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Bible Commentaries

Bell's Commentary on the Bible

Ephesians 5

Verses 1-21

  1. Intro: Live a Life of Love
    1. Paul intended that these exhortations guide believers into patterns of wise living. He wanted them to develop the following qualities in their Christian lives.
    2. (1) Here Paul launches us to the highest standard possible…Be imitators of God...means imitators, mimics. [pres tense continuous, ongoing action]
      1. But how can finite human beings imitate an infinite God?
      2. If we are called to be God copiers, then What does a God copier look like? What needs to be done? We do it by…
        1. Walk in Love. Walk in Purity. Walk as Light. Walk Carefully. Walk Filled
    3. Paul starts by commanding, not suggesting, that believers imitate God in how they treat one another.
      1. It doesn’t say that 2nd part in vs.1? No, but it starts w/the word therefore...so see 4:32.
    4. In 1820, Charles Caleb Colton coined the phrase that states: Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
      1. ​​​​​​​3 Jn11 Beloved, do not imitate what is evil but what is good. He who does good is from God, but he who does evil has not seen God.
    5. ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​The term Imitator was understood by Paul’s readers. Imitation was the main part of the training of an orator. The teachers of rhetoric declared that the learning of oratory depended on 3 things: theory, imitation, and practice. The main part of their training was the study and the imitation of the Masters who had gone before.
      1. So Paul is saying to train as an orator, you would imitate the masters of speech. Since you are training in life imitate the Lord of all good life.
  2. WALK IN LOVE (2)
    1. ​​​​​​​Walk - to conduct one’s life in a certain way. We look like God the most when we give to him our very best.
      1. What you are is God's gift to you. What you make of yourself is your gift to God
      2. So the beauty of a journey is every step you take, not necessarily getting to your final destination.
        1. People love the outcome. God loves the process (every step of the journey)
        2. Eg. As a culture we love to spend a lot of money on the wedding and hardly anything on the marriage.
          1. If an average wedding in the US is $26,640 (Aug.2016). Then, I’d love to see a couple spend $6000 on it and then invest $20,000 into their marriage. [i.e. on Couples retreat’s, marriage conferences, weekend getaways, marriage books to read, etc.]
    2. Walk in love is living a life of love. It’s a daily behavior.
    3. You’ve heard of the duck test...it is a term for a form of abductive reasoning (a form of logical inference which starts with an observation then seeks to find the simplest and most likely explanation).
      1. It goes like this...If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.
      2. The test implies that a person can identify an unknown subject by observing that subject's habitual characteristics.
        1. So, if your life looks like a Jesus Follower, walks like a Jesus Follower, & sounds like a Jesus Follower, then you’re probably a Jesus follower.
    4. Christ provides the model for how Christians are to live in love; His sacrificial death is the definition of love.
    5. This description of Christ’s death draws on language from the sac system in the OT.
    6. Christ loved us & gave His life for us. Like the story of a soldier that was wounded so badly he had to get an amputation. The surgeon after the surgery said to him: "I am sorry to tell you that you have lost your arm." "Sir," said the lad, "I did not lose it; I gave it - for my country." Christ did not lose His life, He gave His life for us.
      1. The description of Christ’s death uses language from the sac system in the OT
      2. Offering – products from the field [what the worshiper brings to God]
      3. Sacrifice – animals from the flock [refers to the sacrificing of animals]
      4. Sweet smelling aroma – speaks of its acceptableness.
      5. An offering & a sacrifice always speaks of a cost. Love costs!
        1. There is always a tremendous price to pay for freedom.
        2. With love there is always sacrifice. Always a cost.
  3. WALK IN PURITY (3-7)
    1. The right kind of love implies that we hate certain things.
      1. Rom.12:9 Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good.
    2. ​​​​​​​Paul doubles back & attacks the sins of the pagan world.
      1. 1st sins of sexual immorality (3).
      2. 2nd sins of conversation (4).
    3. (3) Fornication (porneia, refers to any kind of sexual immorality)
      1. Uncleanness (a broader term for impurity).
      2. Covetousness (greediness, often used to describe uncontrolled sexual desire)
    4. (4) Filthy talk - Obscenities. Shameful, filthy, or obscene speech.
      1. Foolish talk – Silly talk. Talk of fools. The conversation of a drunkard.
      2. Course talk – quick wit. Crude joking. Makes light of human weakness or human goodness.
        1. Which do you think God hears? When you give thanks before your meal...or when you complain about everything you were served?
    5. (5) Paul underscores the seriousness of this kind of behavior by saying (read vs.5).
      1. Obviously there is forgiveness to one who falls to one of these...he’s speaking about anyone who does this habitually with an unrepentant heart.
  4. WALK IN LIGHT (8-14)
    1. ​​​​​​​(8) You were once darkness...not were in darkness.
      1. How to know if you are walking in darkness: when you hide (erasing your history on your computer, why?), lie (what are you covering), or blame someone else (1st thing adam/eve did when they 1st walk in darkness. Its my x-wife, its my lousy kids, its my impatient boss, its my...).
      2. It’s when you’re not allowing light to expose something.
    2. Children of light - If God is light then naturally His children would be also.
      1. Think purity, not lumens. Think spiritual light not phys light.
      2. It’s hard to walk in light, in a dark world.
    3. Light produces Good Fruit (9)
      1. Here are some of the products of light (goodness, righteousness, truth).
      2. Walking in the light produces spiritual fruit.
    4. Light Exposes Motives (10)
      1. Light enables the Christian to discriminate between what is pleasing & what is not pleasing. Shepherds Notes, pg.60.
      2. Here is where all motives, attitudes, & actions must be tested.
      3. We are to find out what pleases the Lord.
        1. Just find out what’s acceptable to the Lord. (i.e. not to others)
    5. Light Exposes Evil (11,12)
      1. Light exposes the unfruitful works of darkness.
      2. Evil activity, when dragged into the light of Christ, is seen for what it is & dies a natural death. Slide12c [the story of the woman caught (in the very act) of adultery, is really the story of the men (Scribes/Pharisees) caught in hypocrisy]
        1. Do you know when that story was over in Jn.8:11 what the very next verse reads? Jn.8:12 Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.
    6. Light Cleanses/Exposes (13,14)
      1. The light cannot compromise with the darkness; it can only expose it.
      2. Awake you sleeper, arise from the dead - this is not a direct quote from any OT passage. Or, he also might be borrowing from an early Christian hymn or traditions related to baptism. [Paul might be alluding to Job 14:12 or Isa 26:19, 61:1]
  5. WALK CAREFULLY (15-17)
    1. ​​​​​​​(15) Circumspectly – accurately, carefully, intelligently. Carries the idea of looking around carefully so as not to stumble.
      1. ​​​​​​​Have you ever not turned on the light at night & then ended up catching your baby toe on the corner of something?
        1. We need to take advantage of the light He has given us.
      2. It means, walking intelligently and not in ignorance.
      3. Instead of walking accurately/carefully, they miss the mark, miss the road, & end up suffering on some detour.
    2. (16) Redeeming the time – buy up the opportunities.
      1. The idea here is not clock time but what one writer calls kingdom opportunities.
        1. ​​​​​​​Those openings for ministry that often come at inconvenient times: a friend who wants to talk; a child with a problem; the chance to lend a hand to someone in need.
      2. Paul is encouraging us to keep our lives uncluttered so that we can respond when the need arises - because kingdom opportunities can get squeezed out of an overly tight schedule.
        1. And do not waste time, energy, money & talent in that which is apart from His will. Lost opportunities may never be regained; they might be gone forever.
      3. This is the bible’s Carpe Diem statement (seize the day) "Seize the day boys! Make your lives extraordinary" Robin Williams, The Dead Poet Society
    3. (17) Will of the Lord - Only after 1 understands what pleases God (vs.1) can he carry it out in his life.
      1. Slide13d Understand His Word & you’ll understand His Will.
  6. WALK FILLED (18-21)
    1. ​​​​​​​(18) Let’s step back to Ephesus in Paul’s day…
      1. Dionysus (Di-on-I-sus), in Greek mythology, god of wine and vegetation, who showed mortals how to cultivate grapevines and make wine.
        1. He eventually became the popular Greek god of wine and cheer, & wine miracles were reputedly performed at certain of his festivals.
      2. The divine mission of Dionysus was to mingle the music of the flute and to bring an end to care and worry.
      3. Key: The worshippers of Dionysus felt they were united, indwelled & controlled by Dionysus, who gave them special powers & abilities.
        1. ​​​​​​​Thus, to be filled/controlled with wine or the Spirit was the contrast.
        2. The indwelling Spirit of God should continually control & dominate the life of the believer. [present tense calls for the continual & habitual action]
    2. Be filled with the Spirit - in the Gk text of Ephesians, this command provides the basis for Paul’s statements in v.19-21, all of which describe the outworking of being filled with the Spirit.
    3. An example of being filled
      1. How can you get the air out of a drinking glass? You can suck it out with a pump, but that creates a vacuum and you’ll shatter it. The easier way is take a pitcher of water and fill the glass with it. Thus removing all the air. Victory for the child of God does not come by working hard to eliminate sinful habits, but rather by allowing the Holy Spirit to take full possession.
    4. (19) Psalms – the songs of Israel in the OT.
    5. Hymns – obviously not the Hymns sung today…because they weren’t around then. They were new songs of the Christian faith.
    6. Spiritual songs – songs shared among the believers to praise God with them.
      1. This praise was to be accompanied with thanksgiving.
    7. (21) Submitting to one another…in that we all have to submit to somebody.
      1. I believe the following passages defines what he means by this.
      2. The section concludes in chapter 6:9. [submission: wife/husband; child to parent; bondservant to master]
        1. There must be harmony, submission, & love...in each of these relationships...in the fear of God (a fear of profound respect for someone or something).
        2. And the secret to this harmony will be us being habitually filled/controlled w/the Sp.
        3. Slide14d To be filled with the Spirit of God is to be controlled by the Word of God
        4. That is what is going to save our marriages, families, & work environments.
        5. It will be from a power within not pressure from without.
        6. Thus the marks of the Spirit-filled believer are not unusual emotional experiences, miracles & tongues, but rather Christian character.

Verses 22-33

  1. Intro: Greatest Love Story Ever Told
    1. You are either...married, want to be, or don’t ever want to be.
      1. Avoid clicking off “doesn’t apply to me”. Avoid hoping your spouse is listening.
      2. Remember, It’s ultimately about Christ & His Church.
      3. Please give me grace, I can’t say everything about marriage in 45 minutes.
    2. Please also note, as I will be talking about gender roles in a marriage, I need to bring up the topic of gender confusion today. But my desire is to deal with it biblically & sensitively, as many of our youth & many w/in the church are also confused by it today.
    3. Also note what is before & following this passage? I believe this is the key to a great marriage. The habitual filling with Spirit (5:18). The continual bombardment of spiritual warfare (6:11,12).
      1. PRAY:
    4. This is the longest & most detailed scripture on marriage in all the bible…
      1. But, I confidently believe, 1st & foremost, it is not about an earthly marriage that ties in a heavenly marriage; but instead, it’s about a heavenly marriage that ties in earthly marriage. [read vs.32]
        1. (32) The meaning of human marriage is based on another greater marriage designed by God in heaven before creation, namely, the marriage of Christ to the church. - The mystery not revealed fully in the OT was that the one-flesh union of human marriage is a picture of the one-flesh union of Christ and his church. Piper
      2. So, I am going to come at it from the heavenly meaning 1st, so as to really understand the earthly.
  2. HEAVENLY MARRIAGE Christ & The Church
    1. What Does It Mean to Be the Wife of Christ?
    2. If we want to know what it means to be the church and to live like the church - then we need to learn from this passage what it means to be the wife of Christ. What does it mean to have Christ as our husband? [4 things that it means for us to be the wife of Christ]
      1. Christ Loved Us Before We Were Attractive (25-27)
        1. It means first that Christ loved us before we were attractive. Unlike how we choose wives. So, Christ did not choose His wife the way we do.
        2. He did not look for an attractive woman or an intelligent woman or a even a faithful woman. He chose an unlikely woman, and then He set out to make her attractive and wise and faithful at the cost of His own life.
        3. We already read, we were not chosen because He could see we were holy; He chose us because he planned to make us holy.
          1. Before we could look pretty, or sound wise, or be faithful, the electing love of God chose us and the regenerating love of God raised us from the dead.
        4. So, Christ Loved Us Before We Were Attractive.
      2. Christ Gave Himself for the Church (25)
        1. Christ did not win his wife the way men do today. He paid a dowry for her. And the dowry was His life.
        2. And it was a self-sacrificing love that died for us while we were helpless and sinful and ungodly, even enemies. [as Rom.5:8 says, God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners]
          1. In other words, He did not simply die for an unworthy woman or for a reluctant woman, but for a woman who found him repulsive.
        3. So, Christ Loved Us Before We Were Attractive. And, Christ Gave Himself for the Church.
      3. Christ Loved the Church Uniquely (28,29)
        1. In Jesus’ dying he had the church especially in view. It was for her - uniquely for her, especially for her, peculiarly for her - that he died.
          1. God means for my wife Kelly to experience and to enjoy and to be strengthened and secured by a love coming from me, her husband, that is peculiar to her, and different from the general Christian love I may have for any other woman in the world.
            1. It is a great sadness when a wife only knows herself loved with the love that her husband has for every woman.
        2. The powerful saving, cleansing, sanctifying, beautifying effects of the cross were directed to a fiancée who not only was unattractive in herself, but who found Christ Himself repulsive and did not have any intention of marrying him.
        3. So, Christ Loved Us Before We Were Attractive. Christ Gave Himself for the Church. And, Christ Loved the Church Uniquely.
      4. Christ Cleansed the Church from the Guilt of Sin (25,26)
        1. Being the wife of Christ means being cleansed by Him from the guilt of sin.
        2. Yes, it is a highly unflattering picture that He must bathe us in order to marry us.
          1. We were unattractive not beautiful; we were enemies not friends; and we were dirty with the guilt & moral filth of sin all over us & inside of us.
        3. The water of baptism is a representation of that spiritual washing.
          1. Notice that the cleansing from sin in vs.26 comes from the self-sacrifice of Christ in vs.25. So it is with baptism.
          2. It represents a dying with Christ as we are buried with him in water.
          3. It represents being cleansed by Christ through that very death in water.
            1. So immersion in water provides a perfect symbolic combination of dying with Christ and being cleansed by Christ.
            2. John combines them in 1Jn.1:7, The blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin.
          4. Baptism represents a burial and a bath; because the burial is the bath.
      5. Let me give you one of the most graphic biblical pictures of God's marriage to his people Israel. Ezekiel's Picture of God's Marriage to His People.
      6. I think we can see in it a picture of both the heavenly marriage & the earthly marriage. read Ez.16:1-14.
        1. Vs.4 This description of caring for a newborn in eastern culture is one of the most complete statements in Scripture. Upon birth, the child’s umbilical cord was cut & the midwife salted the child’s skin for antiseptic purposes. The child was washed, rubbed with oil, & wrapped in cloths for 7 days. The process repeated for 40 days.
        2. Vs.5 Thrown into an open field – Prob a ref to their sufferings in Egypt. She was in wretched shape when He called her & saved her.
      7. That is what it means to be the wife of God or the wife of Christ. Cast out, bloody, dirty, as good as dead. And then the Son of God walks by. Stops. Looks at this disgusting, filthy, aborted thing as good as dead and covered with blood, and says, "At last! My wife. My beloved. My chosen one. Live!"
        1. And he comes again when she is grown and covers her nakedness and washes away her filth and makes a marriage covenant with her...and then beautifies her and prepares to present her to Himself in glory.
      8. So, Christ Loved Us Before We Were Attractive. Christ Gave Himself for the Church. Christ Loved the Church Uniquely. And, Christ Cleansed the Church from the Guilt of Sin.
  3. EARTHLY MARRIAGE Husbands & Wives
    1. ​​​​​​​Wives, Submit to a Dead Man. Husbands, Love a Blemished Bride [wives get 3 vs, husbands get 8]
    2. Marriage is the doing of God & the display of God. [God Himself officiated the 1st Wedding]
    3. 2 Distortions of marriage: tyranny by the husband & the usurping of authority of the wife
      1. The opposite is equally bad. Errors of passivity or laziness on the husbands part. Becoming entirely passive (doormat) on the wife’s part.
      2. Wayne Grudem, Husbands, therefore, should aim for loving, considerate, thoughtful leadership in their families. Wives should aim for active, intelligent, joyful submission to their husbands’ authority.
    4. Submit – to line up one’s self under. Submission has the sense of voluntary yielding in love.
      1. Used in a military sense of soldiers submitting to their superior. Used in Jesus subjecting Himself to His earthly parents. Used in persons to civil authorities. Used in one Christian to another.
    5. For a wife to submit to her husband is to play out the Jesus role in her marriage.
      1. It is an expression of a God-ordained role.
        1. We see why in 1 Tim.2:13,14 For God made Adam first, and afterward he made Eve. And it was not Adam who was deceived by Satan. The woman was deceived, and sin was the result. [from Gen.3:16/women’s curse...and he shall rule over you]
        2. The husband is the God-appointed leader of the home…and he is held accountable for that role. Also we remember this is servant leadership, which means being the head...he is responsible to go 1st, to die-to-self 1st, to repent 1st, to love unconditionally 1st, w/o waiting for, or insisting on, his wife’s submitting 1st
          1. Husbands…we are dead men. And dead men don’t whine. Dead men don’t live selfishly. Dead men don’t live uncaringly. And Dead men take up their cross daily and follow Jesus.
        3. It’s interesting though, the principle is clear on the husband being a servant-leader, but the Bible gives almost no details about how that is expressed in concrete behavior. [bible doesn’t give us a list of things men & women must & must not do. eg. Women working outside the home. Men doing the finances. Men not washing clothes, doing dishes, or changing poopy diapers] Because? The Bible was written for all centuries & for all cultures.
      2. Note it’s inferred: She’s not holy & clean. She’s not glorious. She’s not spot/ wrinkle free. Both Jesus’ bride & man’s bride.
        1. Yet note also, 2 things:
          1. The bridal bath was when a Jewish bride enters the mikvah (ritual bath) in order to be purified prior to the marriage ceremony. The cleansing here is unlike baptism as it is perpetual and is from the Word.
          2. Song of Solomon 4:7You are altogether fair, my love, there is no blemish in you
            1. ​​​​​​​Experientially, she is constantly needing washed in the Word. Positionally see her as blemish free. [serious problem if you only see & point out your wife’s blemishes...it only means you aren’t doing your job]
    6. In marriage we enter the Great Dance of the universe as we submit to our own distinct, divinely ordained gender roles.
      1. We understand headship and submission correctly as we look at Jesus as the perfect model of both.
    7. Every human culture has found a way to interpret male headship in a way that has marginalized and oppressed women.
    8. Whatever you identify as...an egalitarian (equal), a feminist, a traditionalist, a complementarian, the difference between men and women become an unavoidable issue in every marriage.
      1. Everyone comes into marriage with their idea of roles. These are gathered from our parents, current cultural norms, observing friends marriages, and fictional reading, TV, and movies.
    9. The first mention of gender in the Bible, is in the first chapter of the bible, and also is the first mention of humanity itself. So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Gen.1:27
      1. Jerry Brown signed a bill into law this last Monday that provides people with the ability to request a new birth certificate with a 3rd option (M&F), now there is a nonbinary category. It is the first state to offer such an option. [non-binary = bi-gender, tri, pan, 3rd, fluid]
      2. Our gender is at the heart of our nature. Every cell of our bodies is stamped XX or XY.
    10. Created equal? Yes! Equal in the image of God, equally blessed, equal in personhood, equal in importance, equal in value. But distinct/different in our roles.
    11. We have a beautiful complementary union. Adam alone, not good.
      1. Eve came from Adam’s rib and he was given the responsibility of naming her.
        1. Both of these elements r the basis for the NT statements about a husband’s headship
      2. Gen.2:18 It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.
        1. ​​​​​​​Helper = ezer. Not merely assisting someone. Ezer is almost always used in the Bible to describe God himself. Or military help such as reinforcements, w/o which a battle would be lost. So it means to make up what is lacking in him with your strength. Woman was made to be a strong helper. Kathy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage, ch.6
        2. Comparable/neged (suitable) - lit. like opposite him. Like 2 pieces of the puzzle that fit together because they’re not exactly alike nor randomly different.
          1. Marriage is a full embrace of the other sex.
        3. Often in homosexual relationships it’s conveyed, how much easier it is than dealing with someone of a different sex. This might be true.
          1. A person of one’s own sex is not as likely to have as much otherness to embrace. But God’s plan for married couples involves embracing the otherness to make us unified.
            1. Even at the atomic level, all the universe is held together by the attraction of positive and negative forces.
            2. Christ embraced the ultimate Other...sinful humanity, and brought us into a new unity with Himself.
    12. Book Recommendation: I would like to recommend my favorite Marriage Book by Timothy & Kathy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage [Kathy wrote ch.6 on submission]
    13. 7 Ways to Destroy Your Marriage. Then 7 Ways to Save It (Perry Noble, former pastor, New Spring Church)
    14. Here are 7 ways to absolutely destroy your marriage that always works.
      1. ​​​​​​​Refuse To Communicate [Talk about the person and not to them because doing so will be awkward]
      2. Refuse To Listen [Interrupt your spouse during conflict to immediately correct them]
      3. Always Assume The Absolute Worse About Your Spouse [Always carry your thought to its fullest illogical conclusion. Don’t EVER ask for an explanation or clarification as more open communication will lead to a stronger marriage]
      4. Make Sure The Goal Is To Win The Argument Rather Than Actually Settle The Dispute [you must allow pride to dominate your thought life, thus unleashing a barrage of accusations that actually have nothing to do with your original argument/discussion] Win at all costs, even if it means saying things that hurt and wound deeply.
      5. You Must View Your Spouse As Your Enemy, NOT Your Friend [view everything as a manipulative game. Make it a goal to compete with them and not actually complete them]
      6. Focus As Much As Possible On Their Inadequacies & Shortcomings [You’ve GOT to talk about how much they are “not meeting your needs” and how they need to “step up and do better” as often as possible]
      7. Do NOT Have Fun Together [You each need your own set of friends. Don’t have mutual friends. Don’t have date nights. Don’t do anything fun as a family]
    15. 7 ways to Save your Marriage
      1. ​​​​​​​Stop fighting IN it and start fighting For it.
      2. Stop asking God to fix your spouse and ask Him to fix you.
      3. Ask For Help. You’re NOT the 1st married couple that has ever struggled, you WON’T be the last. The problem is that (especially in church), we are so obsessed with what people may say or think that we allow our relationships to implode. We can’t allow our desire to appear happy distort the reality that we need help.
      4. Ask the Lord to allow you to see your spouse through His Eyes.
      5. Choose right now that you are always going to believe the best about your spouse. Love always assumes the best about a person (1 Cor.13)
      6. Stop seeing your spouse as your servant, But rather your opportunity to serve
      7. Do whatever it takes to make your marriage work.
Copyright Statement
These files are the property of Brian Bell.
Text Courtesy of Calvary Chapel of Murrieta. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Bell, Brian. "Commentary on Ephesians 5". "Bell's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cbb/ephesians-5.html. 2017.