In our last lesson we looked at the first half of Ephesians which describes the blessings of God. This would have been a powerful letter by Paul if he had concluded with chapter 3 and verse 20. But Paul did not describe all of those blessings to us so that we would sit back and do nothing. In fact, as Paul is going to show, we forfeit those blessings when we do not live up the our calling.
Ephesians 4:1 sets the theme for the second half of the letter: “Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called….” The key words in the first three chapters were “blessings” and “riches.” In these last three chapters the key word is “walk.” The overall theme is that since we have received such great and abundant blessings in Christ, we must walk worthy of what we have received. There are six ways we are to walk worthy of the calling in this letter.
Walk in Unity (4:1-16)
Ephesians 4:1-16 instructs us as to how we are to walk in unity. Verse 3 shows that unity is the key to this section: “…being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Unity begins by each person acting and behaving properly, according to verse 2. We must walk in life in humility, gentleness, and patience. Without these three keys, there is no chance that we will obtain unity in Christ. Too often Christians are found to be arrogant, harsh, and impatient. But these characteristics lead to division and strife. To help in our efforts for unity, we need to see the unity of Christ and his teachings. Paul says one body (the phrase ‘there is’ is not in the original), one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all.
Second, the variety of gifts that Christ has given is supposed to bring us to unity. Notice verses 11-13: “And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.” Why did Christ give these different gifts? Carefully notice that the purpose is so that we all can attain the unity of the faith. Unity will come when we have the proper attitudes as we follow the apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers, working together to become a mature person. God has called for us to be a unified group and God expects us to attain that goal.
Walk Not Like the World (4:17-32)
In verse 17 we are told the second way we are to live our lives: “So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk….” Paul is going to be very specific in this text on what he means to no longer walk like the rest of the world.
Have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness (4:19). Sounds like the world today, doesn’t it? People have given themselves over to all sorts of sexuality and lusts to practice all kinds of impurity. There are very few sexual acts that are not acceptable in our society. Paul says “you did not learn Christ in this way.” These are not the things that Christians can do and think that we maintain the blessings of God. Therefore, verses 22-24 instruct us to put away the old life with its corrupted desires and lusts, and put on a new life of righteousness and holiness of truth. Look at your life and decide which path your life models: corrupted desires and lusts or life of righteousness and holiness.
Do not speak falsely (4:25). If we want to have the blessings of Christ we must speak the truth. There are no such things as “half-truths” or “white lies.” We must always speak forthright and truthfully to be a child of God.
Do not have sinful anger (4:26-27). We make a lot of excuse for our rage, but it is unacceptable to God. There is nothing wrong with being upset, feeling hurt, or feeling that we have been treated unjustly. But we cannot lash out, have outbursts of wrath, or vent our anger upon other people. We must maintain control in all things that we think and feel.
Do not steal (4:28). The world seems to come up with a lot of reasons why stealing from someone else is okay. Sometimes we think it is okay to steal from our boss because we think they have money. Maybe we ask for a loan from someone and decide it will be a gift instead. Maybe we steal time on the job by not giving our best or hardest effort. God said that we cannot steal and still be in the grace of God.
Do not speak unwholesome words (4:29-30). Only words that are good for edification and that are needed should come from our lips. We too often let our lips say things that should never be said and we excuse ourselves rather than making ourselves accountable. We pass on damaging stories without knowing if it is the truth. Verse 29 says that the words we say are to give grace to the hearer. When we act like the world, we are grieving the Holy Spirit, according to verse 30, because he placed a seal upon us. God has given us all of these great blessings and we turn and spit on these gifts of God by acting like the world.
Put away selfish attitudes and become selfless (4:31-32). All of these selfish attitudes must be put completely out of our lives if we want to find the grace of God. Paul says that this includes bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, slander and malice. Our lives should be models of kindness, tenderness, and forgiveness. We must become imitators of God. This leads us into the third way we are to walk because of the blessings we have received.
Walk in Love (5:1-7)
A difficult command is given for us to follow in chapter 5 and verse 2. We are to love just as Christ loved us. The sacrifice of Christ is to rule the way we walk and act in our lives. Anything that does not show the love of Christ must be removed from our lives. Paul gets specific about what some of these things are: immorality, impurity, greed, filthiness, silly talk, and coarse jesting. Paul says that the wrath of God comes upon all who practice these things (5:5-6). These actions do not show the love of Christ for other people. Greed is not loving toward another. Immoral actions and filthiness does not offer love to my neighbor. Our decisions in life must reflect the love of Christ toward all people.
Walk in Light (5:8-14)
In verse 8 Paul commands us to walk in light and walk as children of light. We are to be the reflection of God’s glory. Our actions should be the reflection of God’s righteousness. To be walking in the light and a child of light means that we can have nothing to do with darkness. Light and dark are exact opposites. So also, walking with God and walking according to our desires are complete opposites. There is no mixing of the two together. Not only can we not participate in the works of darkness, but we are to expose those works (5:11).
Walk with Care (5:15-6:9)
Next, Paul says that we are to walk carefully through this life. We walk carefully in a number ways, showing the love and grace of Christ in our lives.
Make the most of our time. We do not know the time that God will give us. We do not know when we will have to give our account to God for our actions. We must make the most of our time. We cannot assume that we have tomorrow to repent. We cannot assume that we will have next week to bring the gospel to our friend. We cannot think that we can make sacrifices of our family now. We must make the most of our opportunities and our time.
Do not get drunk, but be filled with the Spirit. We should not spend our time being filled up on the things of this world, but on the things of God. Thus, we are to sing songs to each other and give thanks to God for all things. Do not fill up on the physical life, but fill up on spiritual things. One of the biggest reasons we do not have a yearning for God is because we fill up on physical things. We become too involved with the things of the world and do not give proper time to God as first in all things.
Submit to one another. If we are going to walk carefully in this life and in the grace of God, then we must submit ourselves to each other. This is the overriding principle that Paul illustrates through the middle of chapter 6. Paul is going to give some specific examples, but every person must submit to another. The relationships that Paul speaks about are wives to husbands (5:22-24), husbands to wives (5:25-33), children to parents (6:1-3), fathers to children (6:4), slaves to masters (6:5-8), and masters to slaves (6:9). Paul said to submit to everyone, even in marriage, family, and work.
Walk in Strength (6:10-20)
Paul concludes this letter encouraging the Ephesians to be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. We are able to stand strong in the Lord in three ways. First, by seeing where the battle truly belongs. Our battle is not simply with our flesh, but against spiritual forces and powers (5:12). Second, we must put on the armor of God which is given to us so that we can stand against the efforts of the devil (5:13-17). Third, we are to pray at all times in the Spirit so that we can be ready to approved of God (5:18-20).
God has given us the tools to be strong and overcome the efforts of Satan. But are we using these God-given tools? Have we wrap our lives in truth and righteousness, always trying to be found looking like Christ? Have we put the gospel of peace on our feet? This pictures us taking the gospel to the lost souls around us. We are vulnerable to Satan when we have not experienced the deep joy of seeing someone you personally know and love come to the Lord. Have we been working to grow in our faith so that we can extinguish the flaming arrows of Satan? Have we become well-trained with the word of God? Are we praying at all times? We cannot expect ourselves to stand firm if we are not using the tools God gave us.
Closing and Doxology (6:21-24)
Verses 21-22 are Paul’s closing of the letter to the Ephesians. Paul tells the Ephesians that he will send Tychicus to them to make Paul’s circumstances known to them (it is believed that Paul was in prison when this letter was written). So Tychicus will come to comfort them about Paul’s situation.
We would now expect a greeting here, but the greeting is lacking. Rather, Paul concludes with a doxology in verses 23-24. This is the message Paul gave to the Ephesians: to live worthy of the blessings that God has given to them. May we each do the same.