5:1 This section can be understood by Paul’s opening statement: be imitators of God, as dearly loved children. In light of who we are in Christ, we are called to imitate God. As a child often mimics the characteristics and behavior of a parent, so God’s children are to copy their heavenly Father. As beloved children, we have the same status as God’s “beloved Son” (Matt 3:17), so Jesus Christ is the model by which to pattern ourselves. The Son put the Father on display (see John 1:18). So if you don’t know how to pattern yourself after God the Father, all you need to do is take a close look at God the Son.
Instead of participating in works of darkness, expose them (5:11) because everything exposed by the light is made visible (5:13). Does that mean we go around telling on people? No. What makes everything visible is light (5:14). If cockroaches are in a room, all you have to do is turn on the light, and they scatter. If you live as children of light, shameful deeds will be exposed by your lifestyle and words that reflect God’s standard. You know how Jesus got in trouble with the religious leaders? By being Jesus. He just showed up, speaking truth and living righteousness. So if you’re spiritually sleeping, get up and Christ will shine (5:14).
5:15-17 Third, we must live not as unwise people but as wise (5:15). How? By making the most of the time (5:16). Don’t miss opportunities by making the same choices you’ve always made. The only way to make right choices is to understand what the Lord’s will is (5:17)—that is, to determine God’s view on a matter. Most of us will watch the weather report to get an expert opinion on the weather. But then we follow mere human opinions about life rather than tuning to the heavenly channel to get God’s viewpoint. The days are evil (5:16). Don’t waste your life. What opportunity is God giving you to maximize your potential?
5:18 Instead of getting drunk, which is reckless, we should be filled by the Spirit. When you come to Christ, you are indwelt by the Spirit, and he will never leave you. But being filled by the Spirit is different. A drunk is under the influence of alcohol. A person filled by the Spirit is under the Spirit’s influence. Since the Greek verb “filled” is plural, Paul is emphasizing that the church must collectively operate as a Spirit-controlled environment.
5:19-21 Paul says this happens by speaking and singing to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, . . . giving thanks always for everything to God . . . and submitting to one another in the fear of Christ. This is a reminder that we need spiritual input. We also need to speak God’s perspective to one another so that we all become full of spiritual things. We need to worship and give thanks to God regularly, being subject to one another. But not just on Sundays. After all, the moment your car leaves the filling station, you begin burning fuel. So let worship become a lifestyle and regularly fill the tanks of others with God’s perspective. That way we will be filled by the Spirit—and not some cheap substitute.