X. Imitating God in Love, Light, and Wisdom (Ephesians 5:1-21)


X. Imitating God in Love, Light, and Wisdom (5:1-21)

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.

5:2 We imitate God with lives characterized by love (5:2), light (5:8), and wisdom (5:15). So first, we must walk in love, as Christ also loved us. Christians are to reflect the nature of God’s love by serving others rather than self. Christ’s sacrifice on the cross is the supreme illustration of what it means to love. It was a fragrant offering—it was acceptable to God. Similarly, when we love others by seeking what is best for their lives, it smells good to God.

5:3-7 The flip side is living in sexual immorality . . . impurity or greed. These things should not even be heard of among you, as is proper for saints (5:3). The culture of Ephesus embraced all forms of immorality. But Paul told the church there not to let the culture set the standard for them. As saints or “holy ones,” they were to be set apart for God. Obscene and foolish talking or crude joking didn’t belong on their lips (5:4). Believers ought not laugh over things that should make us cry. You can’t adopt a non-Christian lifestyle and think you will have an inheritance in the kingdom (i.e., rewards that will be given to faithful believers) (5:5). We must not be deceived. Because of these things, God’s wrath is coming, so we must not be partners with unbelievers (5:6-7). Don’t let their lifestyles be your own. God wants us to see sin the way he sees it.

5:8 Followers of Christ were once darkness, but now they are light in the Lord. So, second, Paul tells them, live as children of light. Jesus is “the light of the world” (John 8:12). His followers must reflect him the way the moon reflects the sun—not as crescent-moon Christians but as full-moon Christians. And we can’t reflect his light unless we’re in the light. So, if you want to reflect Christ, you have to be absorbing Christ through cultivating an intimate walk and relationship with him (see John 15:1-16).

5:9-14 If you do that, you will be fruitful. Light bears fruit: goodness, righteousness, and truth (5:9). But the works of darkness are fruitless (5:11): they have no long-term benefits. The more you look like Jesus, the more darkness will be unhappy with you—and the more heaven will be happy with you. Remember, heaven’s got your bank account—“every spiritual blessing” (1:3).

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.