Ephesians 4v31-5v14 Our Christian Walk
March 27, 2012 2 Comments
Sermon preached on 25th March 2012
There are two main instructions in this passage:
2 walk in love (KJV)
8 walk as children of light (KJV)
The teaching in Ephesians 4v31-5v14 is very practical and down to earth. Our walk has to do with much more than what we do on Sunday. Our walk is our normal everyday experience. It is normal life, and to walk in love and as children of light 24/7 is challenging. Walking in love and light is not just for a special display, for example on Sunday. That is relatively easy. It is for wherever we walk: at school, at the post office, at the school gate, in the office, and even when we are on our own. This is what the passage is all about.
Sometimes when I come to God’s word, to preach, I feel quite inadequate, because I know I don’t live up to it. But I suppose if we did live up to God’s standards there would be no need for preaching. So I come to this passage, not as someone who has arrived, but as a fellow follower of Christ, and one who needs the help of the Holy Spirit as much as anyone else.
1. Walk in love [4:31-5:2]
In John 13:34-35 Jesus taught, A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.
Amazingly, this was the special badge given by Christ to his disciples by which they were to be known. The Greek philosophers were known for their great learning; the Jews were known for their commitment to religious rituals and their dress code; the Romans were known for their great strength. Christians however, were not to be known for any of these things. Rather they were to be known by their love for one another! Christians, as children loved by God, with One Father, redeemed by the same blood, going to the same heaven, were to love each other. This love would transcend racial, national, cultural and denominational boundaries – and perhaps the world would be a better place if we, as Christians, really lived up to this standard!
4:31 Paul lists six things which prevent anyone walking in love: bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, and malice. Let’s have a look at these.
Bitterness: bitterness is like a poison, which not only is toxic to us, but also to those around us, e.g. our family. Life can deliver hard blows and we cannot avoid difficult circumstances. These have potential to make us bitter, but we have a choice as to how we respond. Will we allow a bitter spirit to develop, or Christlikeness? We cannot walk in love with a bitter spirit.
Rage: this means an outburst of indignant passion; you feel like exploding, and you do. But this is not walking in love. Children can cause us to feel rage when they don’t do what they are told, but we must learn to discipline them properly rather than taking our rage out on them.
Anger: anger festering in our spirit is very destructive.
Brawling: the KJV uses the word clamour and it relates to the harsh cry of the raven. This is the person clamouring or demanding their rights – “I deserve this,” “I want my rights!” But this attitude is a real obstacle to a walk of love.
Slander: this includes belittling people, denigrating people, and saying evil things about people, especially behind their backs.
Malice: this is talking pleasure in doing injury to another Christian with words or in other ways. But Christians are such nice people! Is it really possible for Christians to have malice? Unfortunately, yes. What is even more humbling is to realise the potential for malice lies in each one of us. We are all sinners and have the capacity for such sins.
To walk in love we need to get rid of these attitudes. But how do we get rid of them? If I want to clear my house from rubbish, I throw it away in the bin, or take it down to the tip to get rid of it. Somehow it’s not quite that easy to get rid of sin from our lives. In fact the more we try to get rid of it, the more we fight it in our own strength, the worse it gets. I think the KJV captures the meaning of 31 better than the NIV:
Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you
Let it … be put away from you: the idea here is allowing it to be lifted from you. We need to allow the Lord to take away our sins. We have the ability to allow God to take way our sins, and in that sense put them away, get rid of them.
Then Paul then gives two supreme examples to follow.
First, be imitators of God. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as in Christ God forgave you.
How has God forgiven us?
- He has forgiven us fully, without holding back at all – and this is how we should forgive as well.
- He has forgiven us freely, willingly and without hesitation. God longs to forgive and is just waiting for us to want it! Do you long to forgive, or are you nursing your hurts.
Second, be imitators of Christ. 2 live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (NIV)
Much could be said about exactly what offerings in the Old Testament Paul had in mind. However the main point is that Christ demonstrated his love for us by offering himself as a sacrifice on the cross, and this was pleasing to God. We cannot atone for our sins or anyone else’s, but Christ has set an example of sacrificial love for us to follow.
2. Walk as children of light
8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light.
Walking in the light is a good balance to walking in love since it shows that walking in love doesn’t mean we tolerate evil. 3-4 gives examples of deeds of darkness which prevent anyone walking in the light.
3 has to do with sexual immorality and sensuality. Ephesus was dominated by the Diana cult and immorality permeated the city. Many of the Christians used to live this way, but now they mustn’t. Do you know the ethical standards Jesus set are higher than any other world religion? Jesus not only that adultery was sin, but also engaging in it in the mind. In Christianity the sexual relationship is for husband and wife in marriage. In the light of the advent of gay marriage this is very topical. Ephesians 5 addresses Christian marriage later in chapter 5.
We must realise that in the UK sexual immorality, sensuality, impurity etc has become the bread and butter of the society we live in. Newspapers revel in it; people feed off it; advertisers make the most of it; and people get up to shameful things – 12 for it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. However these things are inconsistent with Christianity and will prevent us walking in the light.
4 has to do with the use of our tongue. A sense of good humour is a gift, but it needs to be used in the right way.
5-7 gives a strong warning concerning these deeds of darkness: For of this you can be sure: no immoral, impure or greedy person – such a man is an idolater – has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no man deceive you with empty words, for because of such things the wrath of God comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them.
Can true believers fall into these sins? Yes! But their lives are not characterized by them, and they will seek forgiveness. The lives of believers rather are characterised by light and 8-14 gives four characteristics of light.
1. Light separates 8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.
This is like turning on a light in a room at night. It is like the account in Genesis 1 where God separated light from darkness. Before we came to the Lord we were spiritual darkness, but now the light of Christ has shone into our lives and we have become light in the Lord. So now walk in as children of light; be true to your new nature.
2. Light brings life 9 for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth.
This is like the light from the Sun which is needed for plants to grow. Plants can only grow and produce fruit with light. We must be exposed continually to the light of Christ to produce the fruits of Christlikeness in our lives – which consist in all goodness, righteousness and truth. This is why we need to read our Bible, pray and meet with other Christians regularly.
3. Light exposes 11 have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.
This is like shining a torch into a dark corner to see what’s there. But how are Christians actually to expose darkness? Do we sign a petition? Do we write to our MP? Do we tell people what they are doing is wrong? Do we speak out against evil and injustice in the world? We can do all those things. But more than any of those, if we are living in the light, our normal living will expose things in others. We can bring integrity and peace and so on into the workplace, and these will, at times expose darkness on others.
4. Light illuminates 13-14 But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for it is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said, “Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”
This is like streaming in through the window in the morning and waking you up. Paul perhaps has in mind the quote from Isaiah,
Arise, shine, for your light is come and the glory of the LORD is risen upon you [Is 60:1]
Or maybe Paul is quoting a hymn. But wherever he got these words from, he is addressing Christians, sleepy Christians! They need wake up so Christ will shine on them.
We don’t like to stand out from the crowd. It is easy to be like a chameleon and just blend in. But we are living in days when Christians need to stand out. Actually, these days I would say if you do not stand out you are not really living for Christ. It is time to wake up from your spiritual slumber, and Christ will shine on you – in your family, in you place of work, in fact everywhere you walk.