The closing words of chapter 4 enforce upon us the obligation to
kindness and forgiveness which rests upon all saints, inasmuch as we
have been forgiven of God for Christ's sake. The opening words of
chapter 5 carry this thought a step further and a step higher. Not only
have we been forgiven but we have been introduced into the Divine
family. We are children of God and beloved by Him. Hence as dear
children we are to be followers, or imitators, of God.
The imitation enjoined is not artificial but natural. Here are
children playing in the market-place. They hold an imaginary court.
This little maiden, arrayed in cheap finery, is impersonating a queen.
She imitates queenly manners as best she can, but it is all very crude
and artificial. There however is a small lad, minutely observing his
father. Presently friends are smiling at him and observing how very
like his father he is. His imitation is largely unconscious and wholly
natural, for he is the son of his father, possessing his life
and nature. Now it is as children of God that we are called upon to be
imitators of God.
We are to walk in love. This is not natural to us as the children of
Adam, but it is natural to us as born of God, for God is love. Walking
in love is thus simply the manifesting in practice of the Divine
nature. Hence it adds, "as Christ also hath loved us," since in Christ
the Divine nature was seen in all its fulness and perfection. In His
case moreover love led to action. He gave Himself for us in sacrifice
to God. In this of course He stands alone, though we are to love even
as He loved. He was the true burnt offering, the Antitype of Leviticus
Now love of the true and divine sort is altogether exclusive of the
evils that spring from the flesh. Hence these things are to have no
place amongst saints, indeed they are not to be even named among them.
Things like those specified in verse 3 appeal to instincts deeply
rooted in man's fallen nature, and we do well not only to avoid the
things but also the contamination that is induced by thinking about
them. We cannot talk about them without thinking of them, even if we
condemn them in our talking. Therefore let us not talk about them. Nor
let us allow our talk to descend to the level of foolishness or
jesting. A Christian is neither a fool nor a jester, so let us not
appear either in our conversation. Thanksgiving is what becomes the
lips of those who are forgiven and become children of God.
The firm and decisive way in which the Apostle draws the line in
verses 5 and 6 is very remarkable. The kingdom of Christ and of God is
characterized by holiness. The unholy are outside that kingdom and
subject to the wrath of God. There was to be no mistake about this, for
evidently then as now there were those who wished to blur this sharp
distinction and to excuse unholiness. Other scriptures indicate that
one who is a true believer may fall into any of these sins, but no true
believer is characterized by any of them. No one characterized by such
sins is to be regarded as a true Christian whatever they may say or
The true believer's attitude towards such is to be regulated by
this. Whatever be their profession they have no part in the kingdom of
God, and therefore we who have an inheritance in the kingdom can have
no part with them. This is what verse 7 so plainly states. Notice too
that the last word of that verse is them. We are not only to avoid the sins, but also to avoid all participation with the sinners. The
persons as well as the evils are to be avoided. The difference between
us and them is as great and distinct as that between light and darkness.
Once we were darkness ourselves. In this fact lies our danger, for
as a consequence of it there is that in us which answers to the appeal
of the darkness. Therefore the less we have to do with the darkness the
better- whether as regards the practices of darkness, or as regards the
people who themselves are darkness and consequently practice it. We who
believe are light in the Lord and as a result intolerant of darkness;
for as it is in nature so it is in grace. Light and darkness cannot
exist together. If light comes in darkness vanishes. Light and darkness
mutually exclude each other.
Being light in the Lord we are to walk as children of light. We are
to be in practice what we are in actual reality. Let us carefully note
this for it is a feature of the exhortations of the Gospel. The Law
demanded of men that they should be what they were not. The Gospel
exhorts believers to be what they are. Yet the fact that we are so
exhorted shows that a contrary principle is in existence. It infers
that the flesh with its tendencies is still within the believer. As the
flesh is held in check and quiescent, what we really are as God's
workmanship shines out.
Verse 9 explains what will shine out, for the correct reading is
not, "the fruit of the Spirit," but, "the fruit of the light." Three
words sum up that fruit-goodness, righteousness, truth. The
opposites-evil, iniquity, unreality-should be entirely shut out of our
lives. Walking thus as children of light we prove what is pleasing to
God: prove, that is, not by a process of reasoning, but by experience
of a practical sort. We put things to the test, and thus learn
experimentally for ourselves.
The believer's life therefore may be summed up as bringing forth the
fruits of the light, since he is a child of the light, while
maintaining complete separation from the unfruitful works of darkness,
for he is no longer of the darkness. Indeed he is to go even further
and reprove them. This word, reprove, occurs again you will notice in verse 13. The meaning of it is not exactly, admonish or rebuke, but rather, expose. It
is to expose, as by light, the true character of the works in question.
If a believer shines out in his true character, his whole life will
have that effect, just as in supreme measure his Master's did.
Nevertheless of course there may be many occasions when words of rebuke
The passage we are considering puts a very solemn responsibility
upon us. It is just here that friction and trouble with the world
begin. People do not usually object to the kindly side of Christianity:
gracious words and gracious actions meet with their approval. The
trouble begins when holiness is maintained. And holiness, as these
verses show, demands no fellowship with evil-neither the evil-doers (v.
7), nor their works (v. 11). When a believer walks the separated path
which is here enjoined, and manifests himself as a child of light, then
he must expect storms. It was thus in superlative degree with our Lord
and Master. "God is Love" has always been a far more popular text than
"God is light."
The peculiar quality of light is that it makes manifest all things
that come under its rays. The truth of things becomes plain, and hence
the one who does truth naturally welcomes the light, whilst he who does
evil hates the light and avoids it. God is light in Himself; believers
are only "light in the Lord," just as the moon is only light
to us, in as far as its face is in the light of the sun. Therefore it
is that we, like the moon, must abide in the light of our great
Luminary, Christ Himself. This is very plainly indicated in verse 14.
This verse is not a quotation from the Old Testament, though it is
probably an allusion to Isaiah 60: 1. We very easily fall victims to
spiritual sleepiness, since the influences of the world are so
soporific. Then we become like men sleeping amongst those dead in
trespasses and sins. We are the living and they are the dead, and there
should normally be the sharpest distinction between us. If we sleep
amongst the dead we all appear very much alike. The call is to awake
and arise that we may be in the sunshine of the Christ. Then it is that
we are clear of all fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness
and, being luminous ourselves, the fruit of the light is manifested in
Our walk and behaviour then is to be marked by wisdom-the wisdom
that seizes every opportunity of serving the Lord on the one hand, and
of gaining an understanding of His will and pleasure on the other. The
very essence of good service is, not merely that we accomplish work,
but that what we do is according to the will of the One, whom we serve.
The fact is that for this, as for all else enjoined upon us here, we
need to be filled with the Spirit.
Each of us, who have believed the Gospel of our salvation, has
received the gift of the Holy Spirit, as we saw when considering Eph.
1. It is another thing however to be filled with the Spirit, and the
responsibility as to it is left with us. We are exhorted to be filled,
which plainly infers that we are not filled-at all events at the moment
when the exhortation is given.
The Spirit-filled believer is the subject of an extraordinary
uplift. He is carried clean outside himself, centred in Christ, and
enabled for the service of God in a power which is more than human. The
man who is drunk with wine is carried outside himself in a way that is
wholly evil. By the Spirit of God we may be carried outside ourselves
in a way that is wholly good.
We get instances of the disciples being filled with the Spirit in
Acts 2: 4; Acts 4: 8; Acts 4: 31; Acts 7: 55; Acts 13: 9. These
references lead us to think that the filling with the Spirit was an
experience of rather an exceptional nature even in the earliest
apostolic time. Still it is most evidently set before us in our chapter
as something to be desired and aimed at by every Christian.
It is not only an obligation but also a very wonderful privilege. To
be filled with One who is a divine Person, can that be a negligible
thing? It means that He has a complete control. If we take the
exhortation to heart we shall naturally ask-How may I be filled? What have I to do in order that I may be?
That is no small question. We may at least say this; that it is ours
to remove out of the way all that hinders. The Spirit of God is holy. Moreover,
He is sensitive. We may easily grieve Him, even by things that we allow
without a bad conscience. Correspondingly we may easily be preoccupied
with things that we consider quite harmless, and yet being pre-occupied
there is not the room for Him to occupy us. A good many "harmless" things will have to go out of my life and yours too, if we are to be filled with the Spirit.
The fruits of being filled with the Spirit follow in verses 19 to
21. The heart is filled with gladness which finds a spiritual outlet in
song. There is a glad acceptance of all things-even adverse
circumstances-with thanks-giving to the Father, in the name of the Lord
Jesus Christ; and as to our relations with one another the spirit of
yieldingness and submission, whilst always maintaining the fear of God.
Our submission to one another must not be at the expense of true
subjection to Him.
All these detailed exhortations, which have continued from Eph. 4:
17, have been applicable to all believers. Now we have the special
exhortations, and with verse 22 the apostle turns to the wives. To them
the exhortation is comprised in the one word, Submit. This
flows naturally out of the general exhortation to submission in verse
21. The difficulty about submission is that it entails the
non-assertion of one's own will. But clearly enough in the economy of
things, divinely established, for this world, the subject place is
allotted to the wife. Her place is typical of the position in which the
church stands to Christ. Just as Christ is "Head of the church," all
authority and directing ability and power being vested in Him, so the
husband is "head of the wife."
Alas! in practice through the centuries, the church (as a professing
body) has got far away from its true position. The church "is subject
unto Christ," according to the Divine plan: it has been very insubject
in its actual behaviour. It has acted for itself, and legislated as
though it were the Head and not the body. Hence the confusion in church
circles, so manifest on every hand. When the wife, even the Christian
wife, sets aside the authority of her own husband, trouble ensues in a
The wife may however urge that she has a very awkward and
incompetent husband! Too often indeed so it is. But the remedy for that
is not the overturning of the Divine order. The church certainly has no
such excuse, for it has an absolutely perfect Head; who is not only
Head to the body but Saviour also.
Because the human husband, even the believing one, is frequently very imperfect, and always somewhat imperfect, an even lengthier exhortation is addressed to him. In one word his duty is love. It
is easy to see that if the husband yields to his wife the love which is
her due, she will not have much difficulty in yielding to him the
submission which is his due. Obviously the greater responsibility is
placed upon the shoulders of the husband. He is to love, and she is to
submit; but the initiative rests with him.
When we turn from the responsibility resting upon the husband, which
is the type, to the antitype, which as ever is seen in Christ, we find
ourselves in the presence of perfection. The initiative indeed was with
Him, and He has taken it in a most wonderful way. He not only loved the
church but gave Himself for it. Moreover He has undertaken its
practical sanctification and cleansing, and ultimately He will present
it to Himself in glory in a perfection which is absolutely suitable to
The giving of Himself for the church took place in the past: it
involved His death and resurrection. The sanctifying and purifying, of
which verse 26 speaks, is proceeding in the present by means of the
Word. The cleansing here spoken of is by water, be it noted,
not by blood. The distinction is an important one. The Blood indeed
cleanses, as 1 John 1: 7 declares but that is in a judicial sense. The
Blood absolves us from guilt, and thus cleanses us in the eyes of the
great Judge of all. The water of the Word cleanses us morally; that is,
in heart and in character, and consequently in all our ways. This
present washing of the church by the Word is taking place of course in
the hearts and lives of the saints, of whom the church is composed.
The presentation of the perfected church will take place in the
future glory. It will be Christ's own gift to Himself! It will be all
His own workmanship; for He loved, He gave Himself, He sanctified, He cleansed, and, as verse 29 adds, He nourished, He cherished, and finally He presented to Himself. A
most wonderful work, and a most wonderful triumph, surely! Let us keep
this aspect of things well in view, especially when cast down by
present difficulties in the church, and painfully conscious of its
Now all these facts as to Christ and the church are to shed their
light upon the relations between the Christian husband and wife. The
marriage relationship is consequently set forth in the highest possible
light; in a light altogether unknown to believers of Old Testament
days, which accounts for the fact that many of them freely practised
things which are wholly disallowed for us today. We are to walk in this
light, and consequently the Christian husband is to love his wife as he
loves himself- no mean standard that!-and the wife to reverence her
Briefly observe three further points. First, this mystery concerns Christ and the church Not a church;
no thought here of a local church, nor of any number of local
assemblies. It is the church, one glorious body, and the church not
viewed as a professing body, but rather as that elect body which is the
fruit of Divine workmanship.
Second, the thought of the body comes in here; for we, who
constitute the church, are spoken of as "members of His body." Yet the
main thought of the passage is that of the wife, for the church's place
is set forth as the pattern for Christian wives. We point this out
because sometimes the fact of the church being the body of Christ is
emphasized in order to maintain that it therefore cannot be in the
place of the bride or wife. The fact is, as this passage indicates,
that the church holds both positions.
This is made yet more plain by the third thing we point out. God's
original creation of Adam and Eve was ordered in view of Christ and the
church, as verses 28 to 32 show. Now Eve was Adam's wife, but she was
also his body, being built up from one of his ribs. Adam's rib has no
doubt provoked a good deal of sarcastic merriment amongst unbelieving
modernists, who call themselves Christians. Yet here the fact
concerning it clearly underlies the argument. It is nearly always thus.
There is a new Testament allusion to the ridiculed Old Testament story.
You cannot scrap the one without scrapping the other, if you add mental
honesty and integrity to your modernism. We whole-heartedly accept both.