Ephesians, Queen of the Epistles
by E.H. “Jack” Sequeira

#10 – The Christian Walk
(Ephesians 5:1-21)

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:

Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.  But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.  Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.  For of this you can be sure:  No immoral, impure or greedy person — such a man is an idolater — has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.  Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient.  Therefore do not be partners with them.

Then in verses 8-14, Paul talks about the Christian walk as a walk in light:

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.  Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord.  Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.  For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret.  But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for it is light that makes everything visible.  This is why it is said:  “Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”

And finally, in verses 15-21, the Christian walk is a walk in wisdom:

Be very careful, then, how you live — not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.  Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.  Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery.  Instead, be filled with the Spirit.  Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.  Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Submit to one another out of reverence to Christ.

Let us now look at each one of these carefully.  Turn to Ephesians 5.  Let us see what he says in verses 1-2:

Be imitators of God, therefore [in view of the fact that you have this new life], as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

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:

[In love] he [God] predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will....

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.  Jesus is talking to His disciples; He is coming to the end of His ministry and this is what He says.  Verse 34:

A new command I give you:  Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another.

Then in verse 35 He adds these words:

By this [that is, by this Christlike love] all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.

You see, in 1 John 4:8 and also in verse 16, the apostle John makes it very clear.  He says:

Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.  ...God is love.  Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.

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:

You have heard that it was said, “Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.”

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.  Matthew 5:44-47:

But I tell you:  Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.  He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.  If you love those who love you, what reward will you get?  Are not even the tax collectors doing that?  And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others?  Do not even pagans do that?

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 who 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 somebody 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.  Romans 5:6-10:

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.  Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die.  But God demonstrates his own love for us in this:  While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!  For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!

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:

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God.  Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.

Here the word love is agape.  “Let us love [agape, this special, unique, divine love] one another.”  1 John 4:8:

Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.

“For love is of God and everyone 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 ever seen God....

Why?  Because He is in heaven or because He is a Spirit.

No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete 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 5:18:

Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for 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.”  John 3:16:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

“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:

But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.  Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.  For of this you can be sure:  No immoral, impure or greedy person — such a man is an idolater — has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.  Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient.  Therefore do not be partners with them.

In verses 5-7 he says, “Look, let us not turn the gospel into cheap grace.”  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.  Ephesians 5:6-14:

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.  Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord.  Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.  For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret.  But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for it is light that makes everything visible.  This is why it is said:  “Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”

Well, that last statement puts in a nutshell what Paul is trying to say:  “Awake you who sleep; arise from the dead since you now have the new life in Christ, and Christ will give you light.”

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.  Turn to John, chapter 1 and listen to how John describes Christ.  John 1:4:

In him was life, and that life was the light of men.

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:

The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.

He is referring to the Jews who saw the light but refused to see it.  Then in verses 7-8 he says, speaking about John the Baptist:

He [that is, John the Baptist] came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe.  He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.

John the Baptist was simply a witness, like you and I are witnesses.  The Light is Jesus Christ.  Verse 9:

The true light that gives light to every man was coming 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 5:14-15:

You are the light of the world.  A city on a hill cannot be hidden.  Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl.  Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.

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.  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?  Jesus makes it clear in verse 16:

In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise 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.”  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:

Be very careful, then, how you live — not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.  Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.  Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery.  Instead, be filled with the Spirit.  Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.  Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Submit to one another out of reverence to Christ.

Please remember the word “wisdom” — the Greek word is sophia — means “special knowledge.”  Jesus said in John 8:32:

Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

The Jews did not understand what He was talking about.  They thought He was talking about political freedom.  Verse 33:

They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone.  How can you say that we shall be set free?”

And Jesus said (verse 34):

...“Everyone who sins 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:

So if the Son sets you free, you will 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?  Verses 17-18 of Ephesians 5 goes on:

Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.  Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery.  Instead, 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:

Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.  Sing and make music in your heart 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.  Verse 20:

...Always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Then he ends verse 21, which really is a transitional text:

Submit to one another out of reverence to Christ.

The word “fear,” used in some translations here, does not mean scared of God but, as the book of Proverbs chapter 8, verse 13 says:

To fear the Lord 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:

  1. It is walking in love, this special divine love, this zoe, this agape love, which was revealed in Christ Jesus.

  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.

  3. 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 2 Corinthians 4:7-11:

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.  We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.  We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.  For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body.

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, to 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:

For of this you can be sure:  No immoral, impure or greedy person — such a man is an idolater — has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.  Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient.  Therefore do not be partners with them.

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.


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