Ephesians 5


‘Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.’ Ephesians 5:1-2

If we want to follow God’s example, we must look to Jesus, Matthew 5:48 / Luke 6:36 / 1 Corinthians 4:16 / 1 Corinthians 11:1 / 2 Thessalonians 3:7-9.

Most children when they are growing up look to their father for an example, likewise as God’s children we must look to our Father to follow the example He set for us, 1 John 4:7-8 / John 13:34-35 / Colossians 3:12-14 / 1 Thessalonians 4:9. If we are truly God’s children we must love one another just as Christ loved the church, John 15:9 / Galatians 1:4 / 1 John 3:16.

In the Old Testament, animal sacrifices were metaphorically sweet-smelling to God, in other words, God could smell the obedience of His son in making the offering. As Christians, as we offer Him our sacrifices, this too is the smell of obedience, Exodus 29:18 / Exodus 29:25 / 2 Corinthians 2:14-15 / Hebrews 5:8-9.

‘But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore, do not be partners with them.’ Ephesians 5:3-6

Our lives as Christians need to be worthy of our calling and any sin must be rooted out of our lives. These sins must be dreaded and detested. Paul’s words aren’t only cautioning us against gross acts of sin, but they’re totally against what some may make light of. These things are far from being profitable, they pollute and poison the hearers.

Notice Paul says that these things shouldn’t be practised by Christians, spoken about or even thought about amongst Christians, Ephesians 5:11.

Sexual Immorality

The sexually immoral, ‘pornos’, are those people who practice illicit sexual intercourse, this refers to all sexual sin, Romans 6:13 / Galatians 5:19-21 / Ephesians 5:4-5 / Revelation 21:8. The people who practice this sin think only of themselves, they only think only about fulfilling their own sexual desires and pleasures, Matthew 5:32 / Matthew 19:9 / Acts 15:20 / Acts 15:29 / 1 Corinthians 5:1 / Ephesians 5:3 / Colossians 3:5 / 1 Thessalonians 4:3.

Anyone who practices sexual immorality won’t inherit the kingdom of God.


Impurity, ‘akatharsia’, are those who live an impure life. These were the Christians whose hearts and minds were filled with filth, Titus 1:15. In the Old Testament, they would be classed as being ceremonially unclean before God, Leviticus 7:19-21.

Anyone with an impure heart or mind won’t inherit the kingdom of God.


The greedy, ‘pleonektes’ were those who had a materialistic spirit, Romans 1:27-32 / Colossians 3:5-7. They were the Christians who were just interested in gaining more materials goods for themselves by any means, even if that meant hurting their neighbour in the process or ignoring other people’s feelings and needs, Ephesians 5:11.

Anyone who practices greed won’t inherit the kingdom of God.


Obscenity, ‘aischrotes’ were those who use course or obscene language. They were the Christians who used foul language and their conduct reflected their thoughts, Matthew 12:35 / James 1:19-21 / James 3:5 ff.

Anyone who uses obscene language won’t inherit the kingdom of God.

Foolish Talk

Foolish talk, ‘morologia’, were those who would speak using silly or senseless words. They were the Christians who loved to talk all the time without thinking about what they were actually saying, whatever they did say never made any sense to anyone, 1 Timothy 5:13.

Anyone who uses foolish talk won’t inherit the kingdom of God.

Coarse Joking

Course joking, ‘eutrapelia’ were those who loved to share filthy jokes. They were the Christians who wanted everyone to laugh, despite how crude their jokes were. They would often make fun of anyone in a sarcastic manner, they often put people down and had no respect for anyone, even religious people.

Anyone who shares filthy jokes or makes fun of someone at someone else’s expense, won’t inherit the kingdom of God.


Although the word ‘sexual’ isn’t mentioned first, it’s still the same Greek word, ‘pornos’, these are those people who practice illicit sexual intercourse, this refers to all sexual sin, Romans 6:13 / Galatians 5:19-21 / Ephesians 5:4-5 / Revelation 21:8. The people who practice this sin think only of themselves, they only think only about fulfilling their own sexual desires and pleasures, Matthew 5:32 / Matthew 19:9 / Acts 15:20 / Acts 15:29 / 1 Corinthians 5:1 / Ephesians 5:3 / Colossians 3:5 / 1 Thessalonians 4:3.

Anyone who practices sexual immorality won’t inherit the kingdom of God.


Impure, ‘akathartos’, are those who live an impure life. These were the Christians whose hearts and minds were filled with filth, Titus 1:15. In the Old Testament, they would be classed as being ceremonially unclean before God, Leviticus 7:19-21.

Anyone with an impure heart or mind won’t inherit the kingdom of God.

Greedy Person

The greedy, ‘pleonektes’ were those who had a materialistic spirit, Romans 1:27-32 / Colossians 3:5-7. They were the Christians who were just interested in gaining more materials goods for themselves by any means, even if that meant hurting their neighbour in the process or ignoring other people’s feelings and needs, Ephesians 5:11.

Anyone who practices greed won’t inherit the kingdom of God.

Those who allow themselves, either in the lusts of the flesh or the love of the world, belong not to the kingdom of God, nor shall they enter the kingdom of God. When the vilest transgressors repent and believe the Gospel, they become children of obedience, from whom God’s wrath is turned away.

Dare we make light of that which brings down the wrath of God? Sinners, like men in the dark, but the grace of God brought a mighty change in the souls of many.

The Wrath Of God

Now here’s a subject that a lot of preachers stay clear of and a lot of Christians don’t want to even think about. But whatever our views are concerning the subject, we can’t escape the fact that it’s mentioned throughout the Bible. The wrath of God has to do with evil and sin and God’s reaction towards it, Leviticus 26:14-21.

God cannot pretend He doesn’t see sin, He must move against evil and this Holy reaction is called ‘His wrath’. But we must never avoid or water down the subject of the wrath of God because it’s serious business to God and therefore, should be taken seriously by us, Romans 2:5 / Ephesians 5:6.

Now I don’t know about you, but many people today will be offended if we preach or teach on Scriptures like that, but the reality is that God will be even more offended if we don’t, 1 Thessalonians 1:10.

God’s wrath is coming and because God is holy He must give full vent to His anger against sin and evil. If He didn’t, He wouldn’t be the one the Seraphs call ‘Holy, Holy, Holy’ in Isaiah 6:3.

And that’s why we have the cross, when God searched for a way to save sinners, He couldn’t pretend He couldn’t see sin. He can’t say, ‘It doesn’t matter; I’m just going to forget about it.’ He’s got to react in His holiness against sin and that’s called wrath. On the cross, God poured out His wrath, His just wrath against all of our sins, by placing them on His sinless Son, our substitute.

The truth is this, God really is that holy and sin really is that big of a problem, and we cannot mute that truth to find favour with unregenerate sinners. God’s wrath is His way of moving and acting against evil and sin.

How can one be spared from the wrath of God at the judgment? In one word, the answer is Jesus, Romans 5:9. Through Jesus, Christians have the best life in this world, John 10:10. Through Him we can escape the horrors of hell, and, yes, it’s through our Lord that we live in hope of heaven.

While we recognise God’s wrath, we don’t live our lives in trembling fear. Why? Because Christ paid the ransom that sets us free from sin and delivers us from the wrath to come.

‘For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.’ Ephesians 5:7-11

It’s always helpful for Christians to remind themselves of where they came from, this helps us realise where we are now. Walking in the light should be the characteristic behaviour of all Christians, this becomes easier when we find out what pleases the Lord and the only way to find out what pleases the Lord is by spending time in His Word, Romans 12:2 / 2 Corinthians 13:5 / 2 Timothy 3:16-17 / 2 Peter 1:3 / Jude 3.

There is a contrast here because we are in the light, we should no longer partake in the unfruitful deeds of darkness. The result of living in the light is goodness, righteousness and truth, these are the fruit of the Spirit, Galatians 5:14 / Galatians 5:22-26.

The works of darkness are unfruitful, whatever profit they may boast; for they end in the destruction of the impenitent sinner. There are many ways of abetting or taking part in the sins of others, either by commendation, counsel, consent, or concealment but if we share with others in their sins, we must expect to share in their consequences. If we don’t expose the sins of others, by default, we have fellowship with them.

‘It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. This is why it is said: ‘Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.’ Ephesians 5:12-14

Paul tells us that a good man will be ashamed to speak about what the wicked do, a good man will be ashamed to speak of what many wicked men aren’t ashamed to do.

As Christians, we must have not only a sight and a knowledge that sin is sin, and in some measure shameful, but we must also see it as a breach of God’s holy law. After the example of prophets and apostles, we should call on those asleep and dead in sin, to awake and arise, so that Christ may give them light.

Some commentators believe Paul may be possibly quoting a hymn whilst others believe he is quoting from Isaiah 26:19. It was true back then as it is today, many Christians slip back into darkness simply because they’ve either forgotten where they’ve come from or enjoying the deeds of darkness once again. it’s those Christians who need to remember when they entered the light for the first time, Isaiah 60:1 / Romans 13:11 / Revelation 2:5.

Those who aren’t yet Christians, are dead in their sin but can come to life if they obey the Gospel, John 5:25. The point is that Christians through their lives should expose the sins to the light and wake up sinners so that they might be saved too.

‘Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.’ Ephesians 5:15-17

Paul urges his readers to think very carefully about how they live, and he urges them to use their time wisely, Matthew 7:24 ff. My dear mum used to say to me, ‘time gets faster as you get older,’ and that seems to be certainly true. Too much of our time is wasted doing unproductive things, and the reality is, we can’t get that time back.

Imagine if we knew we only had a little time left on planet Earth, how would we spend that time? I suspect that we would spend that time more productively, more wisely, James 4:13-14.

There are so many traps, which try to help us waste our time, television is one of them, that’s why there are so many soaps, reality shows and dramas on our screens every day. Wouldn’t it be sad if we look back at our lives and ask ourselves, what did we do with our lives and we answered, watched television!

Paul says ‘the days are evil’, which is a reference to the great persecution the church was going through by Nero and about to go through at the hands of Domitian. Paul says time is short, it’s so easy to waste time. Paul is advocating a disciplined, orderly and wise life.

He’s saying don’t have a childish way of doing anything but walk wisely and try to understand what God’s will is. The word foolish means without reason and there seems to be a lot of this in the world today where people do many things without any real reason.

Imagine a woman who always cuts off the end of a meat roast, imagine her children watching her doing this for years and so when they grow up, they do the same thing, they cut off the end of the roast meat. Then, one day, her mother saw her children doing this and asked them why they were cutting off the end of the roast meat. The children reply to their mother and say you always did that, that’s why we do it today. But the mother said that this was foolish, the only reason she cut off the end of the meat was because she didn’t have a tin that was big enough to hold the meat, that’s why she did it.

‘Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.’ Ephesians 5:18-20

Getting drunk on wine is the opposite of how Christians should live, instead, we should be filled with the Spirit.

How Can We Be Filled With The Holy Spirit?

When you read of the spiritual vibrancy in the life of the early church do you ever wonder, why is my life not like that? How can I live under the Spirit’s influence?

Conversion To Christ Is Something Amazing

We receive the gracious gift of forgiveness and the Holy Spirit as a gift from God. It is the Holy Spirit who then identifies us as God’s children and is the deposit guaranteeing our future inheritance in heaven. Without the Holy Spirit, we cannot belong to God. His is an essential ministry to all God’s people, Acts 2:38 / Galatians 3:14 / Ephesians 1:13-14 / Romans 8:9. Though every believer has been given the Holy Spirit, not every believer lives a Spirit-filled life.

The instruction to ‘be filled with the Spirit’, was written to those who already had received the Holy Spirit. Now, however, they were being instructed to display the presence of the Holy Spirit in their lives.

Several Points Need To Be Noted

1. The instruction to be filled with the Spirit isn’t optional, it’s not something we can take or leave, it’s imperative!

2. Unlike our conversion, which is unrepeatable, ‘we cannot be born again and again and again’, being filled with the Spirit is a continuous process throughout our lives. We are literally to keep on being filled with the Holy Spirit.

3. Being filled with the Spirit isn’t something that automatically happens to us, it’s something we’re responsible for appropriating as we co-operate with God, who is working in us.

We become filled with the Spirit in the same way one becomes filled with wine, by continually drinking. How this spiritual ‘drinking’ is done can be seen in two examples given by our Lord. He said, ‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled,’ Matthew 5:6.

How Do We Hunger And Thirst For Righteousness?

We all experience hunger and thirst and, even when we are exhausted, we will not rest until we have satisfied our cravings for food and drink. The point Jesus is making is this, we are to pursue righteousness, the doing of the will of God, with the determination of a person pursuing food and drink.

Only in the holy pursuit of God’s will can we be satisfied. This is why an appetite must be acquired for spiritual things. This is achieved by exposing ourselves to the will of God through our personal reading of his Word, Bible study and prayer.

Satisfying Our Thirst

The Lord discusses the Spirit-filled life in the Gospel of John, John 7:37-39, and Jesus invites the thirsty to come to Him and drink. But who are the thirsty and how do they drink? The thirsty are those who desire to live for Jesus, they want His will done in their life.

They desire to do the will of God on earth as it is done in heaven. They come to Jesus to ‘drink’ and from within them flows ‘streams of living water’. This refers to the power of the Holy Spirit at work in their lives. And though their intake is small, their output is like streams of living water flowing from them. This is the Spirit giving a super-abundant display of His presence in their lives.

We are filled with the Spirit to the extent that we allow the Spirit to influence our lives. We yield to the Spirit’s gentle movement in our hearts. We ‘live by the Spirit’, we are ‘led by the Spirit’, we bear ‘the fruit of the Spirit’ and we ‘keep in step with the Spirit,’ Galatians 5:16 / Galatians 5:18 / Galatians 5:22-23 / Galatians 5:25.

When we read what the Spirit wrote, hear what the Spirit says and do what the Spirit reveals, we are being filled with the Spirit, Revelation 1:11 / Revelation 2:7 / Colossians 3:16.

The Holy Evidence Of A Spirit-Filled Life

How would you know if a person is filled with the Spirit? What would there be about his or her life that would provide confirmation? The answer isn’t hard to find.

The early church needed to implement a programme to ensure that the material needs of the saints were being met. Seven men were appointed to oversee this work, they were men ‘full of the Spirit,’ Acts 6:3-4. How did the church know which seven to pick? They looked at their manner of life and saw the undeniable evidence of the Spirit’s influence in their lives. The Spirit-filled life cannot be concealed.

When you live a Spirit-filled life, ‘Christ will dwell in your hearts,’ Ephesians 3:17. The word ‘dwell’ refers to a place of permanent abode as opposed to temporary accommodation. Jesus speaks on the same theme, John 14:23.

The living Christ in our lives is Spirit-filled living, The Spirit-filled life isn’t an ordinary life, it bears all the marks of something extraordinary, something supernatural, it’s beyond natural explanation. Every believer should be actively pursuing a Spirit-filled life.

Paul continues and reminds us that Christians are to speak to one another in song, Acts 16:25 / Colossians 3:16. One of the reasons we have God’s Spirit within us is to help us use our vocals to simply pour out our praises to Him in song.


Psalms were songs that were sung with the sole purpose of praising God, this may include some of the psalms and melodies which we find written by David in the Book of Psalms.


Hymns may well be songs that were composed by the early Christians which focused mainly on thanksgiving for what God has done in their lives and their salvation.

Spiritual Songs

Spiritual songs were songs that were sung to encourage and edify the soul in worship, this was the means of teaching and admonishing one another.

Notice where this singing and music-making was to take place, in our hearts. The instrument for singing is our voices and Christians should sing heartfelt praises to the Lord. Notice also that our singing is directed to God, which implies that we don’t sing for entertainment purposes. God wants to be worshipped, John 4:24, not entertained.

Instrumental Music

Did you know that singing is only mentioned nine times in the New Testament? We have examples of singing individually, Matthew 26:30, the word hymn in this passage is actually the word hymning, which basically means they sang a lot of hymns from the Psalms, probably the Hallel Psalms which are Psalms 115-118.

We also have examples of singing as a congregation, Romans 15:8-9 and there are a few more examples we could read but we’re going to look at those later.

The first mention of any musical instrument in the Bible is found in Genesis 4:21, and the first mention of singing with a musical instrument is found in Genesis 31:26-27.

Wasn’t Moses commanded to make musical instruments? Moses was commanded to make silver trumpets but not for the purpose of music or worship, Numbers 10:2. What about David, didn’t he introduce musical instruments to Old Testament worship? 1 Chronicles 23:5. Didn’t God command the use of instrumental music in Old Testament worship? 2 Chronicles 29:25.

Remember that Moses no-where appointed any musical instruments to be used in worship, there was nothing of the kind under the first tabernacle and that’s because God didn’t ask for them. the above text is telling us that Hezekiah appointed the Levites in the house of the Lord, and David commanded the use of the instruments mentioned.

What did God command? He commanded through His prophets that the Levites should praise the Lord, but it doesn’t mean that the Lord commanded the use of the instruments.

It was by the order of David that so many instruments of music should be introduced into the divine service, 1 Chronicles 23:4-5. Here’s what Adam Clarke, the most renowned scholar of the Methodist Church, wrote about this text.

‘I believe that David was not authorised by the Lord to introduce that multitude of musical instruments into the Divine worship of which we read, and I am satisfied that his conduct in this respect is most solemnly reprehended by this prophet; and I farther believe that the use of such instruments of music, in the Christian Church, is without the sanction and against the will of God; and that they are ‘sinful’.

Yes, David introduced musical instruments into temple worship, but God didn’t ask for them. David also introduced the idea of building a temple for God, but God didn’t ask for one to be built in the first place, 1 Chronicles 17:1-6.

Musical instruments in worship were David’s idea, not God’s, building a temple for God to dwell in was David’s idea, not God’s. Why did God allow instruments in worship? One plausible answer to that question is that God permitted it, just like He permitted divorce because of the hardness of their hearts, and their spiritual immaturity, Matthew 19:8.

Now we could go to Revelation 5:8 and ask the question, are there harps in heaven? Perhaps there are and apart from Revelation being a highly figurative book, we need to remember that we’re dealing with the here and now, not the future. There are no examples or commands to use instrumental music in the New Testament, but the New Testament expressively commands us to sing.

The New Testament doesn’t explicitly condemn the use of musical instruments, but the New Testament doesn’t explicitly condemn praying to Mary or baptising infants, does it? We don’t go by the things that are not there in Scripture, we go by the things that are there.

Now we can’t say that any kind of instruments wasn’t available to the early Christians because there were, but Christians were directed by the Holy Spirit to use only their voices. They were commanded to pluck their heartstrings rather than plucking the strings of a musical instrument.

Around 600 years after the apostles had gone, Pope Vitalian introduced an organ in the Latin Church around 670 A.D. But the opposition was so great it was removed to preserve unity and it would be another 200 years before it would be adopted into the Latin Mass. In 1054 A.D. a great division took place between the eastern and the western churches of Europe.

While the western churches, are Catholic. adopted the use of images, a universal head, Pope, instrumental music, and sprinkling for baptism, the eastern churches, Orthodox, rejected these things. To this very day Orthodox churches, Greek, Russian and Eastern, use only vocal music. Secular history is very clear that the use of instrumental music in public worship did not take place until about the 10th century, which was one of the innovations of the Catholic Church.

It was never a practice in the early centuries of the church, in fact, the renowned musicologist Curt Sachs of Columbia University said, ‘All ancient Christian music was vocal.’

When the Protestant Reformation began in the early 1500s many left the Catholic Church and established other churches. Almost without exception, the leaders of these denominations were opposed to the use of instrumental music in worship.

During the Reformation period, only the Church of England and the Lutherans carried over the use of instrumental music from their Roman Catholic past. In modern-day worship not only is it common to hear organs and pianos but full orchestras. Professional musicians are even employed but again we need to remind ourselves that this may well be pleasing to the ears of men, but Paul said to ‘make melody in your heart to the Lord.’

When we are singing the words to a song, we are feeding each other on the word of God at the same time and because we are feeding on those words, we are also promoting purity of the heart within ourselves. God tells us that we’ve got four things to think about when we are praising Him in song.

1. We can sing Psalms, spiritual songs and hymns.
2. Our singing needs to be aimed at Him.
3. We need to sing with gratitude.
4. We need to sing from the heart.

It’s not a matter of feelings, it’s a matter of gratitude, everything we do in our worship assemblies is done out of gratitude. Paul says it should always be like this, he says we should be thankful for all things, we should be thankful for everything in Jesus’ name, and our thankfulness should be aimed at God.

Paul doesn’t say that he ‘will sing with an instrument’, he says ‘I will sing with my spirit and my mind,’ 1 Corinthians 14:15. The word ‘singing’ in our English translations is from the Greek word ‘psallo’, which literally means, ‘plucking the heart strings’. When we use our voices to praise God, we are plucking our heartstrings and so not only is God pleased but it also brings us great joy, James 5:17.

John Wesley the founder of the Methodist church, said one time, ‘I have no objection to instruments in our chapels provided they are neither heard nor seen.’

John Calvin the forerunner of the Presbyterian Church wrote, ‘Musical instruments in celebrating the praise of God would be no more suitable than the burning of incense, the lighting of lamps, the restoration of the other shadows of the law. The Papists, therefore, have foolishly borrowed this, as well as many other things, from the Jews.’

Charles Spurgeon the famous preacher of the Baptist church in London said, ‘Musical instruments would hinder rather than help our praise. Sing unto Him. This is the sweetest and best music. We might as well pray by machinery as praise by it.’

They all understood that the whole object of Christian worship is to bring glory to God and worship is not intended to please men, but to please God, Hebrews 13:15.

Richard Wagner, one of the great musicians and composers in America once expressed his opinion about vocal music in these words.

‘There is no doubt but that those qualities absolutely necessary to church music, namely, modesty, dignity and soulfulness are more inherent in the vocal style than in any other. Vocal music is in general more expressive than the mechanically produced tones of instruments is undeniable. Religious feeling finds its most natural expression in vocal utterance, for the human heart is the source of both devotion and song.’

The real question we should be asking ourselves is simply this, are we singing and making melody in our hearts or just miming the words? Do the words of the songs, move us and put our minds on heavenly things?

Paul reminds us to always give thanks for everything. There is never a circumstance in our life in which we cannot give thanks to the Lord. Yes, it’s sometimes more difficult to give thanks, but there is always a reason to give thanks when we are in Christ, James 1:2-4.

‘Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.’ Ephesians 5:21

If we are filled with the Spirit, we will do the will of God, we will sing, we will thank God and we will be subject to each other. What is submission? Look at what Jesus did, He washed the feet of His disciples, John 13:3-17, He was taking care of their needs.

The submission has nothing to do with superiority, it has nothing to do with inferiority. A submissive spirit in the Christian is a demonstration of Whom we follow, Philippians 2:5-8. Christ continued to submit Himself, not only to God but also to others.

Those who properly submit themselves to Christ will by the nature of that also be submissive to one another. To be subject to one another is to consider the other as more important as yourselves, Philippians 2:3-4.

‘Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Saviour. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.’ Ephesians 5:22-24


The relationship between a husband and wife can be one of the greatest relationships we have, they can certainly bring out the worst in us, but they can also bring out the best in us. God decided that man needed some kind of companionship in this world, Genesis 2:18 and when Adam couldn’t find it within the animal kingdom, God went on to create Eve from Adam. When Adam saw Eve for the first time, he said, ‘here is someone like me, she’s a part of my body, my own flesh and bones. I’ll call her woman.’ Genesis 2:23

We know the rest of the story, Eve fell for the serpent’s lies and ate from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. She then offers some of the fruit to Adam and he ate it, and so sin entered the world.

We know that Satan was cursed by God, we know that Adam was cursed by God, and to Eve He said her desire will be for her husband, Genesis 3:16. When God created Eve, He did so by using one of Adam’s ribs, Genesis 2:21-22, the word ‘rib’ is very misleading, the actual text literally says it was a shank that was removed from Adam’s side.

The point is that woman wasn’t made out of an inferior substance, woman was a part of him, a very important part of him. God created an ‘ezer’, a helper for Adam, He didn’t create a slave, He didn’t create a servant. He created someone who would share in the responsibilities of life, he created them as equals.

In many cultures, even today, women are treated no better than slaves. The Greeks believed, ‘we have courtesans for the sake of pleasure, we have concubines for the sake of daily cohabitation, and we have wives for the purpose of having children legitimately.’

A Greek author says this concerning Greek wives, ‘let her live that she might see as little as possible, hear as little as possible and ask as little as possible.’

As far as the Greeks were concerned, a wife’s role was simply to run the house, and take care of the children, while the husband enjoyed pleasure and companionship from someone else. When the Romans came on the scene their view of women wasn’t much better, they believed ‘women are married to be divorced.’

Under Roman law, a wife had no legal rights, everything she was and had, came from her husband, and so, she was completely dependent on her husband.

Hebrew women actually had it better than many most other women in other cultures, but only just better. We know that by the time Christ came along divorce was becoming rampant among the Jews and all the rights lay with the man, Deuteronomy 24:1.

By the time Christ comes along, the Jews were using the phrase ‘something indecent about her’ as an excuse for divorce. Some believed it meant adultery, others believed it meant if the wife had burned your dinner or went out with their heads uncovered. Others believed it meant that the husband found someone more attractive. And so, in the Jewish culture, a woman had more rights than a slave but only just.

Paul’s words here in Ephesians are the same words that Paul writes to the Colossian church in Colossians 3:18. The wife must submit to her husband and the husband must love his wife as Christ loved the church at the same time.

Remember what I wrote earlier, the Greeks and the Romans didn’t see their wives as a person, they saw them as a piece of property. Their wives weren’t allowed to make decisions of their own, especially when it came to religion. It was the husband who decided what everybody’s religion was going to be in their household.

The wife had no rights whatsoever and so, as far as the women, the children, and the slaves were concerned, they were just objects, they had no say in anything. And so, we can imagine the impact the Gospel would have had in that society.

Imagine the impact on the Jews as they are told that God loves the Gentiles as much as them! Imagine the impact on the slaves as they are told that God loves them as much as their owners! Imagine the impact on the females as they are told that God loves them as much as the men!

Imagine the impact the Gospel would have had in that society when Paul declares that males and females are one, Galatians 3:28. I’m sure all the women and all the slaves, couldn’t believe what Paul was preaching. We can imagine them asking Paul, ‘are you telling us we’re all one in Christ Jesus?’ I can imagine Paul saying, ‘yes you are, it doesn’t matter if you’re a Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female, your all one on Christ Jesus.’

Now while the women and slaves are rejoicing at this good news, I can imagine the men in that society going absolutely nuts. If these women believe what this Paul guy says, they might think they are just as important as we are!

If these slaves believe what this Paul guy says, they might get too big for their boots, they might try and take over and we men will lose control of our homes and eventually our society! That’s why Christianity was regarded as dangerous and rebellious at that time.

And so, after declaring that all are one in Christ Jesus, Paul has to be very careful about how he teaches these women to enjoy their new freedom in Christ, whilst living within their culture.

There is some good news and bad news concerning ‘wives submitting to their husbands’. The good news is that the word, ‘submit’ isn’t in the original text. The bad news is, it should be, otherwise the text would make sense.

When the Bible was written there were no chapters and verses and so, let’s read how it actually reads, ‘Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ, wives, to your husbands as to the Lord.’ Ephesians 5:21-22

In other words, we don’t start with, ‘wives submit to your husbands’, we start with, ‘submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.’ And notice that Paul doesn’t say, ‘wives submit yourselves to your husbands,’ he says, ‘Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord.’

Now put yourself in the place of a married woman living in Ephesus. Imagine you’re sitting there amongst the congregation and suddenly, you hear this letter being read out to everyone and you realise that Paul is actually addressing you, as a woman!

I’m sure they would be thinking, at last, someone who actually recognises we exist! Someone who acknowledges that we’re smart enough to understand what he’s saying! Imagine being there when Paul’s words were being readout, and hearing those first few words, ‘Wives, submit to your husbands’.

We can almost imagine the women thinking, ‘oh here we go again, another man putting us back in our place where we belong!’ But then they hear the words, ‘as you do to the Lord.’

What does that mean for the women?

It doesn’t mean they were to submit to their husbands because they have no choice. It simply means, they’re to submit to their husbands, because the way they respond to their husbands is a powerful demonstration of their attitude towards their Lord. The husband has been given certain responsibilities within the marriage and family and if the husband is fulfilling these responsibilities, then the wife is actually responding to the One who made him responsible.

Now I’m sure you would have noticed that I used the word, ‘responsibility’ and not the word ‘authority’. Paul never says, ‘the husband is the authority figure in the home, who rules the family with an iron rod, and women better submit!’ He doesn’t say that, he doesn’t say that men are superior, and women are inferior. He’s saying that a husband has been given responsibilities by God, and the wife simply needs to recognise those responsibilities and respond to them.

When she recognises her husband’s God-given responsibilities and responds to them, it’s then that she’s submitting to her husband as to the Lord. Peter says, if your were married to someone who isn’t a Christian, you can still submit to them, by showing them what it means to submit to the Lord.

And he says, you don’t even have to preach the Gospel to them, but you can show them the effect the Gospel has had on you, 1 Peter 3:1. Who knows, because of your Christ-like behaviour, they may one day become a Christian.

Why should wives submit to their husbands?

‘For the husband is the head of the wife’, Ephesians 5:23

Notice that Paul doesn’t say, ‘the husband is the head of the family’, he doesn’t say, ‘the husband is the head of the house’. Paul says, ‘the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Saviour.’

The word ‘head’ here, doesn’t mean authority as it’s used elsewhere, the word ‘head’ in this verse speaks about the source, the source that brings well-being, the source of supplying one’s physical, emotional and spiritual needs Ephesians 1:22 / 1 Corinthians 11:3 / Colossians 1:18 / Colossians 2:19.

In other words, God has given the husband the responsibility of providing for his wife’s physical, emotional and spiritual needs, 1 Peter 3:7. Wives also have some responsibilities too, Proverbs 27:15 / Titus 2:3-5 / Proverbs 12:4.

When people get married, they become one but they both have different roles within that marriage relationship and when both couples recognise those roles and accept them, that’s called submitting to one another.

God wants nothing but the best for both the husband and the wife, which means the husband should want nothing but the best for his wife and the wife should want nothing but the best for her husband. And the only way you can really get the best out of each other is by submitting to the Lord and each other.

‘Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.’ Ephesians 5:25-27


Paul says marriage is all about love, and the Bible gives us the greatest example of all, of how husbands are to love their wives. The first example is this, ‘husbands must love their wives sacrificially’, Ephesians 5:24. ‘Love your wife like Christ loved the church’ Ephesians 5:25, and how did He demonstrate His love for the church?

He died for her, He sacrificed Himself for her, He shed His own blood for her, Matthew 20:28 / Mark 10:45 / Luke 2:11 / John 4:42 / Acts 20:28 / Philippians 3:20.

Paul says, if husbands want successful marriages, they must look to Christ and what He did, by going to the cross of Calvary. When we look at Christ, we see an example of self-sacrificial love, we see Him dying to self, we see Him dying to selfish ambition. Husbands, we must be willing to sacrifice things that are very personal to them, in order to love our wives as Christ loved His church.

Husbands must love their wives intentionally and with a purpose. Christ dying on the cross wasn’t an accident, it was intentional, He died with a purpose in mind, Ephesians 1:5 / Ephesians 2:4 / Romans 5:8 / Colossians 1:21-22. Husbands are to intentionally love their wives, they are to purposely love their wives. Christ loved the church because He wants her to be holy, He wants her to be radiant, He wants her to be blameless, Colossians 1:22 / Jude 24.

Marriage isn’t just about two people, it’s about three people, God must be the third chord in our marriage relationship, Ecclesiastes 4:12. If husbands want their wives to be like Christ wants His church, then we must remember to keep God in the middle of our marriages.

Now the husband might put a strain on that marriage, the wife might put a strain on that marriage, but if God almighty is intertwined within that marriage, it makes it a lot harder to break. There’s strength in marriages when God is in the middle of them.

‘In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church—for we are members of his body. ‘For this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ This is a profound mystery but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.’ Ephesians 5:28-33

Husbands must see their wives as part of their bodies, Paul said earlier that ‘the body is the church’ which would include our Christian wives, Ephesians 5:23. The last time I looked, everyone, I know has a body attached to their head. Paul is saying, a head without a body is no good to anyone, a body without a head is absolutely useless, 1 Corinthians 12:17-18.

Sometimes men get so busy doing a thousand other things, and we jump up at a moment’s notice to help other people out, to such an extent that we neglect our own home, Songs of Solomon 1:6. We need to help each other, support each other, and encourage each other, all of which are driven by Christ’s love for His church, Colossians 3:19 / Colossians 3:21.

If husbands don’t treat their wives with respect, and if they don’t see their wives as heirs of this wonderful life, He won’t answer their prayers, 1 Peter 3:7 / Proverbs 31:10-12. Just because a wife submits to her husband, doesn’t mean, she’s our personal slave. Peter says husbands are to be considerate of their wives and treat them with respect.

Husbands need to consider her needs, consider her desires, consider her feelings and thoughts and respect her in all things, respect her opinions, respect everything she does and says. Marriage is about togetherness, completeness, oneness, it’s about ‘us’.

Husbands need to keep studying their wives, Ephesians 5:28-30. Before most people get married, there’s usually a courting period that takes place first. It’s then that we study each other’s spiritual character, we study each other’s humour, we study each other’s mannerisms and let’s be honest, we study each other’s physical bodies. But after we had been married for a few years, we stop studying each other.

Solomon speaking in physical terms, speaks about studying each other, Song of Solomon 7:1-5 but Paul is speaking in physical and spiritual terms if Christ provides everything the church needs, He feeds her, He blesses her and He protects her, then husbands should do the same with their wives.

What Christ provides for you as a Christian husband, you should provide for your Christian wife. If you’re so important to Christ, then your wife should be just as important to you.

In Ephesians 5:31-33 Paul quoting from Genesis 2:24 tells us that when a man and women come together in marriage, they become one. And he uses that text to describe Christ’s relationship with His church, they have become one. He again reminds husbands that they should protect, defend and provide for their wives, just as Christ does for His church. And if the husband does all these things, then his wife will truly respect him for it.

But that will only happen when the husband and the wife remember the words of Solomon, ‘I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.’ Songs of Solomon 6:3

Someone once said that ‘The Song of Solomon’ is the one book of the Bible dedicated solely to romantic love. They go on to say, ‘Isn’t it ironic that its initials are SOS!’

Our wives need to know that she isn’t just our wife, she needs to know that she’s the wife of a man, who treasures them and builds them up.

As Christ is the head of the church so also the husband is head of the family. A wife should be submissive to her husband and a husband should be submissive to his wife. A husband must sacrificially love his wife as Christ did for His church and as Christ and His people are one, so also the husband and wife are one.

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