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A Walk In Love and In Light
Ephesians 5:1. When we do what is said in the last verse of the previous chapter, we can be addressed as “imitators of God”. That means that we are able to do what God did in showing His kindness. It may even be expected from us. Anyway, in itself it is a huge thing to be addressed as ‘imitators of God’. Yet, that is not all: we are even called “beloved children” of God. God has not only forgiven us all our debts, but He also made us rich, as we became His children. You should realize this as well. You are a child of God and He loves you!
Ephesians 5:2. Then you will not only show kindness and forgiveness in imitating God, but your whole conduct, your whole walk, will be “in love”. You show kindness and forgiveness when you do not blame your brother or sister anymore for what he or she did wrong. To show ‘love’ goes a step further. Love is not so much engaged in what the other has done, but is involved with the other himself. Love always seeks good for the other. The exhortation “walk in love” simply means that you show the Divine nature in daily practice.
How that is practiced, is seen in the life of the Lord Jesus. In Him the nature and God was shown perfectly. Love brought Him to a deed which we always will admire. That deed of love has been His full surrender to God – to death. His death is the absolute culmination of His love for God and for us. His life and death gave God such an inexpressible joy. There has never been anybody on earth who has served and honored God with all his love and so fully devoted. The Lord Jesus was the One who did.
The “offering” and the “sacrifice” speak of His whole life till His death on the cross. It was all a “fragrant aroma” to God, but His death on the cross was also for us. He died in our place. As a result of that we are saved and all hindrances for God to bless us have disappeared.
In that perfect surrender He is unique, therein we cannot imitate Him. Yet it is said: “Walk in love, just as Christ also.” Only then we shall walk in love in the same way as Christ when we also fully devote our lives to God and His interests. Then it would be, as if God will be reminded of the walk of His Son, and through our lives a fragrant aroma will rise up to Him.
Ephesians 5:3.The admonitions here from Paul connect to a walk of life in the light. Everything that cannot bear the light of God must not have room among believers. Besides, it is against love. Love always seeks the good for the other, even at its own expense. The things that are mentioned here, are only looking for ways to fulfill their own desires. Those are sins wherein one enjoys himself at the expense of someone else.
Everything is measured by the standard of Who God is. The believer is created according to Him (Ephesians 4:24). God is light and love (1 John 1:5; 1 John 4:81 John 4:16). Believers walk as children of God in love (Ephesians 5:1-Exodus :) and as saints they walk in the light (Ephesians 5:3-Ecclesiastes :).
The things that are mentioned from Ephesians 5:3 do not fit with love and light. The believer should not do things, not even mention things, which “are not fitting” (Ephesians 5:4), that means that do not fit with the nature of God. It is not so much about the deeds, but what is preceded by that. It is about what is in the heart and what flows from the mouth. “For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart” (Matthew 12:34). Paul of course here condemns the way of speaking that reveals someone’s lust.
When he mentions things that should not even be named, he does not contradict his own admonitions. He certainly mentions them, but in a disapproving sense. This is the way to speak about these things when discipline must be practiced in the church, or when these things should be denounced somewhere else (Ephesians 5:11). Do not be tempted to mention these things lightly or as a joke and do not even tolerate that.
By “immorality” is meant sexual offence in the broadest sense of the word. It regards all sexual contact outside marriage and that is more than adultery. By “any impurity” is meant, every kind of uncleanness, in words as well as in deeds or in thoughts. “Greed” is the desire to have more, and does not stop with money.
The absence of such talk is fitting with “saints”. Decent people watch out for what they say, so that they do not spoil their reputation, but ‘saints’ have a higher motive. They don’t belong to the world where these subjects are generally accepted, but to the new creation.
Ephesians 5:4. Neither “filthiness” (i.e. obscene, indecent in words and attitude) shall belong to your common language. That includes all that is against cleanness. “Silly talk” is foolish talk and fool indicates somebody that does not regard God (Psalms 14:1). “Coarse jesting” you hear in jokes with a double meaning. It is all ‘not fitting’; it does not fit with the standard of the saints of God.
Therefore you should not allow yourself to slide down to the level of talking rubbish and playing the joker. He, who is known like that, is not a Christian, whatever his confession may be. It is not about general humor here. It is about people who seek to extend moral borders and to take down thresholds of decency by their foolish and ambiguous talk and their coarse jesting.
By ‘saints’ – people who received forgiveness – “giving of thanks” is fitting. That indicates an opened mouth out of which words of thanks flow (1 Thessalonians 5:18; Colossians 1:12) instead of debauchery.
Ephesians 5:5. In Ephesians 5:3 the evil was mentioned, here we see the perpetrators of it. You know very well, and you also have acknowledged, that because of everything you were in in the past and wherein you partook, there was no connection with the area where Christ and God have all control. You confessed that at your conversion and you’ve seen that all that has disappeared in the judgment that came over Christ. Yet you can forget that and again start to live as you did in the past. Therefore your conscience is appealed to here to remind you of what you formerly confessed and have put away at the cross.
There is not only a reminder of what has been put away, however. There is also a prospect for “an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God”. This kingdom will be established in the fullness of times (Ephesians 1:10). It is ‘the kingdom of Christ’ because He is the Center of it, the One Who rules. It is the kingdom ‘of God’ because He is the Inventor of it, it is His counsel.
By “inheritance” you think about the future; you are an heir and the inheritance is yet to come. Your inheritance in the kingdom you will receive in the fullness of times at the revelation of Christ. The rights of God and His government will be established in the universe. It is mentioned here to indicate that you should see your life in the light of that time. The result will be that you give the control of your life in the hands of Christ and God now already.
Ephesians 5:6. Then you will not be tempted to live unholy which can cause you to end up again in the company you were in in the past (cf. Psalms 1:1). You can be deceived by empty words, words that conflict with the Scriptures. Different forms of living together that the Scripture calls fornication, are being justified, as living together unmarried and the opening up of marriage between people of the same sex. These things are also defended in Christianity with nice, but empty words. But bear in mind: “For because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.” ‘Sons of disobedience’ are people who are deliberately disobedient.
Ephesians 5:7. Stay far away from them. Do not join them and do not behave like them. Just assure yourself that you will not be seen as a partaker of them (see also Ephesians 5:11). Children of God and sons of disobedience have nothing in common spiritually. You should not only avoid sins, but also the connection with sinners.
Ephesians 5:8. Do you know why you have to avoid those connections? Because of what you were in the past and what you have become now. It is put as a fact. And that change has been achieved through the work that God did on you. You were not only in the darkness, you were darkness. You were characterized by a nature that is in darkness and you found pleasure in everything that was against God. But now you are light in the Lord. Nothing is hidden, everything is visible and that is the way you should walk.
Now read Ephesians 5:1-8 again.
Reflection: What belongs to the light and what does not belong in the light?
Ephesians 5:9. A walk in light is not sterile and cold. In such a walk, life is developing that shows itself in the fruit it bears. This fruit is not because of your efforts and neither a result of some performance you delivered. No, bearing fruit is not what you do, but it is about what you are and where you stand. If you walk in light, you are in God’s presence. He gives the increase (1 Corinthians 3:7).
The Lord Jesus says: “He who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). When you draw your ‘life juices’ from Him, your life will bear fruit. That fruit consists of the features of God, which were also visible in the life of the Lord Jesus. You will be a benefit to others when in your behavior “all goodness” is visible. You will give others what they deserve and in that way reveal “righteousness”. Your whole behavior will not be hypocritical, but “truth”, that is veritable.
Ephesians 5:10. While you are ‘producing’ the fruit of light that way without your own efforts, you are active in finding out “what is pleasing to the Lord”. “Trying to learn” is to examine whether something is good. The result of this examination is that you make choices that are a joy to the Lord.
Ephesians 5:11. In Ephesians 5:7 Paul warns that you should not be a partaker of evildoers. You must not connect yourself with these people. In this verse you are reminded not to have anything to do with their deeds. Every form of fellowship with them should be cut off. Light and darkness have absolutely nothing in common (cf. 2 Corinthians 6:14).
Now you are in the light, it is absolutely unbearable to do “unfruitful deeds” because they belong to the “darkness”. Besides, have you noticed that there is mention of “fruit (singular) of the Light” (Ephesians 5:9) and “unfruitful deeds (plural) of darkness” (Ephesians 5:11)? This you also find in Galatians 5, where you read about “the works of the flesh” (Galatians 5:19) and “the fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22). What belongs to God and comes from Him, forms a wonderful unity. What comes from the flesh and belongs to darkness, is corruption in many ways.
What happens in darkness should be “exposed” – this means that it must be clearly indicated which sin it is about. The nature of the sin should be exposed. You don’t have to examine the way sin is practiced, but as soon as you become aware of it, you are to name sin as sin and not partake in defending it.
John the baptist did that well. He exposed Herod’s way of living by saying that he was living in sin (Matthew 14:3-Numbers :). Exposure happens by what you say, but even more by the way you live. When you walk in the light, that light will also reveal the works of darkness.
Ephesians 5:12. It is very clear that something that happens “in secret”, is deliberately done and not ignorantly. “It is disgraceful even to speak” of things which are done in secret. Should you have to say something about it, do it with disapproval. It can be necessary to talk about homosexuality. When somebody is struggling with homosexual feelings, we shall try to help such a person with compassion. However, when it is somebody who defends homosexual practice, we must take a clear stand against it.
Ephesians 5:13. The special feature of light is that it reveals everything when its rays shine on it. Light exposes the true nature of something. He who does good things has nothing to hide. He stands fearless in the spotlight. Everything he does may be seen. He who does evil, hates the light and avoids it (John 3:20).
Ephesians 5:14. The work of light is made clear in the previous verses. It is also made clear that there is absolutely no fellowship between light and darkness. Of course the enemy doesn’t like that. He doesn’t succeed in mixing light and darkness. But what he does succeed in doing, is to turn both around and to present darkness as light and light as darkness. He is tirelessly busy to make people think backwards. In various media he has found a great way for his attempts.
The prophet Isaiah has spoken out the ‘woe’ regarding the exchange of light and darkness (Isaiah 5:20). And bear in mind: he indeed speaks to the people of God! This reversal of matters has also permeated Christianity. Christians have been deceived by the enemy and have fallen asleep. They are detached from the light of the glory of Christ. Therefore out of the glory comes a call from the glorified Christ to every Christian individually: “Awake, sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”
Just imagine: You see a lot of people lying on the floor. They don’t move. They all seem dead. There is no sign of life. The tragedy the apostle is painting here is the apparent similarity between the sleeper and the dead. Although the sleeper is alive, he is yet just as the dead and just as insensitive to the light. That is the application here. Somebody who sleeps doesn’t hear or see anything. There is no communication with the living, for in fact he is in the condition of a dead man.
The Christian who is asleep, has been turned off to testify of the glorified Lord. In order to rejoice in Christ again, he must awake and arise. He has to open his eyes and realize that he has been deceived “with empty words” (Ephesians 5:6), and therefore he became like the dead.
When you realize that your life is not a testimony anymore of the glorified Christ, then do something about it! It may be that you haven’t sinned at all. Of itself that is wonderful, but it might be the case that you have become blind to the glorified Christ and to your connection to Him. You went to live on the level of the world. You started to think horizontally. You’re not aware anymore of the vertical relationship with the Lord. You do not reflect the new life anymore.
When you recognize this, you have been awakened. Confess to the Lord that you’ve failed and rejoice again in Christ, the Light source. In His Person everything that God is has been revealed in the midst of evil and darkness. If you rejoice in Him, God will be revealed in the midst of evil and darkness. After all, you have been created according to God. The section that deals with light and darkness in such a special way, closes so to say, with the call to rejoice in the light.
Ephesians 5:15. After this digression about light and darkness Paul returns to the walk, about which he spoke in Ephesians 5:1-Joshua :. By walk is meant the way of life we live. He exhorts us to watch carefully how we walk. It is, after all, about a walk in love and light (Ephesians 5:1; Ephesians 5:8), a walk wherein the new life becomes visible (Ephesians 4:22-Jeremiah :), so a walk wherein Christ is being formed (Galatians 4:19). That comprises our whole life.
After the contrast between light and darkness you see another contrast, that between unwise men and wise. Who is wise? Wise is he who knows how to apply God’s Word in different situations. You are unwise when you live to your own ideas, as if you would not know anything of the very plans God has with you. You are wise when you ask yourself in all your decisions if it fits with your relation with the heavenly Christ, as that is the issue in this letter.
Ephesians 5:16. Walking wisely becomes clear in how you use your time, how you use opportunities that God gives you to let your light shine. A wise man takes the greatest possible advantage to show the new man. “Making the most” means that you make the best use of what you have, not for yourself, but rather at your own expense.
That “the days are evil” or full of sin is another exhortation to make most of your time. You won’t have that chance in heaven. Only in the time you are on earth you have chances to show Christ in the midst of sin. If you want to see these chances, you must be awake, your eyes must be open, and you should also watch out how you walk. There is always that danger of falling asleep.
Because you live in an evil, sinful world, you should watch yourself and your environment. This doesn’t frighten you or make you tremble. No, what you see makes you zealous to be fully and continuously committed to the Lord. You become aware that time is a gift from Him to serve Him with. When we do not see opportunities, it’s not the Lord’s fault, but ours.
Now read Ephesians 5:9-16 again.
Reflection: How do you make the most of your time?
Be Filled With the Spirit
Ephesians 5:17. We are in the middle of a section that strongly reminds us of 1 Corinthians 6 that reads: “For you have been bought with a price” (1 Corinthians 6:20). This means that you are not your own and so have no right or own time. You belong to the Lord for all the twenty four hours in a day. You also have received God’s nature: through this you can see things around you as He sees them. You are very aware that the days are evil and dark, but you may walk in the light of Christ. You see Who Christ is, the Man of God’s counsels, and you also see that this Man shall once reign in heaven and on earth.
That doesn’t make you careless and you will not wander around. No, when Christ enlightens you, you want to spend every minute to exhibit Him in this evil, dark world. What that means in practice for you, you should ask the Lord. If you don’t do that you are “foolish”. Understanding “the will of the Lord” is also in connection with the truth of this letter. God’s will is that you will show the features of His Being – love and light. You can be everywhere and do everything where the love and the light of God can shine.
Ephesians 5:18. Within yourself you don’t have the power for that. Only when you are filled with the Spirit will you be able to do that. And again we see a contrast. Being filled with the Spirit is in contrast with being drunk with wine. He who is drunk is dictated by the wine. Such a person has no self-control anymore; in fact, he is totally out of control, whereby dissipation rules. He who is filled with the Spirit is thoughtful (2 Timothy 1:7). It is not a question of switching from one ‘vagueness’ (which is the result of too much alcohol) to another (which could be the result of a sort of ecstasy).
The use of a glass of wine is not forbidden (1 Timothy 5:23), but the gushing use is. Believers should not be controlled by wine, but by the Holy Spirit. Being filled with the Spirit is related to the fact that you’re totally open for His working so that He can use you.
In order to be filled, all obstacles should be dealt with and removed. You can fill a glass to the brim with water. That looks full, but however, when a layer of sand is on the bottom, the glass is not full of water. The glass is only full of water when the sand is removed and is replaced by water. Paul means by his call “be filled with the Spirit”: ‘Make sure that you are filled with the Spirit, so that He may totally control your life.’ To “be filled with” is not something you have to wait for. Neither is it something which as a sovereign act from God that comes over you. It is an exhortation.
You are not to pray to be filled with the Spirit, but you are to examine what is hindering you to be filled with Him and you should put that away. Surely the Spirit dwells in you, but He must have all authority over everything: your thoughts, your relationships, your time and money spending. It is neither something that is achieved once and for all. It is something that has to be realized all the time. He who is filled with the Spirit doesn’t think about himself, neither about the Spirit with Whom he is filled, but he is only focused on the Lord Jesus. That is, according to John 16, always the work of the Holy Spirit. The Lord Jesus is saying there: “He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose [it] to you” (John 16:14).
Ephesians 5:19. To be filled with the Spirit has a great effect on the life of the believer. In the following verses you see that it has to do with the common life. It is reflected in the speech (Ephesians 5:19), in giving thanks (Ephesians 5:20) and in submitting to one another (Ephesians 5:21). The Spirit can do what He is delighted to do: to focus the eye – not on the Spirit, as He is the Servant, but – on the Lord Jesus (Ephesians 5:19) and on the Father (Ephesians 5:20).
He thereby doesn’t bring us in ecstasy or to an outburst of incomprehensible words. The first sign to notice what somebody is filled with, is to be noticed in his speech. Listen to conversations and you will soon find out what fills someone’s heart. In a company where the Spirit is filling the atmosphere, people will speak to one another “in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs”. The words “to one another” stresses the fact again that the believers are one body and therefore members of each other. Our dealing with each other should be that way so also the neighbor is being served by that.
The harmony among believers is especially lived through when they sing together. Through the songs they speak to one another. Think for example of the famous song: ‘Onward Christian Soldiers’. Everyone who sings this song encourages the other as a Christian soldier to move forward, behind the Lord Jesus. At the same time we focus, also in our hearts, on the Lord Jesus and the Father.
By “psalms” here, is meant songs that give an expression of your experiences, trials and temptations and also of solutions the Lord gives. It is about compositions of God fearing men that arose from their experiences with God.
For at least three reasons it is not possible that here it is about the psalms from the Old Testament:
1. The psalmists did not know God as their Father in the Lord Jesus;
2. They didn’t have the Spirit indwelling, because they didn’t know anything about the once and for all fulfilled work of Christ for all sins;
3. The psalms often sing about revenge on their enemies, which is not fitting in the time of grace we live in.
By “hymns” is meant compositions by which someone honors God with a song. “Spiritual songs” are songs that are composed by a spiritual person.
I have tried to make a distinction between the used expressions. That doesn’t mean that you can always draw a distinctive line. You will notice in Christian songs that they have aspects of each of the three definitions. A song can be derived from a spiritual experience, it is addressed to God and can also be sung. Speaking to one another in songs isn´t limited to the gathering, but should be found among us generally.
Ephesians 5:20. Also “always giving thanks” isn´t limited to the gathering. Giving thanks is a real indication of the condition of your soul. To be really thankful “for all things” is only possible when you trust completely on the love of God, with the awareness that you receive everything from His hand. That awareness even makes you happy and grateful. In Acts 16 we see and hear people who realized that. Paul and Silas are there in prison with their backs bleeding. Are they grieving? No, they thank God in their circumstances and they praise Him in songs (Acts 16:25).
‘Giving thanks for all things’ is only possible when you accept everything from God’s hand and you know that nothing bad can come from His hand. It is also about giving thanks “in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father”. God, Who is the source of everything and Who has blessed you in His Son in a special way, is also the Father Who loves His children. You can come to Him in the Name of His Son Who is mentioned here by His full name. He is ‘our’ Lord Jesus Christ.
Ephesians 5:21. Also “be subject to one another” flows from being filled with the Spirit. Only by being filled with the Spirit, are you able to see your brother and sister in the light of God’s counsels. When we see each other in that way, we can submit to one another. It is a general mind towards the other.
The addition “in the fear of Christ” again indicates that this exhortation must be seen in the light of the content of this letter: the great glory of the Christ. We are connected to one another in the body of Christ, and also connected with Him.
When we understand that, we would not want to raise ourselves above the other. There will be a healthy ‘fear’ not to dishonor Him with a mind of pride and rebellion. Only when I totally surrender myself to the glory of Christ and when I live with reverence for Him, I will be able to submit myself to the other.
Now read Ephesians 5:17-21 again.
Reflection: How do you recognize the signs of being filled with the Spirit?
Wives and Husbands
Ephesians 5:22. Ephesians 5:21 is a connecting verse. On the one hand, this verse closes the previous section with the call to be submitted to one another. That regards the general relations in the church. Submission to one another is a wonderful feature of the new man. On the other hand, this verse is also introductory to the section that follows. From Ephesians 5:22 until chapter 6:9 you will have to deal with different earthly relations, wherein submission plays an important role. You can see it as a practical effect of Ephesians 5:21.
We shall deal with relations between:
1. wife and husband in marriage (Ephesians 5:22-Micah :),
2. children and parents in the family (Ephesians 6:1-Numbers :) and
3. slaves and masters in the society (Ephesians 6:5-1 Samuel :).
It is remarkable that in each relation the first party that is being addressed, is the part that is placed by God in the submission to the other. That is an expression of God’s special interest for the ones who are placed by Him in this position. They especially get the chance to show the features of the Lord Jesus in their submissive position. Wasn’t He the perfect submissive One in His life on earth? You will also notice that everyone is being addressed on the area in which he or she is weak.
Being submitted is not ‘trendy’. In the world around us the woman is being told that she is equal to the man. She has to prove herself, develop her opportunities and defend her rights. Thereby they miss the fact that she can only be happy and can develop at her best, when she is willing to be ‘wife’ for her husband.
For Christian women it is not easy to be free from the influence of this thinking. It is only possible when she always has the blueprint of God’s Word set out clearly in her mind. She can thereby think that she may submit to her husband “as to the Lord”. Behind her husband she may see the Lord. A woman will not only submit to her husband when he fulfills her desires or when she sees in him a man whom she can come up with. She will submit to him because he is her husband.
This exhortation of Paul to women is being made of no effect and even being explained away, also within Christianity. For that reason it is important to remind you that God’s Word has not lost its effect or meaning regarding this. The woman, who in spite of all resistance obeys this, will experience the blessing of it.
Ephesians 5:23. As so often, God also gives an explanation for this. He has ordained it that way, because of the picture that is shown of Christ and the church in the relation between the husband and his wife. You understand now also why satan does everything to turn this ordination of God in marriage upside down. Satan hates everything that is a reminder of God and Christ.
Everywhere where the husband functions as the head of his wife and the wife is submitted to him we see a living testimony of the relationship between Christ and the church. It is the privilege of the Christian to give this real substance in his marriage. That the man is head means that he has a leading position and that it happens in love. God gives that position to Christ towards the church.
To this position something more is added and that is that Christ is “the Savior of the body”. Of the Head (Christ), the salvation, protection and nourishment of the body (the church) is dependent. It is against God’s intention when a wife, in order to prove her independence in society, earns her own salary and takes care of herself, apart from her ‘caregiver’.
This is not about a believing woman who has to work due to poverty. Such a person must be appreciated. The point is: it is often about the desire for luxury and for her making her own decisions. Own money and own time lead to an own life. The unity, as it is presented by marriage also, is totally lacking in those cases or has even totally disappeared.
Ephesians 5:24. Women are a picture of the church. The church is subject to Christ. As Christ is perfect in His relation to His wife, the church, it should not be that difficult for the church to be submitted to Him. But husbands, who are a picture of Christ, are not perfect. Therefore it is not easy for wives to be truly submissive. Yet the practice of husbands is not the standard for submission. The standard is: the church in relation to Christ, as it is seen by God. It can then be said that wives are submitted to their husbands “in everything”. There is no room for ‘yeah, but’.
Submission is an attitude, a state of mind. Even if the husbands make it difficult for their wives, or almost unbearable, then this remains: “so also the wives [ought to be] to their husbands in everything”. That doesn’t mean that they should consent to be forced to do things that are against the Scripture. In that case they should say ‘no’. But even in saying ‘no’ they should not give up the attitude of submission.
Ephesians 5:25. After he has addressed the wives in three verses, Paul now addresses the husbands in the following nine verses. The standard for their relation to their wives and their love for them is Christ and His love for the church. The husbands do not come off easier than the wives. On the contrary, their example is much higher. The love of the Lord Jesus and of God is a giving love. In order to get the right impression of such love, we are absolutely dependent on the Scripture and the Spirit. Otherwise we could mix or confuse the Divine love easily with our emotions and thoughts of love.
You can see the love of the Lord Jesus for His church in the example of the merchant who was looking for beautiful pearls (Matthew 13:45-1 Corinthians :). That merchant sells everything because of the value of that one pearl. We also find that in the Lord Jesus. He sold everything He had. Yet that does not reflect the whole value of the love of the Lord Jesus for His church. Even giving His life, which was perfect love and goes further than selling what He had, does not fully show the issue here. It goes even deeper. Here it is said that He gave “Himself” for the church. He went into death and through death. He arose and ascended to heaven.
He did that all in His full dedication to His bride. That is the way it is presented here and that is the example that is set out for the husbands. Then the husband is lovingly devoted in every part of his life to his wife with whom he is connected.
It is not about the love of Christ for sinners here. In sinners there was nothing attractive for Him, while here His love is exactly encouraged by the attractiveness of the church. From eternity He has loved the church as He looked upon her according to the purposes of God. He still looks upon her that way. Therefore He did not only give Himself on the cross, but He still gives Himself, also now in heaven. He is committed to her with a ceaseless dedication.
His dedication started when He came to earth and it continued when He went to the cross. And it still goes on, till the moment comes when He will present us to Himself in heaven. His love is this: He makes everything He is, available to us, His church. In this way the love of the husband for his wife should not be limited to the time when he has the chance for it. It should be shown, as the Lord Jesus did, always. That is the standard.
Now read Ephesians 5:22-25 again.
Reflection: What is expected from husbands as well as wives in their marriage – and why?
Christ and the Church
Ephesians 5:26. Christ gave Himself for the church. That expression of His love is followed twice by the word “that”, with which both Ephesians 5:26 and Ephesians 5:27 begins. This word refers to the reason why He did that. As it has been made clear earlier, His dedication goes further than the cross. Even though He is now in heaven, He dedicates Himself fully by taking care of His church, His wife.
Christ has first made the church His possession; now He is busy in His perfect love to shape her the way He wants her to be. He wants to shape her that way in order to enable her to be with Him in due time. Therefore it is necessary that she is being sanctified and cleansed.
By sanctification she is being fully focused on Him: the church is there for Him. He cannot approve that she would develop any love for or even an interest in something that is not in connection with Him. He wants to focus all her love on Himself and the place where He is, in the heavenly places. He wants to have her interest for what she will be in connection to Him to eternity. He always wants to impress His bride with her being connected to Him, Who is now already in glory.
The result of that will be that she is being sanctified, which means, to be set apart from the world in order to be totally for Him and Him alone. So there is nothing more present in the hearts than only interest and admiration for the glory of the Lord Jesus.
Besides sanctification the church needs also to be cleansed. She is still in the world and that automatically causes contamination. That contamination is cleansed by “the washing of water by the word”. By reading the Bible, the Word of God, you get cleansed; you get rid of the dirt that you’ve been polluted with through your life in the world.
Here it is not about sins you’ve done. It is about things you cannot help happening. For example you hear filthy language or cursing. That is what is polluting you. It can get stuck in your head. By washing yourself with the Word – by reading the Bible – you become clean again. You’re not able to enjoy fellowship with the Lord Jesus without this cleansing. In John 13 the Lord Jesus also speaks about it in this way (John 13:1-2 Samuel :). Therefore it is necessary to read the Word of God every day.
Ephesians 5:27. This verse also starts with “that”, after which we see a second reason of His dedication. Here Paul points to the final result of the dedication of the Lord Jesus and His sanctifying and cleansing work. In due time, He wants to present the church to Himself without her having even a slight spot or wrinkle or any such thing. But this is still about a negative feature. In fact, He wants to have her before Himself in all the glory, which He Himself had bestowed on her (cf. Ezekiel 16:14). She will be clothed with His glory (Revelation 21:9-2 Samuel :).
The church will be there “having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing”. Then there will be nothing anymore that will remind her of pollution or decay, from which we cannot escape on earth. No, she then will be perfectly holy, entirely focused on Him, Who gave Himself for her. She then will also be perfect without blame through His perfectly cleansing work and she will never again suffer any spot.
This is how He will present the church – not before His Father, but – before Himself. She will then totally satisfy the desires of His heart. The moment this is fulfilled, the church will be complete. He will come to meet His own and take them with Him. First He will raise the dead and after that He will transform us who are alive. Together we shall meet the Lord in the air. There our encounter will take place and nobody else will be present. What a great moment that will be for the Lord Jesus!
Ephesians 5:28. Here Paul repeats his remark of Ephesians 5:25, but now this is actually founded with a very clear and lofty basis. When husband and wife behave like that in their marriage, it will make their marriage a source of an immense and increasing happiness. Should they suffer difficulties, then they will see in the model of Christ that love will find a way. They will see that difficulties are often a means to strengthen love. With this view of Christ there are no hopeless cases.
And another argument is added. The love of the husband for his wife is as natural as the love for himself. His wife is not a functional object within his environment and furthermore separate from him. On the contrary, his wife forms a unity with him.
Ephesians 5:29. Paul is explaining that by continuing to paint the picture of the body. It is just as natural for a husband that he nourishes and nurtures his wife as he does that to his own body. Just as husbands make sure that their body is being nourished and kept warm (which means ‘nurtured’), in that way they are to make sure that their wives have enough food and feel pleasant.
This we can also apply spiritually. It is important that the husband nourishes himself spiritually, but no less important is it that he also knows the needs of his wife in this respect and provides for it. The same goes for giving warmth, nurturing. She experiences that especially when she feels secure with her husband, when he really spends time with her and really focuses his attention on her, when he makes her feel that she is ‘special’ to him. Christ also treats His church in this way.
Ephesians 5:30. Then Paul, almost unnoticeably, replaces the one picture of the church: that of a wife, by another picture: that of a body. Actually he uses both pictures interchangeably. With the wife it is about love, with the body it is about unity. The church is also the body of Christ. The members are the believers individually, but yet they form His body together. As members of Christ’s body we individually experience something of His tender care.
Ephesians 5:31. The unity between a husband and a wife in marriage is not an invention of Paul. The first pages of the Bible mention it. Paul refers to Genesis 2 (Genesis 2:24). There we see that God has introduced marriage and that it originates from before the fall of man. From that quotation it appears that through a marriage a unity is accomplished, which
1. is new (indicated by “leave his father and mother”),
2. is irreversible (indicated by “be joined to his wife”) and
3. is total (indicated by “become one flesh”).
Ephesians 5:32. In this verse the more profound meaning of marriage is given: in marriage God has given a picture of Christ and the church. Formerly that was a mystery, unknown to men. But now Paul makes, directed by God’s Spirit, this mystery known. In case he had not have done that, how would we have known of a perfect unity between Christ and the church and of the perfect love Christ has for His church? Also this truth has been from eternity hidden in God.
The relationship between Christ and the church is called “great”. What is related to this, is not limited to one nation and only the earth, but extends from eternity to eternity and comprises heaven and earth. Besides, there is another mystery that is called ‘great’. That you find in 1 Timothy 3 (1 Timothy 3:16).
Ephesians 5:33. After unfolding this Divine secret, Paul returns to the practice. He wishes that the heavenly reality is reflected in every marriage on earth.
There comes a closing address to the husband, who is being addressed very personally in “each individual among you”. In this closing address is being repeated what is said in the Ephesians 5:25-Daniel : about ‘loving’ and in the Ephesians 5:28-Joel : about ‘as himself’. The closing address to the wives implies that they should honor their husbands by giving them the place that God has given them.
Now read Ephesians 5:26-33 again.
Reflection: Which pictures does Paul use for the relationship between husband and wife? What are the characteristics of those pictures?
Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Ephesians 5". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
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