by Jeff Dominguez
Ephesians 5:1-21 – Walking in Love
The first part of chapter 5 is a continuation of Paul’s discourse about the characteristics of a godly life in chapter 4:17-32.
This passage is not hard to dissect since it is a very straightforward preaching of what Christians should and shouldn’t do. But of course, it is not random. The overarching theme that carries Paul’s teachings in this passage is the idea of “walking in love” (v2) and being imitators of God (v1).
I. Walking in Love and Being an Imitator of God (vv1-2)
“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”
As a clarification, Christians are not just being taught to become good persons. To be specific, they are being taught to be like God, particularly His goodness and holiness (1 Pet. 1:16). Despite the sinfulness of humanity, they still have their brand of being good. For example, humans encourage each other to love one another. It sounds good on the surface, but if we will listen to the details, what this means is that they should accept and tolerate each other’s sins (like allowing same-sex marriage). This is why Christians are not just being taught to be good. They are being told to follow a specific model of goodness, and that is God’s goodness. This is the kind of goodness that is pure and sincere. It doesn’t tolerate sin and is willing to sacrifice for the sake of others. To follow God’s way is known as walking in love. God is love (1 John 4:16), therefore, His ways are also driven by love. So again, Christians should have God as their role model in the way they live.
II. The Details of Walking in Love (vv3-21)
“But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. 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. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. 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. 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.”
Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.”
Since this passage is “preachy” and somehow random in presentation, for this article, we will simply try to organize Paul’s teachings in this passage.
1) First, Christians are to avoid any kind of sexual immorality (v3).
2) Christians are to be decent even to the smallest details like in the way they talk. They are to avoid foolish talks and even crude joking (vv4-5).
3) Christians are to be vigilant, particularly with those who will try to deceive them with empty words (probably referring to false teachers); (v6). They are to avoid them and must learn to discern what is pleasing to the Lord (vv7-10).
4) Christians are also to avoid any “unfruitful works of darkness” (sinful activities) and must expose them (vv11-14).
5) Paul also taught that Christians should be mindful of the way they walk (meaning the way they live). He encourages them to be wise (godly wisdom; v15), not to be lazy (v16), and must study hard to learn God’s will (v17).
6) Most importantly, Christians should live SPIRIT-FILLED LIVES (v18). This is the key to successful Christian living. The Christian life is hard and it is only through the help of the Holy Spirit can they do it.
7) Lastly, Christians should have fellowship with one another (v19). Just like the First-Century Church (Acts 2:42-47), they are encouraged to worship God together. They should always give thanks to Him and in the name of peace, they should also submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
Again, the way of life that Paul is trying to teach here is not easy primarily because it goes against the ways of the world. But the key to living a successful Christian life was also presented in this passage, and that is to be always filled with the Holy Spirit. It is only through His help that a Christian can fully walk in love. And truth be told, the Holy Spirit wants to help us live a life that is pleasing to God. We just need to fully surrender ourselves to His leading and guidance.
In part 2, Paul will discuss the application of the Christian life in a more specific setting. This is perhaps the smallest unit of the church, and that is the Christian home.
God Bless!! 🙂