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David Guzik Study Guide
for Ephesians Chapter 5

Ephesians 5 - Life In the Spirit

A. Forsaking the darkness

1. (1-2) Walking in love

a. Here, Paul concludes the thought from chapter 4, where he speaks about how Christians should relate to one another

b. As we are forgiving one another, just as God in Christ also forgave you (Ephesians 4:32), we will fulfill what Paul means when he tells us to be followers of God

c. As in all things, Jesus is our example; as He has loved us and [has] given Himself for us, we are to display the same kind of self-giving love

d. Jesus' giving of Himself was obviously a sacrifice pleasing to the Father; we can also offer a pleasing sacrifice (a sweet-smelling aroma) as we give ourselves in love to others

i. We often think we could lay down our life in a dramatic way to show our love for others; but God often calls us to lay down our lives little by little - in quarters instead of one lump sum - but it is laying down our lives nonetheless

2. (3-4) A contrast to walking in love: conduct not fitting for the Christian

a. Paul lumps together the ideas of fornication (porneia, a broad word describing sexual sin), uncleanness (another broad word for "dirty" moral behavior, especially in a sexual sense), filthiness (much the same as uncleanness) and coarse jesting (which has the idea of inappropriate, "dirty" sexual humor) - all of these are not fitting for saints

i. Notice the theme of the moral appeal: it isn't "avoid these things so that you can be a saint"; rather, it is "you are a saint; now live in a manner fitting for a saint"

ii. The constant moral appeal of the New Testament is simply this: be who you are in Jesus

b. This emphasis on sexual sin is fitting; the culture of Paul's day (and in Ephesus especially) was given over to sexual immorality, and the sort of behavior Paul says is not fitting for saints was pretty much completely approved by the culture (just like today)

c. Paul also includes coveteousness and foolish talking in this list because of their close association with sexual sin (the desire to unrighteously possess and vain talk); but they also have relevance beyond their relation to sexual sin

i. Foolish talking is literally "an easy turn of speech"; in the context, the idea is of the one who can turn every conversation into some joking comment on sexual matters, usually with a double-entendre

d. Positively, the Christian is to give thanks for sex; we receive it thankfully as a gift, and we enjoy sex in a way that glorifies the Giver

i. God's purpose in giving sex is not primarily for the gratification of the individual, but for the bonding together of husband and wife in a one-flesh relationship; certain expressions of sexuality are sin not because God wants to deprive some aspect of enjoyment, but because they work against His primary purpose for sex

3. (5-7) The consequences of conduct not fitting for Christians

a. Those mentioned first in verse 3 (the fornicator, the unclean person and the covetous man) have no inheritance in God's kingdom; if God's kingdom is alive in them, a transformation has occurred so that they cannot rest in the habitual practice of these things

i. Paul's idea in verse five can be applied out of context in a condemning way; one might say, "well, I've thought about committing fornication, so that means that I have fornicated in my heart and that means that I am as guilty as someone who has actually committed the act of fornication. Since I am as guilty as that one, and they have no inheritance in the kingdom of God, neither do I, because of my thoughts about fornication."

b. Significantly, Paul says that the covetous man is an idolater; idolatry is practiced in much more subtle (and powerful) ways than the bowing down before a statue

c. We cannot allow empty words to excuse or minimize the judgment due to the practice of these sins; it is certain that because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience

d. Paul assumes that Christians will not have their lives habitually marked by fornication, uncleanness or coveteousness; but we should not even occasionally be partakers with them who are

4. (8-12) The passing from darkness to light

a. As Paul condemns those who practice fornication, uncleanness or coveteousness as the sons of disobedience (verse 6), he also recognizes that this is the exact darkness that Christians emerge from; but now, having been enlightened, we are to walk as children of the light

i. Again, the theme is repeated: you are the light; so live like children of the light

b. Paul doesn't only say that we were once in darkness; he says we were once darkness itself; and now, we are not only in the light, we are light in the Lord

c. In contrast to the walk in darkness and wrath is the fruit of the Spirit (more fully described in Galatians 5:22-23); because we have the Holy Spirit in our lives, we should be marked by goodness, righteousness and truth

d. Instead of having fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, we should expose them - but not for the purpose of merely talking about them (which is shameful), but for the purpose of educating ourselves enough to avoid them

i. Christians must guard against a prurient interest in the works of darkness; even in times of testimony or research

ii. Paul is careful to say that we should avoid the unfruitful works of darkness; not the people who are in darkness

B. Walking in the light

1. (13-14) The fact of the light's presence

a. Even the things done in secret will be exposed; they will be made manifest by the light of God's searching judgment

b. Our participation in the light is shown by our resurrection with Jesus (He made us alive together with Christ, Ephesians 2:5); Paul quotes what was probably a "worship chorus" from the early church to illustrate this truth

2. (15-17) Walking in the light means walking in wisdom

a. Because this light has been given to us, we should walk circumspectly - carefully, wisely, not as fools

b. It is also important to walk wisely because the days are evil; a wise walk means that we are making the most of our time (redeeming the time)

i. We must be careful to exercise wise stewardship over our time; it is a resource just like any other God has given to us to manage

c. Real wisdom is to understand what the will of the Lord is; this contrasts with being unwise

3. (18) Walking in the light means constantly being filled with the Holy Spirit

a. In contrast with the conduct of the world (being drunk with wine), we are to be filled with the Spirit - and the grammar clearly says "be constantly being filled with the Holy Spirit"

b. The filling of the Holy Spirit is not a one-time event that we live off of the rest of our days; it is a constant filling, asking to be filled, and receiving the filling by faith

i. Though, there is a wonderful and significant first experience with the filling of the Holy Spirit, often thought of as the Baptism of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:11; Acts 1:5 and 11:16), an experience valid and important for every believer

ii. Much of the weakness, defeat and lethargy in our spiritual lives can be attributed to the fact that we are not constantly being filled with the Holy Spirit

d. The grammar also indicates two other important things: the verb is also passive, so this is not a manufactured experience; and it is imperative, so this is not an optional experience!

e. The carnal contrast to being filled with the Holy Spirit is being drunk; the Bible condemns drunkenness without reservation

i. Paul here calls it dissipation; drunkenness is a waste of resources that should be submitted to Jesus

ii. Wine is a mocker, Strong drink is a brawler, And whoever is led astray by it is not wise. (Proverbs 20:1); Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has contentions? Who has complaints? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes? Those who linger long at the wine, those who go in search of mixed wine. Do not look on the wine when it is red, When it sparkles in the cup, when it swirls around smoothly; at the last it bites like a serpent, and stings like a viper. Your eyes will see strange things, And your heart will utter perverse things. (Proverbs 23:29-33)

iii. We must not think that only being "falling down drunk" is a sin; but being impaired in any way by drink is sin, as well as drinking with the intention of becoming impaired

iv. "The danger of drunkenness lies not only in itself but in what it may induce." (Wood) Yearly, in the United States, alcohol is responsible for almost 100,000 deaths (25,000 by drunk drivers alone), 6 million non-fatal injuries, and more than $100 billion in economic losses such as unemployment and loss of productivity

f. Alcohol is a depressant; it "loosens" people because it depresses their self-control, their wisdom, their balance and judgment. The Holy Spirit has an exactly opposite effect; He is a stimulant; He moves every aspect of our being to better and more perfect performance.

4. (19-21) Walking in the light means serving one another in love

a. When we are filled with the Spirit, we will have a desire to worship God, and to encourage others in their worship of God

i. The connection with being filled with the Spirit and praise is significant; those who are filled with the Spirit will naturally praise, and praise is a way that we are filled with the Spirit

b. The variety of psalms and hymns and spiritual songs suggests that God delights in creative, spontaneous worship; and the most important place of us to have a melody unto God is in our heart; many who can't sing well have the most beautiful melodies in their heart!

c. The one who is filled with the Spirit will also be filled with thanksgiving; a complaining heart and the Holy Spirit just don't go together

d. Paul recommends the same pattern for our thanksgiving as he practiced in prayer in Ephesians 3:14 - giving thanks to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ

e. When we are filled with the Spirit, it will show by our mutual submission to each other; and the submission will be done in the fear of God, not the fear of man

i. Submission because of the fear of man is coercive; submission out of the fear of God is a beautiful act of love

5. (22-24) How wives walk in the light: submitting to their husbands

a. The command to submit to your own husbands is as clear as it is difficult; true submission is not only shown in our actions, but in our hearts - God wants us to be able to joyfully embrace submission

i. God commands of every believer submission to some level of authority or another; and as with all submission, wives find it easy to submit to their husbands when the agree, but difficult when they do not agree - but that is where our submission is tested

ii. Essential to the idea of submission is trust - trust in God (because submission to proper authority is always submission to God), more than a trust in the authority (whom God has the ability to by guide)

iii. We think we display a lack of trust in the authority by our unsubmissiveness; what we really display is a lack of trust in God, who has commanded our submission

b. We notice that Paul commands wives to submit to your own husbands, not to men in general; God has ordained male headship in two institutions: the family and the church; outside of those arenas, women have an equal claim to headship as men

i. Though male political and economic headship are the norm (American anthropologist Margaret Mead: "All the claims so glibly made about societies ruled by women are nonsense. We have no reason to believe that they ever existed."), they are not specifically commanded by God

c. The reason for submission is simple: God has declared the husband to be head of the wife; because he has the final accountability, he also has the final authority

i. The headship of the husband is a fact to acknowledge, not a goal to achieve - this fact is either recognized or ignored by husbands and wives

d. The headship of the husband over the wife is analogous to the headship of Jesus over His church; the wife is to us the church's ideal submission to Jesus as her model of submission

6. (25-32) How husbands walk in the light: loving their wives

a. The model for the husband's love is nothing less that the totally self-giving love of Jesus; husbands are to set aside their natural selfishness and care for their own wives as their would themselves

i. "In the Greco-Roman society it was recognized that wives had obligations to their husbands, but not vice versa." (Wood) It is hard to understand how contrary Paul's teaching to husbands was to a society where wives were literally considered the property of their husbands

b. Jesus' love for the church was a love that wanted the church to be lifted up to its highest level; a church that is sanctified, cleansed, glorious and without blemish. The way husbands develop these same things in their wives is by displaying the same self-giving love Jesus did towards His own people

i. The great importance of marriage is communicated by Paul's analogy: if marriage is an illustration of Jesus' relation to His church, then it has a much greater significance than a mere legal agreement in force while mutual warm feelings endure

ii. When Paul says the washing of water by the word, he uses the word rhema; "It is true that rhema is not quite the same as logos, but carries with it the definite sense of the spoken word . . . it may have the sense of that truth as proclaimed, the preached Word or Gospel." (Salmond) There is something cleansing about being under the teaching of the Word!

c. Paul's wisdom is evident in the observation he who loves his wife loves himself; whatever sacrifice is required in this self-giving love, it is worth the cost - the dividends are great

i. This love is shown not only by words, but especially by actions which show that the husband nourishes and cherishes his wife - requiring that husbands dwell with them [their wives] with understanding (1 Peter 3:7)

d. The reference to and the two shall become one flesh is not only the goal of marriage in God's eyes (emphasized by Genesis 2:24 and by Jesus in Matthew 19:5), but it is also a way of describing Jesus' spiritual union with His people, our oneness in Him - Paul is speaking concerning Christ and the church

7. (33) A summary comment to husbands and wives

a. When a husband will love his own wife as himself, he meets the great need in her to feel secure, knowing that someone will watch out for her own best interest

i. The often repeated command for husbands to love their wives (Ephesians 5:25, 33; Colossians 3:19; 1 Peter 3:7) does not mean that wives are not under a similar obligation to love their husbands; it does mean that this self-giving love is a particular challenge for most men, and that they need to be reminded often of it, and that this kind of self-giving love meets an essential need in the wife

b. When a wife will show that she respects her husband, through the kind of submission described in 5:22-24, she meets her husband's great need to feel respected and worthwhile

i. The often repeated command for wives to submit to their husbands (Ephesians 5:22-24; Colossians 3:18; 1 Peter 3:1-2) does not mean that there is not to be a dynamic of mutual submission in marriage; it does mean that this attitude of joyful submission is a particular challenge for most women, and that they need to be reminded of it, and that this kind of respect demonstrated through submission meets an essential need in the husband

c. "It is significant . . . that throughout this section husbands and wives are reminded of their duties and not their rights." (Foulkes)