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Study Notes on Ephesians 5

Ephesians 5

A great chapter on marriage, as well as continued discussion on church.


1 Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children;

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.

These two verses conclude the last two from the previous chapter. Act in the way just described, and be imitators of God as His children.


This continues the theme from chapter 4 about our conduct and "forbearing one another in love." We should walk in love, it should be a defining characteristic of our life.


The "sweetsmelling savour" is obviously referencing the sacrifices in the Old Testament which were a type that pointed to Christ. This phrase "sweet savour" is especially prominent in Leviticus and Numbers, and means acceptable or pleasing to God. Jesus was the only acceptable sacrifice to pay for the sins of the world.


1 John 3:16, Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.


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

It's not saying we can't speak of fornication at all, because Paul literally just did that to condemn it, and a preacher certainly earns criticism by not speaking against such sins. But the idea is that among us in church we should not speak of these things because one of us is guilty of them forcing the topic to come up.


Fornication refers to all sexual immorality, and uncleanness would be nearly a synonymous term. Covetousness or greediness (see Luke 12:15 for the connection) is certainly common in the area of sexual sins. Certainly none of these things should exist among us, considering we are saints, meaning "holy ones." We should act according to what God has declared us to be.


"...the sense is, that they should not be committed; so that there might be no occasion to speak of them." - John Gill


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

These things would include obscene jokes, crude speech, impure words and the like. These things are not fitting or proper. What is proper, is the giving of thanks and having a heart of gratitude.


So these verses discuss what a Christian should do and not do; the next two verses dicuss the unbelieving world as a different category of people.


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.

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

7 Be not ye therefore partakers with them.

Why would you want to behave in a similar fashion as those who have earned the wrath of God? Why would you want to partake in the activities of the children of disobedience (see Ephesians 2:2)? The wrath of God is upon the unsaved, and we should distinguish ourselves from them in words and actions.


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

We have received the light of the gospel, and received the truth of God. Knowing what God expects of us and knowing what He hates, we should act accordingly.


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

We could read this as the fruit of the Spirit is shown in goodness, righteousness, and truth (see Galatians 5:22-23).


10 Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord.

Our whole walk (verses 1-2) should be directed towards proving (finding out) what is acceptable to the Lord. We should seek to please the Lord in all things.


Acts 17:11, These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.


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

Don't have fellowship with evil doings. This is contrasted with the fruit of the Spirit from verse 9. As believers are in the light, we shouldn't partake in works of darkness.


To reprove means to rebuke, expose, or convict. Convince those doing such deeds that they are in the wrong, that they are acting contrary to God's will.


"The Christian cannot expect to be kept from contamination by sin and evil if he continues in fellowship with iniquity. You might as well expect a child to play in the filth and grime of the streets and not get dirty, as to expect a Christian to go on in fellowship with sin and not be affected by it." - H. A. Ironside


"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)." - Contending for the Faith


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

Obviously there's a difference between rebuking sin, and casually discussing it. We can use the word of God to say that fornication is wrong without going into details and specifics. There are many wicked acts that shouldn't even be spoken of.


Ecclesiastes 12:14, For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.


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

The light of God's truth reveals everything. This is why we should always use the word of God when rebuking sins or heresies.


John 3:19-20, And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.


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

This is a rather difficult verse with a variety of opinions on it, but it seems to be a paraphrase of Isaiah 60:1-2, Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee.


Considering the greater context the verse seems to be an exhortation to Christians to awake from a slumber and do the things commanded in the passage (e.g., reprove, walk in love, avoid works of darkness).


"Living saints are sometimes among dead sinners, and it becomes them to arise from among them, and quit their company, which is oftentimes the occasion of their sleepiness: besides, the company of dead sinners is infectious and dangerous; it is a means of hardening in sin, and of grieving of the people of God, who observe it." - John Gill


"Note this is an imperative from the living Lord, the shining Light, directed to sleeping, fruitless, unproductive believers of the Ephesus church and other churches of like faith and order in Asia Minor. Believers are to stir up the gift of salvation within them and bear witness of it to others as 'doers of the Word'." - Garner-Howes


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

16 Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.

The word circumspectly is somewhat defined in the second half of the verse. Like "circumference" means around, to walk circumspectly means to be watchful, wary and cautious, or aware. A foolish person only looks in one direction, where a wise person keeps his wits about him and is aware of his surroundings.


The connection in the passage is instruction to be aware and cautious of your actions, words, and your walk in the Lord. Don't become complacent in your Christian life.


To redeem the time means to recover wasted time, to take every opportunity to live for Christ. Use your time wisely because the days are evil and that wickedness can draw us away from the light, as well as showing a great need for more light for believers.


Matthew 5:14, Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.


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

A huge theme of this chapter is elaboration on this verse.


1 Thessalonians 4:3, For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication.


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

I love this verse as an example to explain hermeneutics. The correct "literal" interpretation of Scripture is to understand the intent of the author. Paul is NOT saying here that it's bad to be drunk with wine but ok to be drunk with beer. He doesn't need to list every possible intoxicating substance in order to make a point.


Be sober and be filled with the Spirit. Being filled with the Spirit is not about salvation, but to be controlled or directed by the Spirit. If you look at the phrase "filled with the Holy Ghost" in Acts for example you see that this happened before someone like Peter or Paul spoke boldly in front of people (Acts 4:8, Acts 13:9). So there's a parallel between drunkeness which can cause boldness in the wrong way ("liquid courage"), and being filled with the Spirit which can cause boldness in a good way.


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

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

Speaking to yourselves and among yourselves in Psalms, and songs of praise. Be filled with the Spirit and worship the Lord.


Give thanks in all things as the bible repeats often. Be grateful for everything that you have; be grateful for one another.


21 Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.

From verse 18-21 is all one sentence, finishing with a statement on submission that's similar to Ephesians 4:2. In a biblical church, everyone is equal and should serve one another. Of course the Pastor is ordained by God to teach and to shepherd the flock, but he is still equal before the Lord. What a drastic difference this is to Catholicism where a "pope" upon a golden throne waves at his subjects.


Philippians 2:3, Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.


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

While on the subject of submission, Paul brings up the proper hierarchy in marriage and shows its close comparison with the church.


Wives are to submit themselves unto their own husbands. In what way? To what extent? As unto the Lord. No greater statement could be made here as to "how much" the wife should submit to her husband. You could say that as much as a wife is willing to submit to her husband is as much as she's willing to submit to the Lord.


See Colossians 3:18; 1 Peter 3:1-2; Titus 2:4-5 etc.


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.

Why should wives submit? Because God has decreed that the husband is the head of the wife. He is to be her authority, just as Christ is the authority over the church.


Consider the parallels between a church and a marriage given in this and the following verses such as Christ is the head of the body: The head means authority but the comparison is of a single human person. Think of the closeness of the relationship between your body and your head. Consider the closeness of a marriage, being one flesh and how their relationship and order is described here.


In what way is Christ the Savior of the body? He has certainly saved the individuals in each congregation, but here He is the Savior or deliverer of the body. Christ preserves each church as long as He will but more specifically He maintains perpetuity of His institution as He promised (Matthew 16:18).


"'And he himself is savior (deliver) of the body, church-body, or assembly.' The term 'savior of the body' means 'protector, deliverer, or provider' of the body the church." - Garner-Howes


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

A biblical church is subject to Christ in all things. Not tradition, not custom, not man made ideas, not deacon boards, not denominational hierarchy, etc. If the church or pastor answers to anyone other than Christ or contrary to Christ it is not a biblical church.


As the church should submit to Christ in everything, so should wives submit to their husbands in everything.


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

Christ purchased the church at Ephesus, as well as every biblical church, with His own blood. Wives and husbands are shown their duty to one another in these verses, as a parallel to Christ and His church which finds its culmination in verse 32.


The institution of marriage and the union between a husband and wife is a demonstration of the union between the institution of the church and Jesus.


"If anything refutes the invisible church, this is it. Jesus compares Himself and His church to a man and wife. Consequently, if there an invisible church, then a man has an invisible wife. Jesus does not love an invisible church. He could have chosen another relationship to compare it with. He could have chosen angels because they are invisible to us. He could have used spirits or souls, but He chose to use the visibility of a man and his wife. Jesus is talking about a visible organization which is His church and His body." - Jack Hyles


Acts 20:28, Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.


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

Christ gave Himself for the church so that we would be sanctified, set apart, to be a light to the world (see Ephesians 4:11-13).


Some people see every mention of "water" or "washing" as a reference to baptism but that is obviously not in view here at all. To wash means to cleanse, and we are cleansed and sanctified by the word of God.


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.

This is the object of Christ's love for His church, that it be (finally and for the first time as one church) presented to Him as glorious. I believe this to be a reference to the future church in Heaven, similar to passage in Hebrews 12 where there will be one general assembly.


This is the final, glorified, condition of the heavenly church and so our lives in church today should be bringing us towards that end.


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

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

Incredible love from husband to wife is commanded here. As we take care of ourselves and our own body we should take care of our wife in the same way, with nourishment and care.


Also see Colossians 3:19 & 1 Peter 3:7.


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

So as every husband in every marriage (this is the ideal biblical marriage) has Christ as his authority, in every church we have Christ as our authority and it is an incredibly intimate and close relationship. You couldn’t describe it more closely than to say we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.


"(This statement is not found in Nestle Greek text); But the phrase, when used in the New Testament, simply affirms that our Lord’s church-body is made up and composed of human beings of living flesh and bones, not of mystical, invisible, intangible spirits." - Garner-Howes


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.

Quoting of course from Genesis 2:24. Although polygamy existed in the Old Testament, God's design for marriage has always been one man and one woman for life. To say they are one flesh shows how close this relationship should be, with no room for anything in between.


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

A mystery in that this relationship is not fully described but some light has been shed on it here using various illustrations of marriage, flesh and bones, and so forth.


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.

Although there is mystery about Christ and the church, there is clarity with the duties of man and wife in marriage.


"The 'nevertheless' refers to the unsolved part of the mystery: whatever may be mysterious, there is no mystery as to this, as to the duty of each husband to love his wife even as himself: that, as already shown, is clear from many considerations." - TPC



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