Devotional # 106. 10/13/14. Ephesians 5:1-5.
Intro. We finished up Ephesians chapter 4 last week so we move into chapter 5 which is a great, although sometimes mis-understood, portion of Scripture. There is a lot of good stuff here but we need to keep a few things in mind. Remember what I’ve told you all through Ephesians: that the first 3 chapters focus on what God did for us and the last 3 build on that by showing us how to “walk” as Christians. What does the Christian “walk” mean? We will get chapter 5 wrong, and therefore apply it to our lives incorrectly, if we try and make our Christian life based on the rules we keep instead of accepting what God has already done and allowing Him to work in our life. Also keep in mind that the context here has been on the unity of Christians.
v. 1. I’ve heard Christians, who acknowledge that Jesus is God and the only way to heaven, say that it’s impossible to be like Jesus so we shouldn’t even try. But this section should change their mind. Here, verse 1 says to “be imitators of God as dear children.” Stott notes that “just as children copy their parents, so we are to copy our Father God, as Jesus himself told us to (Matthew 5:45, 48)” (Source 1, p. 191). As mentioned last week the word “Christian” means “little Christ” or “Christ-one” and since this term was used in the early church we can be confident that they believed in the same way. We should note that the KJV has “imitate” as “follower” (which is basically the same thing, but the word “imitator” is a better translation of the Greek mimetes (G#3402) (Source 2) since it’s root word uses mimos, which is where we get “mimic” from (Source 3). So we are to mimic the Father (5:1), learn the Son (4:20) and not to “grieve the Holy Spirit” (4:30).
I encourage everyone to pick up the book The Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis. Written around 1420, many say that only the Bible is more spiritually influential than this book (http://www.amazon.com/Imitation-Christ-Vintage-Spiritual-Classics/dp/0375700188).
v. 2. Have you ever wondered why believers use the “Christianese” term “how’s your walk?” it would make sense that it would come from verses like this…and there are plenty. Time and again in the Bible God uses the term “walk” to describe how we are to follow Him. For example: “Enoch walked with God” (Genesis 5:22) and “Noah walked with God” (Genesis 6:9) and “He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you. But to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8). But the Christian path isn’t a sprint where you give it all of your energy for a short period with the expectation that it will be over quickly. Instead it is an endurance race. “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1).
So now that we’ve established that we “walk” in the Lord it should be said that chapter 5 will give us THREE different ways to “walk.” They are to “walk in love” (v. 2), to “walk as children of light” (v. 8) and to “walk circumspectly” (v. 15). Don’t get Paul wrong, there are other ways to walk (for example in 2 Corinthians 5:7 he says, “For we walk by faith, not by sight”) but there are three that we’ll focus on in this context. This first one, to “walk in love” goes back to what we’ve been talking about for a while. The kind of “love” that the Bible tells us to have for others and to have for God is not an emotionally based love but a higher, spiritual, commitment type of love. A couple weeks ago I quoted from the My Utmost for His Highest Devotional which I’ve been reading* and I’m going to do it again since it’s so applicable! Oswald Chambers says that emotional love “may reach deeply into our natural self, but it never penetrates to the spirit of a person. True love never simply declares itself. Jesus said, ‘Whoever confesses Me before men [that is, confesses his love by everything he does, not merely by his words], him the Son of Man also will confess before the angels of God’ (Luke 12:8)” (Day 19).
So we understand that when we persevere (“walk”) in our Christian life we are to do it in a “love” that is in everything we do with complete commitment. But why do we do this? Since we are to “imitate God” by mimicking how Jesus loved us (by “giving Himself for us”) we realize it is the only reasonable response to that kind of “love.” Of course we can’t die for other peoples sins, but we can “love” them as if we’re willing to give up our life for them. When we put the “old man” aside (remember last week’s Devotional # 105?) and put on the “new man” than this is possible. What will be the outcome? You will be walking in God’s will and there’s no where better to be. You will have obeyed your calling. You will have communicated hope and salvation to the lost and needy. And interestingly it will act as a “sweet smelling aroma” to God. The reason God commanded drink offerings in the Old Testament (requiring a full cup of wine to be poured on the blazing hot alter, Exodus 29:18), was as a picture of sweet smelling steam ascending to heaven as believers obedience ascended to heaven. How do I know this? Here we’re told that Jesus’ obedience as a sacrifice was a “sweet smelling aroma.” David asks, “Accept my prayer as incense offered to you” (Psalm 141:6). The free will offering given is similarly pleasant to God, “But I have all, and abound: I am full, having received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, an odor of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well-pleasing to God” (Philippians 4:18). And Revelation 5:8 says, “golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.” In his last letter, in the his last chapter, before being martyred Paul tells us “I am already being poured out a s a drink offering” (Timothy 4:6). It is obvious that Paul lived his life as he told others to do: his life was “poured out” in pain but it was sweet smelling to the Lord because with the same love Jesus had loved Paul, Paul had loved Him.
*My Utmost Devotional: I should have been done with the 30 day reading plan by now but the great thing about reading it on your phone (on the free YouVersion app) is that you can prolong the end date and continue reading! So don’t feel like you’re the only one!
Let’s read Psalm 119:35, “Make me walk in the path of Your commandments, For I delight in it”. The Psalmist recognizes that as humans we don’t want to walk in the Lord’s ways and commandments but when we do we find that they’re the best thing for us (which we “delight in”!!) So although we rarely want to, our prayer should be “Lord, force me to WALK in your commandments.”
vv. 3-4. Last week the end of chapter 4 gave us some comparisons. The “old man” vs. the “new man”. Not lying, or having corrupt words, not being bitter or speaking evil; instead speaking truth, giving an honest day’s work, edifying others and forgiveness are some examples. Now we see more comparisons here: “Paul turns from ‘self-sacrifice’ to it’s very opposite ‘self indulgence’, from genuine ‘love’ to that perversion of it called ‘lust'” (Source 1, p. 191). I love John Stott’s heading for this section; “Don’t joke about sex, but rather give thanks for it.” In Greek the words for fornication and uncleanness combined, cover every kind of sexual sin**, so anything outside of God’s ordained covenant of marriage is sin. Period.
As a I promised last week, we see that cursing (“Filthiness”, in Greek aischrotes, G#151), stupid talk (“Foolish talking”, morologia, G#3473) and dirty jokes (“jesting”, eutrapelia, G#2160) are not for Christians. I’ve known people (especially some friends in college) who say that cussing is a habit they can’t control. So I asked how come they didn’t cuss in front of my mom when they met her. Yep, no excuse. Sure it’s a habit, and garbage in, garbage out but habits can be broken. What’s more important? Excuses or living as the Lord tells us to live? He wouldn’t ask us to do something that we couldn’t do, right?
**According to Stott, p. 192.
v. 5. Paul specifies different sins so we get the picture of who will not go to heaven but the point is that anyone who sins won’t go to heaven. This shows us regardless of how genuine a person is or how sure they are that a loving God couldn’t send them to hell – they are wrong. God has given us His guideliness, the way His economy works. If you choose not to read them (in the Bible) then there are consequences. Notice it says that sinners have no “inheritance in the kingdom.” Romans 8:17 tells us how we become “heirs” to this “inheritance”: “Now if we are children, then we are heirs–heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” Is this something we have earned? No, in the same way that you didn’t do anything to be born into your family but still might get an inheritance, you don’t deserve this one either. But you can forfeit your inheritance.
Conclusion. I’m not sure if you noticed but I spent a page and a half talking about the things that we should be doing and half a page talking about the things we shouldn’t. It’s never been God’s heart to tell us just what not to do but more importantly to focus on what to do. I’m convinced that if we spend more time working on what we should be doing and less time worried about what we shouldn’t be doing we would please the Lord and further His kingdom greatly! But there is a contrast isn’t there? We see how a Christian is to walk but how sin drags us down to a crawl. We hear pleasant and encouraging words like dear children, love, loved us, given, sweet smelling when we speak about God. But sin is foul like “uncleanness”, “filthiness”, “course jesting” and “unclean person”. It’s amazing how the Holy Spirit, through Paul, is able to use words to paint a picture in our mind of Truth. I think Paul perfectly summarizes these things in Romans 13:13, “Let us walk properly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy.”
Source 1: John R.W. Stott, The Message of Ephesians, 1979.