Last week we discussed laying aside the old self and putting on the new self. This week we’re going to look at how Paul goes deeper into the old self verses the new self and how our walk with Christ defines our new self.
1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; 2 and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.
Verse 5:1 begins with the word “Therefore” pointing back to the preceding verse (4:32) where Paul says “just as God in Christ also has forgiven you”. In other words, we should be imitators of God, imitating Him in the way He has forgiven us. We know how to imitate (or copy) God since we have such a worthy example in Christ’s words and actions.
Then Paul connects the imitation of God to our walk in verse 2. We’ve talked about our walk in the Lord as living and acting in a specific manner, in this case, in a manner worthy of our Lord and Savior. Notice how Paul qualified walk here in that we are to walk in love. This is no ordinary love but a love expressed in the way Christ loved us. Christ did not fail to give all for us. He offered up His time, words, love, actions, everything as a pleasing sacrifice to God the Father. In other words, Christ defined love as giving Himself up for us. That is how our walk is to be an imitation of God. We are to walk in the same love as Christ sacrificially gave. That will be a pleasing aroma to God.
Remember this idea of our walk being a pleasing sacrificial type of love? There are some important applications of this coming up in the second half of chapter 5. Stay tuned husbands as much of this is applicable to you and I!
3 But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints; 4 and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. 5 For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.
In this section, Paul contrasts the walk of Christ-like sacrificial love with the walk of world-like self serving love. Paul describes the attributes or fruits of a self serving walk:
Immorality – sexual sins especially related to adulterous, extramarital, or any other type of impure intercourse
Impurity – lustful, unclean immorality especially with regard to sexual sins
Greed – covetousness and a desire for more and more
Notice that the first two are related to sexual sins and the third is a more general greediness sin. But all three are related. The sexual sins (as do most all sins) cause desire to increase. And so the person’s desire for sin, especially of the sexual nature, are never fulfilled. Remember that we discussed this never ending desire for more sinful things from unbelievers (they cannot help themselves) in Ephesians 4:17–19:
17 So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, 18 being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; 19 and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness.
Their blindness and hardness of heart makes the unbeliever callous. This then bears the fruit of unrighteousness in that they give themselves over to sensuality with an unsatiated desire.
Then Paul goes on to describe three more attributes or fruits of the self serving walk:
Filthiness – behaving or speaking obscenely
Silly talk – Foolish words, sometimes associated with a drunkard
Coarse jesting – Sharp but caustic and worldly verbal skills designed to deride another
These three center more around our speech, whereas the initial three (verse 3) centered more around sexual sins. So here we clearly have the sins of behavior and the sins of the tongue. None of this is suitable for a believer. Not only are these abhorrent in the eyes of God, but they also serve to undermine the unity of the body. Not only that, but directly in the context of this section they serve to undermine our Christ-like sacrificial walk in love.
Fortunately, Paul gives us a suggestion for how we can lay aside filthiness, silly talk, and coarse jesting. Paul says to instead give thanks. It never ceases to amaze me how giving thanks in situations where you only want to unleash the anger and foolishness of your tongue can give you a peace that pushes out sinfulness. Granted, it is difficult in many cases to find something to be thankful for, but try and ask the Spirit to help you out with this. The Spirit is a
Spirit of power, not of weakness.
It bears explanation that while in 2 Samuel we learn that David (a man after God’s own heart) was entangled in sexual sin (with Bathsheba). We also know that David was loved by God and not cast away (indeed David did not have God’s Spirit taken away). In verse 5 it talks of the sexually immoral not having an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. So where does this leave David…and us? Well, the answer is bound up in a single small word “is” in the phrase “…is an idolater”. This verb “is” in the underlying Greek (and English) is a habitual type of verb. That is, the person will continue unabated in sexual sins and idolatry going from bad to worse. Notice that David always would repent of his sins; although, it took time and some coaxing from a prophet to cause David to repent of his sin with Bathsheba. Here, Paul is talking of the unregenerate unbeliever who continues to wallow unrepentantly in their sin. That is the difference.
7 Therefore do not be partakers with them; 8 for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light 9 (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), 10 trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them; 12 for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret. 13 But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light. 14 For this reason it says, “Awake, sleeper, And arise from the dead, And Christ will shine on you.”
Verse 7 begins the second of three therefore’s in this section. Knowing what we have just read in verses 3-6 and especially at the end of verse 6, “because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience” Paul tells us to walk as children of Light. This is a little different than “walk in love” as Paul mentioned in verse 2 above. Nonetheless, walking as children of Light does not remove or lessen the command to walk in love. They both exist in harmony with one another. Walking in love is a Christ-like sacrificial behavior; whereas, walking as children of Light is the key to how we produce the fruit of the Spirit, from Galatians 5:22–23:
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
Notice in verse 8 how unbelievers are described as darkness, as opposed to “in darkness” or “of darkness”. In contrast, believers are described as light. We are not only light but we are, as it says, “light in the Lord.” meaning that our unity with Christ, who is the light, is why we are also called light. Christ imputes his light to us, thus we become light as He is light.
Verse 11 and 12 are two verses that almost seem to contradict themselves. Verse 11 speaks of not participating in the sinful deeds of darkness but rather exposing them. Then in verse 12 it says to not even speak of these sinful deeds. So how can you expose darkness without speaking specifically of it or to it? I believe the answer is in verse 13. We expose darkness to light. It is possible to teach the truths of the Bible to unbelievers without directly exposing their own specific sinful deeds that they do in secret. That is we can teach the errors of sexual sins without going into the details of one person’s sexual sins. It’s these details that could cause others to stumble, but the word of God will never cause one to stumble.
As we walk in both sacrificial love and as children of light, our fruit will be unmistakable to the world. But being the light also has another facet, that of exposing peoples’ words and deeds as either light or darkness (see verse 13). Indeed, verse 14 exposes yet another facet of being the light, that of exposing the minds of unbelievers to Christ, who is the light. When an unbeliever (the “sleeper” in verse 14) is exposed to Christ’s light through us they have light shed on their thoughts, desires, and behaviors. This light is what leads an unbeliever out of darkness.
Preaching is one of the most direct ways to expose unbelievers to the light of Christ:
14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?
1 Corinthians 15:11:
11 Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.
15 Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, 16 making the most of your time, because the days are evil.
Verse 15-16 is a short pithy sentence that begins our third “Therefore” section. Not only are we to walk in love and walk as children of light, but we are to also walk in wisdom. We are to be deliberately vigilant, always on the lookout for evil and sin so that it does not ensnare us.
The way we are to walk in wisdom that Paul gives us is by making the most of our time here on earth. Evil is all around us in this fallen world so we are to take every opportunity given to us to make a difference by shedding Christ’s light on the world and bearing fruit in keeping with righteousness. Placing Jesus first in our lives is paramount to taking advantage of every opportunity given us during our short life here on earth.
17 So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; 20 always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father;
Finally, I want to talk about what Paul means when he says “be filled with the Spirit”. In verse 18 Paul contrasts being filled with the Spirit to being filled with wine to the point of drunkenness. Essentially, Paul is stating that you can either be controlled by the Spirit or by idols such as wine. And being controlled by alcohol can lead to a host of other sinful acts (just look at the news today as to how many people are arrested or do some heinous act simply because they were too intoxicated).
Since verses 18-21 are one long sentence, we see that Paul’s main point is that we are filled with the Spirit. This is due to the main verb “be filled” (in verse 18). Next, Paul describes what being filled with the Spirit looks like through the other secondary participle verbs that follow (in verses 19-21):
Paul says that a Spirit-filled church body will have its members speaking to one another with biblical words (Psalms, etc.). Notice that it doesn’t specify who these “one anothers” are. That’s because it is the entire body from the pastor on down to each member. We are to speak to each other in love (as our walk with Christ is “in love”), speaking the Biblical words of the Psalms to each other. But we are also to speak using hymns and spiritual songs. This passage directly ties to Colossians 3:16:
16 Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.
We are to speak to one another drawing from the word of God that should make its home in our hearts in ever deeper ways. Hymns and spiritual songs are other avenues which we may speak to one another to teach and build up the body of Christ.
Actually, there are two participles here: singing and making melody. We do this both as an outward expression of worship when we gather together on Sundays, but we can (and should) also do this inwardly expressing our love for our Creator. Notice that as we speak to one another in Psalms and songs we are doing so between each member of the body. But as we sing we are singing as worship to our Lord. Speaking is the horizontal and singing is the vertical.
We should thank our musicians and sound/audio team for making all of this possible for us. They put forth a huge effort to make our singing and worshiping seem effortless for us. Let us thank them for their efforts by singing out ever stronger and more worshipfully.
The third sign that we are filled with the Spirit is that we are thankful, not just thankful some of the time but always thankful. Our thankfulness should always be in abundance. If your thankfulness is waning, you should read the first three chapters of Ephesians again. There you will get a sense for how thankful to God we should be…while we were yet sinners, God loved us more than we deserve.
There is a final participle, but it is in verse 21:
21 and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.
That is, we are to be in subjection to one another. This is also a sign of a Spirit-filled church. But we will discuss this more next week as verse 21 ties together our being Spirit-filled and how we act in the church and in the home.