(But it’s not).
Something interesting to me is that now Paul gets into the heavy stuff. He’s talked about salvation and righteousness for everyone freely through Jesus; he’s talked about how the church functions to build itself up into the Bride, and now he starts talking about living right, walking the walk. From the end of chapter 4 through a fair chunk of chapter 5 (and really, on to the end of the letter,) he’s talking about right living. Let’s pick up in chapter 5:
Walk in Love
Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.
3 But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; 4 neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. 5 For this you know,[a] that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. 7 Therefore do not be partakers with them.
Walk in Light
8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the Spirit[b] is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), 10 finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. 11 And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret.13 But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light. 14 Therefore He says:
“Awake, you who sleep,
Arise from the dead,
And Christ will give you light.”
Walk in Wisdom
15 See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, 16 redeeming the time, because the days are evil.
17 Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.18 And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, 20 giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,21 submitting to one another in the fear of God. -Ephesians 5:1-21
There’s three parts to this: Love, Light and Wisdom. I used to think (a long time ago) that living right was totally up to me and that I was responsible for being sinless at least post-cross, if not pre-cross as well. What I didn’t get then was that being sinless was a free gift, and just because Jesus expects us now to use the gift He gave us doesn’t mean it isn’t still a free gift.
Let me explain with each part.
Look at verses 1-7; it’s about walking in love, and I believe it comes first not only because love is most important, but because everything else flows naturally out of love, which is why it’s so important in the first place! But it comes with a stern warning; if you live in disobedience you welcome the wrath of God. Of course, by now Paul’s talking to more than day-old Christians; we all want to live and act totally in love, right? But the best news is, if you understand what Jesus did, love is a natural response.
Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.
I don’t mean it’s a natural response like you ought to love because he did – I mean it’s a natural response like you can’t help but love like he did because you understand what his love did for you! Boom! The goodness of God does more than lead men to repentance; it leads them to act in the nature they were created in – love.
And again concerning walking in the light it’s the same story; we desire to walk in the light because Jesus’ light is burning in us. This isn’t a stern warning, it’s a somber reminder of the power living and creating right desire in us. We can live more and more purely daily by opening up new places to that light. And it isn’t a matter of inviting his light in all over again every day, but simply waking up and enjoying the Son-rise.
And finally, walk in wisdom. Be wise. How? By allowing the Holy Spirit access continually through thanksgiving, through worship.
“So,” you might ask, “What does this look like, exactly – on a day-to-day basis?”
Well, in my life it looks like remembering how far the love of Jesus went for me, reveling in that and allowing my love for other people to well out of that experience. It looks like continually going to God any time I feel that I’ve started to move toward darker corners of my mind, the continual reminder that that old man is just itching to get his hands on my will again. It means purposely praising – usually in the form of singing to him quietly throughout the day. This is all a part of what I usually refer to as staying rooted.
So what’s the problem? Well, it’s not that easy.
Yes! I want to love; more than anything else the continual desire to love rarely goes very far from me and it always brings me back because I remember why that desire is in me. I want to live right, I want to do right, I want to walk in the light and have a perfect life and not give in to temptations and always praise Jesus and worship Elohim Jehovah and never have a sin-natured thought or motive ever again and it’s a daily battle between desires!
But the thing is, it’s natural.
And since Jesus ransomed you, it’s more natural than sin-natural; the right side is winning your heart! You have good, Godly desires because you live in him and he is steadily living more and more in you! And as soon as I let in to those desires, my whole world flips right back around because I am rooted, and Jesus is still my Savior King.
The lie I think people (and I certainly do, too) is that after salvation, living right somehow becomes our responsibility to do. But the truth is, it’s only our responsibility to keep inviting, and then the Holy Spirit brings life and power and desire and Jesus’ very nature into our core being and now you tell me how you can stop yourself from doing right when you’ve got that living inside you!
I’d like to take a moment to bring to light something that seems to be a big fear to many people opposing the grace movement; that if we allow grace in excess in the church, sin will abound. And what’s important about the order here is that all this living right stuff already has the backing of free righteousness and a Gifted Church. Power and accountability, which brings with it the opportunity for encouragement from people walking the same road we are. Because the provision is there it makes so much more sense that Paul has said all this almost in an overtone of high expectation; not because he’s afraid the Ephesians are going to start to slip in greasy grace, but because he’s just finished showing them that they have the grace, power and the new-man nature from Jesus to live like this!
I don’t know what the Gifted Church’s role looks like here, but I’ll tell you this; there shouldn’t have to be this insecurity regarding grace in the corporate church.
So yes…staying rooted is hard. But when you get salvation, and when you get where the Church can come into play… I can tell you plainly it takes such a load off my shoulders to know that I don’t have to worry so hard about trying to be right, because living right is less about trying to change what you do naturally because of what you know about Jesus, and more about letting what you know about Jesus naturally change what you do.