STUDIES IN EPHESIANS

Copyright © Rosemary Bardsley 2003

STUDY SEVEN: LIVING AS CHILDREN OF LIGHT PART 1 [4:17-5:14]

A. NO LONGER WITH DARKENED UNDERSTANDING [4:17-19]

The Ephesian Christians, and all true Christians for that matter, have been rescued from the dominion of darkness and established in the kingdom of Jesus Christ [Colossians 1:13]; the light of God's truth has shone into their hearts, removing the blindness in which Satan had held them captive [2 Corinth. 4:4-6]; Jesus, the light of the world, has come to them, and promised 'whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life' [John 8:12].

So Paul, having impressed upon his readers the importance of knowing and growing in the liberating truth of God's gospel, now says to them:

'So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking ... '

We who know the light must refuse and reject the darkness and all of its attitudes, its perceptions, its presuppositions, its expectations.

Task #1: Read 4:17-19. Paul lists 9 characteristics of the life of those who do not know God. List them in the left column; in the right column write the opposite of these. Discuss the significance of these contrasting mindsets; discuss also their practical implications for your life.
Life without God
The opposite - increasingly true of those who know God

Futile thinking

Darkened in their understanding

Separated from the life of God

Ignorance in them

Hardened hearts

Lost all sensitivity

Given themselves over to sensuality

Indulge in every kind of impurity

Continual lust for more

As we think about these descriptions of life without Jesus Christ we need to notice the key role that our minds [our thinking or mental perspective] have in this futility and darkness. In the same way, as we progress through this chapter, we need to take notice of the significance our minds play in our new life in Christ. In verse 23 Paul states that we have been taught 'to be made new in the attitude of your minds' . This change that Paul commands is impossible without the foundational gospel facts about Jesus Christ and the salvation he obtained for us. Those facts are the key factors that generate the change in mind and attitude which in turn generates changes in feelings and lifestyle.

B. PUT OFF THE THINGS THAT BELONG TO THE DARKNESS; PUT ON THE THINGS THAT DEMONSTRATE YOUR KNOWLEDGE OF JESUS CHRIST [4:20-5:4]

In verses 20-21 Paul refers his readers back to their knowledge of Jesus Christ. The lifestyle and mindset he has just described are totally incompatible with what they know about Jesus Christ. Therefore things that do not reflect Jesus Christ, but reflect the futile and dark mindset from which they have been delivered, must be put off.

Task #2: Paul tells us that the list in 17-19 is not what Christians know about Christ. The truth about Christ teaches us to 'put off' or get rid of certain values and attitudes, and to put on or embrace the opposite values. Identify these anti-Christ attitudes and actions, and the opposite Christ-like attitudes and actions, from 4:20-5:4. Discuss the meaning and application of each.

 
What we must get rid of
 
What we must take on board

22

23

24

25

25

26

26/

27

28

28

29

29

31

32

5.1

5.2

5.3

5.4

5.4

Task #3: In 4:20 to 5:14 we are given at least 20 reasons why we should decisively and constantly reject the left hand column above and embrace the right hand column. Identify these reasons from these verses. As you do this think about the central focus of each reason ... is it a fact of the Gospel, is it Jesus Christ himself, is it the good of our fellow believers ... ?
Ref
The reason we should change our attitudes and behaviour

4:20

4:21

4:22

4:23

4:24

4:25

4:28

4:29

4:30

4:32

5:1

5:2

5:3

5:5

5:6

5:8

5:10

5:12

Task # 4: Discuss, or think deeply about, each of the above reasons that Paul gives for living a lifestyle that ties in with what we have learned about Jesus Christ. Think about your own life, and apply these same reasons for personal 'putting off' and 'putting on'.

C. WORTHY OF OUR CALLING [4:17-5:14]

In 4:1 Paul urges us to life a life worthy of our calling. In 4:20-5:14 he refers to believers in 6 different ways. The phrases he uses to describe us are in themselves incentives to Christlike living.

Task #5: From the verses mentioned list the phrases Paul used to refer to believers. What other Bible verses do these phrases remind you of? And, how does knowing this is what you are provide motivation to 'be what you are' in your daily choices and attitudes?
Ref.
Description of believers
Other References
Motivation for Christlike attitudes and choices

4:24

 

4:25

 

4:30

 

5:1

 

5:3

 

5:8

 

 

C.1 Created to be like God 4:24

This description of believers takes us right back to Genesis 1:26,27:

'Then God said, "let us make man in our image, in our likeness ... So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him ... '

Here is a reminder of our true human identity, our optimum human potential: to reflect the glory of the Lord God Almighty. Not to be God, but to image God. Such a reflecting of the nature of God can only occur in face-to-face relationship with God. Thus when Adam turned his back on God in Genesis 3 he was at the same moment automatically refusing to embrace his potential human greatness, he was automatically choosing to reject the role of image-bearer. To reflect, to mirror, to image requires a relationship of dependence. We are like God only when we are willing to learn from God, we are like God only when we are willing to take our cue from him, we are like God only when we choose to imitate him. We can never be like God as long as we are intent on going our own way; only in obedience is our potential optimised.

This is God's plan for us in his original creation, and this is his plan for us when he recreated us in Christ. The actions Paul commands us to take here in Ephesians 4 to 6 are given to enable us to fulfil this grand purpose of God in our lives.

Thus in Matthew 5:16 Jesus tells us live in such a way that men will glorify the Father. In Matthew 5:43-48 Jesus tells us that when we love impartially we display the nature of our heavenly Father. In 1 Corinthians 10:31 we are commanded that everything we do should be done to the glory of God. In 2 Corinthians 3:18 the Spirit of God is said to be transforming us from one degree of glory to another as we behold and reflect the glory of the Lord. In 1 Peter 2:9-12 we are taught that God has made us his special people so that we will demonstrate and declare his praises so that men will glorify God.

C.2 We are all members of one body 4:25

Paul considers that this concept that all Christians are members of one body is motivation for treating each other with respect, dignity and integrity. Linking it with the previous thought that we are created to be like God, Paul teaches that even such a simple sin as telling lies to one another is outlawed by our calling. We are called to be like God ... therefore we should tell the truth; we are all members of the one body ... therefore we should not tell each other lies.

This Christian neighbour to whom we are tempted to lie, is worthy of our respect because he was created to be like God.

And this Christian neighbour to whom we are tempted to lie, is worthy to be treated with the same dignity and respect that God extends to us, because he is a member of the body of Christ, redeemed and justified by the same blood of Christ that redeemed and justified us.

The Christian is therefore not permitted to despise and dishonour a fellow-believer. This principle of respect for and consideration of our fellow believers is taught, for example, in Romans 14:1-15:13 [check this out, there are many relevant verses]; 1 Corinthians 8:9-13; 10:16-17,32-11:1; 2 Corinthians 5:16; Galatians 6:1-3.

C.3 We are sealed with the Holy Spirit of God 4:30

Every time we sin we cause grief to God. Every time we disobey instead of obeying we cause him sadness. Yet God himself has made us his own and sealed and certified us as his possession, his children, guaranteeing our eternal salvation, by coming to live in us. [Read John 14:15-23; 2 Corinthians 1:18-22; Ephesians 1:13-14]. By his authority and by his inspiration we call him 'Abba - Father' [Romans 8:13-17; Galatians 3:26-4:7]. God has blessed with his own indwelling, perpetual presence, assuring us, guiding us, teaching us [John 16:3-16]. When we as believers act, speak and think in sinful ways we are acting, speaking and thinking as we would if God did not dwell within us, as we would if we were still orphans, separated from him by our sin, as we would if Christ had not come and died for us.

This great grief of God because of human sin is seen intensely and acutely in Genesis 6:1-7.

C.4 We are God's dearly loved children 5:1

Children who love their fathers also love to imitate their fathers. Here in Ephesians 4:32 to 5:2 Paul commands us to imitate our Father.

      • He has been kind to us: we should imitate his kindness.
      • He has been compassionate to us: we should imitate his compassion.
      • He has forgiven us: we should imitate his forgiveness.
      • He has loved us: we should imitate his love.
      • He has denied himself to save us: we should imitate his self-denial.

This motivational point is grounded in the salvation God has given us in Christ. Jesus Christ is the measure of God's kindness, God's compassion, God's forgiveness, God's love: he should also be the measure, the standard, of all of our choices - for all of our thoughts, attitudes, words and actions.

So, Paul says: forgive just as God, for Christ's sake, forgave you. Love, just as God loves you, as dearly loved children of God, whose passion it is to imitate their Father.

[See also Matthew 6:43-48; Philippians 2:1-5; Colossians 3:12-13; 1 John 4:7-21.]

C.5 We are God's holy people 5:3

To be 'holy' is to be set apart by God for God, no longer for common or ordinary use. Holiness speaks of uniqueness, distinctness, otherness - difference from the norm. God's holiness is not simply his purity or perfection; it contains these elements because they are characteristics which are uniquely God's - there is no other who is pure and perfect in himself; but it also contains the totality of his uniqueness ... God is totally different from everything else; as Isaiah reminds us in his fortieth chapter, there is nothing anywhere to which God can be likened. He is one of a kind. Incomparable in his purity, in his perfection, in his power, in his authority, in his being, in his knowledge, in his sovereignty.

When Christians are called 'saints' [as they are frequently in the New Testament] or 'holy' [which is the same word in the Greek], it does not mean that Christians are pure or perfect in themselves. It means that God has made us his own unique possession, his special treasure. We are no longer for common use. We no longer belong to 'the world' [John 17:15-16]. We belong to God. We have been set apart by him for his purposes.

So, Paul says, because you are God's holy people there is a great range of words, attitudes and actions that are totally out of place and inappropriate [Ephesians 5:3-7]. They belong to those who are disobedient, and they are the kinds of things for which God's wrath still falls on those who are not saved.

C.6 We are 'light in the Lord' and 'children of light' 5:8

Jesus Christ is the light of the world [John 8:12]; he told his followers that they also are the light of the world [Matthew 5:14] and should live in such a way that their lives throw light on the character of God and cause men to glorify him [Matthew 5:15-16]. In Colossians 1:13 Paul teaches us that God has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and caused us to stand in the kingdom of his Son. John has a strong message for those who claim to know God who is light, yet continue to live lives characterized by darkness [1 John 1:1:5-7; 2:8-11]. Paul's command here in Ephesians 5 is that our lives display what we are: children of light, and that we don't engage in doing the 'deeds of darkness' that are totally contrary to our new identity and calling in Christ.

A prayer of commitment:

Lord, I stand amazed and overwhelmed at the high calling you have given me in and through your Son, Jesus Christ. Help me to be what you have made me: your dearly loved child, your new creation, whom you have sealed with your own Spirit, whom you have set apart as your special possession for your special purpose, and whom you have created to be like you, to reflect your nature, shining your light into the world.

Lord, I grieve for the times when I have grieved you. Forgive me, as only you can forgive. Enable me, as only you can enable. To bring you glory is my desire. To walk with you and like you, is my will. To you I commit my way. In you alone I trust. Through Jesus Christ my Lord. Amen.