Where lawful authorities are not submitted to nor honor shown to those to whom it is due, or when those in such positions abuse and misuse that which God has given, no blessing can be expected. In fact, the Bible and experience shows the disastrous consequences of unruly children, domineering husbands, rebelling citizens, wicked rulers, and selfish shepherds. But there is temporal blessing and prosperity promised to the household, church, and society where the fifth commandment is obeyed.
“Honor your father and your mother.” This command is part of that perfect law that is holy, righteous, and good because it is a reflection of the one who himself is those things. It was once engraved on the tablets of stone, was exemplified in the life of Jesus, and it is now written on the heart of believers by the ministry of the Holy Spirit and affirmed by Apostolic authority. This command convicts, restrains, and directs the Christian life.
The fifth commandment is the first of what is often called the second table of the law. When Jesus was asked which was the great commandment he answered: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:27-39). Love to God and love to neighbor are the two parts of God’s unchanging law. In the division of the Ten Commandments the first four teach us our duty to God and the last six our duty to neighbor. The priority is given to the first table as the greatest and out of a love and service to God we are to love one another. Love to neighbor consists, in part, in giving “honor to whom honor is owed” (Romans 13:7).
The fifth commandment establishes that by God’s design and order there are positions of honor and authority. After all, a part of what it means for children to honor their parents is obedience: “Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord” (Colossians 3:20). But the authorities that God has established are not autonomous, boundless, or lawless. Rather, they are derived and contingent upon the authority of God: “For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God” (Romans 13:1).