Ephesians 5:1-21 The Christian Walk
In our last study, in Ephesians 4:17-32 Paul describes for us the new life that we have in Christ. Christianity, as I mentioned, clearly in our last study, is not a modification of the old life but it is receiving the life of Christ through the new birth experience which is an exchange for our biosis Adamic life which stood condemned and which died on the cross. This new life which the New Testament calls zoe must now, Paul says, manifest itself in every phase of our Christian living. And that is what we brought out in our last study.
Now, turning to Ephesians 5 and the first 21 verses, Paul talks about the Christian walk. It is really a continuation of the new life in Christ but now he becomes specific in three areas.
Number one. The Christian walk is a walk in love. That is in Ephesians 5:1-7. Then in verses 8-14, Paul talks about the Christian walk as a walk in light. And finally in verses 15-21, the Christian walk is a walk in wisdom. Let us now look at each one of these carefully. And if you have your Bibles, please turn with me to Ephesians 5.
Let us see what he says in verse 1, "Therefore, (in view of the fact that you have this new life) be followers of God as dear children and walk in love as Christ also has loved us and given himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling aroma." One of the greatest privileges of being a Christian is that we have been adopted as sons and daughters of God. And Paul brought this out right at the beginning of his epistle to the Ephesians. In Ephesians 1:5 this is what Paul said. I want to just remind you what he said because we covered this in our first study. "Having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to himself." Before the cross, God had only one Son, one beloved, special Son. The New Testament says, the only begotten of the Father. But since the cross, God has many sons and daughters of whom Christ is the first. That is why, after the cross, He is not referred to as the only begotten but the first begotten because, through the cross, where Christ gave us His life in exchange for our life; He gave us His zoe in exchange for our biosis, we have by that new birth experience become sons and daughters of God. And what Paul is saying in Ephesians 5:1 is that since we are God's children, let us behave as God's children. Let us stop behaving like the sons and daughters of Adam. We are no longer in that position. We are now sons and daughters of God. He is saying, "Please behave like God's children." And how should God's children behave? Well, they should walk in love as the firstborn, Christ, walked in love and gave Himself for us.
Let me point you to a statement that Jesus made, recorded in John 13, made to His disciples which is also applicable to us, a very important statement. Verse 34: Jesus is talking to His disciples; He is coming to the end of His ministry and this is what He says. "A new commandment I give to you that you love one another as I have loved you, that you also love one another." Then in verse 35 He adds these words: "By this (that is, by this Christlike love) all will know that you are My disciples if you have love one for another."
You see, in 1 John 4:8 and also in verse 16, the apostle John makes it very clear. He says, "God is love." By this he does not mean that one of God's attributes is love. He means that God's nature, His character, everything about Him must be understood in the context of His agape love. But now he says that this love must be reflected in His children, the Christian. And when the world sees this kind of love, this unique agape love in the life of believers, they will know that we are Christians. You see, the world does not care whether you are saved or not. The world cares whether the gospel has the power to turn selfish, greedy men and women into those who love others unconditionally.
This brings me to the sermon on the mount. In Matthew 5, beginning with verse 43 to the end of that chapter, Jesus describes the kind of love that His disciples should reflect. He says in verse 43 of Matthew 5: "This is how you were taught in Judaism. Love your neighbor and hate your enemies." Paul goes on to prove and to show that you do not have to be a Christian to love your neighbor and hate your enemies. He goes on to show that even the publicans and the tax collectors and the sinners do the same thing. What Christians should do is love their enemies. "Do good to them that hate you. Bless them and do good to them who persecute you and despitefully use you that you may be the children of your Father which is in heaven." Then he explains how the Lord God brings the rain on the good and the evil, how He lets the sun shine on the righteous and on the wicked. In other words, God's love is unconditional therefore it is uncaused. It does not depend on the goodness of the object that is to be loved. It does not depend on the beauty of the one that is to be loved. Christian love must be like Christ's love, unconditional.
Paul beautifully expresses this unconditional love in Romans 5:6-10. He does it in contradiction to human love. In verse 6, he describes God's love and he says that while we were helpless, that is, incapable of saving ourselves, Jesus died for the ungodly, the wicked. Then in verse 7 he says that human love is not like this. Human love can only lay down life for some body good and even this is rare. But, in verse 8 he says that in contrast to this, God's love is so wonderful that while we were still sinners, Jesus died for us.
Then he goes one step further in Romans 5:10 that even while we were God's enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son. This is the kind of love that Christians must demonstrate to the world. But dear reader, this must become very clear. You and I cannot produce this love by puffing up our willpower and trying to do what Christ did. It is impossible for sinful human beings in and of themselves to produce this unconditional, self-emptying agape love of God. That is why I would like you to read the apostle John's way of putting it in 1 John 4. We will read two verses and I want you to note carefully because here is Christianity in action. Verse 7: "Beloved, let us love one another." Here the word love is agape. Let us love (agape-this special, unique, divine love) one another. "For love is of God and every one who loves is born of God and knows God." Our loving as God loves is evidence that we are born of God; we have this new zoe life and that we know God. Then in verse 12 we read. "No one has seen God at any time." Why? Because He is in heaven or because He is a Spirit. "But if we love one another, God abides in us and His love has been perfected in us." You see, it is only through the Holy Spirit that you and I can manifest the love of God. And it is only as we walk in the Spirit that we can walk in love.
Having defined this let me put it in a nutshell. When God first comes to you, please remember, He takes the initiative, it is not the sheep that go looking for the shepherd, it is the shepherd who goes looking for the lost sheep. That is the clear picture of the New Testament. God comes to us; He may come to us through another person; He may come to us through a book; He may come to us through a radio program or a TV program; whatever method He uses is immaterial but He comes to us; He takes the initiative and He tells us He proclaims to us, through His human instruments, the good news of salvation. He tells us that while we were helpless, ungodly, still sinners and even His enemies, we were already reconciled to Him by the death of His Son.
In other words, He tells us what Paul tells us in Romans 5, verse 18: "By one man's obedience justification unto life came to all men." Now, when that good news comes to you, because God created us with a free will, you and I have a choice either to say "Yes" or "No." And the positive response to the gospel is defined in the New Testament by the word "faith." "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, (gave it to the whole world), but that whosoever believeth...." Of course, "believe" and "faith" come from the same root word in Greek. Our response is faith and faith is saying "Yes" to God, "Yes" to what God did to me in Jesus Christ.
What happens next? The Holy Spirit is sent, and with Him, He brings the life of Christ and dwells in us. Now, we become born again Christians. And when the Holy Spirit comes into your life and into my life, He brings with Him an extremely important ingredient which Paul spends a whole chapter describing in 1 Corinthians 13. He calls it the supreme gift of the Holy Spirit and that gift is love. Paul says that this love comes into our hearts, not that it may go back to God, because this is unselfish love, God does not give us this love that it may go back to Him, it comes to us vertically from God through the Holy Spirit. But it wants to go horizontally towards our neighbors, towards everybody we meet. And Jesus said that by this demonstration of divine love all men will know that we are disciples.
May I make it very clear, friends, that the reason why the Christian religion in the Middle East lost its saltiness, and the Christian religion failed in Eastern Europe causing, in the Middle East, Islam to take over and in Eastern Europe, Communism to take over, is because the Christian church failed to demonstrate this love. In fact, in the industrial revolution in Europe, there was so much exploitation done that was condoned by the church, that Karl Marx condemned Christianity as being the opiate of the people.
My dear people, the world is getting worse and worse. Selfishness is becoming rampant, not only in our country but around the world. The time has come when the world desperately needs to see Christ in you and Christ in me. And that can only be seen, not by our words but by the love of Christ effecting in our everyday relationship with our fellow man.
Having laid this foundation, let us see what Paul says in Ephesians 5:3-7: "Do not let fornication or uncleanness or covetousness be named among you who are saints, neither filthiness or foolish talking nor false jesting but instead let our life be a life of thankfulness and a life of love." Then in verses 5, 6, and 7 he says, "Look, let us not turn the gospel into cheap grace." You see, my dear Christian, it is true that salvation is by grace alone as a gift to sinful man. But grace does not only save us from the guilt and punishment of sin, it saves us from sin itself and the very essence of sin is this "own wayness" which we call selfishness.
And so Paul says in verse 6 "Let no one deceive you with empty words. The gospel is not a theory; it is a power of God unto salvation." Having expounded this walk in the light, he now turns in verses 8-14 about walking in the light. To understand this we need first of all to read the passage and then see something that Jesus brought out also in the Sermon on the Mount. "For you were once darkness but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of the light for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness and truth, providing what is acceptable to the Lord and have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret (that is, the unbelievers) but all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light. For whatever makes manifest is light. Therefore, he says, "Awake you who sleep; arise from the dead since you now have the new life in Christ, and Christ will give you light." Well, that last statement puts in a nutshell what Paul is trying to say.
Now, to understand this we first of all have to define the word "light." Paul is not talking about illumination in terms of the light bulb or anything like that. I would like you, if you have your Bibles, to turn to John, chapter 1 and listen to how John describes Christ. In verse 4, John tells us that in Christ was life and the life was the light of men. So the light here is referring to the life of Christ, the zoe life which has made you and me as new creatures in Christ. Then, in verse 5 of John 1, he says, "And the light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not comprehend it. (referring to the Jews who saw the light but refused to see it.)" Then in verse 8 he says, speaking about John the Baptist: "This man came for a witness (that is, John the Baptist came to be a witness) to bear witness of the light that all through him might believe. He (that is, John) was not that light but was sent to bear witness of that light." John the Baptist like you and I are simply witnesses. The Light is Jesus Christ. Verse 9: "That was the true light which gives light to every man who comes into the world."
So you and I are not the light. Christ is the light but we are to reflect that light since we have received the life of Christ through the new birth experience.
With this in mind, I want to go back to the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5, 6 and 7. There in verse 14, Jesus makes a very interesting statement concerning His disciples. Listen to this. Matthew 5:14: "You (that is, the disciples) are the light of the world, a city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a bushel but on a lampstand and it gives light to all who are in the house." Now, the English text does not bring out the full import of what Jesus said so let me help you. The word "you" in verse 14 is in the plural form in the original language but the word light is in the singular. You see, the "you" refers to believers, you, myself and everyone who is a born again Christian. But while we are many, we all are just one light because the light is Jesus Christ. And so what Jesus is saying is, "Disciples, you must let Me, who is now dwelling in you through the Holy Spirit (and that is clearly brought out in Romans 8, 9 and 10), the light of the world, shine through you." How does the light shine through us? Well, Jesus makes it clear in verse 16: "Let your light so shine before men that they (the world) may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven." What are these good works? They are works of love as Paul describes in Ephesians 5:1-7. And now in verses 8-14 Paul is saying, "Christians, when you allow the love of Christ to reflect through your behavior, then you are not reflecting yourself; you are reflecting Christ in you which is the hope of glory." And Paul is saying, "If we walk in this light, we will reflect the life of Christ." And Jesus went about doing good and that is how we will also behave.
Finally, he turns to walking in wisdom in verses 15-21 in Ephesians 5. Please remember the word "wisdom" the Greek word is "sophia" means special knowledge. You know, Jesus said in John 8:32, "You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free." The Jews did not understand what He was talking about. They thought He was talking about political freedom and they said, "We are Abraham's children. What do you mean "free?" And Jesus said, "He that commits sin is a slave to sin." My dear Christian believers, my dear reader, sin is not simply an act. Sin is a power that dwells in your nature, that controls you, dominates over you like a slave is dominated by his master. Only through Jesus Christ can you find freedom. Jesus made it clear in John 8:36, "If the Son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed." But this freedom comes only through a knowledge of the gospel, the truth as it is in Christ.
And so, what Paul is saying in Ephesians 5:15-21 is, "In the light of this knowledge that you have received, this knowledge of Jesus Christ and salvation through Him, see that you walk according to this knowledge. See that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time because the days are evil." If this was true in Paul's day, how much more is this truer in our day when crime is becoming increasingly rampant in our nation. Verse 17 goes on, "Therefore, do not be unwise but understand what the will of the Lord is and do not be drunk with wine in which is dissipation but be filled with the Spirit." You see, here is the contrast. The worldly man wants his beer. That is what satisfies him. The Christian's greatest desire must to be filled, not with alcohol, not with beer, but with the Spirit of God.
Verse 19, "speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your hearts to the Lord." Christians should be the happiest people in the world because they have a joy, they have a peace, that the world cannot give them, but also because they are the sons and daughters of God. Let the world see how happy Christians are, not because of what they have done but because of what they are in Jesus Christ. Giving thanks always, for all things, to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Then he ends verse 21 which really is a transitional text, "Submitting to one another in the fear of God." The word "fear" here does not mean scared of God but as the book of Proverbs chapter 8, verse 13 says, "The fear of God is to hate evil."
Now what is Paul saying in this passage we have just covered? Let me summarize what he is saying. In chapter 5, verses 1-21 he is talking about the Christian walk. He says the Christian walk is three things. Number (1). It is walking in love, this special divine love, this zoe, this agape love, which was revealed in Christ Jesus. Number (2). A Christian is one who walks in light. In other words, it is not I but Christ who must live in me. He is the light of the world and through you and me He wants to lighten this earth with His glory. Finally, walking in wisdom, in the knowledge that we have through the gospel. In other words, Paul is discussing here sanctification. He makes it clear that sanctification is not I but Christ.
My dear Christian, sanctification is two processes that take place simultaneously. One is negative; one is positive. On the one hand, a Christian must constantly say, "I have been crucified with Christ. "Not I, but Christ." On the other hand, the Christian must say, "Christ must live in me. The life I now live, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself to me." Paul puts this very clearly in 1 Corinthians 4:10 and 11. On the one hand, daily, we are submitting to the cross of Christ that the flesh may be kept there on the cross. On the other hand, we must allow the light of Christ, which we have received through the Holy Spirit, live in us so that the world sees no longer us but Christ in us, the hope of glory. This is part of the wonderful good news of salvation. On the one hand, we have peace and joy and hope. On the other hand, there must be a transformation of the Christian life. Otherwise, we are deceiving ourselves as Paul clearly brings out in verses 5, 6 and 7 of Ephesians 5.
And so it is my prayer, dear reader that you will know this truth and this truth will set you free, free from the selfish nature of the flesh, free to live a life that God wants us to live. This is my prayer in Jesus' name. Amen.
The Christian Walk