Welcome back to chapter 5 of our Ephesians study! I’m sure you’re all coming down off of a very special Easter weekend…I know for our church it was, and I was so grateful to not only be a part of it, but to be reminded yet again of the greatest news ever told: “He is risen, just as he said!” (Matthew 28:6).
A quick note, I’ve got new TWO posts out today, so for a fun story surrounding this theme of new life, check out my post All Things New.
Imitators of Christ
Diving back into Ephesians now! We’re slowly nearing the end of this letter from Paul to the church in Ephesus, and we’re definitely getting into the nitty-gritty now of what it looks like practically to walk in the “new life” with Christ and put the “old life” behind us (see Ephesians 2: From Death to Life).
Verse two describes Christ as “a fragrant offering” to God. Back in Genesis 8:20-21, Noah’s offering after the flood is described as an aroma pleasing to God, and God responds to this pleasing offering with a promise to never again destroy the Earth because of the evilness of mankind. Christ’s death on the cross pleases God in the same way, and he responds with an even greater promise…the forgiveness of sins and new life with Him, despite our brokenness. We are therefore called to “walk in love”, Christ-love, and be imitators of Him in this way.
In verses 3 through 6 we see another new life/old life exchange: we’re called to hand over impure actions and crude/foolish talk for thanksgiving. In other words, we’re called to turn away from selfish words and deeds that tear ourselves and each other down, in exchange for words of affirmation and encouragement that build one another up, thanking God for the good things he has given us and each other (ESV Study Bible, 2270). Recall when we looked at part 1 of chapter four that “ministry is defined by the work that builds up other believers and helps them grow closer to Jesus. A community that is maturing in Christ is a community that is filling each other with words of truth and love through the Spirit in a way that glorifies the Father and points people to Jesus.” (Ephesians 4: Part 1). This lifestyle combats the “covetousness” and “crude/foolish” talk Paul says have no place in the lives of those trying to imitate Christ. The old-life ways of idolatry (that is, the placing of things of this world above God in our lives and hearts; see Romans 1:21-25) have no place in the Kingdom. What does that mean? When we sin do we lose our salvation? I think most believers would say no (John 6:37-40; John 10:28-30; Romans 8:37-39; Romans 11:29; Ephesians 1:13-14). But then what is Paul saying here?
I want to talk about verses 5 & 6 for a minute. Here Paul is talking about unrepentant sin. A note I found both helpful and troubling came out of my ESV Study Bible: “A common deception throughout church history has been the notion that professing Christians can lead unrepentant sinful lives after conversion to Christ (2 Tim 3:1-9; 2 Peter 2:1-3) and not suffer consequences. But these practices lead to ‘the wrath of God’ in judgment (Rev. 2:21-23).” These are the “sons of disobedience” Paul’s talking about (Eph. 2:2, John 8:44, 1 John 3:10; ESV Study Bible, 2270). What do we do with that?
I feel the need to first note again that I’m no pastor. But when I ponder this, I’m led to believe that a person willfully living in unrepentant sin (AKA with no desire to change) has said no to a new life in Christ deep within their heart of hearts. Granted, we need to first know what the Word names as sin. For those who have read and known God’s word for themselves, to then willingly and without remorse turn back to those “old life” things (like crude and foolish talk, sexual immorality, covetousness, drunkenness, debauchery, as mentioned here) is a turning away from a life that glorifies God. It’s idolatry. The opposite of repentance. And for that, according to this passage, there is only wrath at judgment.
I bet I’ve lost at least 50% of my readers by now.
Seriously, brothers and sisters in Christ, what do we do with this? How in any way can we share this with anyone and come off as even remotely loving? How is this “walking in love”?
Verses 7-14 remind us that, when our eyes are opened to the truth of the gospel, we are called out of darkness into light. Being imitators of Christ calls us to be “light” in a dark world. Light becomes synonymous with truth…exposing what is real and revealing what is right in the eyes of God. It’s exposing sin…calling it by its name instead of letting it remain hidden in the shadows of shame and selfishness…that’s part of our call as believers, as disciples, as evangelists…as friends and neighbors, husbands and wives, parents and children.
Paul tells us to “try and discern” the will of the Father (v.10)…that means this isn’t going to be easy. We have the gift of the Holy Spirit, yes, but within sinful human bodies. There will always be tension (Romans 8:1-17, Galatians 5:13-26). Therefore we also have the Word as our guide and shield, to help us discern the Holy Spirit’s voice in our lives from the voice of our own sinful nature. This kind of wisdom “is especially needed in an evil age where the pathway of holiness is not always immediately clear until one reflects upon God’s word and discerns his holy will” (ESV Study Bible 2271).
This is another example of the old life/new life exchange, seen in verses 15-21: trading foolishness for wisdom. Wisdom comes by knowing “the will of the Lord” (by trusting God’s Word and leaning on the Holy Spirit for guidance). An example of this wisdom Paul gives is in trading drunkenness (a form of foolishness) for Spirit-filled worship (a form of wisdom). Have you ever asked yourself…am I drunk on the Spirit? Okay, you might be laughing right now, but truly…are you giving thanks in the name of Jesus in a joyful spirit, akin to the feeling you get after a couple drinks?
Now to be fair, I don’t think this means we can’t enjoy things like a glass of wine while we’re here on this earth. 1 Corinthians 10:31 says “whether you eat or drink or whatever your do, do ALL to the glory of God” (emphasis added). Though the Word is clear about drunkenness, I don’t think it’s telling us to never drink wine (Praise God!). It’s telling us to seek our greatest joy and light-heartedness from the Spirit of God, and no matter what we do, to give thanks to Him who gifted us all things. While we enjoy food and drink and the many gifts of God’s creation, we do it all in a manner that honors and glorifies Him.
Christ-like Submission (part 1)
Another key example of Spirit-filled wisdom is in the spirit of submission. Paul will look at a few different types of relationships in which Godly submission is present, and he starts with the relationship between husbands and wives.
Verses 22-33 describe what “new-life” marriages should look like under Christ. Wives submit to and respect their husbands just as they submit to and respect Christ (as called in Eph. 5:21). Paul paints a beautiful picture here of what the Christ-like husband looks like, comparing his role as husband to Christ’s role in his relationship to the Church: they are both the head (of the church; of the household); they both love and give themselves up for the other; they seek to sanctify the other, cleansing with water and the word (AKA baptism), to present her (the church/the wife) as holy and blameless before God. Just as Christ loves the Church as his own body, so does the husband love his wife (since they become one flesh, see Gen. 2:24). He nourishes and cherishes her.
Looking at Paul’s description, headship in marriage is neither controlling nor domineering. It’s gentle, compassionate, and self-sacrificing. That’s Christ-like headship. Manly love. Marriage should be an imitation of Christ’s relationship with the Church in this way. (There are hoards of books and Bible studies on this subject alone. I’d recommend Tim Keller’s The Meaning of Marriage, Francis Chan’s You + Me Forever, and Dan Allender’s Intimate Allies).
There’s SO much to digest in this chapter, so my prayer is that you’ll take the time do do this week. The more I sat with this chapter the more that came out of it for me, so I encourage you to mull it over and sit with these verses for awhile. This is not light stuff. I’d love to talk with you more about anything that stood out for you, or that you might find confusing or even discouraging. We can all learn from each other, so dialogue is just as important as personal reflection!
We’ll get a couple more practical examples of new-life living in chapter 6…AKA the LAST chapter of this series! Can’t wait to hear how God is teaching you and molding you through these passages.
Love you guys.
For God’s glory,
Interesting Reads and Helpful Resources
Follow, Like, and Subscribe!
Follow Kayla on Instagram: @kaylitacardona