Yesterday I had the privilege of preaching Ephesians 5:7-21 in our series through the book of Ephesians. As we consider the life practical outworking of Christian doctrine into everyday life, Paul does a great job, over the course of three chapters, of laying out examples of what Christianity in action looks like. In this section of verses, we get a glimpse into three areas of the Christian life, all of which are vital.
Christian Life: A Life of Light in a Dark World
Christians are called to a life of light. As we live in a dark world where people enjoy the sins of the shadows, God has planned for us to shine the light into this world of sin. Paul explains that we were all darkness, but we are now light in the Lord. He does a good job of pointing to the past tense life and contrasting it with the present tense reality in Jesus. We are commanded to be distinct from the world.
Paul goes on to command the church at Ephesus to expose the unfruitful works of darkness. This work of exposing sin is not a pleasant experience for the Christian, because it will result in being labeled negative, narrow-minded, and various other choice descriptions. However, it’s obvious that light cannot be hidden. As we note from Matthew 5:14, as a city on a hillside cannot be hidden in the darkness of night, neither can a Christian be hidden in a world of darkness. With both life and lips, we are called to expose such sins.
Christian Decisions: A Call to Wisdom
Life is full of decisions, and we must make sure that we are exercising wisdom from God as opposed to worldly wisdom. The world’s wisdom will run contrary to God’s wisdom. Paul points to three specific areas where we must exercise wisdom:
- The use of time
- Pursuit of God’s Will
- The use of wine
In each of these areas, God’s wisdom is necessary. Time cannot be recycled, God’s will should not be confused with our own fleshly pursuits, and wine can lead to drunkenness which is debauchery. It’s essential to avoid missing the mark in any of these areas. Although wine was a common drink in Paul’s day, the mixture of alcohol content was quite different. Even children would drink wine in Paul’s day, because they would often mix it 20 parts water to 1 part wine. Paul points out that wisdom is necessary here.
The calling of the Christian is to be led by the Spirit of God. If we will make the best use of time, pursue God’s will, and avoid abusing wine — we must be under the constant control of the Holy Spirit as opposed to other things. The idea here in this text is to “be being filled” with the Spirit. The word in the Greek has in mind a passive process whereby the Spirit is working in the hearts of people who are simply living in submission to His control. We are called to position ourselves under the control and guidance of God.
Christian Worship: Led by the Spirit of God
As we are led by the Spirit of God, we will have a life of worship that honors Him. What does this look like in the life of a church? First, Paul points to the area of singing. Interestingly enough, we are called to address one another in our singing of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs as we make melody in our hearts. There is both a horizontal and vertical aspect to singing the gospel. Both are necessary and vital in the life of the church. This is an area where congregational music and the importance of it should be clearly seen from the pages of Scripture.
The vocabulary used here should not be chopped up and made too distinct. It’s difficult to separate the different types of songs that Paul is referring to here, but there are some notable differences. From Old Testament psalms to more festive arrangements used in worship, but the point is clear – the church was using different styles and different types of songs. We would be wise to do the same in our day as well.
This Spirit led worship leads us to a spirit of thanksgiving. We are reminded of our salvation as we sing the gospel. It causes us to think about how we were once darkness but now we are light in the Lord and this was not our own doing, it was the gift of God so that none of us may boast (Eph. 2:8-9). It should cause us to be thankful for the Spirit’s power to enable us to live the Christian life. We will likewise be thankful for the church and the value of such a gift to us as Christians.
Finally, Paul makes a point that we are to live in submission to one another. This is vital for the unity of the Spirit and the bond of peace to be present in the church. We are not islands. We are not lone ranger Christians. We are to be involved in a local, tangible, visible New Testament church as present, visible, and active members. We are to submit to Christ (John 14:15), to elders (Heb. 13:17), and to the church as a whole.
As you look at your life and examine yourself in contrast to Ephesians 5:7-21, do you see yourself as a true Christian? Is the fruit of the Spirit evident in your life? Do you constantly live as a rebel to Godly authority? Do you resist accountability among the church?