Author: Ron Graham
A verse by verse study of Ephesians 5:1-21, about the manner in which God’s holy people should conduct themselves in daily life.
There is a common belief that love does away with the need for rules and discipline. However Paul sees walking in love as consistent with following God’s rules.
¶“1Imitate God as beloved children. 2And walk in love, as Christ loved us. Christ gave himself up for us as a sacrifice offered to God for its sweet fragrance. 3Yet nobody should be able to name among you any act of sinful sex, impurity, or greed. Do what is proper among holy people. 4Let there be no obscenity or foolish talk or crude joking. Such talk is improper. Instead, let there be thanksgiving. 5Indeed you know that everyone who commits sinful sex, impurity, or greed is an idolater. That person has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. 6Let no one deceive you with empty words. Because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. 7So don't become partners with them.” (Ephesians 5:1-7).
Paul sees the Christian way as involving heart and body. He stresses that being a holy person (a “saint”) is a matter of good conduct motivated by love. People who “walk in love” must be sacrificially devoted to the holy life just as Christ was. Their lives will be pure and quite unlike those of worldly people. As we say nowadays, “Talk the talk, and walk the walk”.
To be a “saint” or sanctified person is to be purified and holy, made fit for service to God, and dedicated to that service. Paul is saying that this should be seen in the “walk” or manner of life. If you are dedicated to God, then conduct yourself as such.
Walking in love is not the opposite of walking in obedience to God. They are the same thing. True obedience to God is motivated by a love for the kingdom of Christ and God. If you love the kingdom, and love the king, then you will abide by his law with the greatest diligence. You will ensure that what you think; what you say; and what you do; are all controlled by Christ.
Paul is talking about God’s love, but he sees no contradiction in mentioning God’s wrath. God is kind and loving to those who come to him in Christ to be dedicated to the Way. But he is angry with those who choose instead to live in impurity. They are “sons of disobedience” destined for punishment, not members of God’s family and his heirs.
Apparently Paul has come across claptrap about love. He's heard it said that love is permissive and liberates people from obedience to rules. He's heard it said that the Christian God is kind and loving, and will never get angry or punish anyone. Paul replies, "Let no one deceive you with empty words" (Ephesians 5:6).
Paul sees the world as black and white, darkness and light. The darkness is evil and the light is goodness and truth. Evil has the advantage that darkness conceals. But light has the greater advantage that it exposes.
¶“8At one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light 9The fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true. 10Try to understand what is good and pleasing to the Lord. 11Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness. Expose them instead. 12We feel ashamed even to speak of the things done in secret. 13But when anything is exposed to light, it becomes visible. 14Indeed, when anything is made visible, it is the light that we see. Hence the saying, 'Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you'” (Ephesians 5:8-14).
Paul makes an analogy of a simple fact. You can't see anything in the dark. You can see something only when it is exposed to light. And even then, you don't really see the object itself, but only the light reflected from it. Some objects, however, emit their own light. They make the dark things visible and reveal them. So we are to shine as the Lord shines, to expose the evil hidden in darkness.
Paul takes the analogy a little further. We all know that all the good fruit that we eat is a result of light. You cannot grow a fruit tree in a dark place. It needs light to grow and bear. Thus our light not only exposes evil, but it produces the fruit that is good and right and true, fruit that is pleasing to the Lord.
Paul now comes to his third “walk”. He has said, "Walk in love" (Ephesians 5:2). and "Walk as children of light" (Ephesians 5:8). Now he says, "Walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise" (Ephesians 5:15).
¶“15Walk with due care and diligence. Don't be unwise, but wise. 16Redeem the time, because the days are evil. 17So don't be foolish. Rather, understand what the Lord’s will is. 18And don't get drunk with wine because that just wastes you. Rather, be filled with the Spirit. 19Speak to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make melody to the Lord with your heart. 20 Always, for all things, give thanks to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 21Submit yourselves one to another in reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:15-21).
Paul tells us not to live like fools, but to live wisely. What sort of things feature in the lives of the wise? Paul gives us a potpourri of these:
More could be added to this list, and Paul has mentioned many others in the letter by which we can walk in love, walk in light, and walk in wisdom.