Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. ~ Eph. 5:17, ESV*
Chapter five is a hard read. You might even want to go back and skim through the rest of the book, before you dive into chapter five this week. I say that because if we just read it verse by verse out of context with the whole book, we may feel led to go through the field ripping out every weed we see.
Remember the Truth
If we instead read chapter five in context of the whole book, our reaction may look a lot different. Let’s remind ourselves of a few of the truths Paul’s already told us:
- “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the the heavenly places.” ~ Eph. 1:3
- “That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your heart enlightened…” ~ Eph. 1:17-18a
- “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience– among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” ~ Eph. 2:1-3
- “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved–” ~ Eph. 2:4-5
- “Remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” ~ Eph. 2:12-13
- “This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel…This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord,” ~ Eph. 3:6, 11
- “So that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith–that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge…” ~ Eph. 3:17-19a
- “In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. ” ~ Eph. 2:22
- “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love,” ~ Eph. 4:1-2
Now Let’s Begin
Those truths are essential to understanding Paul’s instructions in chapter five. He even begins chapter five by referring back to them.
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. ~Eph. 5:1-2
After this reference to the beginning to the book, Paul writes a long list of everything that brings God’s wrath (5:6) and instructs us to to “not associate with them” and to “take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them” (5:7 and 11). These instructions sound pretty harsh, but they are cradled in other instructions that slow us down and still our hands and our mouths.
Give Thanks and Seek Wisdom
During the listing and admonishing, twice Paul tells us to give thanks (5:4, 20). Paul’s instruction to give thanksgiving seem to be as a practical way to “put on the new self” (4:24) in order to fill the void left by removing the old self. This idea seems especially true since he says, “Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let here be thanksgiving.” (Eph. 5:4)
If we don’t consciously fill the void left by sin, something will fill it, and here Paul is suggesting we fill it with thanksgiving to God. Filling the void in this way, will continually remind us where we came from and whom we’re dependant on as we go on to help others.
He also tells us twice to seek wisdom. He writes “see what is pleasing to the Lord” and “understand what the will of the Lord is” (5:10, 17). His instruction to seek out God’s will seems to be to slow us down before we go off to rip out all the weeds (sin) that we see. He’s essentially saying, “Yes, you need to expose sin and not let it continue unchecked among you, but as you shine God’s light on it, remember your own sin you need to currently take off and remember the sin you were saved from. Remember how God loves you and is patient with you. Remember.”
Did you ever see Christ hamstring a sinner? Me neither. Did you ever see him call a prostitute, or drunkard, or thief, or adulterer out of the crowd and make an example of them? I didn’t. Instead, those whom he was hardest on were those who were hardest on others. Often those were religious leaders who pretended to be something other than what they were, but even then he still loved them. He still longed to be reconciled to them.
So as we embark on our weeding, we need to begin with ourselves. Exposing the “unfruitful works of darkness” within our own hearts. Then as we live with each other in the body and see a sin in another, we need to tend to it with the utmost care as a skilled brain surgeon. First heap on the love, then speak the truth. By all means kindly, lovingly stop crude jokes and foolish talk when you hear them. Yes, talk to the person whose beginning to wander and may commit adultery. Yes, even lovingly address those whose relationships with their families don’t match those that you see with others. You may get told to mind you’re own business, but you might also just save a marriage and a family.
As we go, we need to above all cover it all in prayer and seek Jesus. Seek to intimately know how he interacted with sinners. Sinners beginning with us.
*All verses are taken from the English Standard Version