Ephesians 5 Study Notes


5:1 Believers are challenged to be imitators of God. Previously they had been urged to learn about Christ (4:20-21) and not to grieve the Spirit (4:30). Believers cannot imitate God in power, knowledge, or presence; but they can imitate him in self-sacrifice and forgiveness (4:32).

5:2 This verse specifies the characteristic of God the Christian should imitate. Being imitators of God means being imitators of Christ in his sacrificial love.


Greek pronunciation [ah pah LEW troh sihs]
CSB translation redemption
Uses in Ephesians 3
Uses in the NT 10
Focus passage Ephesians 1:7,14; 4:30

In the NT, apolutrosis may refer to present or future redemption. When referring to future redemption, the term looks to the salvation of the Christian’s physical body from the distresses of this world. The Son of Man’s return will usher in release from suffering and persecution (Lk 21:28). In Paul’s theology, the future redemption of our physical bodies will be accompanied both by the church’s full adoption into divine sonship and by the creation being set free from decay (Rm 8:18-23). Presently, the Holy Spirit is the down payment guaranteeing the future “redemption of the possession” (meaning God will fully redeem his church and/or the church will posses its full inheritance; Eph 1:14; 4:30). Christians have redemption, described as the forgiveness of sins (Eph 1:7; Col 1:14). Thus the work of God in Christ ensures both present and future redemption for his people.

5:3-5 All of God’s gifts, including sexuality in the bonds of marriage, are to be subjects for thanksgiving, not of crude joking.

5:6-7 Viewed actively, God’s wrath is his firm, ongoing opposition to evil; he is eternally opposed to everything that is contrary to his design and his holy nature. God’s new community is to reflect the character of God’s kingdom and the character of God’s wrath by presenting a witness against evil.

5:8-9 Living as children of light means adopting values that are the opposite of the surrounding culture.

5:10 Testing what is pleasing to the Lord makes duty and Christian living a delight, and invests service with joy.

5:11-14 Faithful believers do more than abstain from evil; they denounce the deeds of darkness as unfruitful, shameful, and not worthwhile. The material Paul quotes in v. 14 may have been an early Christian hymn based on several passages, such as Is 9:2; 26:19; 40:1; 51:17; 52:1; 60:1.

5:15-16 These words provide a solemn warning that Christians should be wise and careful in all things, including their use of time. Our use of time is not neutral; it can be evil if it is not invested for good (Ps 90).

5:17 Understand what the Lord’s will is summarizes the two philosophies of life described in vv. 1-17. The world’s lifestyle is characterized by moral and spiritual darkness. The philosophy for godly living is characterized by moral and spiritual light, and its goal is to imitate God and his love.

5:18 Paul’s imperatives contrast the differences between being under the influence of wine, which leads to reckless living, and being under the influence of the Spirit, which results in joyful living. The commands are plural; thus the commands refer not merely to individuals, but to the corporate community of faith.

5:19-21 The Spirit’s fullness is demonstrated in spiritual understanding, praise, and thanksgiving that are constant and comprehensive. The church that is filled with the Spirit will be characterized by praise and thanksgiving to God. Beyond that there will be evidence of self-control, mutual encouragement, and mutual submission, which are the opposite of rudeness, haughtiness, and self-assertion.

5:21 This verse serves as a hinge to connect what is prior with what follows. Grammatically, the participial phrase (lit “submitting yourselves”) goes with vv. 18-20. The content of vv. 22-33, however, depends on the principle of submission in v. 21.

5:22 Wives, submit directs wives to be submissive to their own (Gk idios, “one’s own”) husbands (cp. Col 3:18-4:1). The distinctive feature here is that the relationship between husband and wife is compared with that between Christ and the church. No verb is in the original language of v. 22. The imperative “submit” is understood from v. 21.

5:22-24 Paul addressed wives first. They are to be voluntarily submissive to their husbands. No external coercion should be involved, nor should submission imply that the wife is a lesser partner in the marital union. The submission is governed by the phrase as to the Lord. A Christian wife’s submission to her husband is one aspect of her obedience to Christ. Submission is a person’s yielding his or her own rights and losing self for another. Submission is patterned after Christ’s example (Php 2:5-8) and reflects the essence of the gospel. Submission distinguishes the lifestyle of all Christians.

5:25 Paul turned to the duties of husbands. The society in which Paul wrote recognized the duties of wives to husbands but not necessarily of husbands to wives. As in Col 3:19, Paul exhorted husbands to love their wives; but Ephesians presents Christ’s self-sacrificing love for the church as the pattern for the husband’s love for his wife.

Husbands are to love their wives continually as Christ loves the church. The tense of the Greek word translated “love” indicates a love that continues. Love is more than family affection or sexual passion. Rather it is a deliberate attitude leading to action that concerns itself with another’s well-being. A husband should love his wife: (1) as Christ loved the church (vv. 25-27); (2) as his own body (vv. 28-30); and (3) with a love transcending all other human relationships (vv. 31-33).

5:26-27 Cleansing her with the washing of water: Paul explains more fully the result of Christ’s atonement for the church: it makes the church holy and pure. The purpose of Christ’s giving himself up for the church is the church’s sanctification and cleansing.

5:28 Since husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the church, they give up their personal rights for the good of their wives. It is a solemn picture of covenant love.

5:29-30 On first reading, Paul seems to have descended from the lofty standard of Christ’s love to the low standard of self-love when he says no one ever hates his own flesh; but he reminded Christian couples of their oneness, their “one-flesh” relationship. For this reason a husband’s obligation to cherish his wife as he does his own body is more than a helpful guide. His sacrificial love is an expression of the sacred marital union. True love is evidenced when husbands and wives have this spiritual, emotional, and physical oneness.

5:31-32 Paul appealed to Gn 2:24, which is God’s initial statement regarding marriage. The marriage commitment takes precedence over every other human relationship.

5:31 One flesh means closely joined. It hallows the biblical standard of covenantal heterosexual marital relations and excludes polygamy, adultery, and other sexual expressions. What is primarily a divine ordinance is graciously and lovingly designed for mutual satisfaction and delight.

5:33 Love . . . respect concludes and restates this section’s theme. The husband’s ultimate responsibility is to love his wife with a Christlike love.