Ephesians 5 Bible Study Notes
1: “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children…”
There is our magic word “therefore,” meaning we have to keep what has come immediately before in mind. This is a charge to walk worthily of our Christian calling, and depart from all bitterness, wrath, anger, malice, and the like to practice Christian behaviour. We are to imitate God [mimetes, where our word mimic comes from] as beloved [agepetos] children [teknon, a child]. How do we do that?
2: “…and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us…”
[Love, agape] That love is self-giving and self-sacrificing, just as Christ demonstrated at the cross.
“…an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.”
Paul reminds us that this Christ, the man Jesus, gave Himself up as a sacrifice, and by substituting Himself in our place, became that “fragrant smell” that pleased God as His justice was satisfied. We cannot get beyond this point. R.C. Sproul Jr. tweeted this past week, “If I do not see that I crucified Him, it is unlikely that He was crucified for me.” Think about that for a while, because it is very deep.
3: “But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints…”
[Immorality, pornea – sexual immorality, literally fornication, the act of sex before marriage (sex with someone other than who you are married to is called adultery and is a different thing); Impurity, akatharsia – uncleanness; Greed, pleonexia – coveteousness, or something of advantageous property to be desired.]
All these things are not even to be named among us. We are called saints, or “holy ones,” by God, and our behaviour should reflect that. We must not do the deeds of darkness and the flesh, but we must instead allow Christ to renew our minds and radically change (Rom. 12:2 metamorpheo) our natures to reflect Christ in us.
4: “…and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks.”
[Filthiness, aischrotes – baseness. We get the medical term “scrotum” from this word, and that should give you a picture of the kind of behaviour and thinking we are to avoid. I know this is hard, I have a teenage son.]
[Silly talk, morologia – we get our word “moron” from this. So no moronic behaviour or thought.]
[Coarse jesting, eutrapelia – ready wit. This isn’t just the telling of dirty jokes, it is speaking about a state of mind where you are constantly being comical. I know this is hard too, because I can be a comedian. Comedy itself isn’t wrong, but Jesus only used it to make a point, and perhaps that is what we should be limiting ourselves to.]
These described ways of behaving and thinking do not fit into Christian behaviour. This does not mean you have to be dull, but that we should know our situation and our audience and be wise. Believe me, for a number of reasons, I find these things difficult, but God has grace. Instead, this verse says we should be giving thanks instead.
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.”
There are consequences for not walking with the Lord. If you show these kinds of things, sexual immorality [pornos, literally fornication, sex before a marriage commitment], Impurity [akatharsia, covetousness], “covetousness,” [pleonexia, the state of always wanting more than you have now and being willing to do anything to get it], and here it says that being in that state makes you an idolater, someone who places something above God (in this case himself or his so-called needs; “I have needs…” I’ve thought it and probably said it myself), then you do not have an inheritance in the Kingdom of Christ and God. Does that mean we are not really His children? I don’t know, and I don’t want to find out.
Also, a side note, but it is the Kingdom of Christ and God here. That word “and” is conjunctive, and it means that the kingdom of Christ and the kingdom of God are the same kingdom. This is not making a reference to the Trinity doctrine, that would be a proof text, and I won’t do that.
6: “Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.”
You see, it is our duty to “test the spirits, and see if they are really from God,” according to John (see 1 John 4). Paul is saying the very same thing when he says, “let no one deceive you with empty words.” I’ve met a lot of people that talk a good fight. Their arguments are carefully crafted, well put together, rehearsed – and wrong. Without getting into amusing anecdotes about Mormons and other kinds of cult members, I will just categorically state that they are free to believe whatever they want, but Paul here is saying that those empty speeches and ideas are the very things that bring the wrath of God down on themselves – they hear the truth, but they want what they want, and therefore will not accept it because it does not allow them to have their sin and enjoy it.
7: “Therefore do not be partakers with them…”
Paul instead warns us not to participate in what I will generously call their “error.” If you participate in the error, you will also have some participation in the consequences.
8: “…for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light…”
Paul, in his appeal to the followers of Jesus in this passage, is saying that we were once in that darkness, but NOW we are Daylight in the Lord [kurios, Master]. We were there once, but because of His work, we are now in the light in Christ – and we need to walk that way. Our behaviour should leave no room for error on the part of witnesses as to who we are and what we believe.
9: “…(for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth)…”
The parentheses here are Paul’s. He is giving us related information, a kind of “handful on purpose,” if you will. Paul tells us that the fruit of the Light is made up of all things good, right, and true. Fruit is a result of growth, and growth in the light will result in our becoming “good people,” to use a phrase. This is seen in our “right behaviour,” that which is righteousness. We will become more real (another way to translate the word aletheia, the Greek word for truth). You know, Jesus said we would know His people in part by their fruit. He was non-specific about which fruit we might see, but I’m getting the impression there might just be a lot of fruit to see.
10: “…trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.”
The marginal rendering here is “proving what is pleasing…&c.” Remember, this is a continuation from verse 8, before the parentheses. This is the sentence you should read: …walk as children of light, proving what is pleasing to the Lord.
11: “Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them…”
Do not participate = “do not have fellowship with.” Have nothing to do with them. What are we avoiding? “the unfruitful [akarpos, without fruit] deeds [ergon, behaviours associated with] of darkness [skotos, darkness]. Instead of participating in them, we are to expose [elegcho, reprove, convict, refute, reprimand, show fault] them. Hey, don’t look at me like that, I don’t like it any better than you do. Do you think I like talking to men about sexual purity and waiting until marriage? Yeah, that’s a bowl of cherries. It’s the pits, man. You come off as the square in the room. But this is now your responsibility as a child [teknon] of God. I mean, pick your spots, but call a spade a spade when you have to. It’s your job – otherwise, how will people know?
12: “…for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret.”
It really is. And in this day and age, it is becoming less secret all the time. However, because of what verse 11 says, we cannot hide in the closet and plug our ears and pretend it isn’t happening. People are going to face the wrath of Almighty God, and they don’t have to. If you must be involved, then preach the Gospel! At least give them an opportunity to turn away from their sin and towards Jesus. Don’t get involved more than that.
13: “But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light.”
This sentence could also read as follows, and it helps my understanding, so I give it to you: “But all things become clear when reproved by the daylight, because everything that becomes clear (is made evident) IS the daylight.” I’m no Greek Scholar, but from what I do understand, that is well within the translation matrix for that sentence. We all love to stumble around in our sin. It is at some level pleasurable, and it is probably the most interesting thing going on in our lives. And when God shows you that it’s sin, you need to part ways with it, no matter what “it” is. Ever hear the phrase, “viewed in the light of day?” If you have light shed on something, do the right, good, true thing. Let God transform you.
14: “For this reason it says, “Awake, sleeper, And arise from the dead, And Christ will shine on you.” “
It says that in several places in Isaiah, and is quoted again and is quoted in Romans by Paul. Let Jesus do what He needs to do in you! Submit to Him! Wake up, Get up, Read up, and then Live up. Christ will illuminate for you those areas you need to work on when you are ready.
15: “Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise…”
Paul begins to admonish us a bit about the need to be careful about our walks. We need to learn from Him in His word, and then we need to start applying what He says to our lives. Wisdom is knowledge applied, where the rubber meets the road, as it were. Walk as wise people.
16: “…making the most of your time, because the days are evil.”
God has not given us an unlimited amount of time on the earth to learn our lessons. There will come a day when He will call us out of these bodies we have now to stand before Him. However that time arrives for you, you need to be ready. Make the most of your time. Why? The days are evil. That word for “evil” means “toilsome” or “bad.” Use them as an opportunity to practice a humble, gentle, mindset. Practice being like Jesus.
17: “So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.”
Foolish, aphron – without reason. Understand, suniemi – to set together, to understand, to reason out, to gain insight. We should be trying to reason out what the will of God is for us with every faculty we have. And sometimes that is difficult – but worth sticking with.
18: “…And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit…”
This verse reminds me of the very first day that Peter preached the Gospel publicly in Acts 2. People accused those spirit-filled disciples of being drunk at 9 a.m.! But no, they were filled with the Spirit of the living God. If you’re going to be filled with a spirit, make sure it’s the Holy Spirit! 😉
This is NOT making a case for temperance or total abstinence from alcohol, by the way. Many people who know me know I no longer drink because I am an alcoholic, and I can’t stop drinking, but instead I become dissipated. I lose my focus, my ability to live in reality, my self-control (which is sometimes an illusion), my morals, my inhibitions, and all that jazz. Instead of being filled with a distilled spirit, rather I choose now to be filled with the Holy Spirit, and now, I have all those things I lost, and I have them in His blessed context!
Rather, this is making the case against any activity that influences your focus on Christ negatively. That could be video games, television, card games, fantasy games, comic books, romance novels, vampire novels, vampire romance novels (yes, that’s a thing)…any of these things can dissipate your attention and will to walk with Christ as His beloved child (see v.1).
19: “…speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord…”
Here is a prescription for treating the “sickness” of “dissipation.” First, it says “speak to one another…” You cannot do this stuff by yourself. I am amazed and dismayed every time I hear of a Christian that does not want to fellowship at least once a week with other Christians. It’s a symptom that those toilsome days are dissipating such an individual if nothing else. According to Acts 2:42, one of the four basic activities of the Christian is to fellowship [kononia] with other believers, and in multiple places in the New Testament, it says this should be a regular and constant practice! If you are “forsaking the assembling of yourselves together, as is the manner of some,” then repent! You NEED other Christians for any number of reasons, and more, they need you. Find a good place that encourages you to read the Bible for yourself, and to start learning directly from Lord Jesus Christ Himself, instead of insisting on playing on your weaknesses or spoonfeeding you their so-called “truth” a little poisonous bite at a time. Go to a place that can point you to real resources to help you answer your own questions. And if you can’t find a place like that, pray about what God wants you to do. Don’t think for a minute, you are alone. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Next, it says that we speak to each other in Psalms – old hymns and meditative songs of faith in God, in hymns – a dedicated song of worship of Almighty God, and in spiritual songs – those songs that have Christ’s person and work in our lives as their central focus. Music for the Christian is a refuge, and can be a weapon of war when mixed with prayer. (Understand we do not “war” with people, but rather those forces behind the people who think themselves in charge of things down here.)
Then it says “singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.” I added the emphasis here. Singing is an external activity, and the Psalmist said, “make a joyful noise to the Lord.” I don’t know if you can all sing or not, I’ve fellowshipped with some tone-deaf people over the years, and although I admit I didn’t enjoy it, their singing wasn’t for me. And it sure was joyful! And if you don’t like to sing out loud, then sing and make melody in your heart. You should be doing both if you can. I used to belong to a barbershop quartet, ironically called “Joyful Noise.” It is easy for me to sing lyrics and think about a thousand other things at the same time. I have learned that I must focus (not be dissipated) on the words I am singing in my heart and mind while I am singing them, because, as this verse says, I am singing them to the Lord.
20: “…always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father…”
This speaks of how our attitude should always be that of thankfulness toward the Lord for everything, and we should be giving those thanks in the name of, in the power of, in the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, God Himself, to God the Father. Again, this isn’t a treatise about the Trinity, but you can see where the Trinity is throughout the Scripture, so I mention it in passing. Give thanks. That’s called Worship, by the way.
21: “…and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.”
Be subject, hupotasso – to place or rank under, to obey. Okay, I know I just spoke fighting words to some people. As both a form of defense and a response, let me say that individualism as seen in Western society today is not Biblical. We are not meant to be islands unto ourselves, and God has placed in an administrative system of ranked order, all of it under Himself. You can like that or not, but you can’t argue with God about it, and you certainly can’t change it realistically. This is a reference to the practice of humility, by the way. Humility is placing the concerns of everyone else ahead of your own. It means that we must submit or obey each other in the body of Christ (the overall context of the book of Ephesians). Why? The fear of Christ. He is literally the top of this authority system. That word fear? It is the Greek word phobos, and yes, it can mean reverence, awe, and all that good stuff, but at its root it means “to be put to flight.” Shaking in your boots, run screaming in the opposite direction, fear. Fear can be limiting, but the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom it says in Proverbs. If nothing else, fear Christ. He is God, after all.
22: “Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord.”
Okay, don’t get mad at me or try to call me a misogynist. It does say this, but remember what verse 21 says, we are all supposed to be subject to one another. I don’t hate women, I don’t believe in putting them down, or shutting them up, or putting them in lower positions period, and I don’t think that is what the Scripture or the Lord is saying. This passage is NOT about the subjugation of women. Bear with me for a second, and you’ll see the meaning from the passage itself.
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.”
Instead of subjugating women, this passage is rather explaining that the family is an object lesson in the kingdom of God. The Church is called “the body of Christ,” but is also called the “bride of Christ” in Scripture. In Christ’s “family,” He is the head of that family, because He is the Saviour of the Body, in very real terms. In that fashion, the wife, representing the bride, is in a place of subjection. v.24. But don’t worry ladies, the guys don’t get away with anything.
25: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her…”
You know, I can understand why many women are bothered (even angered) by the language of verse 22. And I have heard that verse used to justify horrible abuses in the church, so I feel what you are angry about as well. The problem I have seen is that the guys all want to stop reading at verse 24. Verse 25 here explains why. The Husband is to love the wife as Christ loves the church…remember, Jesus died for the church because He loved us so much. That is how God is saying that the husband is to love his own wife. I have to ask – if you love your wife like that, will you ever strike her? Abuse here emotionally, verbally, financially, or otherwise? I think not.
26: “…so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word…”
As with so many things, there is another level of things going on here. That divine, self-giving, self-sacrificial love toward the wife actually has a sanctifying and cleansing effect on her. Love the reference of the water of the word, too. This is why Christians should marry. She can’t imagine not being with you. You would be lost without her, and you love her so much you would literally do anything for her. All of this symbolizes Christ’s relationship to the church. Why?
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 would be holy and blameless.”
So that He could present Himself His own spotless Bride in all of her glory, holy and blameless in His sight. This is the object lesson of the family – that Christ is Head of the Church because He died for it, and He continues to wash it with the water of His Word, up to the day He comes to take His Bride home.
28: “So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself…”
And the Lord wouldn’t leave this kind of situation without benefits for those involved in it.
29: “…for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church…”
We are clearly to care for our wives as we would care for ourselves, because that’s how Jesus cares for His Bride, the church, which includes US.
30: “…because we are members of His body.”
This may seem like motivated self-interest, and maybe it is, but that isn’t a bad thing when it benefits everyone concerned.
31: “For this reason A man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”
Paul here is quoting the passage from Genesis 2. A man and a woman leave their childhood homes and make their own home. The two shall become one flesh means a lot more than just sex, too. For instance, both spouses have things they want in their home and such. But this isn’t Paul’s point, and he says so.
32: “This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church.”
Paul is trying to explain that the family has always been an object lesson, or rather a set of object lessons, that reflects heavenly truth, about the relationships of the Godhead, about the relationship of Christ and the Church, and there are probably even more. 33: Paul simply restates that the need for this object lesson to be demonstrated is to be Christian practice.