Read: Eph 5:1-21
Comments on Eph 5:1-21: This passage opens with a call to be “imitators of God.” This is made more specific in terms of living “in love” which is made even more specific in terms of sacrificial love of which Christ’s atonement is the example.
In the midst of more admonitions to desist from an impure and greedy lifestyle Paul also prescribes positive preventive measures: avoiding association with those who practice such a lifestyle (5:7), being proactive in finding out what pleases God (5:10) and understanding his will (5:17), being filled with the Spirit (5:18), and by thanksgiving which is referred to both near the beginning of the passage (5:4) and at its end (5:20). The spirit of thanksgiving is a disposition in which impurity and greed cannot thrive and grow.
It was mentioned in Lesson #8 that in 5:14 we may have a quote from an early Christian hymn: “Sleeper, awake! Rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” This is most likely a hymn sung at baptism. Not only the wording suggests such a context of use, but it is surrounded by several other motifs associated with baptism such as the contrasting terms of putting off / putting on (5:22, 24); darkness / light (5:8-12); and death / life (4:18; 5:14). It was common for early Christian writers to remind their addressees of their baptism when admonishing them to keep on track away from behaviors of their former life and adhering to their new lifestyle in Christ (See Rom 6:1 ff.; 1 Pet 2:13 ff.)
Questions to think about: Among other things in 5:4 Paul singles out “vulgarity” as something to be avoided. Most of the humor in today’s media is heavily laced with, if not entirely built on vulgarity. What is the difference between acceptable earthy humor and vulgarity? Even Paul can be fairly earthy, as in Gal 5:12 where he expresses the sardonic wish that the knife would slip for those still insisting on circumcision as necessary for salvation!
Why does Paul admonish Christians not to associate with those who are into a lifestyle of impure behavior and greed? Isn’t this a form of social ostracism? Aren’t we supposed to be redemptive? And how can we be if we do not associate with such people? The NRSV uses “associate” but the Greek word summetoxoi has the sense of “sharing” or “participating” which makes a huge difference here.
Christians are not only admonished to desist from the “works of darkness” (5:11), but to even expose them instead. How does one go about this work of exposing? What are the dangers? When or how does social responsibility transition into muckraking?
How would one go about “understanding what the will of the Lord is” (5:17)? Looking for signs, interpreting and applying Scripture, consulting with other Christians who are tried and wise?
Is there any connection between the admonition to desist from getting drunk with wine mentioned just before the admonitions toand sing hymns and spiritual songs? What measures should one take when one finds oneself slipping from sadness and anger into depression? Is there a special connection between singing spiritual songs and being filled with the Spirit?