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Living as Children of Light May 20, 2012

Posted by flashbuzzer in Books, Christianity.
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Here are my thoughts on Ephesians 4:17-5:21.

Summary: As the Ephesians are called to be perfect as Christ is perfect, Paul begins by invoking Christ as his witness – exhorting them to not walk according to the Gentiles’ thoughts and actions, as the Gentiles’ intellect and feelings are characterized by folly. This stems from the fact that the Gentiles’ intelligence is darkened and so they are ignorant, causing their hearts to be hard; thus, they are strangers to the life that flows from the Holy Spirit. Since the conscience of a Gentile does not restrain them, they surrender to sensuality and covetousness.

On the other hand, Paul reminds the Ephesians that their knowledge of Christ does not cause them to walk according to the Gentiles’ thoughts and actions. He assumes that they have heard the voice of Christ and have been taught – in union with him – according to true religion. These teachings included an exhortation for each of them to:

  • put off their corrupt nature which tends to destruction via the deceit of indwelling sin
  • allow God to renew their inner life
  • put on their new nature, which is renewed in God’s image.

This new nature consists of justice to one’s neighbors and piety towards God.

Paul then exhorts the Ephesians to:

  • not deceive their fellow believers
  • neither sin if they are angry by cherishing their anger nor allow Satan to take advantage of their anger
  • not steal – especially those among them who had been thieves – but perform honest labor to help others.

Paul also exhorts the Ephesians to:

  • not use putrid words – which offend the Holy Spirit, who secures their final salvation – but speak to 1) edify others when needed and 2) profit those who hear them
  • lay aside everything that corrodes their minds and hurts the feelings of others
  • neither 1) let their minds harbor passion nor 2) manifest that passion
  • lay aside all kinds of malevolent feelings – but 1) be useful to others and show pity to them, and 2) forgive each other because God freely forgave them in Christ.

Next, Paul exhorts the Ephesians to imitate God – as He is love – and walk according to love, as He has adopted them into His family. This stems from the fact that Christ loved us; moreover, His death was a sacrifice made for us to propitiate God.

Paul then exhorts the Ephesians to:

  • avoid all of the sins of uncleanness and greed, as these sins are inconsistent with the fact that they are Christians who are set apart for God’s service
  • avoid vile or disgusting words and actions, along with frivolous speech which is unbecoming of Christians – but express their joy in praising God.

Indeed, they know that no one who indulges in the sins of uncleanness and greed – as greed is idolatry – will enter the kingdom of Christ. They should not be deceived by words that lack truth, as God will 1) withdraw the Holy Spirit from those who trust in them and 2) allow them to have evil minds. Given these penalties, they should not join those who commit these sins.

Paul bolsters this exhortation by reminding the Ephesians that they were ignorant, polluted and wretched; now they are enlightened, sanctified and blessed due to their union with Christ. Thus, they should live as those who are enlightened (since divine illumination produces moral excellence and proper religion) and determine how their conduct can be made acceptable to Christ. They should neither delight in nor participate in the evil works which stem from ignorance of God, but they should reveal the vile nature of these works. Indeed, these works are so evil that they are committed in darkness – yet when their vile nature is revealed via the application of divine truth, they are corrected. He then supports this point by quoting from the Old Testament, where it is noted that those who are in spiritual darkness can live by the application of the divine truth that flows from Christ.

Next, Paul tells the Ephesians, who are enlightened, to:

  • walk strictly by rule – not as those in darkness but as those who are enlightened
  • seize every chance they have to do good, as sin abounds in the times they live in
  • not be senseless – but discern the will of Christ
  • not be under the influence of wine, which leads to destruction – but let the Holy Spirit control their thoughts and actions
  • exchange their thoughts and feelings when they gather to worship, via singing 1) sacred poems that are either found in the Psalms or are based on the Psalms, 2) songs of praise to God and 3) songs that express spiritual thoughts and feelings
  • make music with their voices and with instruments to Christ
  • perpetually give thanks – by the authority of Christ – to God for all of the spiritual blessings that they have received.

Paul concludes by exhorting the Ephesians to be subject to each other out of regard for the will of Christ and a desire for His glory.

Thoughts: In verse 24 of chapter 4, we see that every believer is called to put on their new nature that is created in God’s image. Hodge offers some intriguing thoughts on this point:

Knowledge, and consequently righteousness and holiness, were immanent in the first man, in the same sense as his sense of beauty and susceptibility of impression from the external world were there. He opened his eyes and saw what was visible and perceived its beauty; he turned his mind on God, perceived his glory, and was filled with all holy affections.

This is an interesting point in that Adam possessed “righteousness and holiness.” After reading it, I wondered: if Adam was oblivious to the concept of sin when he was created, can it be said that in his “pre-Fall state,” he possessed the same type of righteousness and holiness that will characterize believers in heaven? Can one be truly righteous and holy without understanding the concepts of guilt and pollution? I am assuming that in the next life, believers will be more enlightened than Adam and Eve were during their stay in the Garden of Eden. I wish that Hodge could have addressed this issue.

Paul’s main exhortation in this passage is for the Ephesians to “live as children of light,” i.e. they should live as enlightened people. Hodge offers some thoughts on this point in his commentary on verse 8 of chapter 5:

As light stands for knowledge, and as knowledge, in the scriptural sense of the word, produces holiness, and holiness happiness, so darkness stands for ignorance, and such ignorance inevitably produces sin, and sin misery…The exhortation is that they should walk in a way consistent with their character, as people illuminated and sanctified by their union with the Lord Jesus.

This reminds me of 1) the seal of my alma mater and 2) the motto of my alma mater – “the truth shall make you free” – which is ostensibly extracted from John 8:32. Now it turns out that in many secular institutions of higher learning, truth and light are inherently linked with understanding; moreover, the primary aim of their existence is to increase the amount of light that can be shed on the physical world. Yet most – if not all – of these institutions of higher learning will not acknowledge their Judeo-Christian roots. My hope is that by God’s grace, the time will come when the pursuit of light in the realm of science is understood as being compatible with the pursuit of Christ – who is light.

In verse 14 of chapter 5, Paul uses a quote to bolster his point that divine truth can bring people out of spiritual darkness. Hodge offers some illuminating thoughts on this point:

It is generally assumed that Paul here refers to Isaiah 60:1, “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.” Or as de Wette renders it, “Up, become light; for your light comes, and the glory of Jehovah rises over you.” The analogy between this passage and the apostle’s quotation is clear…There can, therefore, be little doubt that it was the language of Isaiah Paul intended to quote in substance.

One of the points that my pastor stresses in his sermons is that the original audience of the New Testament books knew the Old Testament quite well. So it is probable that the Ephesians, when reading this letter from Paul, would have immediately grasped the reference to Isaiah – though there may have been some debate regarding the precise verse in question. It is disappointing that many present-day believers – and unfortunately I cannot exclude myself from this group – are not well-versed in the Old Testament. We simply fail to notice and/or understand the meaning behind each of the Old Testament references in the New Testament. On a positive note, I am ready for the challenge of understanding more of these Old Testament references as they arise in the course of my reading.

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Comments»

1. Jordan-Constantine - May 24, 2012

I appreciate the way you provide substance as you go through Ephesians; there is much to mediate in all of Scripture. Also, the questions you raise on Hodge are great. I’m not good at finding critical questions of texts I read. What is the “Hodge” work that you are referring to here?

flashbuzzer - May 25, 2012

Thank you for your kind comments. I’ll be sure to check out your blog.

As for the work by Hodge that I’m using, it’s his commentary on Ephesians that was published by Crossway. The Amazon link is: http://tinyurl.com/6o83gef

2. Rules for Holy Living « Ringing In - October 20, 2012

[…] The analogous passage in Ephesians is Ephesians 4:17-5:21, which I’ve blogged about. Now in this passage, we see that the world does not know believers in the way that they will be […]


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