Ephesians 5:1–14comment (0)
October 28, 2010
By Dale Younce
Related Scripture: Ephesians 5:1–14
Explore the Bible
Professor of Christian Studies, School of Christian Studies, University of Mobile
“How can I be like God? I’m human. Like all people, I am a sinner.” Many Christians think like this. They see the idea of being like God as either foreign or scary and perhaps both. Yet this concept can be traced back to Jesus and His teaching in Matthew 5:48 (“Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”) and even to Moses and what God said to him as found in Leviticus 19:2 (“You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.”). Reading such passages will handle the foreign part, but what about the scary part? Happily the New Testament has passages that give some specific details on meeting this standard. These passages call for living in morally upright ways.
Live in Love (1–2)
The apostle Paul stated a general principle for Christian living and then stated specific illustrations of how the principle works out in life. The principle is that children of God should imitate their heavenly Father by “walking in love.” Since we have trusted Christ, we have become children of God, partaking of His divine nature (1 Pet. 4:8). Consequently we should be people who love as our Savior loved us, with sacrificial love; “He gave Himself for us.” History’s supreme instance of love is Christ’s death on the cross. Jesus’ voluntary sacrifice was a pleasant aroma, pleasing to God. When we live in ways that express Christian love to others, we reflect God’s character.
Live Without Impurity (3–7)
Paul listed some specific unrighteous behaviors, all of which are inconsistent and inappropriate for people who belong to God’s kingdom. These are beneath the dignity of a child of God. We are saints, people set apart from the world and no longer chained by the darkness of sin. Paul warned us against sexual sins of fornication, adultery and moral pollution. He listed greed along with sexual sins because those sins spring from the same nature of fallen humanity, the overwhelming desire to satisfy one’s cravings by taking what belongs to another. This type of playboy philosophy has no place in the attitude and actions of those who mimic God, who is holy and righteous. Nor does foolish, obscene talk find a place in Christian living. Paul was not talking about innocent humor but conversation that cheapens people and does nothing to minister grace to the hearers, senseless speech often veiled in innuendo or double meanings. Expressions of gratitude should be on the Christian’s tongue. When grace is in the heart, there will be grace on the lips. Paul reminded his readers that he had previously taught this truth in Ephesus. He made it very clear that God does not tolerate sin and people who deliberately and persistently practice disobeying the Lord will not be in His kingdom. He pointed out that Christians should not let empty words about these sins deceive them into thinking that God will not judge these sins. The followers of Christ, living God-honoring lives, are headed for God’s kingdom.
Live As Light (8–14)
Using the illustration of light and darkness, Paul intensified his instruction for Christians to live God-honoring lives. Darkness describes the life of the unbeliever as empty of virtue in moral matters. Light refers to God’s character and moral excellence of heart and will, truthfulness and righteous living. As believers live in the truth of God’s Word, the knowledge of God’s will becomes clearer and clearer; we learn what pleases the Lord. Believers are to live righteously and avoid the evil works and ways of unbelievers. Furthermore the Christian’s responsibility is greater than merely avoiding evil. He or she also is to expose and oppose darkness wherever it is found. The light of the positive proclamation of God’s Word exposes evil. What the apostle was describing here is a three-step process of growth into truth: (1) People are exposed by the Light when the gospel is shared; (2) they submit to the Light when they trust Christ; and (3) they become light by obeying God’s Word. Christians have been brought from darkness to Light through salvation; their lives are to reflect the Light, thereby exposing the darkness in other’s lives.