection between your Lord and your teaching by word and deed. First be sure your word and deed are right in the sight of God and then be sure your nurturing is received.

A sad story is related in 1 Samuel 2:24 and 3:13 where we read of a father’s “nourishing” instruction which failed to become “upbringing.” Eli did what many fathers do today—he groused and grumbled, a little too little and a little too late. Though his general advice was right, he was not heard and his admonishment failed to have effect, for the Bible says he failed to restrain.

All who would lead others to maturity must heed the words of this verse. Lovingkindness demands it. Is your fatherly advice in words and deed tethered securely to the Lord Jesus Christ and clearly communicated to those around you? Trust and obey.