Ephesians 5:1–5, 8–12, 15–16comment (0)
January 5, 2012
By Joseph Scrivner
Related Scripture: Ephesians 5:1–5, 8–12, 15–16
Bible Studies for Life
Assistant Professor of Religion, Department of Religion, Samford University
SEEKING PURITY IN A SENSUAL CULTURE
Ephesians 5:1–5, 8–12, 15–16
Paul repeatedly emphasizes what God has done for believers through Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. He also calls believers to respond in a way appropriate to God’s grace. This order in Paul’s presentation is sometimes called “the indicative and the imperative.” The indicative refers to one’s status in Christ, while the imperative points to the lifestyle fitting this position.
Ephesians has this pattern, with three indicative chapters and then three imperative ones. In the first half, one finds, “By grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift — not from works, so that no one can boast” (Eph. 2:8–9). This salvation entails the Holy Spirit’s power so that believers can experience “the length and width, height and depth” of God’s love, which surpasses knowledge (Eph. 3:14–21).
Walk in Love (1–5)
The second half of Ephesians begins with “therefore” to signal the transition from the indicative to the imperative. Believers are urged “to walk worthy of the calling” they have received in Christ, accepting fellow believers in loving humility (Eph. 4:1–2). This walk also recognizes the importance of unity and mutual edification in the church (Eph. 4:3–16). In addition, a worthy walk as members of Christ’s new community requires a rejection of old habits, such as lying, anger and insults (Eph. 4:17–32). This includes using one’s mouth for good, duly avoiding “rotten talk” (Eph. 4:29).
Ephesians 5 starts with “therefore” again, calling believers to imitate God in sacrificial love (1–2). The presence of love should naturally lead to the absence of sexual immorality in word and deed (3–4). In fact, imitating God’s grace and love means that the believer cannot indulge in selfish sexual activity. Selfish sexuality seeks pleasure without an appropriate personal commitment. This is why a life characterized by sexual impurity has no place in God’s Kingdom (5).
Walk in Light (8–12)
Despite contentions to the contrary, believers should recognize that sexual sin ultimately proceeds from spiritual darkness (Eph. 5:6–7). Participation in it represents an inability to see that God’s design is based in love and thus for the good of His children (8–10). Unfortunately believers struggle to articulate this vision of God’s goodness in a convincing manner. Too often, they refer to sex in largely negative terms. This is somewhat understandable since the stakes are so high for illicit sexual activity, with consequences ranging from disease to unplanned parenthood. Still, believers should present sexual activity within proper parameters as God’s precious gift. Then, as a valuable present, it can be rightly treasured, protected from the decay of fornication or adultery.
Believers must consistently present strong, loving relationships as positive alternatives to the cheap thrills of contemporary culture. They must develop appetites for finer food, so to speak, so that young people and adults will prefer it to prevalent fast-food options. We might say only when one fully appreciates the light can one understand the true depth of darkness. This is how the works of darkness are exposed (11–14).
Walk in Wisdom (15–16)
When believers strive to walk in a manner worthy of their calling in Christ, their lives are characterized by wisdom. This means choices that reflect a proper expression of gratitude for God’s grace (Eph. 5:17). Wisdom comes by the empowering of the Holy Spirit (Eph. 5:18) and the mutual encouragement of fellow believers (Eph. 5:19–20). Wisdom consists in sacrificial support in relationships on many levels (Eph. 5:21), including marriage (Eph. 5:22–32), parenting (Eph. 6:1–4) and the workplace (Eph. 6:5–9). The light of wisdom on the path of these relationships enables one to avoid the pitfalls of darkness. We witness troubles all around us, among believers and unbelievers alike. Accordingly we must prepare for spiritual warfare by donning God’s full armor (Eph. 6:10–18). Then we are able to stand and resist temptation (Eph. 6:13).