Charles Caleb Colton is credited as having said, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” (though others said similar things dating back as far as the time of Marcus Aurelius). There is an appropriate plagiarism when it comes to Jesus. Paul told the Ephesians to “follow God’s example.” This expression comes from a verb that means “to mimic.” Copying Jesus is commanded and commended.
These lessons from Ephesians are all centered “in him” (i.e. Christ). Believers put their faith in him and are rooted in him. In the more practical sections of Ephesians (chapters 5 and 6) Christians are called to “live in him.” This life is expressed in being united (4:1-7), using spiritual gifts for ministry (vv. 7-16), and putting on the characteristics of the new self (vv. 17-32). In this section Paul called the Ephesians to live in love, live in light, and live in wisdom. The word live is actually the word walk, which is a metaphor for the Christian experience.
Walk in Love
People dearly loved (beloved) by God should be able to live a life of love. Jesus set the example. He loved (the action of the verb is viewed as completed) us and gave (i.e. handed over) himself for us (John 10:11, 17, 18; Hebrews 9:14). This giving of Jesus had great continuity with an Old Testament offering or sacrifice. Christians are called to love sacrificially.
There is nothing impure in this life of love (Ephesians 5:3, 5). It could never be confused with any love beyond God’s beneficial boundaries. Paul discussed this love in terms of sexual expression. Christian love is never sexually immoral (the Greek word is where we get our English word pornography). Neither it is impure (unclean). Next Paul mentioned greed. That could refer to the desire for more money, but the context seems to indicate that the greed relates to sexual addiction. This triad of evil is never appropriate for God’s people. Sex is not what one has. Sex is what one is. Sex can easily become an idol. People who habitually give themselves to this are idol worshipers and will not inherit God’s ultimate kingdom.
A life of love also puts a constraint on our words (verses 4 and 6). Believers are not to speak with obscenity (indecent or improper speech). Neither should believers speak with foolish (moronic) words or coarse joking (witty language that scoffs at others) kinds of speech. A person who walks in love should instead speak with thanksgiving (the Greek word is where we get our English word eucharist). People can be deceived (seduced into error or misled) with empty (vain) words. After all, we are our words (Matthew 12:33-37). Paul reminded the Ephesians that God’s wrath was reserved for people who cannot control their glands or words. Intimate fellowship (partners) with people like this can cause God’s people not to walk in love.
Walk in Light
God is light (1 John 1:5). That is probably more than a metaphor, but Paul described Christians in the same way. Formerly the believers were darkness and lived in that darkness (moral evil). But, by virtue of their conversion to Christ, they are lightand are called to live in the light (moral excellence). Light is all over these verses (occurring five times in the short paragraph). Paul described the fruit of light and marked out the mission of light.
The fruit of light is a triad of virtues. Light produces goodness (inner and pure goodness), righteousness (conformity to God’s standards and justice), and truth (genuineness and realness). The believer who produces this fruit will find out what pleases (tests to be approved) the Lord. In contrast to the fruit of light is the secret nature of the disobedient (John 3:20, 21).
There is a mission for those who walk in the light. They are called to expose (shame, disgrace, prove wrong, or convict) the deeds of the disobedient. While this must be done in love (previous section), it must be done. Otherwise we treat the unbelievers cruelly. Walking in the light just lights up everything. It awakens people who have been dulled to a culture of death. Drawing on language from Isaiah 60:1, Paul called the Ephesians to wake up from their spiritual darkness and walk in this moral excellence.
Walk in Wisdom
“Walking in wisdom” in the Bible refers to applying God’s revelation to live skillfully. In the verses that follow our printed text, wise walking showed up in using time wisely, being full of the Holy Spirit, singing joy into peoples’ lives, giving thanks for everything, and submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. Copy God in love, light, and wisdom.
Dr. Mark Scott teaches Preaching and New Testament at Ozark Christian College in Joplin, Missouri.
Lesson study ©2018, Christian Standard Media. Lesson based on The Lookout’s Scope and Sequence ©2018. Scripture quotations are from the New International Version, ©2011, unless otherwise indicated.