God's Word For You is a free Bible Study site committed to bringing you studies firmly grounded in the Bible – the Word of God. Holding a reformed, conservative, evangelical perspective this site affirms that God has provided in Jesus Christ his eternal Son, a way of salvation in which we can live in his presence guilt free, acquitted and at peace.




A meditation on Ephesians 5:8-21 

In Ephesians 5:8-21 Paul continues his instructions on living worthy of our calling [4:1]. In each of these instructions there is a command followed by an explanation of how keeping that command looks in real life.

Unfortunately this command-explanation sequence is not always clear in the English translations, where sometimes the explanation is worded as if it is a separate command. Also unfortunately, the English does not always communicate the present, on-going implications of these instructions. Based on the Greek text the commands and their explanations are:

[1] The command: Live [walk, walk about, conduct yourself] as children of light [5:8]. The explanation: finding out [discerning] what is pleasing to the Lord. Both the ‘live’ and the ‘discerning’ are present tense. At every moment of our lives we are to live discerning what is pleasing to the Lord.

[2] The command: have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness. The explanation: rather than be involved with such actions, be alert and consistently expose them for that they are [5:11-14]. Again, both the command and the explanation are present tense: this is to be our on-going, continuous attitude and action: rejection and exposure of all that is characterized by ‘darkness’, that is, rejection and exposure of all that does not reflect the nature of our God, who is Light.

[3] The command: be very careful, literally ‘watch’, how you live/walk [the verb means literally ‘walk around’, figuratively ‘conduct yourself’]. The explanation: ‘making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.’ Everything here is present tense. Every moment we live, every thought, attitude, word and action, is an opportunity to express either foolishness or wisdom, an opportunity to express either God’s light or the darkness of evil. [5:15-16].

[4] The command: do not be [literally, become] foolish [literally, without a mind] [5:17]. The explanation: ‘understand [mentally pull together] what the Lord’s will is’. This commands the exercise of our minds in working out in each moment of our lives which of the options facing us are in line with God’s revealed will. Again, both command and explanation are present tense.

[5] The command: Be filled with the Spirit [5:18]. The explanation: speaking spiritual truth [psalms, hymns, spiritual songs] to each other; singing and making music to the Lord in our inner being; always giving thanks; submitting to one another [5:19-21]. Both the command ‘be filled with the Spirit’ and each explanation of what this will look like in practice, are in the present tense, referring to the moment by moment reality of our lives and choices.

In each of these commands and explanations of what obedience to these commands will look like, there is two common concepts: firstly, that every moment counts – they are all in the present tense, calling us to a continuity of present commitments and choices; secondly, they each put alternatives before us and challenge us to continually choose the option that conforms to our new identity as children of light and the identity and priorities of our God.

Copyright Rosemary Bardsley 2006, 2011.