1Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children;
2and 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.
3But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints;
4and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks.
Paul desires the Ephesians to be like Christ in all that they are, do, think, and say. They are children of God, beloved by Him, and it only makes sense for them to obey Him, respect Him, and do as He wishes. They should conduct themselves in love, letting it be a defining mark (John 13:34-35). Loving as Christ loved is how Christians are to be known as we put the interests of others ahead of our own and show them kindness which they don’t earn or deserve. Christ loved us sacrificially, selflessly, and freely even though we didn’t deserve it, and we should do the same toward others as children of God. Christ’s death on the cross was out of love for God and mankind, and it demonstrated that He was willing to do whatever God wanted in order to please Him, being a sacrifice and offering which was a fragrant aroma to God. We are to follow His example, laying down our lives so that Christ can fill them and make us useable to His glory. We cannot be useable if we are defiling ourselves in idolatry, immorality, impurity, or greed and covetousness. We are to be so free of any hint of sexual immorality and all kinds of impurity that we make no provision for the flesh or give others grounds to stumble or question our commitment to Christ. We are saints, and there is certain behavior which is to characterize us and differentiate us from the world. The world engages in speaking obscenities and talking foolishly about meaningless, unedifying, and impure things. Rather than participate in their vulgarities and dirty jokes, we should speak only wholesome words which edify and encourage, and we should give God thanks. The tongue is for praising God, not for defiling the body.
5For 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.
6Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.
7Therefore do not be partakers with them;
8for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light
Whatever God’s Word teaches us we can be sure about, and God’s Word is very clear that those who live in their sins and reject the forgiveness of Christ will be sentenced to eternal damnation in the lake of fire. Those whose lives are characterized by practicing sin rather than practicing righteousness resulting from faith by the grace of God will go to hell (1 John 3:9). This includes those who live in sexual immorality, idolatry, impurity, and greed, which Paul just described as being indicative of the world rather than children of God. Yet holy saints can still choose to live like the world, and Paul’s exhortation to the Ephesians is to purify themselves of sin by confessing it to God, choosing rather to walk after the Light and in the Light. We are not to be partakers with those who do evil by engaging in their evil deeds. We are to love them and share the gospel with them, but we cannot be like them. God’s wrath abides upon those who live in darkness and walk after it, but those who are God’s children have been saved from His wrath by the blood of Christ. Thus, we should live like it. Grace is not license to sin but the power to be free from slavery to sin as we become slaves of righteousness (Romans 6:18). We are born again into the Light, and the Light of Christ is to be showcased through our weak vessels, thereby demonstrating to the world that we are children of Light and that the Light is true (Matthew 5:16).
9(for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth),
10trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.
11Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them;
12for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret.
Those who have the Light in them will have fruit that consists of goodness, righteousness, and truth rather than evil and sin. Good trees bear good fruit, even if imperfectly or not as proficiently as Christ would prefer. Children of Light will have good works as evidence, and they are to grow in them as they learn and become more and more like Christ, being pleasing to God in all things. Our ambition should always be to do and be what pleases our Lord Who redeemed us from having to face His wrath. Walking as children of Light involves us scrutinizing Christ through His Word so that we come to know Him and let Him live out His will and ways in our hearts and lives. We must study Christ and His Word, diligently longing to be more like Him.
Darkness only produces bad fruit which does not possess any eternal value. Walking in darkness cannot bear the fruit of the Spirit, and those who walk in Light are to expose the deeds of darkness for being the waste and sin that they are. And righteousness and grace does expose evil and greed as the light of Christ shines into the lives of those in darkness. They may not like what they see, but at least they will see the truth as to their own disgrace, dishonor, and filthiness of their public and secret evil acts.
13But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light.
14For this reason it says,
And arise from the dead,
And Christ will shine on you."
In the physical world, the light allows all things to be seen as what has been hidden is brought to light. In the spiritual world, the Light of Christ shines into a dark world, exposing the deeds of darkness, and calling to the world to respond in repentance and faith so that the lost can be found and the dead in sin can become alive in Christ.
15Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise,
16making the most of your time, because the days are evil.
17So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.
18And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit,
19speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord;
20always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father;
Given that the Light of Christ is to shine forth to the world not only through the creation, the Scripture, and the conscience but through us, the church, we had better be careful that we aren’t living in darkness lest we fail to be used of God to help someone in darkness see their own evil deeds. We need to be wise as to how we live, bearing fruit that lasts and glorifying God. The world lives unwisely, living for today’s pleasure rather than eternity’s promise, but believer should be different, knowing that what we await is far better than anything this world has to offer. The world is evil and so our time on the earth is spent in an evil place. Satan is at work, and evil is on the increase until Christ comes again. In light of our identity in Christ and the coming judgment, we need to be faithful in regard to the time we have to do ministry and evangelize. God only gives us so much time, and life is so short, speeding by so quickly like a vapor is here and then gone (James 4:14). We must be faithful today and make the most of our time. In order to do this and have wisdom, we must know what God wants us to do each day, obeying His Word and being led of the Spirit. We must obey God’s Word, living in a way honoring to Him, and following through on the tasks which He has given us to do in this life.
Drunkenness wastes time and takes us away from the will of God. It compromises our witness, and it is sin. Rather, we ought to be filled with the Spirit, letting His influence overtake us to the extent that His desires and power overflows through us unto worship of God and effective service for Christ’s sake. Rather than be controlled by substances which dull our senses, minds, and desires to worship God, we should be filled with understanding, wisdom, and a desire to praise God by being filled with the Spirit. The Spirit will lead us to sing to God, praising Him with our voices in song with hymns, psalms, and spiritual songs. Whether with music or without, the issue is whether or not our hearts are making melody to the Lord as we praise Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:24). True worship involves the desires of our hearts being caught up with the praise and glory of God as we honor Him for Who He is and what He has done according to the truth of His Word and as the Spirit fills our hearts. We can praise God by singing from the Psalms, by singing about sound doctrine, and by writing new songs (Psalm 33:3) to the Lord as we walk after the Spirit.
At all times we should thank God for all things, both good and bad, difficult and easy, knowing that God is kind and sovereign over all things. This gives proper credit to the Father Who is in charge over all, and it is only through Christ our Lord that we have the right and ability to approach God the Father in prayer. But it is the Father Whom we are to thank, being mindful of His total control and power. We must acknowledge Him in all of our ways (Proverbs 3:5-6).
21and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.
There is a sense in which all believers are to be subject to one another. The Greek word for “subject” was used in a military sense to describe being under command or under authority. In a nonmilitary sense, it implied voluntarily giving in and carrying a burden. Thus, the idea is that Christians are to voluntarily seek the welfare of others ahead of their own (Philippians 2:4-5). They are to willingly become servants of others for the sake of honoring Christ, Who became the servant of all as He suffered as a servant for the sins of all men on the cross (Matthew 20:28). He bore our shame and took the pain for our benefit, and we are to be willing to follow in His example, laying down our lives so that we can love others and give them preference. This doesn’t make us doormats which get walked all over as if we must neglect ourselves, for others are commanded to love us in the same way as we love them. Thus, all believers treat other believers preferentially, respectfully, and with honor, and all get their needs met in addition to the joy of having been able to honor Christ in service. Even if others fail to meet our needs, we can trust God as we honor Him by obeying Him in following His example of subjecting ourselves to others. We are not to be consumed with our desires and needs only, but a sign of a true believer is a care and priority of looking out for the needs of others, sacrificing our own preferences and privileges so as to give freely what we have freely and graciously received from the hand of God (Matthew 10:8). Christ served us by giving us the ultimate demonstration of love, and we are to honor Him Who bought us with a price as we imitate His example by being willing to go out of our way to demonstrate love to others.
22Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord.
23For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body.
24But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.
Paul explains that a specific instance of subjection is found in the marriage relationship. Both husband and wife should be subject to one another in that they love each other, serve one another, and seek the interests of one another ahead of their own. Yet, it is the wife who specifically must subject herself to her husband in everything. This does not mean that she cannot think for herself, for she is the suitable helper (Genesis 2:18) of her husband who should give him counsel and help him to grow. The idea is that rather than set her own agenda and pull her husband along with her ambitions, she is to follow the lead of her husband as he sets the direction for them as a married couple.
The husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church. The church should have no qualms about submitting to Christ as its head because we as the church know that Christ will only do us good and that He loves us perfectly. In fact, there is no safer or better place than to trust Him with our lives and submit to His direction and authority for our lives. His leadership is a shelter and a place of rest and peace (Psalm 91:1). It should be the same in marriage as the godly husband provides a place of safety, shelter, and dignity for his wife. He does not demean her or treat her as having lesser value or worth, but he showers his love upon her as if she is the most important thing in the world to him. Christ adores all of His children, and the godly husband will adore his wife in the same way such that he will do all that is in his power to protect her, lead her, empower her to excellence in her God-given roles and responsibilities, and let her be free to be a woman. The husband is not a vicious tyrant who imposes his will and desires upon his wife, but he listens and treats her with gentleness, dignity, and affection. Just as the church gladly submits to Christ as we know how much He loves us, so too is the wife to submit to the husband as she is confident of his love and that he will only do her good all of his days as he leads the family and is there to protect her and honor her.
The wife is to choose to subject herself to her husband in terms of the roles in marriage as to the Lord. In submitting to her husband, she is actually submitting to Christ because she is obeying and honoring Christ. As Christians we look to Christ for leadership, guidance, wisdom, direction, provision, protection, and care, among other things, and the wife is to be able to look to her husband for these things, though ultimately her leading and protection is from God. Hopefully, it is the case that God can speak and direct through the wisdom of her godly husband.
The husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church. Again, the model and illustration for understanding how the dynamics of husband and wife work out practically in marriage is Christ’s relationship with His church, which He loves. Christ is the head of the church, meaning that He is supreme, the authority, and the master. He is Lord. The husband is the head of the wife, meaning that He is the final authority in the home. This does not mean that he can order the wife around like a slave or that he should be on some power trip. After all, he is still commanded to be subject to her also by being a servant to her in love. The issue is that the husband and wife are one, and there are not two heads, just as Christ is the only head of the church. If both husband and wife try to be heads, then the marriage harmony will collapse. God ordained that man would lead and be the head while the woman would be the helpmeet who would subject herself to the man in respect, yielding herself to his loving, caring authority and protection. This is an extraordinary delicate balance, but it works beautifully when both are willing to put the other ahead of themselves. The wife will be fulfilled as she rests in the leadership of her husband, and the husband will be fulfilled as He honors Christ by being willing to take responsibility for the direction of his family. The wife will appreciate seeing strength and confidence in Christ in her husband, and he will appreciate her showing him respect and admiration for his care as he leads the family. The husband must love his wife, and the wife must respect her husband. It is not that one leads and the other blindly follows, but the idea that Christ is after is a togetherness of mind and a oneness of heart and desire as they seek God’s will and honor together. God has ordained different roles in marriage, each fitting to His design for man and woman. As man does what he was made to do and the woman does what she was made to do, there is harmony and unity, and both rejoice. Fearful, cowardly husbands are a turn off to a godly wife, and domineering women frustrate and discourage a godly man. Somehow, by the grace of God, husbands must lead and women must submit. It requires a miracle of God for this to work, but that is just the point. Christians can make this work because of the grace of God, and when it works, it is beautiful, wonderful, and makes us want to praise God for His genius. If self-centeredness gets in the way, conflict will arise. There must be must patience, flexibility, and a willingness to learn how to best fit the roles as marriage goes on. The husband will learn about the needs and desires of his wife, and she will learn about his. Both will then see better how they need to conform with God’s standards and how that makes both better off as well as the marriage itself more enjoyable.
We should notice also that the reason Christ has been elevated by the Father to the position of head over the body, the church, is because He first submitted Himself to the Father in giving up His life for the church. A godly husband thus understands what it means to put the interests of his wife ahead of his own, and he will lead her and let her rest in his strength in Christ because he loves her and knows that this is best for her. She will submit to his leadership because she respects Christ, and she will gladly respect and submit to a husband in whom she can confidently rest, trust, and rely.
The wives are to be subject to their husbands in everything. God is not saying that women are to be subject to all men in everything. He is speaking only of the marriage relationship, and in that relationship, the wife must be sure that she respects her husband’s leadership in all areas, not rebelling in some. The church is not allowed to obey in some areas and then harbor areas of sin and rebellion against Christ. In the same way, the wife must let her husband lead in all areas of life, finances, family, church participation, children’s activities, etc. Yet the husband because he loves his wife will be sure to listen to her and work together with her to do what is best for the family. Just as we delight in God and He gives us the desires of our heart (Psalm 37:4), the wife should delight in her husband (and he in her), and she can trust that he will do the best for her and the family such that she finds what she truly wants. His leadership is not selfish but always for the welfare of his wife ahead of his own. Her submission to his decisions allows him to lead without resentment or bitterness toward his wife. He is able to work with her as she shares her heart with him rather than having to rule by pulling rank, so to speak. It is imperative that both spouses get on the same page as decisions are made. If God is leading both husband and wife, which He is if they are walking with Him, then both can expect to be led in the same way.
25Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her,
26so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,
27that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.
Paul gives specific directions to the husband to love his wife to the extent that Christ loves His church, even being willing to give up His own life for the church. Thus, there is to be no bound to the husband’s love just as Christ’s love has no bound toward the church, being even beyond our comprehension as to its greatness and extent. The husband should be willing to do anything, even if it meant giving up his life, for the wellbeing of his wife. She should be able to have absolute confidence that her husband will only do her good and that his heart toward her is good. She must know that his love is sure such that nothing can make him stop loving her. He is not to get back at her if she does something to hurt him by holding back his love and affection, but he is to go to her in love and seek reconciliation. It is kindness that leads to repentance, even in marriage. Grudges or records of wrong cannot be kept and used as ammunition in an argument. Things shouldn’t even have to escalate to an argument, but affection, gentleness, and a listening ear should always characterize communication and the relationship.
Christ’s purpose was to save the church, to sanctify the church, which He is presently doing in the lives of believers, and then ultimately to glorify the church. Sanctification is to result in a church free from sin and refined into the likeness of Christ’s example and holiness, free from any spot, wrinkle, or blemish. Christ is working in the hearts and lives of Christians to iron out sin patterns and remove all that is evil and of the flesh. This is a process, but we can trust Him, someway and somehow, in His infinite wisdom, to get the job done so that we can be glorified. The church has been cleansed in His blood once and for all, but practically we still need the Word of God to examine our hearts and teach us how to live as Christ in this life by grace through faith. This is what Christ is doing in His church, and it is what the husband is to be doing for his wife. He is to through word, deed, example, and every means available to him, help his wife to grow in Christ and be conformed with the Word of God. He will not be able to do this unless he is walking after the Spirit with his whole heart. God is not harsh with His children, and he is not to be harsh or impatient with his wife. God bore with Jonah, and a godly husband is merciful toward his wife as she is with him when he needs to change. But it is God’s design that he puts ultimate responsibility for the sanctification of the wife upon the husband. This is consistent given that he put the ultimate blame of the fall of man into sin upon the first man, Adam. God holds the husband accountable for how he leads the home, and his life and witness has great ramifications for the wife and the children. This is not to minimize the wife’s role, for it is equally important and valuable. It is only to say that God holds the man ultimately responsible for the family, for such is the accountability for the leader. His calling within the marriage is to do what he can so that both he and his wife and his children honor God in all things, being conformed with the Word of God.
28So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself;
29for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church,
30because we are members of His body.
31FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND SHALL BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH.
This verse is not teaching that we are to love ourselves such that we are consumed with ourselves and our own esteem. The consistent teaching of the Bible and this passage is to esteem others more highly than ourselves. Paul is not saying to the husband to be just as consumed with his wife as he is with himself, for he is not to be consumed with himself. What Paul is saying is that the husband and wife are one flesh, so that when he loves his wife, he is actually loving himself as well. When the wife loves her husband, she is truly doing the best thing for herself as well because his body is hers and hers his. The husband and wife are one flesh. We are not to be consumed with ourselves; neither are we to hate ourselves, for self-hatred is another form of being focused on self rather than others. The message from Scripture is that we are to delight in the welfare of our spouse, and in so doing, we are taking care of ourselves as well. Christ nourishes and cares for the church, and the normal, common thing for humans to do is to take care of their own bodies, feeding them, grooming them, exercising them, and so on. We look after our own bodies because they need looking after, not because we gloat in ourselves. If we do, we have a pride problem. The issue is that the plain and obvious reality is that people care about their own bodies, and they nourish and care for them. We are Christ’s body, and He nourishes us with His Word and cares for us in His grace and providence. The wife is the husband’s body, so when he cares for his wife, it is as if he is caring for himself. This is good because just as Christ cares for the church, His body, the husband should care for his wife, his body. The idea that when one hurts, the other hurts, and when one rejoices, the other rejoices is really important here. As one grows in the Lord, the other will be challenged to do so. It just makes no sense for a wife or husband to treat the other poorly, for such is damaging to themselves. They are one, and the best thing to do for themselves is to love the other. Thus, Paul quotes Genesis 2:24 to emphasize that the husband and wife are one flesh, one body, and one entity in God’s sight. Spiritually, there is a melding when a man takes a wife, and they must live as one, giving preference to one another in love.
32This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church.
33Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband.
When Scripture speaks of mysteries, it is speaking of things conceived in the mind of God that are not yet fully revealed to us. They exist or will exist, for God has planned them. Marriage, according to God’s divine insight and plan, is a picture of Christ’s union with the church. There will be a marriage feast of the Lamb at the close of the age (Revelation 19:9), and we, Christ’s bride, will be there to meet our Groom, Christ Himself. The details of this overwhelm our feeble minds, and we are not supposed to fully understand what this entails. We are, however, to believe it. It is a great mystery, that of Christ and the church, and we only have a slight insight into it. We know that it exists, and we know that our earthly marriages are to follow the example of Christ and His love for His bride, the church. The church is to respect and submit to Christ, and the wife is to submit to her husband. Christ loves the church with the greatest love ever known, and the husband is to imitate that love toward his wife. Yet how much more is hidden it that great mystery, we will have to wait until later to understand. God has given us enough for the present time to steward as we are to lead as husbands, submit as wives, prefer the other above ourselves, and love each other.
Paul sums up his commands in this passage by saying that husbands are to love their wives, being mindful that they are their own bodies given that they are one. Husbands can be neglectful of the needs of their wives, living as independent bachelors even though married and sleeping in the same bed under the same roof. The wife needs to be involved in the life of the husband and understand what he is doing, thinking, and experiencing. Otherwise, she feels distant. As the church, we want to have God’s mind and be sure of His heart, and thus we go to His Word to remember what He has told us. So, too, the wife needs to be able to regularly commune with her husband, and he must give her these times and opportunities. She is his body just as we are Christ’s body. One flesh is meant to be lived as one life, not two. Secondly, Paul summarizes his command to the wives to respect their husbands. Husbands are not as needy for affection as their wives are. However, they do need to know that their wives admire them, respect them, and appreciate what they do for them and for the family. They want to know that the wife is pleased with how they are leading and that she is thankful that they are. They want to know that they are treating their wives right, and they want to be encouraged and affirmed by their wives unto excellence in the Lord. They need to know that she is walking with them into wherever the Lord leads them. This submission is the ultimate respect just as involving the wife in the entirety of the husband’s life (time, energy, attention, direction, etc.) is the ultimate show of love for the wife.
The foundation of a great marriage is Christ and living as the one which he has made husband and wife to be.