We return this week to Ephesians, continuing in the “so what” portion of Paul’s letter, where he turns from the theological foundation laid in Chapters 1-3 to the practical outworking in our lives of what God has done for us in Christ Jesus. Some weeks ago, we looked at Chapter 4, verses 17-32, where Paul tells us that we must “put off [our] old self” (v.22); “be renewed in the spirit of [our] minds” (v.23); and “put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (v.24). In verses 25-32, Paul gave specific examples of what that looks like in the lives of believers. But the “theme verse” of the whole of this application section of the letter is at the beginning of Chapter 4, where Paul writes, “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called.”
Our “walk” is our manner of life; what characterizes us as we continue in our daily lives. If our “walk” has not been transformed by the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the GOOD NEWS of rescue from sin and death in Him, if there is no distinction between our manner of life and that of unbelievers, in our thoughts, words and attitudes, then we really need to “examine [ourselves], to see whether [we] are in the faith” (2 Corinthians 13:5). That is a mark of a true Christians, that we “are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another” (2 Corinthians 3:18). That is SANCTIFICATION. Are we growing more and more, being transformed more and more into the image of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ? In Chapter 5, verses 1-21, Paul continues to describe what our new lives in Christ Jesus should more and more look like.
Paul begins this portion with what should shock us as a calling beyond what we might imagine is possible – we are to “be imitators of God.” Three times in the passage, he will urge us as in that “theme verse,”to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which we have been called.” In verse 2, he calls us to “walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us.” In verse 8, we are to “walk as children of light … for now [we] are light in the Lord.” And in verse 15, Paul will call us again to “Look carefully … how you walk.” But all of this is consistent with who we are in Christ Jesus. God, who in the beginning, created us “in His own image” (Genesis 1:27), has “saved” us, has “adopted us,” has “cleansed us” and has “reconciled” us to Himself, by His grace, “because of the great love with which He has loved us,” “in Christ Jesus.” So we are being SANCTIFIED, we are growing daily more and more into the image of God in Christ Jesus. It is possible! It is facilitated by Holy Spirit indwelling, but it should also be the desire of our hearts, it should be a focus of our daily lives, that we should seek to grow more and more.
The passage is filled with contrasts – “not like that … but like this” which are given to encourage us in the transformation of our lives. Though all of what is written here is directly applicable to us in our day, the specifics of what Paul has written might be traceable to a deliberate contrast between pagan worship as practiced in Ephesus and Christian worship of the true and living God. We know from Acts 19 that Ephesus was the home of “the temple of the great goddess Artemis” (Acts 19:23-40), “one of the seven wonders of the world” (ESV Study Bible). Worship of Artemis, particularly in the annual week-long festival, involved temple prostitutes, drunkenness and debauchery, hence Paul’s call to turn away from “sexual immorality and all impurity and coveteousness,” and not to be “drunk with wine … but [to] be filled with the Spirit.”
Paul’s warning in verses 3-5 is very strong – “For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater) has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.” He is loudly declaring, “You have no part in the SALVATION that is in Christ Jesus! You are still in your sins! You are still among ‘the sons of disobedience,’ subject to ‘the wrath of God’ (v.6),” even as he described in Chapter 2, verses 1-3, if you can unashamedly continue in sexual sin. The “But God” of Chapter 2, verse 4 does not apply to you, as Paul also powerfully warns in 1 Corinthians 6:12-20. There he urges his readers to “Flee from sexual immorality.” In our day and in our culture, sexual immorality is something to be celebrated, rather than something of which to be ashamed (verse 12).
In verses 6-14, Paul warns against allowing ourselves to be “deceive[d]” by “empty words,” and contrasts “walk[ing] as children of light” to “the unfruitful works of darkness.” In our day, as in Paul’s, people are eager to twist the Word of God, or to ignore it entirely, where the call to “true righteousness and holiness” cramps their style. People will redefine words, edit out of their Bibles what they don’t want to hear, reinterpret what is plainly written and has been accepted for millennia, and imagine some liberating “trajectory” which will permit them to do as they want. They are deliberately disobedient, rebellious, sinful; “carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, … by nature children of wrath,” “sons of disobedience – among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh” (2:3). “Let no one deceive you with empty words” (5:6). “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness” (v.11).
In verses 15-21, Paul returns to the theme of “walking … as imitators of God.” He assures us that “as children of light” (v.8), we are able “to discern what is pleasing to the Lord” (v.10), to be “wise” rather than “unwise” (v.15), to “understand what the will of the Lord is” rather than to be “foolish” (v.17). All of this is available to us because of Holy Spirit Who indwells us. His final encouragements are all in the context of the church, as “one anothers.” We are to love, lift and encourage one another as we live together in Christ (vv.19-21).
To more easily download or print these notes, please click the link below for a PDF version.
Pastor’s Notes PDF April 30th, 2017