Expository Sermon on Ephesians 5 and 6
by Maylan Schurch
Bellevue Seventh-day Adventist Church 12/10/2022
©2022 by Maylan Schurch
Please open your Bibles to Ephesians chapter 5.
Can you believe that this year is almost over? Here it is, December, and ever since January we’ve been traveling through the Bible looking for the heart of God, “Finding God’s heart.”
And as you know, I’ve been encouraging each of us to read through the Bible during this time. Some of you have told me that you have been doing this very faithfully, following the week-by-week plan you see in the bulletin, or in the sheet I gave you at the beginning of the year.
Of course, the Bible itself never tells anyone to read all its 730,000 words through in one year. There are many ways to read the Bible.
However, within the last couple of weeks as I’ve done my Bible reading, it suddenly struck me that, whether or not we’ve been following the plan, right now is the point in Scripture where we need to set eyes on these verses again.
And the reason for that is that we have come to the writings of Paul. Paul was writing to Christians who had come to believe in Jesus, and in pretty much the last chapter or so of each of his books, Paul gave some very detailed and specific how-to directions. Paul was writing to real Christian churches, with real-church challenges and struggles and sometimes misunderstandings. And Paul tells us specifically what to do about these. Paul tells us how to live as Christian people.
Whether or not you actually been following our Bible year plan, I would suggest that you finish out the year by reading these passages. Maybe start in the book of Romans, and go from there. And focus on the middle to last parts of each of these books. Because in those chapters, Paul is applying the gospel to our day-to-day lives.
As I say, Paul tells us how to “live” as a Christian. But he mostly doesn’t use the word “live.” He uses another word. It’s the Greek word peripateo, and it’s literally the word for “walk,” or “walk around.” In fact, “walk around” is probably a better translation.
The reason is that peripateo is actually a combination of two Greek words. Pateo is a word which means “tread” or “walk,” but as far as I could find out, pateo doesn’t show up in the New Testament. It’s an ancient Greek word which is probably where we got the English word “path.”
Which makes sense, if pateo means “to tread.” A path is made by a lot of people – or animals – trudging along the same straight-line route over and over again.
But that’s not the word Paul uses. He uses peripateo. The peri part means “around.” When you measure the perimeter of something, you’re measuring the distance around it. If you’re riding along in a submarine and you look through a periscope, you can swivel that periscope around and look in any direction you want to.
And peripateo (“walking around”) is the most common word for “walking” in the New Testament. In Matthew 4:18, when Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, He was “peripateo-ing.” He wasn’t simply trampling a straight path, He was walking around.
And here in Ephesians 5, Paul uses the word peripateo to talk about our walk through life. And he has some advice on how to do it correctly.
Because at the end of today’s service, as you walk out of the sanctuary, you’re probably not going to make a straight beeline for your car. Somebody will come up and talk to you, or you will see somebody you’d like to get to know better, and you will first go over and talk to that person. Then you’ll go out into the foyer, and spot somebody else. And then you’ll suddenly say to yourself, “I wonder how the kitchen renovation is coming along,” and you will shift direction again, and peripateo upstairs and check it out.
And then, of course, all through this coming week, you’ll be peripateo-ing here and there. In other words, you will be following the sometimes unpredictable paths life takes you. And in this chapter Paul has three important advice-principles for you. And each of them starts with the word “walk” –peripateo. So let’s find out what that “walking-around” advice is.
Ephesians 5:1 – 2 [NKKV]: Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love . . . .
Do you see where it says “dear children”? That word “dear” is actually “beloved.” (NIV says “beloved,” and so do ESV and New Revised.) “Beloved” has the Greek word agape in it, which is the same kind of love John 3:16 tells us that God feels toward the world.
And in the same breath, Paul tells us to “walk in love.” And there’s the word agape again.
So right now, let’s pause and lay down Sermon Point One, in case you’re taking sermon notes. Here in Ephesians 5, what is Paul’s first “walking instruction”?
Paul’s first “walking” instruction is to walk lovingly.
If you’re using the Andrews Study Bible, you’ll notice a little heading at the beginning of the chapter which says “Walk in Love.”
So what does Paul mean when he talks about walking in love? Is this some vague, theoretical statement? Or are there some specifics?
Paul gets really practical here. Let’s keep reading, starting with verse 1 again.
Verses 1 – 7: 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. But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them.
Did you sense a pattern here? First, Paul says “walk in love,” and that he gives examples of some very unloving things. Fornication, of course, is misusing sexual desires with someone you’re not married to. Covetousness can lead to fornication. Filthiness, foolish talking, and coarse jesting go right along with these problems.
And Paul makes it very clear in verse five that people who have these evils as part of their lives are simply not going to inherit the kingdom of heaven. In other words, walking in love – walking lovingly – in its truest sense is crucially important.
And remember that as we walk lovingly, we are peripateo-ing. We are walking around, going from this part of our life to the next part, and the next part. When we finally walk out the door after this service and head for our cars, we need to be walking lovingly.
Glance back at verse three. Paul insists that things like fornication and covetousness should not even be named among us. In other words, our behavior needs to be so consistently separate from these evils that nobody will ever even think of them in connection with us.
Growing up as a child, it never even entered my mind that my parents would commit adultery with other people. The way they behaved as they peripateo’d through their lives made sure that these issues would never even enter other people’s minds.
Now let’s look for Paul’s next “walking instruction.”
Verse 8: For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light . . .
“Light” is the Greek word phos, and it literally does mean “light.” In Acts chapter 9, when Jesus appeared to Saul of Tarsus on his way to Damascus, Acts 9:3 says that a “light” from heaven shone around him. That’s that same word. In Acts 16:29, the jailer in Philippi called for a “light” to be brought, and that’s that same word. In Matthew 5:14, Jesus tells His followers, “You are the light of the world. Don’t hide your light.” Same word.
So here comes Sermon Point Two:
If Paul’s first “walking” instruction is to walk lovingly, his second “walking” instruction is to walk brightly.
Once in a while, when I was a kid growing up on a farm in South Dakota, the power would go out, maybe because of a thunderstorm. It would be really dark. But somewhere mom would find a candle and some matches, and instantly the room would become less scary and more normal. You couldn’t really read by that candle unless you were close to it, but no matter where you were in the room, you saw that light, and if you needed to get up and walk across that room, you could do it. That light radiated out in every direction.
A few months ago I was in an REI store and saw a little flashlight with a bright light. It was small enough to keep in my pocket, so I bought it. And now, wherever I go, I have that light in my left front pocket along with my glasses case. It’s really helpful. For example, if I’m in a bookstore, by using that light I can very quickly read the titles on the book-spines.
So both Jesus and Paul insist that you and I need to be lights – that we walk brightly. What does that mean?
Well, again, Paul gives specifics.
Verses 8 – 13: For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret. But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light.
The NIV makes that last sentence clearer: But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for it is light that makes everything visible.
So what does this mean for us? What is this going to look like when we leave the sanctuary and eventually move into the upcoming week?
Well, if you have been a Christian for any length of time, you’ve discovered something. You have an influence on people. Of course, we all have an influence on people. If we are selfish, that is an influence. But if we have given our lives to Christ, and if we have given Him permission to work within us with His Holy Spirit, it shows.
There’s nothing quite as powerful as a consistent Christian life. I know that you could tell me stories about this happening to you, but I’m going to quickly tell you something that happened to me. Years ago I probably mentioned this in a sermon, but here it is again.
I don’t think you can consider me a vibrant, outgoing Christian witnesser. When I was a teenager, once in a while I would attend an Adventist youth rally, and it seemed as though they always got a certain kind of person as a guest speaker for those rallies. It would always be someone who was very outgoing, very humorous, and very capable of grabbing hold of someone and telling them about Jesus right to their face. Again and again we young people would hear how the speaker would be sitting next to someone on a plane ride, and by the time they got to Denver or wherever they were going, the speaker had converted his seatmate to Christ.
This was all very exciting, but it probably wasn’t the best way to put courage into the heart of a shy teenager. I mean, if that’s what it took to be a Christian, I was definitely a loser.
During my last couple of years of high school, I was homeschooling, and working full-time at Sunshine Dairies, and milk-bottling plant in creamery in Redfield, South Dakota. I was the youngest worker there, because the other kids my age were going to the high school a few blocks east.
And I never once shared my faith, at least in words. I just came to work at 6:30 in the morning, and stayed through till 5:30 or 6:00 at night, depending on when the work was done. When the guys told dirty jokes, I blushed. When they offered me cigarettes, I told them no-thanks. When they invited me to the local tavern with them, I said I didn’t drink.
What I didn’t realize was that by living according to Christian principles, I was still sharing my faith. I didn’t realize that until late one morning. It was a weekday, and break time had arrived, so we had gone upstairs to the break room.
The break room had three or four round tables in it, and I and the other workers were sitting at those tables. I don’t remember who was across from me, but I said something to him in a conversational way.
And suddenly, the room went dead silent. Everybody stopped talking. I glanced curiously around, wondering why everybody was so quiet.
And everybody was staring at me. Their eyes were wide and startled.
The last thing I ever tried to do was to be the center of attention, so I was very confused. I asked, “What’s wrong?”
Doug, the man who worked at the machine next to mine, asked, “Maylan, what was that you just said?”
I thought back to the conversation I was having with the person across from me, and repeated what I thought I’d said. And all of a sudden, everybody in the room burst out laughing. Doug said, “Oh. We thought you’d said something else.”
And then I realized that they thought I had said a swear word, or an obscenity, or something like that. And right then and there, I realized with a chill down my back that I was having an influence on them. And I’m sure that this was all subconscious with them. I’m sure that very few of them, and maybe none of them, spent their work hours pondering me or my behavior. They had just absorbed it as a fact that Maylan Schurch didn’t talk like they sometimes did, or didn’t do things they sometimes did.
So in some muted, low-key way, I was a light. I wasn’t the brightest light. I did not have a natural and tactful way of talking about the Savior. But I was having an influence.
And I saw this happen with someone else too. A guy named Craig, who was two or three years older than I was, came to work for a few months. He was a good worker, a cheerful guy, but you could tell that he was not a tavern-goer, or a smoker, or a drinker. He just came to work, was cheerful to everybody. He was having an influence. By simply living his life according to principles he’d been taught by his parents, and probably also by his church, he was a light.
So what do I do, now that I know this? I need to resolve to go into this coming week knowing that I am a light. I am having an influence, whether for good or for bad. And I need to be a good influence in my family as well as at my school or workplace. Because people, consciously or mostly unconsciously, are taking my spiritual temperature. It happens whether they know it’s happening or not.
But now let’s look for Paul’s third “walking instruction.”
Verse 15: See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise . . .
Paul’s first “walking” instruction is to walk lovingly, his second instruction is to walk brightly, and Paul’s third “walking instruction” is to walk wisely.
Again, what does Paul mean by this? He goes right on and tells us. He gives examples.
Verse 16: redeeming the time, because the days are evil.
So, what does that mean? Other Bible translations make this clearer. The NIV says “making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” The English Standard Version says, “making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.”
In other words, Paul says that part of walking wisely is to make the most of every opportunity. We need to peripateo through this world realizing that every minute is important. We don’t know how much time we have left. This doesn’t mean that we need to go somberly and gloomily through every moment of every day. We just need to treasure the time God has given to us.
Notice something else which will help us walk wisely.
Verse 17: Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.
Do you see what Paul is saying here? He is contrasting being unwise with understanding the Lord’s will. In other words, if you want to be wise, you need to understand life from God’s perspective. That’s why we need to stay in touch with our Bibles.
Earlier this month I was reading the Adventist Review, and I saw a short but breathtaking and challenging article by Adventist author and professor Andy Nash. Let me read you a little from it, and then I’ll give you the link when I put this sermon manuscript online.
Andy Nash writes:
“Last January I invited readers to a spiritual system shock: reading through the Bible in a month. The experience was life-changing, with testimonials pouring in and many participants “meeting at the text” nightly online to share together.
“Next month, January 2023, I invite you anew to this experience, with an update. Let’s read through the Bible chronologically (still keeping most books intact). After Genesis, we’ll read Job—since Job lived before Moses—and then Exodus. When we reach the kings, we’ll blend in the psalms, proverbs, and the prophets. After the Babylonian exile, we’ll meet up with Ezra, Esther, and Nehemiah (whom Esther might have, ever so possibly, babysat).
“On Day 23 we’ll delight at the birth of Jesus. And after the Gospels and Acts, we’ll read the New Testament letters in their likely sequence, culminating in Revelation.
“The key is to read without stopping. Read at dawn, at lunch, in free moments, and into the night. Enjoy an audio Bible while driving or making dinner. And if you miss a day or need to skim, don’t worry. You’re saved by grace anyway.”
And then he gives a link, and a schedule. I have half a mind to give it a try, for as long as I can keep it up. Anyway, check it out and see if you want to take part.
So what else does it look like when Paul urges us to “walk wisely”? Let’s do our own Andy-Nash-style skimming of the next few verses.
Verses 18 – 21: And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another in the fear of God.
In other words, Paul says, let your joy come not from a bottle or a pill or an injection or a cigarette-puff but from the Holy Spirit.
And then Paul mentions another principle of walking wisely. This is sort of a Christian minefield, and deserves a whole sermon to itself, but this principle is to submit.
Somebody says, “Wait a minute. I know where we’re going with this one. Paul’s going to tell us that wives need to submit to their husbands.”
Not quite. Look again at verse 21:
Verse 21: submitting to one another in the fear of God.
If you scan through this passage the Andy Nash way, you’ll see all kinds of submission – submission which doesn’t just go one way, but goes all ways. First, we are supposed to submit to one another. Then, the wives are supposed to submit to their husbands. But then—using many more verses than his advice to wives, Paul commands men to become like the ultimate Submitter—Jesus Christ. They are to treat their wives with the same delicacy and tact with which Jesus treated all the women in His life.
Over in Philippians 2, Paul spells out just how much of a submitter Jesus was—He submitted to becoming human, He submitted still further to being a servant, and submitted Himself still further to death, and finally to the most shameful possible death at that time—the death on a cross.
So I don’t believe any male has any right to expect submission from a woman unless and until he has fully partaken in the utterly submissive nature of Jesus Himself.
Jesus, of course, is Good Shepherd, leading His sheep where He knows it’s best for them to go. And if we follow Him, He will give us His nature and His heart of love.