Setting

Here, Paul asks that believers focus on God when living the new life. He contrasts the works of darkness with the works of light and urges the believers to live up to their status as children of light.

Key Verse

(5:8)

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Outline

  • God, the Role Model
    (5:1-2)
  • Warning against Continuing in the Works of Darkness
    (5:3-14)
  • Walking in the Light
    (5:15-21)

General Analysis

  • 1.

    List all the contrasts in this passage.

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    Filthiness, foolish talking, coarse jesting vs. giving of thanks; darkness vs. light; have fellowship vs. expose; fools vs. wise; unwise vs. understand; drunk with wine vs. filled with the Spirit.

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Segment Analysis

  • 5:1-2

    1.

    Suppose you want to imitate someone, what do you need to do? What steps should you take to be an imitator of God?

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    The first step in imitating someone is to get to know the person and study his every expression and action. In the same way, to be an imitator of God, we need to know God intimately through studying His word and observing carefully God’s nature. In particular, we need to study the life of our Lord Jesus and learn from His heart, attitude, speech, and actions. After knowing the person we imitate, we need to keep practicing in order to be a good imitator. Likewise, imitating God also involves constant practice. That is why we need to constantly train ourselves in godliness until we attain the full measure of the fullness of Christ.

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  • 2.

    The teaching of Christ is often role-modeled by Himself. When we seek to imitate Christ, we grow in the way best for human beings. Recall some occasions when Jesus set an example for us to follow.

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    To be baptized (Mt 3:13-17).
    Overcoming temptation (Mt 4:1-11; Heb 4:14-16).
    Prayer (Lk 6:12; 9:18, 28; 11:1; 22:32, 39-46; Heb 5:7,8).
    Humility (Mt 11:29; Phil 2:5-8).
    Love (Jn 15:13; Eph 5:2).

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  • 3.

    In another instance in the Bible, we are exhorted to take someone as a role model. Recall these verses and discuss their implications.

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    In 1Cor 4:16 and 11:1, Paul exhorts the Corinthians to imitate him as he imitates Christ. To those who have not seen Jesus personally, it is allowed that they imitate men of God but only insofar as these men of God imitate Jesus themselves. Thus leaders must set good examples so that the flock in imitating these examples may be brought along the good way (cf. 1Tim 4:12; Jas 5:10). Furthermore, followers must grow out of becoming followers of these men per se (cf. 1Cor 3:3-7).

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  • 4.

    What does verse 2 teach us about the meaning of loving others?

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    Loving others involves personal sacrifice.

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  • 5:3-14

    5a.

    As often occurs, the grace of God was misinterpreted by some in Ephesus as tolerance of sin in the church. Paul warns against being ‘deceived … with empty words’ (6). List the boundaries of behavior that a child of light should not transgress.

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    No fornication, uncleanness or covetousness (3). No filthiness, foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting (4).

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  • 5b.

    What is the consequence of the sinful deeds listed in verse 3?

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    Those who practice such sinful deeds will not inherit God’s kingdom (5).

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  • 6.

    The command in verses 3 and 4 concern our speech. Give some examples of the kinds of speech that are improper for Christians.

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  • 7.

    Give examples of how a believer may be “deceived with empty words.” In other words, in what ways can our mind be influenced?

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    The persuasion of our unbelieving friends; godless conversations; messages from the media; etc.

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  • 8a.

    What follows in verses 7 to 14 may sound contradictory at first. For example, Paul exhorts that the believers expose the unfruitful works of darkness but then says that it is shameful to even speak of the things done in secret. To begin to understand this passage, list what is required of the children of light.

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    Do not associate with those who walk in darkness and counsel that there
    is nothing wrong.
    Walk as children of light by following all that is good and right and true.
    Please the Lord.
    Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness but instead expose them.

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  • 8b.

    Now read verse 13 and 14. What is the purpose of exposing the unfruitful works of darkness?

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    So that the sleeper may arise from the dead. The clear teaching of the moral standards of God will alert the one walking in darkness to his impending destruction if he continues in that way. When he awakens and understands his predicament and sees his works as unfruitful and dirty, he will turn to the light and be saved (see 1Jn 1:6-8).

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  • 5:15-21

    9.

    How should we walk as children of light?

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    Not as fools but as wise (15; cf. Prov 2:6 15).
    Redeeming the time because the days are evil (16; cf. Eccl 9:12).
    Do not be unwise but understand what the will of the Lord is (17; cf. 1Thess 5:16-18).
    Do not be drunk with wine but be filled with the Spirit (18; cf. Eccl 10:16,17).
    Singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord (19; cf. Col 3:16).
    Giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of Jesus (20; cf. Col 3:17; Heb 13:15).
    Submitting to one another in the fear of God (21; cf. 1Pet 5:5).

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  • 10.

    Paul uses the word ‘but’ frequently in this passage. For example: not as fools but as wise. Why does he do so?

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    To contrast the way of light with the way of darkness. The Christian is constantly reminded that light and darkness are very different. Though man may often say that there are grey areas and so justify a walk in the dark, Christians must remember that ‘God is light and in Him is no darkness at all’ (1Jn 1:5). Thus to walk in the dark is seldom a walk on the boundary of light and darkness but is often an act totally contradictory to the light.

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  • 11.

    Why is it important for Christians not to waste time but manage it well?

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    Paul exhorts us to redeem the time because the days are evil (16). In this world, we are surrounded by godless values and lifestyles. The devil hopes to take our time away by luring us with pleasure and wealth. If we do not carefully use our precious time to serve the Lord, we will easily waste our lives away by living the lifestyles of unbelievers and go after the material pursuits of this world.
    We also need to make good use of our time to prepare ourselves for the Lord’s coming. Note that in this passage, redeeming the time is an act of wisdom. We cannot afford to be like the foolish virgins in Jesus’ parables, who did not spend the time to prepare oil in their lamps (cf. Mt 25:1-13). Instead, we need to be like the wise virgins and prepare ourselves for the Lord’s coming by constantly seeking the Spirit’s fullness and carrying out the Lord’s will.

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  • 12.

    Why is being drunk with wine placed in contrast with being filled with the Spirit?

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    Being filled with the Spirit means finding fulfillment and joy in the Holy Spirit. On the other hand, being drunk with wine represents indulging in sensual pleasures. Therefore, here is the contrast: A spirit filled person finds joy in doing the will of God, but a drunkard finds pleasure in the material. A spirit-filled person is sober and wise, making good use of his time, but a drunkard is foolish, wasting his life away in meaningless indulgence.

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  • 13.

    What can we learn from verses 19 and 20 about the heart of a Christian?

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    A believer’s heart should always be filled with the word of God, praise, joy, and thanksgiving.

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