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Ephesians 5:1-33

Author: Dr. George M. Flattery

Ephesians 5:1-33

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More Thoughts about Ephesians: 5:1-2

Here, Paul introduces more instructions on Christian living by stating a general principle that undergirds all that we do. He states:
“1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; 2 and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you, and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.”

First, Paul exhorts us to be imitators of God. Just as children imitate others, so should we imitate God. Our source of information about God is the Word of God. Given this, lifelong study of God’s Word is essential for us. Even though we may have studied a given passage many times, it is important to be reminded of what it says.

Second, as we imitate God, we imitate Christ. Jesus said, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father.” (John 14:9). Elsewhere Paul wrote, “But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18 NAS). When we grow in the image of Christ, we are growing in the image of God.

Third, going further Paul says to the Corinthians, “in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. I exhort you, therefore, be imitators of me” (1 Corinthians 5:15-16 NAS). Given their relationship with Paul as their spiritual father, they, like children, should imitate him. Later in this letter, Paul says, “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1 NAS). In other words, to the extent that Paul imitates Christ, the Corinthians should imitate him.

Fourth, Paul exhorts the Ephesians to walk in love, just as Christ loved them and gave Himself as a sacrifice to God for them. The word “love” occurs in every chapter of the Ephesian letter and 15 times in total. This is an important theme for the apostle Paul. When we imitate God, one characteristic that we need to imitate His love. No doubt we will have an opportunity today to imitate the loving nature of God.

More Thoughts about Ephesians 5:3-7

After Paul exhorts the Ephesians to be imitators of God, he again writes about behavior that the redeemed should avoid. Believers should avoid many types of behavior that they unbelievers practice. Here is what Paul says:

“3 But do not let immorality or any impurity or greed even be named among you, as is proper among saints; 4 and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. 5 For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.”

First, believers are to avoid immorality. Impurity or greed should not even be named among them. This does not mean that these behaviors should not be mentioned in serious discussions. After all, Paul names these characteristics in his letter. However, unwholesome references should be avoided. and there should not even be rumors of such deeds with members of the body of Christ. In contrast to all of these things, believers should be giving thanks to God.

Second, Paul says no immoral or impure person will have an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. The wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience. These words, although they apply to unbelievers, were written to believers. In other words, believers should not engage in any immoral or unethical behavior. About the unbelievers, Paul says, “Therefore do not be partakers with them” (verse 7) in their evil behavior.

Third, this paragraph raises a long-standing theological question. The question is: “Is it possible for a member of the body of Christ to behave in such a way as to lose his or her salvation?” This is not the main point that Paul is discussing, but the question does persistently arise.

Without discussing the question here, it is important to say that only God can decide who enters heaven and who does not. God is the judge, not us. For that, we can be grateful.

More Thoughts about Ephesians 5:7-14

Paul continues to speak out strongly against the behavior of unbelievers. The believers have put off the old man and put on the new man. Therefore, says Paul, they should avoid all the sinful behavior of the unbelievers. Paul writes:

“7 Therefore do not be partakers with them; 8 for you were formerly darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), 10 trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 And do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them; 12 for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret. 13 But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light. 14 For this reason it says, “Awake, sleeper, And arise from the dead, And Christ will shine on you.”

First, the Ephesian believers were formerly “darkness,” meaning that they did sinful deeds. Now, they are light. They have been enlightened and do deeds of light. They walk as children of light and lead others to be light. Learn what is pleasing.

Second, parenthetically Paul states, “for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth.” Some manuscripts speak about the “fruit of the Spirit.” The fruit of light and fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) are similar. In verse 14 of this passage, Paul says that “Christ will shine light on you.”

Third, the believers are not only to avoid deeds of darkness, but they should also expose them by letting the light shine on them. When believers imitate Christ and grow in His image, the contrast between deeds of light and deeds of darkness will be evident. The “bottom line” is that we should not be “partakers” of darkness but be fully committed to the teachings of Christ.

One point stands out as you read Paul’s letter. Paul was writing to the Ephesian believers and exhorting them not to be partakers in darkness. It is reasonable to assume that the exhortation was needed, or Paul would not have written as he did. This should lead us to realize that believers can be overtaken by the temptation to darkness. So, believers must constantly rely on the Holy Spirit to empower them to live as Christ lived.

More Thoughts about Ephesians 5:15-21

Over the next several days, I will be writing some “thoughts” about verses 15-21 with a special focus on being “filled” with the Spirit. The term “filled” with the Spirit is commonly used by believers in all denominations. Perhaps surprisingly, this is the only time that Paul uses this term. In the Ephesians Paul writes:

15Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men, but as wise, 16making the most of your time, because the days are evil. 17So then do not be foolish but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, 19speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; 20always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; 21and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ” (Ephesians 5:15-21 NAS).

Within the context of Christian living, Paul writes about being filled with the Spirit. In verses 15-17, he issues a call for us to walk as wise men, redeeming the time and understanding what the will of the Lord is. Then, in verse 18, he exhorts, “Do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit.” Unwisely, people get drunk with wine. The wise course of action is to be filled with the Spirit.

When people are filled with the Spirit, they are inspired to worship (verses 18-20). As Paul says, you will be “speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord.” It is debated whether or not verse 21 belongs with this paragraph or the next one. In verse 21, Paul says, “Be subject to one another in the fear of Christ. As verses, 15-21 show, being filled with the Spirit affects all aspects of our lives.

With full confidence in God, we can submit all aspects of our lives to the leadership of the Spirit. The Spirit of God will exalt Jesus Christ in whom we have our salvation. As we submit our lives to the Spirit, we will avoid wrongdoing and its harmful results and enjoy the benefits of life with God. As followers of Christ, we have the privilege of being filled with the Spirit.

More Thoughts about Ephesians

In this post, I will focus on 5:18-20. In verse 18 Paul writes, “Do not get drunk with wine” and “be filled with the Spirit.” In the Greek language, he uses two present tense imperatives. These imperatives can refer to repeated action or continuous action. We need not decide between the two.

One can get drunk repeatedly or continuously. Moreover, the word continuous can refer to repetitious action that happens regularly. It is my view that the same points apply to the imperative to be filled with the Spirit. We can be repeatedly filled with the Spirit and yet be continuously full of the Spirit. In addition, we can be repeatedly filled with the Spirit regularly so that we are described as being continuously filled.

These two present imperatives are followed by four present participles in verses 19 and 20 that indicate the results of being filled with the Spirit. These present participles are (1) speaking, (2) singing, (3) making melody, and (4) giving thanks.

One view of these participles is that they refer to moral qualities. However, it appears to me that, within the context of Christian living, the participles primarily emphasize Spirit-inspired congregational worship. When the Spirit fills the people in a worshipping audience, the impact is powerful and amazingly uplifting. Many people have come to know Christ in times of worship.

This does not lessen the importance of righteous living. Spirit-inspired worship does have an impact on the way we live. Indeed, the way we live is a form of worship, so we need not limit these words to the public worship service. We can give thanks in all that we do. In my next “thoughts” I will comment further on Spirit-inspired worship.

More Thoughts about Ephesians 5:19-20

Paul entreats the believers to be filled with the Spirit, “19speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; 20always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father.”

When Paul says, “speaking to one another,” he identifies worship as a means of admonishing, teaching, and encouraging others. Similarly, in Colossians 3:16-17 Paul states: “16 Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” (Colossians 3:16 NAS). Thus, the lyrics of the songs that we sing should present sound doctrine.

In addition to speaking through worship, we should always give thanks for all things to God in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ (verse 20). In Colossians 3:17 Paul says,

“And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father” (Colossians 3:17 NAS).

In Ephesians 5:19 (compare to Colossians 3:16) Paul speaks about “spiritual songs.” The

adjective “spiritual” could modify psalms, hymns, and songs, or just songs. It doesn’t make a big difference because spiritual songs can be broadly interpreted. Broadly speaking “spiritual songs” can include all praises sung to God, including psalms and hymns. The spiritual songs could include previously composed devotional songs, unpremeditated songs, and songs in unknown tongues.

In a more limited sense, “spiritual songs” would refer to songs in an unknown tongue as well as unpremeditated songs in a known language. It seems to me that Paul mainly has in mind the more limited sense, but the important point is that all that we do is inspired by the Spirit.

More Thoughts about Ephesians

In Ephesians 5:21 Paul says, “and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.” Grammatically, this clause could be connected with what precedes or what follows. The preceding results were stated in verses 19 and 20 which say, “19speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; 20always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father.”

If verse 21 is connected with what has just been said, then it is another result of being filled with the Spirit. However, if verse 21 is connected with what follows, then the clause introduces teaching about how we ought to live. Either way, Paul calls upon us to “be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.” We always should be conscious of how we fit into the body of Christ. All that we do should be done within the guidelines of being a follower of Christ. What Christ teaches us supersedes all else.

When you consider this entire passage (Ephesians 5:15-21), it demonstrates how comprehensively Paul viewed the work of the Spirit. The Spirit of God has an impact on all aspects of our lives, including new life, maturity, ministry, and worship. The special emphasis of verses 19-20 is on Spirit-inspired worship.

Given the importance of worship, the worship leaders should prepare their hearts and minds to lead Spirit-inspired worship. Great things can happen when the Spirit moves in a worship service. Styles vary from time to time and from place to place, but the presence of the Spirit is essential. We must maintain the unity of the Spirit in our worship.

More Thoughts about Ephesians

Our text for today is Ephesians 5:21-24 where Paul writes: “and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ. 22 Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. 24 But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.”

Grammatically, verse 21 could go with what precedes or serve as an introduction to what follows. If verse 21 is connected with what has just been said, then it is another result of being filled with the Spirit. However, if verse 21 is connected with what follows, then the clause introduces teaching about how we ought to live. Either way, Paul calls upon us to “be subject to one another in the fear [or reverence] of Christ.”

Verse 22 in most Greek manuscripts does not have a verb. Consequently, the verb “be subject” in verse 22 is supplied from verse 21. This fact favors connecting verse 21 with the preceding comments rather than with what follows.

Paul’s comments in verse 22 give rise to a lot of discussion in today’s world about the relationship between husbands and wives. Just what did Paul mean by “Wives, be subject to our own husbands, as to the Lord.” In times past the marriage vows of a bride would include the word “obey.” Now, there is much more emphasis on wives and husbands being equal. In any case, as the following verses say, husbands are to treat their wives in the same way that Christ treats the church.

More Thoughts about Ephesians

In verses, 25-33 Paul addresses husbands four times with the message that they should love their wives as Christ loved the church. Today, with Christ as the model, we will look at what Paul says to husbands,

First, Paul states: “25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her; 26 that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she should be holy and blameless.”

Second, Paul states: “28 So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; 29 for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, 30 because we are members of His body.”

When husbands love their wives as Christ loved the church, they become one flesh with their wives. Paul concludes: “31 For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother and shall cleave to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. 32 This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church. 33 Nevertheless let each individual among you also love his own wife even as himself, and let the wife see to it that she respect her husband” (Ephesians 5:25-33 NAS)

In my next “thoughts” I will comment on each of the points stated above. The main point is that husbands should follow the example of Christ who loved the church and, in a similar way, love their wives.

More Thoughts about Ephesians

In my last post, I quoted Ephesians 5:25-33. Today I will comment briefly on these verses.

First, Paul entreats the Ephesian husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church and sacrificed Himself for her (verse 25). This raises the question of how Christ loved the church.

Christ loved the church by giving Himself for her. Although the church was not born until after the cross, all that He did before the cross was in the interest of eventually building up the church. Jesus said, “I will build my church.”

Moreover, Christ loved the church by making her holy. He set the church apart by cleansing her with the washing of water and with the word. Whether the washing of water is a figure of speech for the work of the Spirit or water baptism is debated. The Word of God also has a role. The end result is that Christ may present to Himself the holy and blameless church.

Husbands can certainly follow the example of Christ in giving themselves to their wives. In addition, husbands can have a sanctifying influence on their wives. Although Paul does not say so here, wives can have a sanctifying influence on their husbands. The work of Christ as the head of the church is far greater than what husbands can do, but what husbands can do is in harmony with the example of Christ.

Second, Paul states: “28 So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; 29 for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, 30 because we are members of His body.”

Second, in verses 28-30, Paul says that husbands should love their own wives as they love their own bodies. He points out that no one hated his own flesh but nourishes and cherishes it just as Christ does the church. Christ does this because we are members of His body. Also, Paul repeats the theme that husbands should love their wives as Christ loved the church. Husbands can follow the example of Christin loving their wives. Although the depth of love that Christ showed is beyond human capacity, husbands can act in harmony with the example of Christ.

When a man loves his wife as Christ loved the church, he shall cleave to his life and the two will become one flesh. The uniting of husband and wife into one flesh is a mystery like the mystery of the unity of Christ and the church.

Paul summarizes his thoughts about husbands and wives with this comment: “Nevertheless let each individual among you also love his own wife even as himself, and let the wife see to it that she respect her husband” (verse 33).

George M. Flattery, Ph.D., is the founder of Global University and Network211.

Excerpts transferred from a series originally posted on Dr. George's Facebook.

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