I began this series in August 2016 just after my wife Carole and I had been told [once again] that her particular cancer was incurable and death would soon follow. We were often reminded in the following months that imminent death was not a case of “if” but rather a case of “when.”
Our response was to bring this to the Lord to see what He would do about the situation in His infinite love and power. It seemed appropriate to pray our way through Paul’s letter to the Ephesians as part of being open to His grace and love. Carole passed into the presence of the Lord just a month ago. However in the months leading to her death, she said she had come closer to the Lord than at any time in her life. She said that she was ready to keep living for the Lord, or to obey Him if He called her home. By the grace of God, she succeeded in doing both!
Grieving the loss of my best friend ever [as well as being my beloved wife] makes it harder at the moment to focus, so I have made use of some previous material [from 2011] to help formulate this look at Ephesians 5. Blog number 044 was an Outline of the Ephesians 5 passage and I will adapt some of its contents.
A SIMPLE PRAYER BASED ON EPHESIANS 5:1-16 INCORPORATING THE FOLLOWING TREATMENT OF THE PASSAGE
“Heavenly Father, we thank You for the privilege of being called children of God. Help us to have the same sort of love that Jesus showed in giving up His life so that we might live.
Enable us by Your Spirit to be pure as you are pure in all our relationships and to have a thankful heart towards You for the grace You give us to live for You.
May our Christian walk show that we have been brought from darkness into Your glorious light.
Help us to be wise and to live every moment for You. We ask these things in Jesus’ name. AMEN”.
WALKING IN LOVE AND IN THE LIGHT. EPHESIANS 5:1-16
Paul opens the section with an admonition to “walk” in love. He uses “walk” 6 times in this epistle to denote the manner of life needed to be lived by the believer. (See Note 1 below). A new spiritual birth necessitated a new walk or a whole new manner of life for the one who had come to believe.
1). WALKING IN LOVE AS AN IMITATION OF GOD’S LOVE. 5:1-4
What it involved. Living in the family likeness of Father and Son.
Paul had finished the previous chapter with these words, “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Eph 4:32. God Himself was to be the pattern for kindness, tender-heartedness and forgiveness. Paul continued on that same theme in chapter 5 as he wrote, “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.”
- God Himself formed the perfect pattern and the example of love they were to imitate.
- Jesus also showed forth the sort of love they were to walk in. They were to love in the same self-giving, sacrificial way that Christ loved. “And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” We note the following
- The command was to “keep on walking in love’ for the verb is a present tense imperative or command.
- The example of such love was seen in Jesus, “as Christ loved us.”
- Such love was sacrificial for the “other”, “and [Jesus] gave himself up for us.” [Gave up” is from paradidōmi; παραδίδωμι] and was often used of Jesus being handed over or delivered to someone. [NOTE 2} It is important to note that it was Jesus’ choice to give Himself up. It was not forced upon Him by the Father or by anyone else.
- “a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” Those who witnessed the crucifixion of Jesus and His subsequent death may have had differing attitudes to what happened. But God Himself was pleased with this sacrifice for it had a positive purpose, namely the fulfilling of His will, through the redemption of the world through Jesus’ sacrificial death.
What it didn’t involve. No more living as they once did. Believers were to live new lives
- The Old Life had to come to an end. “But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints.” 5:3. Such behaviour was not appropriate for the people of God.
- Negative, destructive words and actions had to cease. “ Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking which are out of place” (5:4). It is unusual to find these 3 Greek words placed together when none of them occur elsewhere in the New Testament. Why should such language cease? Because it was “out of place” or not fitting.
- The Contrast. The positive aspects of the New Life. “but instead let there be thanksgiving” 5:4. Humans have a choice, to be positive and affirming or to be negative and destructive. The way to become the former, is through “thanksgiving.“ It is the word [eucharistia; εὐχαριστία] from which we get the English word “eucharist,” a service of thanksgiving. It is no wonder that Paul stressed the need for thanksgiving as he wrote in 1 Thess 5:18, “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” The verb here is [eucharisteō; εὐχαριστέω] derived from eucharistia. Thanksgiving to God in every situation, is God’s will for His people, because He knows that when they are focussed on Him in praise, adoration and thanksgiving, they are living as He always meant His creatures to live.
2). THE DANGER FOR THOSE WHO CONTINUE TO LIVE THE OLD LIFE. 5:5
- They miss out on God’s inheritance. “For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.” (5:5). We need to recognise that Paul is describing unrepented continuous or habitual activity where people have not turned to God in repentance for forgiveness, and for His help to be different.
- They will suffer the wrath of God. “Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.” Again we note that it is continuous unrepented sin that is being spoken of here. The wrath of God is a reality facing every person who does not honour the Son of God by accepting Him as Saviour and by subsequently obeying Him as Lord. [Because it is a major concept, it may need a separate article in the future. Suffice it to say, the reality of the wrath of God is far beyond human imagination, mainly because we have no idea of the sinfulness of sin in the eyes of a holy God.]
3). THE RESPONSIBILITIES FOR THOSE LIVING THE NEW LIFE. 5:6-16
Walking in the light rather than in the former darkness. “Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.”5:7-10. John wrote of Jesus as the light coming into the world to dispel the darkness, “And this is the judgment: 17 the light has come into the world, and 18 people loved the, darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.” John 1:16-20. Enlightened believers should no longer walk in the darkness from which they have been rescued by Christ.
Walking in the light to expose the darkness. “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” 5:11-14. John expressed the same truth in these words, “But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.” Or as Paul put it in Phil 2:12-13, “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” We need to work out in practice what God inwardly working in us, which gives Him pleasure and also shows “the light of the world” at work in, and through us, to His glory.
Before we leave this section we should note the significance of these words in verse 10, “and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.” The word “discern” [dokimazō; δοκιμάζω] seems to have been a favourite expression of St Paul’s. He used it 16 of the 21 times it is used in the New Testament. Perhaps its most well-known occurrence is in Romans 12:2, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” The underlined phrase translates our one word [dokimazō]. It has those 2 meanings, to test and then to approve after testing. It is in setting out to actively do the will of God that we ourselves find His will, to be good, acceptable and perfect, AND far more importantly, pleasing to Him.
Walking carefully and wisely so as to not waste time. “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” 5:15-16. Paul has been showing the necessity of walking in the will of God, but now he adds that they need to do so, carefully. Why would he need to add that provision? Fortunately, he gives us the answer. He recognised that it is possible for even believers to be unwise and waste their God-given time in an evil world. As Paul wrote in the verse I quoted above, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Rom 12:2. It is all too easy for anyone living in this evil world to come under its influence. “Conformed” is from [syschēmatizō; συσχηματίζω]. It means to conform to a pattern or mould. It can mean thinking in a worldly way, or living no differently from the world around us or adopting the same attitudes as those who are still unregenerate.
The JB Phillips translation simply, but meaningfully, said, “Don’t let the world squeeze you into its mould.” The solution Paul gave was to be transformed by having a renewed mind, by the Spirit of God. “Transformed” is from [metamorphoō; μεταμορφόω] from which we get our English word metamorphosis. It is used of the transfiguration of Jesus and also of our transformation into the likeness of God, from one degree of glory to another, in 2 Cor 3:18, where he adds, “For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”
How can this take place? By “making the best use of the time,” Paul writes, where the word used is [exagorazō; ἐξαγοράζω] which means to redeem or to buy back. In other words, making the best use of every God-given opportunity to do His will to His glory.
What a challenge this passage is to us, to live for the Lord, for every moment of our lives, to bring Him pleasure.
NOTE 1. “Walk.” In 2:10, it is to walk in the good works God has prepared for His people. In 4:1 the readers were encouraged to remember their calling and to walk worthily of that calling. In 4:17 it was a reminder that they should no longer walk in the way of the Gentiles. In 5:2 it is to walk in love and also in 5:8 they were to walk as children of light. Finally in 5:15 they were to be careful to walk as wise rather than as unwise people.)
NOTE 2. The word “gave up” [paradidōmi; παραδίδωμι] is used of Jesus also in the following verses, in terms of being “handed over.” Praise God that the human handing over of Jesus to others was all part of His giving up Himself to achieve the will of God for Him.
- The betrayal of Jesus by Judas Iscariot. Mk 14:10, “Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went to the chief priests in order to betray him to them.”
- The chief priests delivering Jesus to Pilate. Mk 15:1 “And as soon as it was morning, the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council. And they bound Jesus and led him away and delivered him over to Pilate.”
- Pilate handing Jesus over to the chief priests and the crowds. Mk 15:15, ‘So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified”. ALSO Lk 23:25, “He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, for whom they asked, but he delivered Jesus over to their will.”
Blog No.332. Ephesians 5:1-16. Walking In Love And In The Light. [In the series “Praying through Ephesians.”]. Posted on www.jimholbeck.blog on Monday 2nd December 2019.