An exposition of Ephesians 5:1-21 & the command to obey & demonstrate this, by Bill Rhetts

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These great commands by our Lord are rarely truly applied, obeyed and/or practiced (at least from my observations). Therefore I put this sermon together for the Lord’s people. I did an exposition of the Text, and shared several experiences, and how I applied this passage to them.

The sermon notes to this teaching are available below this video.

If we we’re to back up a bit, in chapter 4 Paul admonished the church with a series of injunctions. From ‘walking in unity,’ to ‘walking in the truth,’ to ‘walking worthy’ of bearing the name of Christian.

And in order to accomplish these commands and expectations, we see ‘two chief injunctions.’ The first is to ‘Not grieve the Holy Spirit’ (in 4:30), and the second to ‘be filled with the Holy Ghost’ (5:18).  

He correlates the relationship of a lawfully wedded ‘man and woman’ to Christ and His bride (the church). That’s how important both the Church and marriage are.

And now in chapter 5, Paul admonishes us even more.

In verses 1-7 is ‘walking in Love.’
In verses 8-14 is ‘walking in the Light.’
In Verses 15-21 is ‘walking in wisdom.’

But these are more than admonishments, they’re more than commandments. Paul Bayne (aka the Radical Puritan) described this as to “prosecutith” the aforementioned chapter.

I don’t care if you have graduate degrees in the book of Ephesians. Knowledge is useless without character, courage, and action. To not obey and demonstrate these commands is a sin of omission. Though obeying these commands are not salvific, they are an evidence of salvation. If a professing Christian does not consistently demonstrate these great commands, I would ask ‘are they even saved?’

Let us begin our exposition with vs 1-7 ‘walking in love.’

“Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.

But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. 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 be partakers with them.’

Verse 1
begins with the command to “Therefore be imitators of God as dear children.”

In the Greek this can be better translated as “Become therefore, or prove yourselves to be therefore.”

This command refutes the teachings of easy believism. If a man has truly been born-again (regenerate), he is converted from being perverted.

A convert is more than a ‘believer,’ they are a cleaver, and an imitator (mimētēs) of God. In other words, if you claim to be a Christian, prove it. Because we are more than ‘believers,’ we are demonstrators.

Moreover, a Christian will imitate ‘the God and Jesus of the Scriptures.’ This word “God” in verse 1 is the Greek work Theos. Which means the Godhead (or Trinity) of the Scriptures.

A convert ‘with reverence’ will continually glorify and demonstrate an awe for the Father, as they exalt Christ, and as they walk in His Holy Spirit. Which will include the simultaneous warring against their flesh, and repenting of sin.

Charles Spurgeon said “Meditation is a happy, holy, profitable engagement; and it will instruct us, strengthen us, comfort us, inspire our hearts, and make our souls steadfast. But we may not stop at meditation. We must go on to imitation of the character of God. We must let our spiritual life not only bud and blossom in devout thought, but let it bring forth fruit in holy action.”

Paul said in verse 2 ‘And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us, and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.’

In vs 2a Paul tells us to “walk in love.” So many understand what love is, but the following is what love is not.

A Biblical love is not today’s ‘sensual love’ that withholds the truth, or that accepts sin. 

1 Cor. 13:5-6 says, “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself (or boast), is not puffed up; 5 does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; 6 does not rejoice in iniquity (or does not celebrate or delight in sin), but rejoices in the truth;” (definitions inserted by author).

In vs 2b Paul said “Christ also has loved us…”

We must understand the last word ‘us’ here. The “us” here is the blood-bought repented church.

When the Scriptures speak of God’s amazing love, He is referring to His chosen people, and in the N.T. His church (His elect). His wondrous love is not for lost worldlings. God’s love for the lost world is a mere ‘benevolent’ love.

This word “love” here in the third portion of verse 2b is the Greek work agapaō, which means ‘to love in a social or moral sense, ‘to be loved by God, to welcome, to entertain, to be fond of, to love dearly, and to be well pleased…’

God is not “well pleased” with the world. The Bible says He hates those that practice sin (Psalm 5:5-6), and that He’s angry with the wicked every day (Psalm 7:11).

There’s the manmade cliché that’s often used by carnal men, that “God loves the sinner, hates the sin.” This cliché is bordering blaspheme. God is not in-love with those practicing iniquity.

Recently another street preacher was arrested while preaching at a homosexual pride parade. But this preacher was wrongfully telling those that were practicing and celebrating this sin, that “God loves you!”  I watched one video where he said “God loves you” several times within 15 minutes, as he quoted John 3:16 out of context.

As stated on my Twitter feed. “If a Christian is arrested for telling the lost world at an event that’s celebrating abominable sin, that “God loves you,” I’m not sure I would call their arrest “persecution.” The Bible is clear that God “hates those that practice iniquity.””

In vs 2c it says that Christ had “given Himself for us.”

Christ gave Himself for who? Who’s the “us?” – His church!

Paul said in Gal 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ; 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 gave Himself for me.”

Verse 3 says, ‘But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints;’

This word ‘fornication’ is a general term for any and all forms of sexual immorality.’

This word ‘uncleanliness’ can mean any and all sin. But more specifically, as Paul Bayne said, “For uncleanliness. It may signify all sin, but here it is to be taken to note all inferior filthiness of the same kind of fornication. Observe that Christians must keep themselves not only from more gross swervings, but from the least filthiness of flesh and spirit.”  

This fornication and uncleanness is in total contrast to the “sweet-smelling aroma” in verse 2.

John Trapp described this fornication and uncleanness, “As standing in full opposition to that sweet-smelling savour (ver. 2.), being no better than the corruption of a dead soul, the devil’s excrement. That people fitly punished this filthy sin, who put the offenders heads into the paunch of a beast where all the filth lieth, and so stifled them to death.”

Verse 3b said “Let it not be named among you.”

This word “named” means that it’s not only sin to commit these sins, but its sin to approve of them (Rom 1:32). But today’s ‘carnal Christians’ (if there was such a thing) will say “We’re all sinners,” as they sinfully continue in their sins, or ‘wink and nod’ at others sins.

A Christian will hate their sins. Paul Bayne said, “We see then that we must have sin in extreme hatred; that we must be so far from doing it, that we must not name it without hatred.”

But Paul ends this verse reminding us that if you’re saved, we are “saints.” Though we may be saved sinners. We are now “saints.”

When a sinner becomes born-again (regenerate) they are translated from being ‘hagos (an awful thing)’ to ‘hagios. This saved saint (hagios) means to be sacred (physically, pure, morally blameless or religious, ceremonially, consecrated): To be a most holy thing, a saint.’ And all of the above can only be attributed to the imputed attributes of the Godhead. So then, we ought to act more like ‘hagios,’ and less like ‘hagos.’

Verse 4 warns that ‘neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks.’

Wycliffe says “These words do not preclude spontaneous Christian gaiety and a sense of humor, but they indicate that Christians are not to indulge in empty frivolity. In the Greek they connote the sort of jesting that is vulgar and unclean. The antidote for the Christian is thanksgiving.”

Christians are forbidden to engage in foolish conversations, dirty jokes, off color jokes, sexual innuendos. Not even to laugh at such nonsense. Not even to watch or listen to music, plays, or movies with such.

Bayne said, “The Devil wisheth no other musicians, and what agreement hath the behaviour of vices in plays with Christian sobriety?”

I remember at my father’s 80th birthday party, one of his friends (a professing Christian) attending the party decided to engage in jokes that were ‘sexual in nature.’

(tell how I rebuked & exposed his sinfulness a few months later while on his death bed, with my mom as a witness. How his nurse was utterly shocked & mad that I would say such things to him. That’s demonstrating this passage to him).

(Tell them about the Ham Radio group in Montclair, and the two fellows that frequently used the S word & F word in nearly every paragraph. Tract and run from being “partakers” with them.)

Some on social media engage in posts they justify as mere tongue & cheek, parody, sarcasm, and/or satire. When in fact, it is often the sin of foolish talking (mōrologia) or jesting (eutrapelia) seen in Ephesians 5:4. Christians are commanded not to be partakers with them (v. 7).

We must not be partakers with sinful people, and their sinful deeds, more about that in verses 7&11.

Verse 5 says ‘For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.’

If a person continually commits these sins (without repentance), it is evidence they have not been regenerate (born-again), hence they are not part of the present ‘kingdom of God,’ and will not go to heaven in the future, but will perish in hell.

Since we have not yet addressed this sin called “idolatry.”

Yes we all have idols in our lives. Idolatry isn’t just religious statues and golden calves. Perhaps the golden calf of the 21st century is our own minds, or the false deity of ‘me, myself and I.’ Or the deity of ‘iPads, iPods, and iPhones.’

If you can’t repent from these carven technological idols, and if you can’t keep them out of your own sanctuary, then leave them in your car, or throw them in the trash.

Paul warns us many times throughout the Scriptures, “do not be deceived.”

And now in Verse 6 he says, ‘Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.’

This is what I consistently see on Facebook, ‘vain empty words’ of deceit, as FB friends try to make excuses for sinfulness.

You think my words are too harsh for them? You think my unfriending them is too harsh? But God’s Word here is extremely harsh, as he warns them that “because of these things, the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.”

It says in Rom 1:18 ‘For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,’

Gal 3:6-7 says, ‘Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, 7 in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them.’

And God’s wrath increases, Romans 2:5 warns, ‘But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart, you are treasuring up for yourself wrath, in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God.’

It says in John 3 that the world is condemned already, that’s why they need the Gospel.

So what are we going to do with all this information and knowledge? We’re going to put it to practice, and demonstrate it.

Now is where it starts getting real serious.

In verse 7 Paul said “Therefore do not be partakers with them.”

Do no associate yourselves with them, or the lawlessness they stand for. Because a loving walk is a holy walk. In other words, to walk with them is ungodly, and unloving (Psalm 1).

As one Puritan said, “We are not to familiarly accompany the wicked.”

Flee from their presence. As John Trapp said “Lest by infection of their sin ye come under infliction of their punishment. We are accountable as well for sins of communion as of commission.”

John Gill said “Be not ye therefore partakers with them. In their sins, and acts of disobedience; by keeping needless company with them; by abetting and encouraging sinful practices; by conniving at them, and not reproving for them; or by committing the same things.”

This is not saying that we should not go where they are. We’re to be in this world, but not of the world. But we’re not to extend unequally yoked friendships, or common courtesies to them.

(Tell them about my recent resignation from a “Christian” organization, and my 4 page letter of indictment).

Next is verses 8-14, walking in light.

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), 10 finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. 11 And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret. 13 But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light. 14 Therefore He says: “Awake, you who sleep,
Arise from the dead, And Christ will give you light.”

Verses 8-10 says, ‘For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), 10 finding out what is acceptable to the Lord.’

Notice the ‘were’ in verse 8. A Christian is a person that used to practice these sins. They were once known for walking in sin (darkness), but now are known for walking in the light of the Lord.

Verse 9 says believers will demonstrate ‘(for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth),’

The Greek matters in this verse.  

This ‘goodness’ (agathōsunē) is our horizontal kindness, or benevolence towards others.

This ‘righteousness’ (dikaiosunē) is the evidence of our vertical righteousness in Christ, that Christ has declared the sinner (now saint) righteous before the Father; therefore we ought to act like it.

This ‘truth’ (alētheia) is an ‘objective’ truth that must be told and believed under any and all circumstances.

In the next verse is another admonishment, as what we’re to do with this knowledge. And that is to apply it, and demonstrate it.

Verse 11 commands “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.”

To “have no fellowship” with them, literally means to ‘stop fellowship’ with them. We need to break-up with the world.

Matthew Poole said, “Have no fellowship with, not only do not practice them yourselves, but do not join with others in them, by consent, advice, assistance, or any other way whereby ye may be defiled by them.”

As John Trapp quoted Perkins in his commentary. “No needless society for fear of infection; get the wind of those stinking carcasses; “hate the garment spotted by the flesh,” that is, avoid ill company (saith Perkins).”

Just as Noah gathered God’s elect, and His chosen creation onto that Arc, while fleeing from partaking with the world, we too ought to do the same. But preach (or share) His glorious Gospel while we’re still here.

I’m seeing an increase of “believers” tell the church to get along with the world. But they will use Romans 12:18 out of context. Which says “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.”

I am guilty of this too. But there’s a grave danger in believing one verse out of context. There’s a reason why I have a statue of ‘Lady Liberty’ holding her scales of justice upon our bookshelves. Though I fall miserably short. It is to remind me to consider those theological scales. To consider the weight of all the Scriptures. The whole counsel of God.

There must be a balance amongst our theological scales. If our scales are leaning too far into verse 18, it wrongfully implies that Christians are to try to ‘get along’ with everybody. Or wrongfully be tolerant of sin, so that we can ‘be at peace’ with everybody. But that’s a fatal misinterpretation of the Text. Because when we tip our scales back to verse 9, we see the healthier balance to “Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good.”

In other words, though it ought to be our goal to ‘live at peace with others,’ but never at the expense of compromise, tolerance, or acquiescing to sin.

It says in Eccles. 3:8 there’s “A time to love, and a time to hate; A time of war, and a time of peace.”

Though Jesus is the Prince of Peace (Ish 9:6), He also came to divide.

Jesus said in Matthew 10:34-36, “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; 36 and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.’”

And not only are we not to have fellowship with the lost world, were to rebuke or expose them. We’re not to have ‘fellowship with sin,’ we’re not be an ‘agent of sin,’ nor be an ‘accessory to sin.’

It is true that Christians should desire to “live peaceably with others.” But not at the expense of Biblical compromise, going against our Biblical convictions, being unequally yoked with the world (2 Cor 6:14-16), being friends with the world (James 4:4-5), accepting or acquiescing to sin (Eph 5:1-21), or loving the world system (1 John 2:15-17), or being ecumenical, or forsaking sound doctrine (Tit 1:9; 2:1, 1 Tim 6:3-5, 2 Tim 4:2-4). Etcetera etcetera…

And the commands of this Text, keeps getting more serious.

Verse 11b says “but rather expose them.”

This word ‘expose’ is the Greek word elegchō, which means that we’re to find fault with, to confute, to admonish, to convict, convince, tell a fault, rebuke, and/or reprove.

It is the Christians duty to ‘oppose and expose’ darkness (sin). That is part of being the Biblical “light” that’s associated with Christianity.  

In the context of two or more witnesses bringing a charge against an Elder, it says in 1 Tim 5:20 says “Those who are sinning rebuke in the presence of all, that the rest also may fear.”

Verse 12 says ‘For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret.’

It is not only sinful to practice the aforementioned sins, it can also be sin to speak of them with idle chatter (gossip), or to speak of them with no response to those sins. 

We mustn’t gossip of others sins done in private, but rather we must rebuke them. And when sins are committed publicly, we may publicly rebuke them.

If your doctor discovered you had cancer. Would you want your doctor to tell you about it, or just talk about it amongst his staff?

The next two verses better explain how this process of ‘exposing’ works.

Paul said in vs 13, ‘But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light. 14 Therefore He says: “Awake, you who sleep, Arise from the dead, And Christ will give you light.”

When Christians expose sin (or evil) coupled with the remedy (the Gospel), God decrees some to repent and be saved, but not others. Those the Lord saves, will be translated from darkness into the kingdom of light; hence a supernatural event known as ‘salvation.’

Next is verses 15-21 is ‘Walking in Wisdom’

15 See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, 16 redeeming the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, 20 giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another in the fear of God.’

Verses 15-16 says ‘See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, 16 redeeming the time, because the days are evil.’

Verse 15 speaks of our ‘way of life,’ or our ‘life-style,’ that we’re to walk circumspectly. This circumspectly is the Greek word akribōs [ak-ree-boce’], it is an adverb which means to walk diligently, exactly, or perfectly.

Another scholar described ‘walking circumspectly’ as a wartime soldier walking through a minefield.

Verse 16 warns us to ‘redeem the time, because the days are evil.’

I enjoy some hobbies. Such as camping, cycling, and ham radio. Though camping is great for my marriage, I have to discipline myself when engaging in things that have no eternal significance.

Verse 17 says ‘Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.’

This is another command, but to stop wasting your time, to stop walking unwisely, to stop being foolish – repent.

Verse 18 said ‘And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit,’

This verse compares a man who is ‘drunk with wine’ to a man ‘filled with the Holy Spirit.

Since I’ve done extensive topical studies on alcohol, I’m not going to expound too much on this subject here. But drunkenness is sin. And it is contrary to a born-again (Spirit filled) person. And in some cases, it can be sin without becoming drunk. Upon your request I can email you my teachings on alcohol.    

Regarding being filled with the Lord’s Spirit. One scholar said it this way –

“No believer in Christ is ever commanded to be indwelt by the Spirit. His indwelling is certain and permanent (Jn 14:16,17). Nor is a believer commanded to be baptized with the Spirit. This has already been done (1 Cor 12:13). But believers are commanded to be filled with the Spirit. Hence there is individual responsibility; there are conditions to be met if we are to experience the Spirit’s control in our lives.”

I cannot have more of the Holy Spirit than another Christian sitting next to me. But I can be more disciplined, more sanctified, and more submitted to the Lord. Hence, more empowered, and more gifted by Him. Salvation is monergistic, but Holy Spirit willing, sanctification is synergistic.

The next three verses are an evidence of the “Spirit filled Christian.”

Verses 19-21, ‘speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, 20 giving thanks always for all things to God the Father, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another in the fear of God.’

I don’t have a great outwardly singing voice, but I can inwardly sing a great melody and music in my heart, onto the Lord.

A “Spirit filled” Christian can be thankful for ‘all things,’ not just good things, but we can be thankful for the good, the bad, and the ugly things in our lives.

Today it seems that many believers faith is wrongfully built upon circumstances, or ‘who’s is in the White House,’ or a sinking sand.

I think of some of my professing Christian colleagues like LAPD officer Tom Baker, who told me I was “too zealous.” Or Lt. Rick Albee, who told me I was “too bold.”

Nevertheless Horatius Bonar said “A believing man will be a zealous man. Faith makes a man zealous. Faith shows itself by zeal. Not by zeal for a party, or a system, or an opinion; but by zeal for Christ–zeal for His church, zeal for the carrying-on of His work on earth.”

Even to complain about the weather, is to complain about God’s decree, and His Sovereignty. Almighty God has His hands on the thermostat.

A ‘Spirit filled’ Christian will be empowered by the Holy Spirit, to rejoice in all things, thru thick or thin.

Dr. Theodore Zachariades said, “The culture or ethos of Western Civilization is no longer tethered to its roots. It is heading full speed into oblivion. Why is the church so eager to follow this course? This is proof positive that the institutional church is just that, an institution. The true body of Christ, all true saints of all ages, the predestinate; as Wycliffe put it, will continue to resist come what may. Christianity is not a retreat into ghetto-hood. It is a confrontational way of life, and a comprehensive world view that has a message from beyond the world, that alone can transform the world. “Jesus is Lord” was the first confession of faith. He remains the only hope for the world.”

In closing I’d like to give the following benediction.

“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” – 1 Corinthians 15:58.

Or as I often post on social media.

As always brethren – Love ‘biblically’ – repent – be salt and light – be holy – be sanctified – fear God – pray without ceasing – keep His commandments – grow in His grace and knowledge – put on the whole armor of God (and use it) – walk circumspectly – believe in and trust Jesus – obey the Gospel – share the Gospel – preach the Gospel – contend for the faith, – disciple each other, hate the things that God hates, and love the things that God loves – rejoice in sufferings – keep the faith, work-out your salvation, and endure to the end!

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