May 31/June 1
Main Text: Ephesians 5:1-6
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
3 But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. 4 Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. 5 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. 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.
In the first half of Ephesians Paul concentrates on telling us what our blessings and position are in Christ; in this last half he instructs us how to put those things into practice in our life so as to actually change our behavior in Christ. Some might say the first half is about the “talk”, and this second half the “walk”. The Christian life is often compared to a walk because it begins with one step of faith, necessitates progress, and demands balance and strength. Our goal should not be limited to just learning the information provided in the first half of Ephesians, but to prove it out by putting into practice the second half of Ephesians.
Last week, in Ephesians chapter 4, we learned that as those that are “in Christ” we are to:
- “put off the old self” (verse 22)
- “put on the new self” (verse 24)
- lay aside behaviors specific to the “old self” in favor of those specific to the “new self”. (verses 25-32)
Paul’s points from last week culminate with the breathtaking command in Ephesians 5:1, “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.” This command has its reasoning within those last words “as beloved children”. This follows the strong theme of our adoption as children and “heirs” of the promise (the Holy Spirit). Gentiles, through faith, can now gain full adoption equal with that of the Jews – this is even more developed in Paul’s letters to the Romans and Galatians. The realities of this adoption are mind-blowing. Three main things we inherit:
- the liberating and empowering gift of the Spirit
- the ability to cry out to God as His child
- the promise of a future where we will be glorified alongside Jesus (physical resurrection)
This adoption means that we as children must live in a new way. We must take on the identity of our new family. A person takes the characteristics of the family to which he or she belongs. This carries both obligation as well as a natural outflowing of a new life. In our text, Paul now talks about behavior that is characteristic of God and Christ and contrasts that with what is not.
Walk in love
Being commanded to be like God is mind-blowing but it is also thoroughly biblical and not unusual in Jewish or Greek thought. People of His covenant are to take their character from Him. In Leviticus 19, God commands the Israelites “you shall be holy for I the Lord your God am holy”. Jesus commanded His disciples to love their enemies in order to be like the Father and to be perfect as their Heavenly Father is perfect (Matthew 5:43-48). Paul is simply saying that since as His children we have received love, we should be like Him and show love. In Verse 2 this love is changed to the imitation of Christ and His love. Living in love sums up Ephesians 4:25-5:1.
The standard by which Christian love is shaped is the self-giving love of Christ on the cross. There are two ideas that cover Christ’s death for us: in our place and for our benefit. Christ’s death here is our example, but His death is more than merely an example – He is also our substitution. This substitutionary atonement are grounded in the love of the Father and Christ the Son. God’s character is revealed in the cross and the resurrection. We are to reflect God’s attitude and acts toward us to other people. God is present to change lives. Jesus is the standard for our actions and as children we are to copy His actions because we take seriously who God says we are.
Paul is about to contrast this call to imitation of God our Father and Christ our brother with what it looks like to imitate the world and those not yet adopted into the family of faith. The standard is high: God’s character. The issue is our behavior.
Hating sin that must not even be named among you
When we imitate the ways of the world, we are following the father of the world, the enemy of our souls, who wants to remove the fatherhood of God in our hearts (Ephesians 2:2). Therefore, believers–as adopted children of God–must refrain from doing sinful things and speaking in sinful ways. Verse 3 warns against the participation in sexual immorality. This is a broad statement that intentionally includes a broad variety of sexual behavior. It is addressing behavior that stems from the “do what feels good” mindset. This self-indulgent sensuality is diametrically opposed to behavior that imitates, and walks in, the sacrificial love of God and Christ.
Paul includes covetousness, which is both the essence of the tenth Commandment, but also general blatant greed. This Paul equates with idolatry in verse 5. Paul has already partially addressed these actions in Ephesians 4:17–19.
Verse 4 addresses the speech of those in Christ. Paul lists three things to avoid:
- filthiness – crass, shameful, distasteful, and profane talk
- foolish talk – empty discussions that have no eternal value of helpfulness
- crude joking – joking that goes from humor to ridicule.
These were probably common ways of communicating among the Gentiles. We do not have to look very hard for these types of speech in our culture either. However, Paul says these have no place among believers and should be replaced with God-honoring thanksgiving.
Verse 5 is extremely sobering: Those who practice these behaviors have no inheritance in the Kingdom of God. This isn’t saying that anyone who falls into these sins is automatically excluded from eternal life. He is saying that this is true of those who have given themselves to this way of life, with no shame or repentance. His message is clear: one who has been adopted into the family of God in Christ should have nothing to do with these sinful behaviors. It is not enough to have simply claimed adoption and go on with a sinful life. Adoption into the family of God has great implications for behavior.
You have been adopted as children and heirs in God’s Kingdom. Therefore,...
Walk in Love!
Apply to Life
This week, as you reflect on the message, think of friends, co-workers, neighbors, family etc., that you could meet with to have a time of mutual sharing and fellowship as you open God’s Word together.
DISCUSS THE MESSAGE
Read: Ephesians 5:1-5
When you think about the ways that we learn behavior, how essential is imitation? Think of a time or season of life when you learned through imitation. How was this beneficial to you in your development? In what ways can this be detrimental in someone’s development?
When Paul tells us to be ‘imitators of God’ just like children, what does this look like in your life? How do you imitate God?
Hebrews 1:3 says: “[Christ] is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature,...” How is Christ both our example for how we ought to live and also our Savior, obtaining for us something we could have never achieved on our own?
In verse 3, Paul begins a list of sinful practices that have no place among God’s People. Why is it important for us to not treat sin lightly?
In what ways does your sin weigh on you? Do you think about it? What do you do when it comes to mind?
When you think about the culture of God’s People, what is Paul communicating in this section of scripture about the tone and feel of those that have been redeemed by Christ?
What tension do you feel in your spirit right now? What areas of your life is the Holy Spirit bringing to the surface so you can not only see the sin in your life but confess Jesus as Savior and Victor over that sin?
Have you repented of that sin to God and others? Why or why not?
How does repentance show us an aspect of our own spiritual growth and also our trust in the Gospel?