Often, when we mention the Proverbs to people, even judges and officials, they say to us, "Oh, that is the Old Covenant. We are in the New Covenant of love now, not the Old Covenant of law." Do you agree? Just what is the relationship of the Old Covenant to the New? Well, what does it say in the Bible about how they relate to each other? That's a good place to begin!
There is a promise in the Old Testament that a new covenant would be given to the people of Israel. Unlike the old, which was engraved on tablets of stone, the new would be written on another tablet: the human heart. Christians believe that the New Testament of the Bible records the substance of that new covenant. Also, they believe it tells us how it was worked out -- how it became real -- in the lives of the first-century believers.
That promise is recorded entirely in the New Testament book of Hebrews, quoting the book of Jeremiah. As both say, it is the vow of the Lord to write His words on the hearts of His people, and put them on their minds. While many consider the Old Covenant to be impossibly old-fashioned, what God was trying to do in the Old is actually what He intends to get in the New:
Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah...But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. (Jeremiah 31:31,33)
Judging by the way the Law, the Prophets, the Psalms, and even the Proverbs punctuate the pages of the New Testament, clearly it was God's intention to write the whole of the Old Covenant on their hearts. They understood that to be a light to the nations (to follow the Lamb wherever He went, and to bring the gospel to all the nations so that the end of the age could come) required the words of His law and His prophets to be written on their hearts. Removing all doubt whatsoever are these words of the Son of God Himself:
Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:17-19)
All the Law must be fulfilled or accomplished, and this task He began but indeed could not finish by Himself -- because much of what is written in the Law and Prophets pertains to a whole people. It has to do with right relationships...
All these and more must be fulfilled in the New Covenant to bring about the witness of the Kingdom.1
Everyone knows that all the moral laws of the Old Covenant are upheld in the New: do not steal, do not murder, do not commit adultery, and do not lie or even covet. All these and more are honored in the New. But did you know that children are to honor their parents, too?
For God commanded, "Honor your father and your mother." (Matthew 15:4)
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. "Honor your father and mother" (this is the first commandment with a promise), "that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land." (Ephesians 6:1-3)
Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. (Colossians 3:20)
So, according to the Savior and the apostle Paul, children are to honor and obey their parents. They are to listen attentively to them as both older and wiser. While these commands are all directed to the children, the responsibility to see that the children obey these commands rests with the parents. This is constitutional law for the people of God, meaning obeying these commands, and seeing to it they are obeyed, are fundamental, unalterable aspects of the relationship of parents and children. If this law is broken, then the rod of discipline removes the guilt from the child's soul, allowing him not simply to be reconciled to his parent, but to be happy and free within himself.
Unless children obey their parents, there will be chaos in the family, as we all know. From that faulty building block springs chaos in society. Children who do not honor and obey their parents only do what is right in their own eyes. They do not develop the self-control and character necessary to be either good workers or good citizens in any society. Their sole guide in life becomes their own selfish desires.
All parents, unless consumed with selfishness themselves, recognize this fact: they are responsible and accountable for their children's behavior. In a bizarre twist, even nations that have stripped parents of their natural right to train their children still hold them responsible for their children's lawless deeds.
The single most important element of developing good character is parents seeing to it that their children obey them. When they do not, discipline removes the natural hostility and alienation that arises in both the parent and the child.
This alienation and the resulting hostility is the root cause of both child abuse on the parent's part, and violent, destructive, and anti-social behavior on the children's part. Truly, parents who hate their children do not discipline them, as Proverbs 13:24 says. States that take away parents' freedom to discipline hate both the parents and children indiscriminately. Children who sense they are hated respond ultimately with rebellion, as the riots of London (2011) and Stockholm (2013) show. The grim rise in violence in the once-peaceful society of Sweden, which outlawed discipline in 1979, is the harbinger shouting a stern warning of what is to come. Will anyone listen?
On issue after issue, from vaccinations to violence on TV, from compulsory education to media celebration of immorality, from junk food to genetically modified organisms, parents the world over are discovering that what is being offered their children is physically, morally, and spiritually TOXIC. Their very awareness of such issues is causing them to consider just what their role is as parents. They sense they must defend that role from uncaring systems that seem out to hurt or at least pollute their precious children. Suddenly, and probably for the first time, they are painfully aware of the kind of world they have brought children into.
Then the issue of their child's misbehavior confronts them. Running into traffic is immensely more serious than eating junk food. The concerned parent doesn't stop to think about first grabbing his child to prevent his immediate harm and correcting him just as promptly. That inner certainty of what to do NOW is the voice of conscience speaking to them in full splendor: to love and protect and correct their child.
Parental authority has a source. It comes to all parents directly from God above. He is the One who gave them their children. All parents have delegated authority from God, to whom they will one day give an account. This authority, this right to rule, is given specifically for the dual purposes of protecting and raising their children in the right way. No other institution or person -- not the state, not the social services, not grandpa and grandma -- have legitimate authority in their children's lives. Only the parents do, and whoever the parents give that right to, for a time, such as teachers. When they do this, they delegate to others the authority that God has delegated to them.
The family, in fact, is an independent institution as high as the state in God's eyes. The institution of the family is the only valid foundation of a society where the rights of individuals are respected, which is what the American Revolution was fought for. Yes, parental power is accountable to government in the nations, but only in crimes clearly condemned by both man and God, such as incest, bodily injury, or murder.
Discipline of children is something parents are commanded to do, both in the Word of God and in their own conscience. No legitimate earthly government can contradict this authority of parents to see to it that their children obey them. Parental authority was not given by the state any more than children were, so it cannot be taken away by the state.
To be fair, a law forbidding parents to discipline their children should itself have no means of enforcement. Otherwise, morally speaking, the law invalidates itself by claiming that it is wrong for parents to compel their children to obey, while it is right for the state to compel the parents to obey.
Imagine the state passing laws it is forbidden to enforce! That would expose the laughingstock that its anti-spanking law makes of parental authority. Why would the state bother passing laws it cannot enforce? It would only cause disrespect of all law and all authority. Likewise, if parents are forbidden to enforce their laws, why should they even bother telling their children what to do? Doing so would only cause disrespect of their word and expose their lack of authority.
A world full of illegitimate children can be the only result. The grave harm to the children first of all, to the family they are part of, and to the society they live in will be without remedy.