And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. Ephesians 5:18-21, ESV.
In our passage today, Paul continues his instructions on how to walk worthy (4:1), in contrast to the Gentiles (4:17), in love (5:2), in the light (5:8), and in wisdom (5:15). As he does he contrasts drunkenness with being “filled with the Spirit.”
This contrast is extremely helpful in gaining a Christian understanding of drunkenness. When someone is filled with the Spirit, the Spirit controls them and there is a good outcome. When they are filled with intoxicating drink, something else controls them and it brings about an opposite outcome. On one hand, the Spirit brings Christ into clear view and leads the saint to praise and thank God in joyful song and to humble himself in acts of love toward his brothers and sisters in Christ. Alcohol, on the other hand, brings the person low and drives them to act in rebellion against God. The church would do well to set aside breathalyzer results and drink counts as her measure for drunkenness. Whether you experience a mild buzz or get falling-down drunk, choosing to turn to alcohol for its effects is to choose the wrong kind of filling.
We often turn to these verses to extol the beauty of singing in the church. Given the disastrous effects that alcohol consumption can have on individuals and families in the church, maybe it is time we read the whole passage in its either/or context and stop trying to convince ourselves that the consumption of alcohol is of any value or, in any way, compatible with the filling of the Spirit.
My prayer for you today is that you know the joy of the better filling--the filling of the Spirit of God which causes you to break out in God-praising song and show humble love to the brethren today.
Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. Ephesians 5:15-17, ESV.
In light of his warning to the church about false teachers and his declaration that these wicked deceivers will be revealed by the light of Christ, Paul commands the church to walk wisely amid this evil. In a world that is so full of evil that it can seep into the church, believers need the wisdom of God to survive and thrive.
The wisdom that believers must employ is disciplined wisdom. The believer does not waste time because he knows that time is short, and the world is wicked. In such a fallen world, many need to learn of the love of Christ for their salvation and there are many who need to feel the love of Christ in their suffering. They need a church that is not lackadaisical in either its works of evangelism or its ministry. The wise saint wastes no time and glorifies God through both word and deed.
The wisdom that believers must employ is the wisdom of the Word. It would be foolish to engage a fallen world with worldly wisdom and thereby expect God to be glorified. Therefore, a disciplined use of the believer’s time must also include regular engagement with his Bible. The wisdom of God is available to the children of God in the Word of God.
I am praying that you will be empowered by the Spirit of God to walk in wisdom today.
Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” Ephesians 5:6-14, ESV.
Happy Independence Day! Before you celebrate throwing off the British yoke, consider this call to independence by the Apostle Paul: independence from false teachers.
One thing that has puzzled scholars about the book of Ephesians is what false teaching had Paul so concerned. Paul does not tell us directly, so we are left to try to piece together clues from other things in the letter. I won’t try to solve that riddle today. However, there is something to learn from a look at a few of the characteristics of these false teachers.
They deceive with empty words. Empty words have no grounding in reality—no attachment to “what is good and right and true.” These teachers do not bring their listeners to deal with the realities of righteousness, sin, judgment, and salvation.
They drag fellow church members into the darkness—away from the gospel of Jesus Christ. In contrast, Paul came “to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 3:8-10).
Their works bear no fruit for Jesus or the church. This empty teaching yields negative results. Sinners do not come to faith in Christ, disciples do not grow in Christlikeness, worship is shallow, prayers go unanswered and God is not glorified.
They do their evil deeds in secret. They put on a good show of holiness in public, but their secret lives reflect their devotion to a message disconnected from the truth of God’s Word.
Does it require heroic efforts of spiritual discernment to resist the cunning ways of these deceivers? Not at all. Paul’s defense is a good offense! Paul’s strategy for avoiding deception is simple: walk in the light and try to do what pleases God. You are a lot less likely to get mugged in dark alleys if you walk on well-lit streets.
I pray that God will bless you with a day in the light and joy as you experience His presence there. May you be enabled to rejoice with David, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105).
But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Ephesians 5:3-5, ESV.
Having called the church to imitate God and love like Jesus, Paul lays out some practices that can never fit in with that calling: “sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness.” Sexual immorality and impurity cover any sexual practice outside of the God-given sexual relationship between a man and a woman in marriage. Covetousness is an idolatrous act where the sinner cannot be satisfied without having whatever his neighbor has. Paul also makes it clear that frivolity, vulgar language, and joking about such matters have no place in the life of a child of God. None of this should surprise us.
What may seem a little shocking is Paul’s summary judgment that nobody who is involved in these sinful practices has any inheritance “in the kingdom of Christ and God.” It certainly sounds like Paul is telling the church that these sins will keep them from eternal life. Indeed, he is. Anyone who practices these things is resisting Christ’s reign and rejecting His kingdom. In contrast, the one who finds satisfaction in Christ will not persistently seek for it outside His rule. That is why thanksgiving is presented as the opposite of “filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking.”
Should the professing Christian be troubled if they are involved in such sins? Absolutely. The idea of missing the kingdom should send chills down their spine. Persistent sin in the life of a person who holds themselves out as a Christian indicates that either their profession or their lifestyle is a lie. In either case, the solution is the same: turn to Christ in faith and repentance.
This is your hope if Paul’s words make you concerned about the state of your soul. It is the hope of the gospel. Grieve over your sinful rejection of the rule of Christ. Repent and believe in Jesus as your Savior and Lord. Then follow Him in the power of the Spirit. You may stumble at times, but you will be walking in the right direction—following Jesus.
My prayer is that each of you knows the joy of repentance and the forgiveness of sin!
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Ephesians 5:1-2, ESV.
As we like to say, the word “therefore” is there for a reason! Paul is building on the foundation he laid in the previous chapter, “to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called” (4:1) and to “no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds” (4:17) but in “the way you learned Christ” (4:20). Having established what that walk looks like, he grounds these new covenant commands in the gospel.
As His children, we are to imitate God the Father. We learn how to do so by looking to the example set by His perfect Son, Jesus Christ. What do we see in Jesus? We see His love as He offers Himself to God on our behalf. As the recipients of the love of God in Christ and children of God, our lives must be characterized by a similar love. Paul emphasizes two features of that love.
First, the love of Christ we are to imitate involves sacrifice—intentionally giving ourselves for the good of others. To walk in love as part of our effort to imitate our Father will cost us dearly. This kind of love acknowledges humility and knows no limits based on “my rights.” This kind of love does not cling to offenses but forgives completely, no longer holding the offender guilty. This kind of love does not demand a worthy recipient. This kind of love may be incredibly painful, either physically, emotionally, or financially. This is sacrificial love.
Second, the love of Christ we are to imitate involves holiness—Christ’s offering of Himself was pleasing to His Father because it was the offering of the Lamb of God without spot or blemish. Therefore, the saint cannot simultaneously play around with sin and expect his sacrifice for his fellow man to be a pleasing offering to God. God regularly condemned Israel through the prophets for the sacrifices they brought to the temple while practicing injustice in their daily lives.
Paul expands on this command to imitate God for the rest of the letter. But we would do well to hold these two verses up as a mirror before we dig deeper into specific applications.
May God grant you a heart changed by His grace and bless your pursuit of holy and sacrificial love this very day. I am praying for you.