Yesterday we read several important exhortations in Ephesians chapter 4 with a focus on matters such as unity as well as the purity and holiness of our hearts and lives. Today, we are going to continue on with these exhortations in Ephesians chapter 5.
Just a quick reminder, the scriptures were not written in chapter and verse. That means that what we know as the book of Ephesians was originally one continuous manuscript. The chapters and verses were added later in order to help us in finding specific passages and referencing the written word. That is why it is so important that we take time to understand the context of what we are reading. Scripture itself even gives us great “clues”, if you will, to help us in seeing the fluid connection between the verses. We see one of these clues right here at the beginning of chapter 5 with the word - “therefore”. Seeing that word is like a big stop sign that says “HOLD ON! THERE IS SOMETHING IMPORTANT THAT HAPPENED BEFORE THE INSTRUCTION I AM ABOUT TO GIVE YOU THAT YOU NEED TO BE AWARE OF!”
That means that in order to fully understand all that Paul is telling us here in Chapter 5, we need to first look back at Chapter 4. So let’s start off today by reading the final verse of Chapter 4 and the first two verses of Chapter 5 as a way to kind of “bridge the gap” between the two. It says:
“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. 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 4:32-5:2)
So here we have our first exhortation of chapter 5 - to walk in love. The call to walk in love or to love one another is repeated all throughout scripture, telling us that this is a concept the Lord definitely wants us to grasp and live out in our daily lives. I think we can all easily understand WHY this is such an important aspect of our lives - after all that is what Christ does for us, He loves us NO MATTER WHAT! So the real question is HOW? I don’t know about you but, though I’m incredibly thankful that the Lord loves me so unconditionally, I have never been very skilled in the art of doing the same quite so readily for others. However, scripture clearly tells us here in Ephesians 5 that we are to love - “In the same way Christ does for us - full of grace, mercy, and abundant in goodness.”
For some of us this could seem like an almost impossible task. After all, grace, mercy and goodness don’t just naturally flow from our depths for many of us. I consider myself a pretty friendly and optimistic person but I promise you, I don’t have an endless supply of any of those things. And this reality of our limited reach as humans is not lost on Paul. In fact, he was quite aware that we - a very imperfect people (himself included) - are going to struggle to uphold that same level of grace and mercy and goodness of our heavenly Father.
So after the exhortation itself is given quickly and succinctly in verses 1 and 2, Paul then takes the next 18 verses to bring caution against many stumbling blocks that we as Christians need to be on the lookout for as well as some encouragement in how to overcome these temptations so that we continue to walk and live in this attitude of love, grace, and mercy to which the Lord has called us.
I wish I had time to dive into all of those things with you today and I strongly encourage you to dive deeper into these passages in your personal time with the Lord today, but for now I want to focus on encouraging you with a few of the “remedies”, if you will, that Paul outlines in helping Christians in navigating these stumbling blocks and temptations.
First, if we want to avoid being entangled by the lusts of the flesh then we must live lives with produce the fruit of the spirit. For, as verse 9 states, “...the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true.”
Second, in versus 13 and 14 we are told that we should live lives in the light - meaning don’t try to appear to be living a perfect life, shoving down all of those “secret sins” into the dark corners of your heart and life but instead, deal with your sin issues as they arise, keeping everything “in the light” and surrendered at the feet of Jesus. Why is this so important? I think Bible scholar Matthew Henry put it perfectly when he said, “Sinful works are works of darkness: they come from the darkness of ignorance, they seek the darkness of concealment, and they lead to the darkness of hell.”
And Third, keep your eyes focused on the finish line ahead, which is heaven, not forgetting the mission and goal to not just finish the race strong but to take as many others with you as possible! As verses 16 and 17 remind us, “...the days are evil. Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” And what is His will, His desire, for each and everyone of us? Jesus laid that out for us in John 6:40: “For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in Him shall have eternal life…”
Jesus' entire life was marked by a stray inclination to do God’s will. Nothing would distract or deter Him from fulfilling what God had called Him to do. This is a critical mindset for us to have. A mindset that says - yes this life is going to throw me a lot of curveballs. There are going to be temptations and stumbling blocks all along the way but none of that changes the purpose, mission, and calling the Lord has placed before us, as He did Jesus. Which means we have to be diligent in preparing for and standing firm against those things. And that all starts with making sure we are living lives connected to Jesus, producing the fruit of the spirit we need in order to live the lives of love He has called us to - full of grace, mercy, and abundant in goodness.