Chapter five continues Paul’s admonition from chapter four. In Ephesians 4:32 he told us to forgive like God; in Ephesians 5:1-5 we are told to imitate God in every way, specifically in our love for one another. Connecting back to Ephesians 2:1-3 and Ephesians 4:19-20 (and reminiscent of Galatians 5:16-23), the believer’s life should not be characterized by sinful activities, because “these are not fitting for the saints,” who are to be living “worthily” of our calling (Ephesians 4:1). In fact, our future inheritance in Messiah’s kingdom will be based on our current lives, and sinful lifestyles will actually cause loss of inheritance in the future.
These types of sins continue to bring God’s wrath on unbelievers, so we should not wonder that there would be punishment for believers as well (Ephesians 5:6-14). Instead, we are to live as those enlightened by the light of the world, “trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.” This was Paul’s ultimate ambition (2 Corinthians 5:9). We are also to expose the darkness within the body in order to purify it.
This brings us to the climax of the second half of the letter – “Therefore be very careful how you live – not as unwise but as wise” (Ephesians 5:15-21). Rather than trying to create a rule for every situation (which, in fact, Paul repeatedly opposed; Romans 14; 1 Corinthians 8-10) or trying to find the exact “will of God” for every situation, Paul taught that the believer’s primary decision-making tool was God’s own wisdom. In wisdom we should make the most of the opportunities presented to us, know the will of God as revealed, and continually be submissive to the Holy Spirit. In this way we will live out the calling of love, building up the body.
The final section of this chapter best extends through Ephesians 6:9 and provides a series of six examples of what Christian relationships should look like when lived out in godly wisdom as described in the previous paragraph. Although these are not every possible relationship, they are the most important and most common relationships we will have: husband to wife, wife to husband, children to parents, fathers to children, slaves to masters, and masters to slaves. These last two have implications that work with employees and employers as well, even though they are not exactly the same.