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Wednesday, June 19th, 2024
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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Bible Commentaries
Ephesians 5

Contending for the FaithContending for the Faith

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Verse 1

Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children;

Be ye therefore followers of God: "Therefore" (Strong 3767) ties the first two verses of this chapter to the thoughts in the previous chapter. Chapter four ends with the exhortation for us to be "forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you" (4:32). After being called to imitate God in forgiveness, we are now expressly asked to follow God. This scripture is unusual in that it invites us as Christians to be followers of God Himself (Matthew 5:43-48; Luke 6:35; 1 John 4:10-11).

Paul here tells us to be imitators or "followers" (Strong 3402) of God. "Followers" comes from a Greek word that could be translated impersonators or mimics. Peter tells us that Christ left us an example to follow "in His steps" (1 Peter 2:21), and Paul exhorts Christians on several occasions to be followers of him "as" he follows Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1; Philippians 3:17). When we follow Jesus, we follow God (John 5:19; John 8:19; John 12:45; John 14:9; Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:3); and when we follow the apostles, who are following Jesus, we follow God. The Father and Son have blazed the trail of righteousness and holiness that the rest of us follow. Contextually, this passage may apply to Christians’ becoming imitators of God in forgiveness (4:32). We are instructed by Christ in Luke 6:35-36 to "be merciful, just as your Father is merciful" (NASB).

as dear children: Children naturally follow in their parents’ footsteps and mimic their behavior, learning much through watching and listening to them. As we mature spiritually, we should expect ourselves to conform more closely to the example of our heavenly Father, not just in the area of forgiveness but in all areas of attitude and behavior. The word "dear" (Strong 27) is translated "beloved" (NASB). The depiction of ourselves as children cherished by God is truly a moving image.

Verse 2

And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour.

And walk in love: The term "walk" addresses the way we conduct our lives (2:10; 4:1, 17; 5:8, 15). Our loving concern for others should be obvious through our actions (1 John 3:16-18).

as Christ also hath loved us: We are called to follow Christ’s example in the measure of true love. Jesus would go to the extent of the cross to show evidence of His love. Our goal is to have the same measure of concern for the welfare of others that Christ had (Philippians 2:4), meaning we think and act in ways that always show regard for the welfare of others.

and hath given himself for us: Christ, our master teacher, has demonstrated for us how true love behaves through making the ultimate sacrifice for our eternal benefit (Romans 5:8). Paul speaks of our response to this kind of love:

For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, that they who live should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf (2 Corinthians 5:14-15 NASB).

Our lives, given back to us through the grace of God, are given in response.

I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me (Galatians 2:20 NASB).

The ultimate sacrifice demands our ultimate response.

an offering and a sacrifice to God: The term "offering" (Strong 4376) carries the idea of a gift while the term "sacrifice" (Strong 2378) addresses the cost of the gift.

for a sweetsmelling savour: "Sweet smelling" (Strong 2175) "savour" (Strong 3744) or odor is metaphorically speaking of a thing well-pleasing to God (Philippians 4:18). While Leviticus 4:31 designates the burnt offering of an animal sacrifice as being "a soothing aroma to the Lord" (NASB), Hebrews 10:1-10 shows the sacrifice of Christ was the genuine "sweetsmelling savour."

Verse 3

But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints;

But fornication: "Fornication" (Strong 4202) refers to illicit sexual intercourse, or more generically, any sex outside marriage. (See 1 Corinthians 6:15-16.)

and all uncleanness: "Uncleanness" (Strong 167) expands upon the just mentioned fornication, implying all forms of sexual perversion. Scriptures condemn adultery (1 Corinthians 6:9), bestiality (Exodus 22:19), homosexuality (Romans 1:26-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9), incest (Leviticus 18:6-18), prostitution (Deuteronomy 23:17), and rape (Deuteronomy 22:25-27).

or covetousness: "Covetousness" (Strong 4124) is defined as a "greedy desire to have more" (Thayer 516). The context is sexual sins; therefore, the best translation would be "insatiable" (Hebrews 13:5; 1 Thessalonians 4:6). While "covetousness" here has a sexual application, the primary definition is not limited to sexual sins (see notes 4:19; 5:5; Exodus 20:17).

let it not be once named among you: These sins are not ever to be taken lightly or overlooked among the Christian congregation. Christians who commit these sins are to be subjects of church discipline (1 Corinthians 5:11); however, these sins can be forgiven upon genuine repentance (Acts 8:22; 1 Corinthians 6:11; 1 John 1:9). A Christian’s conduct should be such that any rumor or gossip about sexual misconduct would never have a chance of getting started. The meaning of this phrase is: "no one should ever have a reason to talk about any of you ever doing such things."

as becometh saints: It is appropriate in view of the fact that we are saints (Strong 40) "set apart for God" that we not allow ourselves to indulge in these sins. Jesus was separate from sin (Hebrews 7:26), so as His followers we should also be separate from sin (2 Corinthians 6:17). In Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians, he says:

For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God...For God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification. Consequently, he who rejects this is not rejecting man but the God who gives His Holy Spirit to you (1 Thessalonians 4:3-8 NASB).

Verse 4

Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient but rather giving of thanks.

Neither filthiness: "Filthiness" (Strong 151), as used here, is "baseness" (Thayer 17) in speech, or obscenity.

nor foolish talking: "Foolish talking" (Strong 3473) is conversation using "words void of decency or honor," shameful talk.

nor jesting: "Jesting" (Strong 2160) does not refer simply to telling a joke but to "low jesting" (Thayer 263), meaning jokes with smutty intentions or "double entendre." It is the negative form of "wit."

which are not convenient: Christians should not discuss things that are not "convenient" (Strong 433), referring to things "unbecoming" (Thayer 45), improper, inappropriate, or unsuitable for saints.

but rather giving of thanks: "Giving of thanks" (Strong 2169) or thanksgiving is not limited to prayer. It is conversation that continually accredits God as the source of blessings and happiness in our lives (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

Verse 5

For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.

For this ye know, that no whoremonger: A "whoremonger" (Strong 4205) is literally a "fornicator," that is someone "who indulges in unlawful sexual intercourse" (Thayer 532).

nor unclean person: An "unclean person" (Strong 169) is an impure person, someone who practices sexual perversion (4:19). These are sins that extend beyond fornication (see notes on 5:3).

nor covetous man, who is an idolater: A "covetous" (Strong 4123) person is someone who passionately craves to have more, an insatiable, greedy person. This word probably applies to hedonism or sexual greed (5:3) and the accompanying fleshly worship of carnal indulgence. As Christians, we are to "consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry" (Colossians 3:5 NASB).

When "covetous" is used in the context of possessions, it reflects a person’s desire to consume not only that which is his own but also that which belongs to another. The wrong attitude toward earthly possessions and wealth can certainly be classified as idolatry. While we may not have many physical idols or shrines in this country, we obviously have an epidemic of idolatry in the form of monetary greed. Solomon writes, "He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves abundance with its income. This too is vanity" (Ecclesiastes 5:10 NASB). (See 1 Timothy 6:10; 1 Timothy 6:17-19; Matthew 6:19-24.)

hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God: The kingdom belongs to Christ and to God, in that Christ purchased it and God planned it (1 Corinthians 15:24-28; Revelation 11:15). When a child of God does not have a share in the "inheritance" (Strong 2817), it indicates that his relationship with his Father is severed. When a spiritual son is disinherited through unrepentant sin (Hebrews 10:26-29), it means he has no share in the eternal blessings of the Father (Thayer 349) but will share in the wrath of God against sin (next verse).

Verse 6

Let no man deceive you with vain words for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience.

Let no man deceive you: A lie that is not believed causes but little spiritual danger. The intended damage is reflected back upon the person who told the lie, ruining their credibility. We are, however, in genuine spiritual danger when we are deceived. When we are deceived, we are ignorant of the truth and become like the Gentiles, "excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance" (4:18). We are to be "children of light" (5:8) for God has equipped us with the light of truth that exposes darkness, driving it away (5:11, 13). It is now our responsibility to prevent deception (4:14-15; 1 Thessalonians 5:21).

Here the deception may have been the false teaching that continuing in sinful behavior would not cause one to lose his salvation.

Evil men argue that sexual vices are natural, that they are demanded by physical need, that they are innocent pleasures, pardonable weaknesses, or that they are irrelevant to spiritual life (Caldwell 235).

with vain words: "Vain" (Strong 2756) words are empty, hollow words having no value or blessing. There are some who think those who use difficult words and teach things that are incomprehensible "must be smart." The best teachers are the ones who keep it simple and plain, those who replace ignorance with knowledge. Isaiah warns:

Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; who substitute bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and clever in their own sight! (Isaiah 5:20-21 NASB).

We should not be deceived by arrogant, lofty sounding words that would cause us to be "led astray from the simplicity" that is in Christ (2 Corinthians 11:3). (See Colossians 2:4; Colossians 2:8.)

for because of these things cometh the wrath of God: God’s righteous anger and indignation with unjust, corrupt, and immoral behavior is expressed through the punishment of His "wrath" (Strong 3709). It is retribution that is generated within God’s sense of justice and is poured out because of His integrity (2 Thessalonians 1:5-10). It is provoked when evil men insult the spirit of grace. Wrath and punishment are expressions of His righteous nature (Romans 1:18; Romans 3:5-6; Revelation 16:5-7).

Paul addresses the source of God’s wrath when telling sinners:

...because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who will render to every man according to his deeds: to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life; but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation. There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek, but glory and honor and peace to every man who does good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For there is no partiality with God (Romans 2:5-11 NASB).

It is "because of these things," that is the above-mentioned sins (5:3-5), that "the wrath of God" comes.

upon the children of disobedience: This phrase is a Hebraism, a figure of speech in the Hebrew language (Thayer 635). As children follow the behavior of their parents (John 8:44), so those who pursue disobedience are called "children of disobedience." Because sin is disobedient to God’s design and will for us (2:10; Isaiah 43:7), "God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient" (NIV). (See notes on 2:2-3; also see Colossians 3:6; 1 Corinthians 5:11.)

Verse 7

Be not ye therefore partakers with them. "Partakers" (Strong 4830) means joint-partakers, sharers, or partners, indicating we are not to participate with sinners in their sins (see also 5:11). There is a real temptation for us to compromise our standards and reputations as Christians when we are in co-equal situations with non-Christians. We are admonished, "Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?" (2 Corinthians 6:14 NASB).

Ironically, here in this letter that strongly emphasizes unity and the ways to obtain and maintain unity, we now find instruction regarding those with whom we absolutely are not to have any unity, partnership, or fellowship. Paul clarifies this prohibition:

I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters; for then you would have to go out of the world. But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he should be an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler--not even to eat with such a one (1 Corinthians 5:10-11 NASB).

On in the passage, Paul continues, "...do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them" (5:11 NASB).

Verse 8

For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord walk as children of light

For ye were sometimes darkness: The word inaccurately translated "sometimes" (Strong 4218) means "once" (NASB, NIV, NKJ). Satan reigns over the domain of darkness (6:11-12), but we are "called...out of darkness into His marvelous light" (1 Peter 2:9). Paul declares, "...He delivered us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son" (Colossians 1:13 NASB). In our ignorance we were under the dominion of darkness to the extent that we "were once darkness" itself, darkness embodied.

but now are ye light in the Lord: In the same way that we once personified darkness, we now are "light in the Lord." We are "the light of the world" (Matthew 5:14). Paul tells the Philippians to "prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world" (Philippians 2:15). Our way of life contrasts so significantly with the sinful world that the difference is like the dissimilarity of darkness and light. There must be a difference between the sinful way of life and the Christian way of life in the way we speak, our attitudes, the things in which we participate, and the knowledge we seek (4:25-5:5).

walk as children of light: The term "walk" pertains to the way we conduct our lives (2:10; 4:1, 17; 5:2, 15). Jesus says, "...I am the light of the world; he who follows Me shall not walk in the darkness, but shall have the light of life" (John 8:12 NASB). Those who walk about in darkness "do not know nor do they understand" (Psalms 82:5 NASB) the will of the Lord. Those who "walk in the light" understand what it means to follow Jesus. John challenges the discrepancy between what we know and what we do when he writes:

If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin (1 John 1:6-7 NASB).

We are instructed, then, to "not walk in the darkness" but to "walk as children of light." The rest of this letter is composed of examples of what it means to walk in the light. (See also 1 John 2:8-11; Psalm 109:105; Job 29:3; 2 Samuel 22:29.)

Verse 9

(For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;)

For the fruit of the Spirit: First, there is a variation in the Greek texts concerning the word "Spirit" (Strong 4151). The Textus Receptus chooses the word "Spirit" while most other texts distinctly prefer the word "light" (Strong 5457).

Although it can be argued that light has come in from the influence of the same word in the preceding line, it is much more likely that recollection of Paul’s reference in Galatians 5:22 to but the fruit of the Spirit has led to the introduction of the word here. The reading light is strongly supported by early and diversified witnesses, representing both the Alexandrian and the Western text-types (Metzger 607-608; italicized words are translations of Greek words by this author).

The best literal translation is: "for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth" (NASB).

"Fruit" (Strong 2590) is the produce that comes from trees, or metaphorically, the effects of something. Good trees produce good fruit (Matthew 7:17). The "fruit of the light" is a life of moral goodness, righteousness, and truth.

is in all goodness and righteousness and truth: "Goodness" (Strong 19) is doing what God thinks is good (2 Thessalonians 1:11). "Righteousness" (Strong 1343) is doing what God thinks is right, and acceptable (Philippians 1:11; Hebrews 12:11). "Truth" (Strong 225) is what God says (John 17:17) and what we are to speak (4:15, 25). "Walking in the light is walking according to goodness as described by God, righteousness as defined by God, and truth as revealed by God" (Caldwell 240). The fruit of the light is opposite the fruits of darkness (5:3-5) and is contrasted with the "unfruitful works of darkness" (5:11). (See also Galatians 5:22-23.)

Verse 10

Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord.

The process of "proving" (Strong 1381) involves testing and examining (Thayer 154) whether something is approved, well-pleasing, or "acceptable" (Strong 2101) to the Lord. We are to always be "trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord" (NASB). As a child growing from infancy to maturity, we should be motivated less and less by the necessity of doing what is expected while aspiring more and more to do what is pleasing to our Father. "We have as our ambition...to be pleasing to Him" (2 Corinthians 5:9 NASB). Where do we acquire the knowledge of what is pleasing and acceptable to the Lord?

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17 NIV).

(See also Romans 12:2; Philippians 1:9-11.)

Verse 11

And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.

And have no fellowship with: We are not to have "fellowship" (Strong 4790) with, that is "participate in" or take part in, these sins (Arndt & Gingrich 774). Christians should "have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness" (NIV). This teaching is a reiteration of the warning: "Therefore do not be partakers with them" (5:7 NASB).

the unfruitful works of darkness: The "fruit" of the light (5:9) is now contrasted to the "unfruitful" (Strong 175) works of darkness. When something is spiritually "unfruitful," it means it does not produce anything that is spiritually beneficial. The "works of darkness" have consequences that can hardly be classified as beneficial (Romans 6:21-23; Judges 1:12-13).

but rather reprove them: Withdrawal from these sins is not enough. We are to "reprove them." To "reprove" (Strong 1651) means to convict or correct those who are ignorant or guilty of these sins and bring to light or expose sin so others will be able to identify it and see its true nature (see 5:13). One of the responsibilities of having the "light" is using it:

And this is the judgment, that the light is come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light; for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who practices the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God (John 3:19-21 NASB).

First, we are not to participate in sin. Second, we are instructed to stand back to expose sin with the light of God’s word (5:13; 2 Timothy 4:2; Titus 2:15).

Verse 12

For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret.

For it is a shame even to speak of those things: It is disgraceful or a "shame" (Strong 149) to "speak" (Strong 3004) of or "mention" (Thayer 375) the types of sins that have been cited in this epistle. It is appalling that a teacher of God’s word at times must address some of the sins that have been enumerated in this letter, but he is under obligation to expose (5:11) these "unfruitful works of darkness."

which are done of them in secret: These sins are committed "by" (Strong 5259) them "in secret" (Strong 2931) because they (hopefully) would be ashamed if their deeds were exposed. Many sins are committed in the dark (Isaiah 29:15; Ezekiel 8:12) at night (1 Thessalonians 5:7; Job 24:15-16) in an effort to hide them from other men and from God. The night might shield their behavior from the sight of men but not from God (Jeremiah 23:23-24; Hebrews 4:13). Scriptures tell us that:

...men loved the darkness rather than the light; for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed (John 3:19-20 NASB).

Paul tells us that when the Lord comes "He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts" (1 Corinthians 4:5 NIV). (See Romans 13:12-13.)

Verse 13

But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light for whatsoever doth make manifest is light.

But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light: The word "reproved" (Strong 1651) means to bring sin to light or to expose sinful behavior (see 5:11). Light is what exposes sin. The word "manifest" (Strong 5319) means to make something "visible" (Thayer 648) and is the preferred translation (NASB, NIV). The best translation of this phrase is, "But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light" (NASB).

for whatsoever doth make manifest is light: The best literal translation is "for it is light that makes everything visible" (NIV). When we say, "That throws some light on the subject," we mean some information has enlightened us (Acts 26:18). The scriptures have "thrown light" on the subject of sin and righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16). "Through the gospel" life and immortality have been brought "to light" (2 Timothy 1:10). Spiritual light does two things at once: it exposes sin and approves obedience (1 John 3:21-22; Romans 2:15-16; Romans 16:25-27).

Verse 14

Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.

Wherefore he saith: Paul introduces quotes from the Old Testament with phrases similar to this one (4:8). What follows is evidently a collection of passages from Isaiah quoting God (Isaiah 26:19; Isaiah 60:1-2; Isaiah 51:17; Isaiah 52:1). (See notes on 4:8.)

Awake thou that sleepest and arise from the dead: A frequent metaphor for both physical and spiritual death is sleep (John 11:11-14; 1 Corinthians 11:30; 1 Corinthians 15:51). God is here calling out to the spiritually dead, desiring that they respond to His voice and come out of the domain of death. "Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead" (NIV). This same imagery is used by Jesus when He says, "Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear shall live" (John 5:25 NASB). Calvinists say that a spiritually dead man cannot hear and respond to the gospel, but these passages indicate he can. Being spiritually dead does not mean our spirit is dead within us; it means our spirit has been severed from an eternal relationship with God because of sin (Isaiah 59:2; James 1:13-15; Romans 6:21-23). God calls to the spiritually dead through the gospel (1:13; 2 Thessalonians 2:14; John 5:24). Those who obey, God will save (Hebrews 5:9; Acts 22:16). (See 1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9.)

and Christ shall give thee light: In John 3:19-21 we are challenged to come "to the light." Jesus is that "true light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man" (John 1:9; John 9:5). If we will respond to God’s call and "wake up," we will then be taught or enlightened by Christ (Hebrews 6:4). Jesus says, "I am the light of the world; he who follows Me shall not walk in the darkness, but shall have the light of life" (John 8:12 NASB). We follow Christ by following His word (John 8:51; John 14:23-24).

Verse 15

See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise,

See then that ye walk circumspectly: Because we have been enlightened (Hebrews 6:4) by Christ and because we are charged to expose the deeds of darkness (5:11), we must "walk" attentively. The term "walk" represents the way we conduct our lives (2:10; 4:1, 17; 5:2, 8). "Circumspectly" in English means "around-looking" or "to look around, be cautious" (Webster 208). In the Greek, however, the word "circumspectly" (Strong 199) means to do something "accurately, carefully" and "well" (Arndt & Gingrich 33). The caution of this word is not directed outwardly toward fear, but inwardly toward carelessness. The best translation is "Therefore be careful how you walk" (NASB).

The writer of Hebrews cautions believers:

...we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. For if the word spoken through angels proved unalterable, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard (Hebrews 2:1-3 NASB).

We are always to be "trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord" (5:10 NASB). (See also 1 Timothy 4:16; 2 Peter 1:19.)

not as fools, but as wise: "Fools" (Strong 781) do not care how they "walk." Christians are to "walk as children of light" (5:8), that is, "walk in the light" through complying with "the truth" (1 John 1:6-7). They are not to be spiritually foolish, but "wise" (Strong 4680). A wise person will acquire wisdom for "Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding" (Proverbs 4:7 NIV). A wise person will spend the time to "understand what the will of the Lord is" (5:17 NASB). Wisdom is the skill of applying knowledge correctly. We are to study God’s word for knowledge and pray for wisdom (James 1:5).

Verse 16

Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.

Redeeming the time: The word "redeeming" (Strong 1805) means "to buy up for one’s self, for one’s use" or benefit (Thayer 220), carrying the idea of treating time as if it were something to be purchased. Paul says Christians should buy all they can of the commodity called "time." This passage does not mean we are to try to live as long as we can but use the time we have. The Greek word "time" (Strong 2540), as used here, emphasizes the taking advantage of present opportunities (Thayer 318) rather than the length of time (Strong 5550). This phrase has been well translated, "making the most of your time" (NASB) and "making the most of every opportunity" (NIV).

Time and opportunity are valuable because they end (Psalms 90:12). If we had all the time in the world, we could always procrastinate, for we would always have the time to get back to whatever we neglected. But we do not have the luxury of unlimited time (2 Corinthians 5:18). Every moment we spend a very limited resource that one day will be exhausted (James 4:14). We cannot buy back time that has already been spent; therefore, we must be more careful as to how we spend our present time. Christians should return something for the time. (See Colossians 4:5; Galatians 6:9-10.)

because the days are evil: The "days" are getting worse, and we have fewer opportunities to "seize" (carpe diem). We must make the most of every opportunity in "this present evil age" (Galatians 1:4 NASB). (See Acts 2:40; 1 John 5:19.)

The scriptures warn it will get even worse toward the end of time: "Evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived" (2 Timothy 3:13 NASB). (See also 2 Timothy 3:1-5; 2 Timothy 4:3-4; 1 Timothy 4:1-3; 2 Peter 3:3; Matthew 24:44-51.)

Verse 17

Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.

Wherefore be ye not unwise: In view of what has just been said, Paul tells the Ephesians not to be "unwise" (Strong 878). The word "unwise" here refers to someone "without reason, senseless, foolish, stupid; without reflection or intelligence," someone who acts "rashly" (Thayer 90). Obviously this is a much stronger word than the word translated "fools" (Strong 781) in verse 15. Those who do not understand what "the will of the Lord is" will suffer because of their lack of wisdom. They will exercise bad judgment, fail to prepare for opportunities, and be blind or negligent to obvious ones. In essence, Paul keeps saying, "wake up and let Christ enlighten you" (5:14). Evidently the problem was not a lack of instruction but spiritual laziness or a lack of personal application.

but understanding what the will of the Lord is: The result of "trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord" (5:10 NASB) is "understanding" (Strong 4920). They were "taught"; they "heard"; they did "learn" (4:20-21); and now they are wise (5:15). By following the same process, we can understand what the will of the Lord is. Those who understand "the will of the Lord" are discerning, perceptive, reflective, and intelligent, the opposite of all that is "unwise." They are aware and realize when an opportunity presents itself and are prepared to seize it. They not only understand the purpose of life but the way to please God with an enlightened way of life.

Verse 18

And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit;

And be not drunk with wine: Getting drunk is a foolish waste of time. To be "drunk" (Strong 3182) is to be intoxicated. Webster defines one as intoxicated when physical and mental control is markedly diminished (Webster 614). Since intoxicants numb the area of the brain that promotes restraint and inhibitions, one drink causes a person to have less control in refusing the next drink. Once a person has taken a drink, his perception as to when he is drunk is impaired. We cannot "walk" carefully (5:15), be alert to opportunities (5:16), or have sharp, discerning judgment (5:17) if our minds have been dulled with intoxicants.

It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine; nor for princes strong drink: Lest they drink, and forget the law, and pervert the judgment of any of the afflicted (Proverbs 31:4-5).

The scriptures instruct us to be self-controlled and "sober" (1 Thessalonians 5:5-8). We are not "sober" after even one drink.

Some try to justify social drinking with 1 Timothy 5:23. Paul’s advice to Timothy gives approval for the medicinal use, not the recreational use of a substance. We cannot justify drunkenness by citing anesthetics, although it is possible even to misuse prescription drugs recreationally. (See also Proverbs 20:1; Proverbs 23:29-35; Hosea 4:11; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; 1 Timothy 3:3; 1 Timothy 3:8; Titus 1:6-7; Titus 2:3.)

wherein is excess: The word "excess" (Strong 810) here means to lack any restraint and be completely given up to the pursuit of pleasure. It carries the idea of being abandoned to utmost debauchery (Arndt & Gingrich 119) or to degrade oneself through unrestricted indulgence in fleshly lusts. A better translation of this phrase is "Do not get drunk on wine, which is debauchery." This kind of "excess" is repeatedly condemned in scripture (1 Peter 4:3-4; Titus 1:6). This is the kind of life the prodigal son led while he wasted his inheritance (Luke 15:13). Christians must make it clear we will not join in the drinking of alcohol or anything else that produces the state of intoxication. Peter says the world should notice this difference:

For the time already past is sufficient for you to have carried out the desire of the Gentiles, having pursued a course of sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousals, drinking parties and abominable idolatries. And in all this, they are surprised that you do not run with them into the same excess of dissipation (Strong 810), and they malign you; but they shall give account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead (1 Peter 4:3-5 NASB).

but be filled with the Spirit: When "the days are evil" (5:16), we should not try to cope with our disappointments in man’s way through being filled with "wine" but through God’s way: "be filled with the Spirit." To "be filled with the Spirit" is to be furnished abundantly and thoroughly with His instruction and direction supplied through the words He has revealed (see Colossians 3:16). This is an imperative command, something we are to do, not something we passively experience. Instead of mouths being filled with poison, they are now filled with praise.

Textually, the word "spirit" does not have the Greek article ("the") before it, leading some to assume that the word "spirit" here refers to the human spirit rather than the Holy Spirit (Lenski 617-619). This same phrase, however, is used in Ephesians 2:22; Ephesians 3:5; Ephesians 6:18, all of them undoubtedly referring to the Holy Spirit.

Verse 19

Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;

In the Greek, there are four participial expressions that illustrate the imperative "be filled" with the Spirit: "speaking," "singing," praying ("giving thanks"), and serving ("submitting").

Speaking to yourselves: Paul is not saying we should be talking to ourselves or have some form of inner personal conversation (1 Corinthians 14:28) as he seems to be addressing the assembled church. Speaking to "your­selves" (Strong 1438) would best be translated "speaking to each other" or "speaking to one another" (NASB). This phrase is probably referring to a form of alternate congregational singing called "antiphonal" singing (Bruce 381). When singing in this way, the leader would sing a phrase and the congregation would respond with the same phrase. This customary way of singing in the early church was called "speaking to one another" (Bruce 158). Praise which is fundamentally directed toward God is also beneficial in "teaching and admonishing one another" within the congregation (Colossians 3:16). Our songs, then, should have lyrics that share truth and can be understood (1 Corinthians 14:15-19). Even though "speaking to one another" suggests congregational singing, we must not assume that worshipful singing is limited to the assembly: "Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praises" (James 5:13 NASB).

There are no absolute distinctions to be drawn between the different types of songs listed. (See also Colossians 3:16.)

in psalms: A "psalm" (Strong 5568) is a pious song or a song of praise (Arndt & Gingrich 891). It probably suggests singing a song with lyrics chosen from the Old Testament book of Psalms (1 Corinthians 14:26). (See "making melody" below.)

and hymns: A "hymn" (Strong 5215) is a song written in praise of God, a sacred song. (See also Matthew 26:30; Mark 14:26; Acts 16:25; Hebrews 2:12; Colossians 3:16.)

and spiritual songs: "Spiritual" (Strong 4152) songs (Strong 5603) are songs belonging to the spirit or that have spiritual themes. This phrase could also refer to songs emanating from our spirit, or spontaneous songs.

singing: "Singing" (Strong 103) is voicing words in musical tones involving musical modulations and inflections. Singing incorporates many differing styles of melody arrangement, including chanting (Thayer 13), madrigals, choruses, and four-part harmony. There are many unique forms of singing from different parts of the world. In our singing, it is the message, attitude, and sincerity, rather than style, that are important. We should not pick a song for worship based on its style, complexity, speed, or shortness but for its appropriateness and spiritual content.

and making melody in your heart: "Making melody" (Strong 5567) is a form of the word "psalm" (above). "In" (Strong 1722) means "with" your heart. The "heart" (Strong 2588) is the seat of our spiritual life, the source of our thoughts, passions, and desires (Thayer 325). It is our "inner man" (3:16), our "spirit" (John 4:23-24; Romans 1:9) with which we are to sing. This phrase indicates the words we sing are to originate from the thoughts and feelings of our heart.

Some make an argument from the etymology of the words translated "making melody" and "psalm" that we are to sing with an instrument. It is true that in classical Greek psallo suggested plucking or striking the chords of a musical instrument to make music. By the time of Christ, however, psallo commonly meant (with very rare exception) to "sing" (Arndt & Gingrich 891). To correctly understand the New Testament text, we cannot go back into the history of a word and bring forward an old meaning and arbitrarily assign it to the word. There are many words in the New Testament used symbolically and figuratively that have different meanings in the Old Testament, such as circumcision, sacrifice, and altar. It is misleading to force the ancient, literal meaning of psallo onto the New Testament text to justify instrumental music. Even if psallo were to carry the meaning of plucking or striking a cord, contextually the instrument named would be the "heart." Caldwell makes an interesting point:

If psallo necessarily implies mechanical instruments, since all are to sing to one another, should not all play as well? Can I fulfill my responsibility as set forth in the word by allowing another in the assembly to play for me and all the others? (Caldwell 258).

In worship we have New Testament authority to "sing." We do not have New Testament authorization to play an instrument in worship. (For a full discussion of "psalm," see Caldwell 253-258.)

The parallel passage in Colossians 3:16 deviates from the wording here, instructing us to sing "with grace" or "thankfulness" (NASB), instead of "making melody" in our hearts.

to the Lord: This phrase suggests that it is acceptable and proper to ascribe praise to Christ. (See Revelation 5:12-13.)

Verse 20

Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ;

Giving thanks always: Instead of all the "lying" (4:25), "corrupt" words (4:29), "clamor" (4:31), "filthiness and silly talk or coarse jesting" (5:4) that came out of our mouth before we were "filled with the Spirit" (5:18), we now are "always" (Strong 3842) "giving thanks" (Strong 2168). This change transpires because we develop an attitude of gratitude and appreciation. We are to "rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus" (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NASB). It is humbling when we finally comprehend that without God’s grace we would have no hope, peace, joy or any other "spiritual blessing" (1:3). One of the significant reasons people go into darkness is a lack of thankfulness (Romans 1:21). So, "whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father" (Colos­sians 3:17 NASB).

How can I repay the Lord for all his goodness to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord...To Thee I shall offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and call upon the name of the Lord [Psalms 116:12-13 (NIV), 17 (NASB)].

(See also 5:4; Colossians 1:12; Colossians 2:7; Colossians 4:2.)

for all things: This phrase is not teaching we should be thankful for everything including evil. It is addressing our attitude toward our circumstances. Paul is incarcerated when he writes this passage, and yet he has an appreciative attitude "for all things" (2 Corinthians 12:10; Philippians 4:10-13; 1 Timothy 6:6-8; Hebrews 13:5-6). He views his life from a spiritual, rather than fleshly, perspective (Philippians 1:12-14). In order for us to cultivate a genuinely grateful attitude in "all things," we need to discipline our minds to focus on:

...whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things (Philippians 4:8 NASB).

unto God and the Father: This phrase is best translated "to God, even the Father" (NASB). (See notes 1:3.)

in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ: Jesus is our "access" (2:18; 3:12) to God the Father (John 14:6). It is "in the name of" Jesus that we are enabled to approach the Father (Colossians 3:17; Hebrews 13:15; 1 Peter 2:5). We begin or end our prayers "in Jesus’ name" not because of ritual but with a deep understanding that prayer is made possible because of Him.

Verse 21

Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.

This is a transitional verse. Grammatically this phrase may be connected to the previous passage (see 5:19); it can stand as an independent sentence (Patzia 264); or it can be taken as the beginning of a new paragraph (Boles 310; Robertson 544). We understand it to be an independent statement or sentence introducing the subject of submission: "Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ" (NIV).

Submitting yourselves: With this statement the theme of submission is presented (5:21-6:9). "Submitting" (Strong 5293) was originally a military term speaking of the arrangement or the lining up of the troops under someone’s control (Robertson 544). Every soldier had a place in the ranks; and when he took his place, it signified he was under subjection and willing to obey the one who was in authority. When a soldier was out of ranks or "deviating from the prescribed order or rule" (Thayer 83), he was walking "disorderly" (Strong 814) (2 Thessalonians 3:6-11; 1 Thessalonians 5:14). Submission may be in conjunction with our will or imposed upon our will, for its basis is subordination. When someone recognizes another’s authority to decide, direct, or govern, and he appropriately complies, he is "submitting" to another. Submission, therefore, indicates a relationship in which one yields his will to that of another because of rank, position, authority, or honor.

As sinners, before we were "filled with the Spirit" (5:18), we erroneously believed we were in subjection to no one but ourselves (Isaiah 47:8; 2 Peter 2:10; Judges 1:8). This passive form of insubordination often develops into active rebellion when called to obedience or self-denial by Christ (Matthew 16:24; Matthew 19:21-22). It is a sin when men fail to subject themselves to God (Hebrews 3:18-19; Romans 8:5-8; Romans 10:3; 2 Corinthians 1:8-9).

As Christians, "how shall we who died to sin still live in it?" (Romans 6:2 NASB). We cannot consume the blessing of forgiveness from Christ as Savior (2 Timothy 1:7-10) and then ungratefully go on our careless way. We must also recognize Jesus as our Lord and submit to Him (Acts 2:36; Acts 10:36; Romans 10:9). Jesus is both Lord and Savior (2 Peter 1:11; 2 Peter 2:20; 2 Peter 3:2; 2 Peter 3:18). There are many willing to accept Jesus as Savior, but not as Lord. We cannot refuse the Lordship of Christ and still expect Him to be our Savior (Luke 6:46-49; Titus 1:16). Submission is essential to Christianity.

one to another: We are enjoined to be "submitting" ourselves "to one another" (Strong 240). The attitude of yielding our will to that of "one another" is opposite to the self-serving attitude we had in sin (2 Peter 2:9-10).

Unity has been one of the grand themes of Ephesians. First Paul instructs the Ephesians to maintain unity regardless of their differing racial and cultural backgrounds. Then Paul emphasizes the need to preserve unity in spite of differing capabilities and responsibilities among them. Now the theme of unity continues with Paul’s indicating that through submission and serving one another we can maintain unity even though we have differing positions of domestic authority and duties.

We have also discovered that in any relationship, humility (4:2-3), which is equivalent to subjection in attitude (1 Peter 5:5), is important in sustaining unity. The scriptural concept of "submitting" exceeds the constraints of "authority," suggesting an attitude of unselfish service that is willing to think of and respond to the needs and desires of "one another." Jesus, speaking to some who wanted authority without submission, says:

Whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many (Matthew 20:26-28 NASB).

Paul appeals for us to "be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor" (Romans 12:10). He also teaches us to:

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:3-5 NASB).

What follows in our text (5:22-6:9) are examples of submitting or serving one another:

1. Wives to Husbands (5:22-24, 33)

2. Husbands to Wives (5:25-33)

3. Children to Parents (6:1-3)

4. Parents to Children (6:4)

5. Slaves to Masters (6:5-9)

6. Masters to Slaves (6:9)

Submission to one another, however, does not negate these differing positions of authority. Jesus says, "I and the Father are one" (John 10:30); yet that relationship did not change the duty Christ had to obey His Father (1 Corinthians 11:3; Hebrews 5:8). A husband and wife are one (5:31; Matthew 19:4-6; Mark 10:7-9); yet that relationship does not change the duty a wife has to obey her husband (1 Peter 3:6; Ephesians 5:24). We are being shown examples of how to serve one another within these selected spheres.

in the fear of God: The reference to "God" (Strong 2316) here reads "Christ" (Strong 5547) in the older preferred Greek texts (Bruce 381; Hindriksen 243). The idea is that we need to submit to one another out of submission to Christ. All authority belongs to Christ (Matthew 28:18; Philippians 2:9-11), and He alone has the right to designate any position of leadership or authority. The preferred translation is "Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ" (NIV).

Verse 22

Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.

Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands: The home is designed and constructed by God, not man (see next verse). Because of this fact, God has the authority to build the relationship in the home according to His design (Genesis 2:18-25; Genesis 3:16; Genesis 3:20). The Lord instructs the wife to submit herself to her husband (also 5:24, 33). This passage is addressed specifically to the wife. The husband is not told to make his wife submissive or put her under subjection or "in her place." The wife must "see to it that she respect her husband" (5:33 NASB). Textually, the words "submit yourselves" (Strong 5293) are here supplied by the translators and clearly stated in verses 21 and 24. Paul tells the older women to teach young women to:

...love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be dishonored (Titus 2:5 NASB).

Paul also instructs the sisters in the church at Colossae "Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord" (Colossians 3:18 NASB). (See also 1 Corinthians 14:34, 1 Timothy 2:11.)

Some assume Paul was never married and, consequently, never appreciated women. The teaching of a wife’s submission to her husband, however, is not unique to Paul. Peter was married (1 Corinthians 9:5), and he says,

wives, be submissive to your own husbands...for in this way in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands (1 Peter 3:1; 1 Peter 3:5 NASB).

And God Himself says to "the woman...your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you" (Genesis 3:16 NASB).

as unto the Lord: God calls upon the wife, here, to submit herself to her husband in the same way she voluntarily chooses to submit to the Lord in other matters. "As" (Strong 3613) implies the wife should respond and submit to her husband with the same attitude she would have when obeying the Lord.

The wife’s subjection to her husband is subjection to the Lord. The Lord is honored when a woman is submissive to her husband, and He is dishonored when she is not (Titus 2:5). A woman is to obey her husband out of obedience to the Lord who instructs her to "submit." She should be afraid to disobey her husband because she is afraid of disobeying the Lord. If a woman’s husband asks her to do something that would be a sin on her part, she should still be afraid to disobey the Lord (see 5:24). Submitting is a duty the wife owes her husband because her Lord deserves it, even if her husband does not.

Verse 23

For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church and he is the saviour of the body.

For the husband is the head of the wife: The basis for the submission of the wife is that God has set the husband in the family as its "head." Paul states, "I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ" (1 Corinthians 11:3 NASB). The word "head" (Strong 2776) means leader or ruling authority and is used to illustrate the authority of Christ over the church (1:22; Colossians 1:18).

The husband’s headship or authority has limitations regulated by the Lord. If a husband were to ask his wife to do something sinful, she "must obey God rather than man" (Acts 5:29). Even if a wife must disobey her husband so that she can remain obedient to God, she is obligated to sustain a submissive attitude for "the husband is the head of the wife." (See notes 5:24; Acts 4:19-20.)

even as Christ is the head of the church: The home exhibits God’s design for the church (5:32). Just as Christ, therefore, is the head of authority in the church (1:22; Colossians 1:18), the wife imitates the respect she has for the Lord directing it toward the leadership position of her husband.

and he is the saviour of the body: As the activity of our body reflects the decisions and desires of our head (see notes 1:23), so the wife is to reflect the aspirations of her husband. "As the will of the church is at one with that of Christ, its Savior, the will of the wife should coincide with that of her husband" (Weed 179). As Christ is "saviour" of the body, so a husband ought to protect, provide, and sacrifice for his wife’s welfare (5:25). When the husband acts thoughtfully and lovingly toward his wife, it becomes easier for a wife to respond submissively.

Verse 24

Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.

Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ: When we become a Christian we make a repentant commitment to forsake sin (Acts 17:30); be faithful to Christ (Revelation 17:14); love (Mark 12:30), honor (John 4:23-24), and obey Him (Hebrews 5:9); find and keep His word (John 14:21; John 14:23) in pleasant times and also in times of persecution (1 Peter 4:12), when it is convenient and when it is not (2 Timothy 4:2), "till death" (Revelation 2:10; Revelation 2:26). When we were baptized, we "were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead" (Romans 7:4 NASB). When we choose to obey the Lord, we are "joined to another," that is married, to Christ, the one "who was raised from the dead." John the Baptist explains why Christ’s influence must increase:

You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, "I am not the Christ," but, "I have been sent before Him." He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. And so this joy of mine has been made full (John 3:28-29 NASB).

Jesus is the groom, the one who "has the bride," and that bride is His church (Revelation 19:7; Revelation 21:2; Revelation 21:9; Revelation 22:17). Just as the bride of Christ, the church, submits to her husband, Christ, so wives should submit to their husbands.

so let the wives be to their own husbands: Customarily, during the wedding a wife makes a commitment to her husband that from this day forward, forsaking all others, she will be faithful to him; love, honor, and obey him; to have and hold him; in sickness and health; in prosperity and adversity, "till death do us part" (Romans 7:2). The vows parallel our conversion to Christ. A Christian wife is to recognize the authority Christ has in His church and then imitate that model to structure the husband/wife relationship in her home. God’s design for the home is a loving, devoted, submissive wife, and a loving, unselfish, sacrificial husband. "Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord" (Colossians 3:18).

in every thing: The church is fully committed to doing the will of Christ. So also in the Christian home the wife is fully committed to her husband in "every thing" (Strong 3956). Thayer says this word means that a wife should be submissive "in everything, in every way, on every side," and "in every particular" (Thayer 492). When a wife is this deeply committed to the Lord, she becomes an extremely powerful force for spiritual good in her home. Peter writes:

...wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior" (1 Peter 3:1-2 NASB).

Peter’s meaning is "be submissive...so that...they may be won" to Christ. A wife’s submissive behavior will not only have a spiritually beneficial effect in her home but others will also "see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 5:16 NASB). As wives, "let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we shall reap if we do not grow weary" (Galatians 6:9 NASB). Know that "your toil is not in vain in the Lord" (1 Corinthians 15:58 NASB). (See also Romans 12:20-21.)

As we have noted (5:23), the only exception to "in every thing" would be if the husband asks his wife to commit a sin. This principle is illustrated in our relationship with the civil government. We are told to obey our civil government (Romans 13:1-2); but if that government commands us to do something sinful, "we must obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29 NASB). Similarly, if a husband were to expect his wife to do something sinful, she "must obey God rather than man" (Acts 5:29). Even if a wife, however, must disobey her husband so that she can remain obedient to God, she is obligated to sustain a submissive attitude. Wives should be cautioned that the sin cited to justify insubordination is truly a transgression of God’s will (1 John 3:4); consequently, their refusal to obey becomes a sin (see also Acts 4:19-20).

Verse 25

Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;

Husbands, love your wives: Now the writer addresses the husband’s subjection or service in the home (see 5:21). God governs the husband’s headship through the principle of commanded love. A husband is required to submit his leadership to the control of love. To "love" (Strong 25) is to subordinate one’s own interests and pleasures for the benefit of the one loved. Paul describes the attitude and focus of love when he instructs:

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:3-5 NASB).

The "attitude" is not named; but we can identify it as love, for its object is "others." Apparently men have a problem with either self-interest (5:28-29) or their memory because husbands are commanded three times to love their wives (5:25, 28, 33). Men have a tendency to relegate this command to incidental opportunities rather than recognize it as the all encompassing foundation of the husband/wife relationship. The keeping of this command is not contingent on a wife’s being lovable or submissive but is contingent on the husband’s willingness to submit to Christ. Just as she is to possess the attitude of submission always, he is to sustain the attitude of love always. "Christ is the head of every man" (1 Corinthians 11:3 NASB), and He demands our submission: "Husbands, love your wives." (See also Colossians 3:19.)

even as Christ also loved the church: The term "even as" (Strong 2531) shows the extent or measure of love a husband is to have for his wife. This extent is measured by Christ’s example of love for His bride (5:2; Galatians 2:20). "We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us" (1 John 3:16 NASB). Through Christ we understand love. Paul uncovers for us the depth of God’s love when he writes:

For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:6-8 NASB).

Christ did not "love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth" (1 John 3:18 NASB). A husband’s love must be apparent, not just assumed. Here is a test: If you could not speak or write, would your conduct tell of your love?

Christ gives honor to His bride, the church (5:27), and we are to imitate His respect toward our wives:

You husbands likewise, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with a weaker vessel, since she is a woman; and grant her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered (1 Peter 3:7 NASB).

This passage does not insult women. It instructs a man to treat a woman in a courteous way as if she were "a weaker vessel," whether she is or not. It also tells a husband to "honor" his wife or else his prayers are "hindered." When a person’s prayers are hindered, he has sinned (Isaiah 59:1-2). It is a sin, then, not to honor one’s wife. The way a husband treats his wife is to reflect the way Christ treats His bride, the church.

and gave himself for it: Christ put the church’s welfare above His own when He "gave himself." He did not need to die for Himself for He had no sin (2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15; Hebrews 9:14). He died so we could spiritually live (2 Thessalonians 5:9-10; Romans 6:1-11). We are the ones who have benefited from His sacrifice.

Just as a Christian husband anticipates a Christian wife’s submission to his leadership, a Christian wife anticipates a Christian husband’s self-sacrificing love. Jesus requires submission from both. We should not ponder on the inequities or shortcomings of our mates but reflect on our own commitment of service and obedience to the Lord (5:21; Philippians 4:8).

Verse 26

That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,

When Christ gave Himself for His church, His bride, He accomplished three objectives. These are declared in three "in order that" (Strong 2443) clauses in the Greek text:

1. in order that he might "sanctify" her (5:26)

2. in order that he might "present" her (5:27)

3. in order that she might "be holy and blameless" (5:27)

That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water: It is "with the washing of water" that the church is sanctified and cleansed. The word translated "with the" (Strong 3588) washing of water should be translated "by the" washing of water (NASB, NIV; also see Lincoln 375).

Christ gave his life in order that the church could experience sanctification and cleansing. To "sanctify" (Strong 37) the church means to "dedicate" or "consecrate" the church for holy purposes (Arndt & Gingrich 8). Without "sanctification" (Hebrews 12:14), we cannot have "reconciliation" with a holy God (Romans 5:10-11; 2 Corinthians 5:18-20; Colossians 1:22). After listing sins that would keep anyone from inheriting the kingdom of God, Paul says, "...and such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Spirit of our God" (1 Corinthians 6:11 NASB). They were sanctified and justified when they were washed or baptized "in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ." (See also Acts 10:47-48; Titus 3:5.)

The word "cleanse" (Strong 2511) refers to the church’s being purified of sin (Thayer 312). The aorist tense of "cleanse" indicates the cleansing is one specific action rather than a progressive action (Fields 168). Baptism again is one specific act in which everyone in the church experiences cleansing. Paul was told by Ananias, "and now why do you delay? Arise, and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name" (Acts 22:16 NASB). If baptism washed away Paul’s sins, it will wash away ours, also (Acts 2:38). The writer of Hebrews, speaking of things that cause us to have enough confidence to "draw near" to God, mentions baptism:

...let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water (Hebrews 10:22 NASB).

Peter tells us that the washing our body receives in the pure waters of baptism is not for the cleansing of the flesh: "Baptism now saves you-not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience-through the resurrection of Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 3:21 NASB). Our conscience knows God commands baptism (Matthew 28:19-20; Acts 10:48); therefore, when we submit to baptism, the act becomes "an appeal to God for a good conscience."

The "washing of water" (5:26) that sanctifies and cleanses the church is the "one baptism" of Ephesians 4:5.

by the word: The "word" here is the spoken word and, therefore, means "by instruction of the spoken word" (Strong 4487). When the written word is preached, others respond in obedience (1:13; 4:20-21; Romans 10:17; Acts 15:7). John shows a connection between the word, truth, and sanctification: "Sanctify them in the truth; Thy word is truth" (John 17:17). When the "word of truth" (James 1:18; 2 Corinthians 6:7) is preached (Romans 10:17) and obeyed in baptism, souls are purified (1 Peter 1:22-25) and sanctified.

Another view considered by some commentators is that "by the word" applies to the uttering of the divine names at baptism (Matthew 28:19; Acts 22:16), or the public confession of belief in Christ (Romans 10:8-10; Matthew 10:32-33; 1 Timothy 6:12). (See also Thayer 562; Arndt & Gingrich 735.)

Verse 27

That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.

That he might present it to himself: In ancient times it was a custom in some places for the bride to be given a cleansing bath before being dressed in her bridal garments and presented to her husband at the wedding feast. This custom is figuratively described in Ezekiel:

Later I passed by, and when I looked at you and saw that you were old enough for love, I spread the corner of my garment over you and covered your nakedness. I gave you my solemn oath and entered into a covenant with you, declares the Sovereign LORD, and you became mine. I bathed you with water and washed the blood from you and put ointments on you. I clothed you with an embroidered dress and put leather sandals on you. I dressed you in fine linen and covered you with costly garments. I adorned you with jewelry: I put bracelets on your arms and a necklace around your neck, and I put a ring on your nose, earrings on your ears and a beautiful crown on your head. So you were adorned with gold and silver; your clothes were of fine linen and costly fabric and embroidered cloth. Your food was fine flour, honey and olive oil. You became very beautiful and rose to be a queen. And your fame spread among the nations on account of your beauty, because the splendor I had given you made your beauty perfect, declares the Sovereign LORD (Ezekiel 16:8-14 NIV).

In this beautiful passage, something out of the ordinary is happening. Usually the bride or the bride’s family would arrange her cleansing bath and prepare the adornments for her presentation at the wedding feast. But in this passage, the bride is abandoned, impoverished, and in need of cleansing. Because of the love of the groom, she is washed, dressed, and gloriously adorned by him. Because of the bride’s awful plight, the groom has to prepare the bride for her presentation (Strong 3936) to himself.

The church is being prepared by Christ for the day of the wedding supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:7-9) when she will be presented "as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband" (Revelation 21:2; Revelation 21:9-11 NIV). The church, however, will not be gloriously adorned in garments of her own choosing but in garments "given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean" (Revelation 19:8 NASB). Before we were cleansed and adorned by Christ, we were spiritually abandoned and destitute and unable to prepare ourselves for presentation to Christ. Because of the loving sacrifice of Christ for His bride (see notes 5:26), we can be sanctified and cleansed "by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory." While we anticipate the future presentation (2 Peter 3:12; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18; 2 Corinthians 11:2), the cleansing and dressing process are continuing now. (See Boles 316; Bruce 387.)

glorious church: A "glorious" (Strong 1741) bride is a splendidly gorgeous or "radiant" (NIV) bride. This beauty shines because the church is cleansed and healed of sin through Christ. The church is honorable and magnificent because she stands as a reminder of the depth of God’s love and grace and the power of redemption. The gospel she preaches is glorious (1 Timothy 1:11).

not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing: What bride is not watchful to avoid having a "spot or wrinkle or any such thing" on her wedding dress? The words "spot" (Strong 4697) and "wrinkle" (Strong 4512) are figuratively speaking of spiritual defilements and moral faults or imperfections. The church is made up of those who have spotless garments for "they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the lamb" (Revelation 7:13-14 NASB). We know the groom is "spotless" (1 Peter 1:19); so for the wedding presentation, the bride aspires to be "found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless" (2 Peter 3:14).

but that it should be holy and without blemish: Jesus gave Himself over to death so that He could "sanctify" the church and "present" her to Himself (see notes on 5:26). Jesus’ third accomplishment achieved by giving Himself was enabling us to be "holy" (Strong 40) and "without blemish" (Strong 299) or "blameless" (Arndt & Gingrich 48). This condition is the opposite of "having spot or wrinkle or any such thing" (above). This clause means that in the bridal bath of baptism:

...we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life...knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, that our body of sin might be done away with...for he who has died is freed from sin (Romans 6:4-8 NASB).

Jesus made it possible for us to die with Him and then have a new life free from sin through Him. (See notes 1:4.)

Verse 28

So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself.

So ought men to love their wives: After explaining the vital blessings received by the bride of Christ through the loving sacrifice of her groom (5:26-27), we are now brought back to instructions on how a husband is to love his wife. To "love" (Strong 25) a wife is to seek her welfare or benefit self-sacrificially (see notes 5:25). We know that wives are to love their husbands (Titus 2:4), but evidently husbands need to be prompted to remember their obligation to love their wives (5:25, 28, 33). The word "ought" (Strong 3784) means that a husband is indebted or owes loving concern for the needs of his wife. In a casual relationship, we "love those who love" us (Matthew 5:46). Marriage, however, is far more than a casual relationship. A husband owes loving concern for the woman who agrees to be his wife.

as their own bodies: As men naturally attend to the needs of "their own bodies," so a husband "ought" to tend to his wife’s needs. A loving husband "does not seek" his "own" benefit but habitually thinks of his wife (1 Corinthians 13:5 NASB). We are taught to "let no one seek his own good, but that of his neighbor" (1 Corinthians 10:24 NASB). This passage is not teaching it is sinful to look out for one’s own good, but rather that our focus should be on looking out "for the interests of others" (Philippians 2:4 NASB). Jesus uses the natural non-evil measure of self-concern to enlighten us as to the minimal standard of concern we are to have for others when He says, "just as you want people to treat you, treat them in the same way" (Luke 6:31 NASB; also Matthew 7:12). (See also Matthew 22:39; Leviticus 19:18.) The minimum level of love a husband owes his wife is to love her "as" he does his own body.

He that loveth his wife loveth himself: There is a basic biblical principle that says we reap what we sow (Galatians 6:7; Job 4:8). Just as those who "sow the wind...reap the whirlwind" (Hosea 8:7), those who sow love, reap devotion. Even if a man were motivated by nothing but selfishness, he would be wise to devote himself to loving his wife. This principle is absolute: "whatever good thing each one does, this he will receive back from the Lord" (6:8). A man deprives himself of much happiness and joy by not loving his wife as himself. Another view of this passage is that since two are "one flesh" (5:31) in marriage, "He who loves his wife loves himself" (NIV).

Verse 29

For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church

For no man ever yet hated his own flesh: This passage ponders on the measure of a man’s self-concern. God created man with a very strong level of self-concern or self-preservation (Job 2:4). When his flesh is hungry, he eats. When his body is tired, he seeks rest. He avoids stress and pain, for his body does not enjoy these experiences. A man does not normally ignore the needs of his body.

Since a husband is to love his wife as he would his own body, it follows he would never treat his wife in a way that he himself would not like to be treated. As Paul forewarns the Colossians, "Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them" (Colossians 3:19 NIV).

but nourisheth and cherisheth it: We provide and care for our bodies. "Cherisheth" (Strong 2282) is defined as "to warm, keep warm,..to foster with tender care" (Thayer 282). In other words, when it is cold, we keep ourselves warm. This word, when used to describe a relationship, carries the idea of a mother nursing her young (1 Thessalonians 2:7) or surrounding the one we love with warmth. Since a husband is to treat his wife as he would his own body, he should provide all that is needed to keep her fed, warm, and comfortable (2 Thessalonians 3:12; 1 Timothy 5:8), if at all possible. This teaching would include her physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual needs, every aspect of her well-being. May there be no hypocrisy between the way a husband wants to be treated and the way he treats his wife.

even as the Lord the church: Here the pattern is complete. There are so many things Christ has done and continues to do to nourish and cherish the church. He loved her, died for her, purchased her, redeemed her, and she has every spiritual blessing, precious promise, prayer, hope, and the life that now is and the one to come. The question is, What more could Christ have done for the church?

Verse 30

For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.

For we are members of his body: Just as a man cares for his own body, Christ takes care of us "because we are members of His body" (NASB). In one sense Christ is the groom and the church is His bride. But in another sense, Christ is the head of the church (1:22-23), which is His "one body" (4:4). The two have become one. This analogy is also true of the husband and wife as the next verse will illustrate.

of his flesh, and of his bones: This phrase, even though it is included in the Textus Receptus, lacks textual evidence in the older manuscripts and was probably included by a scribe copying a note made on the subject of marriage (Metzger 609). A. T. Robertson states that this phrase is "certainly not genuine" (Robertson 546). (See Genesis 2:23.)

Verse 31

For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.

For this cause: This verse is a quote of Genesis 2:24. Paul seems to be showing that the responsibilities of the marriage relationship, as he has described them, were not new at all, but as old as Adam and Eve. (See also Matthew 19:5.)

shall a man leave his father and mother: Before marriage, the strongest relationship in one’s life is the connection between parent and child. It is God’s design, however, that when one marries, the parent/child relationship is supplanted by the husband/wife relationship. The word "leave" (Strong 2641) means "to leave behind...forsake" or "to abandon" (Thayer 333). "Leave" does not suggest one literally has to move out of the area, abandoning and forsaking all fellowship with one’s parents, but one is to leave behind the bonds of authority and dependence that exist within the parent/child relationship. If these ties cannot be broken unless the new family move, then so be it. Marriage must transcend the bonds of fleshly lineage. These words are for parents as well, for parents must not try to maintain bonds of authority and dependency with their children after they marry.

and shall be joined unto his wife: The word "shall be joined" (Strong 4347) is a word meaning "to glue," "cleave" or "stick" something together (Thayer 547). The act of marriage has been described as "leaving and cleaving." The act of joining together requires a commitment to a union or bond that only death could break (Romans 7:2; 1 Corinthians 7:39). This joining is usually observed socially in a ceremony within which the bride and groom give and receive vows and exchange rings; however, it is God that decrees the joining (Mark 10:9; Matthew 19:6). Also note that being "joined" by God in marriage and becoming "one flesh" are two different things. In 1 Corinthians 6:15-20, you have sexual union being called "one flesh"; however, fornication is implied, not marriage.

and they two shall be one flesh: Man and wife become "one flesh" in sexual union. The act of marriage is comprised of three steps; leaving, cleaving, and consummation. The oneness terminology used here goes beyond the act of physical union in marriage. It embraces the idea of sharing a "oneness" in mind, spirit, goals, hopes, and aspirations.

The conjugal act is an intimate act of love, which symbolizes to husband and wife the commitment of self-sacrifice and the blending of lives together (Caldwell 282).

(See also John 17:21-23; 1 Corinthians 1:10.)

Verse 32

This is a great mystery but I speak concerning Christ and the church.

This is a great mystery: This "mystery" (Strong 3466) is the revelation of a deep insight or profound truth (Patzia 274). (See notes on 1:9; 3:3-4, 9; 6:19.) Paul is revealing a previously hidden purpose in the nature and design of the marriage relationship, that of showing the deep love the Lord has for His church.

but I speak concerning Christ and the church: Marriage is a symbol of the union of Christ, the groom, and the church, His bride. "God ordained the relationship as a preview of the fellowship to be shared by Christ and the church" (Boles 320). From the beginning, the home’s design has vividly depicted the intimate relationship we now have with Christ in the church (see notes 5:24).

Verse 33

Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.

Nevertheless let every one of you in particular: "Nevertheless" or "however" (NIV) brings this discussion out of the symbolic and back into the practical and applicable realm. The changes in behavior that are specified are directed to each "one of you."

so love his wife even as himself: This is the third time Paul mentions the command for a husband to love his wife (see 5:25, 28). The more a husband loves his wife at this minimal level (5:28) and then grows in loving service through sacrificing for her well-being, the more she will grow in submission and respect for him.

and the wife see that she reverence her husband: This is also the third time submission is alluded to for the wife (see 5:22, 24). The word "reverence" (Strong 5399) is a strong Greek word meaning "fear" and terror (Thayer 655-656); but, in the context of those who enjoy a loving relationship, it carries the meaning of "respect" (NASB, NIV). (See 1 John 4:18.) A wife is to "see that she" takes responsibility for her attitudes. She should never allow herself to develop an attitude that would require his having to assert his headship. She must make sure she never develops an attitude that allows her to slight, ignore, trivialize, disregard, neglect, or treat as unimportant the will of her husband.

Bibliographical Information
Editor Charles Baily, "Commentary on Ephesians 5". "Contending for the Faith". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ctf/ephesians-5.html. 1993-2022.
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