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Children of God.
God's Children Must Walk in Love.
1,2. Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
My daughter has not yet started school, but she will pick up a Bible and look through it with great interest. Of course, she cannot read, so what is she doing? She is imitating her father, who she watches doing exactly the same thing every morning. Since we are children of God, born of His Spirit, we are to demonstrate that we are partakers of the divine nature by displaying His characteristics in our lives (2 Pet. 1:4).
At the end of the previous chapter, Paul told us to "forgive one another, just as Christ forgave us". When we forgive, we are following God's example. We forgive because He forgives. As children of the God who is love, we too must walk in love; just as Christ showed His love for us by His death on the cross. Christians are not able to show God's love, a love that extends even to our enemies, in their own strength; but we can receive this love from God Himself, as the Holy Spirit pours it out into our hearts (Rom. 5:5).
In describing us as "beloved children", Paul is employing a phrase which was previously used of Jesus. God said of Him "This is my beloved Son" (Matt. 3:17). The use of this endearing term reveals that God loves His children as much as He loves His only Son. Believers are now included in the love God has for the Lord Jesus Christ. Christ's love for us is what led Him to offer His life as a "fragrant offering and sacrifice to God." Our living in love as imitators of God makes our lives reminiscent of His well pleasing (fragrant) life.
It is worth noting that several Old Testament sacrifices were described as being a "sweet smelling aroma". They were:
The burnt offering. (Ex. 29:18). This animal sacrifice had to be wholly offered, and speaks of Christ's utter surrender to His Father's will and the complete offering up of His life on the cross. It challenges us to respond to Christ's commitment and sacrifice with our own total commitment to Him.
The meal offering. (Lev. 23:13). The flour was to be offered without yeast, a reference to the perfect character of Christ.
The peace offering. (Lev. 4:31). A picture of the peace made between God and man by Christ's action on the cross.
The drink offering. (Num. 15:10). A picture of our joy in the Lord, the result of Christ's drinking the cup of God's wrath fully for our sakes (Matt. 26:42). As Anne R. Cousin expresses in the hymn, "O Christ What Burdens Bowed Thy Head":
"Death and the curse were in our cup:
O Christ, 'twas full for Thee;
But Thou hast drained the last dark drop,
'Tis empty now for me.
That bitter cup, love drank it up;
Now blessing's draught for me.
All these sacrifices pointed to the one supreme sacrifice that Christ made for us in love.
God's Children Must Walk in Light.
3,4. But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. (NKJV™)
The Scripture declares that "God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all" (1 John 1:5). He has brought us out of darkness into His marvellous light (1 Pet. 2:9), and now that we are all sons of the light, we are to avoid the deeds of darkness. We are to have nothing to do with such behaviour, just as light has nothing to do with darkness. Since we share the nature of God, we should avoid all conduct that opposes His nature, including:
Fornication. That is, sexual immorality. This includes sex outside of marriage, adultery, or anything else which is against God's laws about sex.
Uncleanness. Which is anything that results from acting on our lust. Whilst this may include sexual lust and unwholesome sexual behaviour, such as the use of pornography, the word "uncleanness" has more to do with sensuality than sexuality. Any giving in to the sensual appetites of the flesh is meant.
Covetousness. Wanting more than you have or need is covetousness, which as Paul says in verse five, is idol worship.
Filthiness. This is obscenity, dirty talk, or indecency.
Foolish talk. Meaning silly or stupid talk that does not benefit anyone and can actually cause offence, since it is rude to others.
Jesting. No where in the Bible did God or Jesus Christ ever tell a joke, and we are to follow their example. Many jokes made, even by some Christians, about God, Jesus, or the Bible are nothing less than blasphemous.
The last three of the above points were to do with talking. Christians should be very careful about what they say. Not only should these things not be practised by Christians, they should not even be talked about (v12). It is not proper for God's holy people to take part in such conversation. Instead, our words should build others up and show our thankfulness to God.
5. Be sure of this, that no fornicator or impure person, or one who is greedy (that is, an idolater), has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.
These matters should be taken seriously, for those who do these things have no claim to the eternal realm where Christ dwells (Rev. 22:14 - 15). Those who habitually follow the path of darkness cannot hope to enter the kingdom of eternal light.
6,7. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be associated with them.
We should not be taken in by those who would deceive us by contradicting what is written in the Word of God; for the wrath of God will come upon all who are disobedient and oppose His Word, including all, whatever their profession of faith may be, who live in darkness rather than light. Christians should not join themselves to those who live this way or join in their unwholesome talk. God's children are to be separated and different from the world around them (2 Cor. 6:14 - 18).
8,9,10. For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. (NKJV™)
We were once dead in our trespasses and sins, living in spiritual darkness, until Christ set us free and brought us into His glorious light. Now we are sons of light we must walk in the light (1 John 1:5 - 7).
As we allow the Holy Spirit to work in our lives He makes us increasingly more like Jesus, producing the fruit of goodness, right living, and sincerity of heart. As we allow Him to search our hearts by His Living Word, we will learn what pleases the Lord, and He will also reveal to us the behavior or attitudes which do not please Him, that they might be corrected. This is what Paul means in 4:24 by "putting off the old man and putting on the new man."
11,12,13,14. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what such people do secretly; but everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for everything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, "Sleeper, awake! Rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you."
The works of darkness do not benefit those who live in them. As children of light we should have nothing to do with such deeds or those who practice them. It is a disgrace even to talk about these things. We must instead show them up for what they are - then conviction will fall on those who practice them (John 3: 19 - 21 ; John 15:22).
As we let Christ's light shine through us it will reveal the darkness in those who live around us. Whenever anyone is awakened to a sense of their sin by such conviction of the Holy Spirit, and respond to the opportunity given through the Gospel to repent and come to Christ (which is what is meant by the challenge to "awake" or "arise"), He will transform them, bringing them from darkness to light and from spiritual death to eternal life.
God's Children must Walk in Wisdom.
15,16,17. Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil. So do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.
Since we are no longer ignorant of the Word of God, we should be careful to walk in His ways. We are to understand His will, as He has revealed it through His Word, and purpose to live according to that will. We must make the most of the time and opportunities we have to serve God in this present evil age. Christians need never be unwise, for we have all been made wise about salvation (2 Tim. 3:15).
Since we have been given the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:16), we ought to be able, as the Word of God is expounded, to understand what the will of the Lord is. The more we surrender our lives to Christ's Lordship, the more we shall realize the outworking of His will. As Paul writes to the Romans:
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. (Rom. 12:1 - 2 NKJV™).
18,19. Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit, as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts.
"Do not get drunk with wine, for many evils lie along this path." (Living Bible). Who said the Bible doesn't tell Christians not to drink alcohol? Every reference to strong drink in the Bible is negative. If we are to "redeem our time", then wasting our time in drunkenness is clearly out of the question. Rather than be intoxicated with drink, the believer is to be continually filled with the Holy Spirit. Being filled with the Spirit, our voices are to be employed in building one another up by reciting: psalms - scripture in verse; hymns - Spirit inspired words in song; and spiritual songs - the words of which are inspired directly by the Holy Spirit and may be in our own language or in tongues. "Making melody" is to make a joyful noise from our hearts to the Lord, with or without intelligible words.
20. Giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
On every occasion we are to give thanks to God our Father for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. If we are concerned about finding the will of God for our lives, Paul assures us that giving thanks is always God's will (1 Thess. 5:18).
21. Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ.
The atmosphere in which we worship must be one of reverence for God and of humility towards men; we must submit to one another (Prov. 9:10 ; 15:33). Submission implies a giving way in humility, rather than a subservience. We are to esteem ourselves, but we are to esteem and value others no less, indeed more highly than ourselves.
God's Children Must Honor Him in Their Relationships.
In dealing with human relationships, it is significant that Paul begins with the most fundamental relationship of all, that of the husband and wife, which is the basis of the family unit and therefore of society as a whole.
Wives and Husbands.
In the relationship between husband and wife, Christians must honor God by obeying His instructions. What are they?
22,23,24. Wives, be subject to your husbands as you are to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife just as Christ is the Head of the Church, the body of which He is the Savior. Just as the Church is subject to Christ, so also wives ought to be, in everything, to their husbands.
Wives must "submit" to their husbands. The word used indicates a voluntary act of the will rather than a submission enforced by the husband. The Amplified New Testament reads "wives, adapt yourselves to your husbands". The wife is to fit in around the husband, rather than the husband fit in around her; and she must do so in everything, as an act of devotion and service to the Lord.
This must be understood in the context of God's order of Creation. Since the man is intended to be the head of the family unit (being made first) it follows that man's nature is to lead rather than follow. Whilst many women have been great leaders in history, even Biblical history, the fact remains that it is by nature easier for a woman to adapt to a man, than it is for a man to change his ways to suit a woman. Man just wasn't made that way! That is not to say that a man must not adjust also; inevitably he must, since marriages are only held together by a process of give and take. But the fact remains that the woman should take the lead in her efforts to adapt. Even the greatest female world leaders have found it necessary to "adapt" in some way to their husbands in order to maintain a balanced family life. When they have not, the marriage generally fails.
The husband is to be given his rightful place according to God's order of things. Since he is the head of the wife he is responsible for her and for the household to see that all things are run according to the word of God. Clearly, Christian wives should never take important decisions independently of their husbands.
25,28,29. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her. In the same way, husbands should love their wives as they do their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hates his own body, but he nourishes and tenderly cares for it, just as Christ does for the Church.
In return for this selfless "adaptation" by his wife, the husband must love his wife to the extent that, day by day, he gives up his own life for her. Just as he loves, nourishes, and cares for his own body (no one hates or wilfully neglects their own bodies), so his love will cause him to provide, protect, and value his wife. If she is not to make decisions without him, then he will not decide a course of action without first consulting and considering her.
Paul's theology concerning the sexes is closer to equality than many suppose. Both are in different ways charged with the responsibility to adapt and change, to love and give up their own lives on behalf of the other. But within that context, God requires the man to be ultimately responsible before Him as head of the family unit.
31. "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh."
This quote is from Gen. 2:24. When a man leaves his father and mother to take a wife he becomes united with her as one body. He is starting his own family with his wife just as his father and mother did before him. It is important to underline that since the husband-wife relationship is the very basis of society, the way that relationship is conducted within the Church is of supreme importance.
33. Each of you, however, should love his wife as himself, and a wife should respect her husband.
Every husband, without exception, is to love his wife as he loves himself; and every wife should respect her husband. She is to "take notice of him; greatly admire him for himself and for what he does; regard and honor him and prefer him before any one else". (Amplified New Testament).
The Relationship of Christ to His Church.
32. This is a great mystery, and I am applying it to Christ and the Church.
In what he calls a mystery, Paul likens the relationship between a husband and wife to the relationship between Christ and His Church.
23,24. For the husband is the head of the wife just as Christ is the Head of the Church, the body of which He is the Savior. Just as the Church is subject to Christ, so also wives ought to be, in everything, to their husbands.
Christ is the Head of His Church, and as such He controls it and has the pre- eminent place in it (Col. 1:18). As our Saviour and Lord, He has the right to expect our full obedience and subjection.
25,26,27. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her, in order to make her holy by cleansing her with the washing of water by the Word, so as to present the Church to Himself in splendor, without a spot or wrinkle or anything of the kind--yes, so that she may be holy and without blemish.
Christ's love for His Church was so great that He gave His life in order to sanctify and set it apart as His own, cleansing and purifying it through the washing of His Word (John 17:17). The Word of truth concerning what Christ has done for us, through the application of the Holy Spirit, cleanses the human soul; for it is as we believe the Gospel of Christ that we are cleansed.
The purpose of Christ's giving His life for the Church was that He might take Her to Himself as His bride, like a chaste virgin who has eyes only for Him (2 Cor. 11:2), who has no blemish at all in God's sight (Heb. 10:10).
29,30. For no one ever hates his own body, but he nourishes and tenderly cares for it, just as Christ does for the Church, because we are members of His body.
As Head of His Church, Christ fulfils His duties perfectly, giving the same individual love and care to every member of His body. He provides all things for His Church, nourishing her by building her up and caring for her. Christ cherishes His Church, holding her in high esteem, since she is His peculiar treasure, bought at infinite cost. The words "one flesh" (v31) may truly be applied to the relationship of Christ with His Church, since "he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him" (1Cor. 6:17).
It is characteristic of Paul, that even whilst giving the most practical advice and instruction to married couples, that his heart and mind are never far from the eternal realities of the unseen world which is hid with Christ in God. In the unity of husbands and wives Paul sees a parallel with the relationship of Christ to His Church, and his thoughts intertwine until they are almost one in this sublime passage. All the instructions Paul gives to husbands and wives are based on the relationship of Christ with His Church. Paul's mind is still running on the theme of the earlier part of the chapter, for in marriage especially, believers must "follow His example".
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