Ephesians 5

Ephesians 5:1

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children;

(a) Beloved. The original word (agapetos) means dearly loved, esteemed, favorite and worthy of love. It is closely related to a verb (agapao) that means to be well pleased or fond of or contented. This word captures God’s heart for you. Your heavenly Father is fond of you. You are his esteemed favorite and he is well pleased with you. He looks at you with a feeling of deep contentment knowing that you are his dearly loved child.

All the epistle writers referred to believers as the beloved or dearly-loved children of God (see entry for Rom. 1:7).

(b) Children. Although God is the Father of all (Acts 17:29, Eph. 3:15), the phrase “children of God” usually refers to believers. See entry for Children of God.

Ephesians 5:2

and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.

(a) Walk in love. Under the old law-keeping covenant, you were commanded to love the Lord your God with all your heart (Deut. 6:5, 10:12). The flow was from you to the Lord. But in the new covenant of grace, we love because he first loved us (1 John 4:19). It is because we know the love of Christ (Eph. 3:19) that we are able to walk in his love (Eph. 5:2), keep ourselves in his love (Jude 1:21), and remain in his love (John 15:9, 10, 1 John 4:12, 16).

(b) As Christ also loved you. By definition, the agape-love of God is unconditional and self-sacrificing (see Eph. 5:25). See entry for The Love of God.

Ephesians 5:5

For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.

No immoral or impure person … has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Our inheritance is a gift of grace, not a reward for moral purity. Immoral and impure people don’t belong in the kingdom for the same reason caterpillars have no business flying in the sky. But immoral and impure people who come to Christ don’t remain immoral and impure. They become new creatures, clothed with Christ and filled with his indwelling Spirit.

Further reading: “No liars in heaven

Ephesians 5:6

Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.

(a) The wrath of God. God’s wrath is not coming on the children of disobedience because they are doing bad things. It’s coming on account of their unbelief. The original word for disobedience means disbelief. It comes from a word which means unpersuadable.

The children of disobedience are those who refuse to be persuaded that God is good and that he loves them. It is those who, like the religious Pharisees, have tasted the heavenly gift and rejected it. They have embraced a lie instead of the truth. They have stepped off the precipice shouting, “I don’t believe in gravity.”

(b) Disobedience. The original word (apeitheia) means disbelief and derives from a word (peitho) that means to convince, win over, or persuade. Since faith is being persuaded or convinced that God loves you (Acts 28:24), disobedience in a new covenant sense is refusing to be persuaded. It has nothing to do with rule-keeping and everything to do with refusing to trust Jesus. This word is translated as unbelief in some Bibles.

Further reading: “The wrath of God in the new covenant

Ephesians 5:10

trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.

What is pleasing to the Lord? You are! You are his dearly-loved child and your heavenly Father is thrilled to bits with you.

Before Jesus had done a blessed thing—before he had preached the gospel or healed the sick or raised the dead—he received the loving affirmation of his Father (Matt. 3:17). How God relates to Jesus is how he relates to you. He loves you without any regard for your behavior. Your good deeds don’t make him love you more, and your bad deeds don’t make him love you less. Your heavenly Father may not always take pleasure in your choices, but he takes pleasure in you.

Further reading: “What pleases the Lord?

Ephesians 5:19

speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord;

(a) Speaking to one another. We build up others primarily through our words (see entry for Eph. 4:29).

(b) Spiritual songs are songs with spiritual themes as opposed to worldly themes. “Sing hymns instead of drinking songs!” says the Message Bible. Spiritual songs include psalms, hymns, and poetry.

(c) Making melody. Grace is a license to sing (Jas. 5:13).

Ephesians 5:21

and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.

(a) Be subject may not be the best translation because it leads us to think of submission in terms of the strong dominating the weak or kings ruling over subjects. This is not the sort of submission that Paul is talking about. The verb he uses (hypotassō) means to place under. It is “submitting to” rather than “being subject to.” It is preferring one another and valuing others above yourself (Php. 2:3).

Submission, as Christ models it, is about loving the other and giving yourself up for them (Eph. 5:25). It’s God the Son submitting in all things to God the Father, and God the Father giving the Son a Name above all names. It’s the Son bragging about the Spirit, and the Spirit testifying of the Son. Submission is one of God’s most beautiful ideas. It is the very essence of other-focused love, and a vital ingredient in any healthy relationship.

(b) One another. Since the context is marriage, we can read it as “Husbands submit to wives and wives submit to husbands.” Genuine submission stems from love, not power. Submission is not forced on us from above; it is something we offer to another. It’s choosing to surrender because we want to, not because we have to. We yield to the other because we love and respect them. Indeed, submission is the essence of love. It is saying, “Because I love you, I choose to put you first.”

Further reading: “Submission doesn’t mean what you think it means

(b) In the fear of Christ. You should never be afraid of God. The fear of the Lord in the New Testament can be interpreted as reverence or worship (see Matt. 4:10). We submit to one another in love as an act of worship to the One who loved us first (Eph. 5:2).

Ephesians 5:22

Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord.

Be subject is a poor translation indeed, or it would be except there isn’t any word to translate. (This is why be subject is in italics in some Bibles.) A literal translation of this phrase is, “Wives, with your husbands.” In context we can read it as, “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord” (Col. 3:18).

Many read this verse without reading the one before it and as a result they come away with the unbalanced view that only wives submit. In fact, Paul has far more to say to husbands on the subject of love and submission. Wives get three verses (Eph. 5:22–24); husbands get nine (Eph. 5:25-33).

Further reading: “Who submits in marriage?

Ephesians 5:23

For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body.

(a) The husband is the head of the wife does not mean the husband is the lord of his wife any more than it means he is her Savior. Paul compares husbands to Christ because the manner in which Christ saves the church—by laying down his body—is the manner in which a husband serves his wife (see entry for Eph. 5:25).

(b) The body; see entry for 1 Cor. 12:27.

Ephesians 5:24

But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.

(a) The church is subject. Again, this is a poor choice of words (see entry for Eph. 5:21). The church is not subject to Christ as though he was Lord Vader forcing his will upon us. A better translation of this verb is submit. We freely submit to Christ because we know how much he loves us. Love is given, not taken, and it’s the same in marriage.

(b) So also the wives; see entry for Eph. 5:22.

(c) In everything. Being a one-flesh team is a 24-hour proposition. In the unity of marriage husbands and wives are mutually dependent. They need each other. Just as a head supports the body, the body supports the head. Paul is not saying that one should lord it over the other, for that would contradict what he has just said about submitting to one another (Eph. 5:21).

Ephesians 5:25

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her,

(a) Christ also loved the church. Our union with the Lord is sometimes described as a betrothal or marriage (2 Cor. 11:2, Rev. 19:7, 21:9, 22:17).

The gospel of grace is the thrilling announcement that the Lover of your soul desires to share his life in wedded union with you forever. For those who believe it, the gospel is the joyful declaration that right now and forever more, you are in perfect union with him. Your days of restless wandering are over, for in Christ you have already found your eternal rest. In Christ, you are already home. See entry for Union.

(b) Gave Himself up for her. Just as the love of God is revealed in a death, biblical headship is revealed in sacrifice. In the same way that Christ gave himself up for the church, the husband gives himself up for his wife. He crawls through traffic, fights grizzly bears, and catches bullets for her. He puts her needs and interests ahead of his own because he values her more than his own life.

The agape-love of God is unconditional and self-sacrificing (1 John 3:16). God will never make you jump through hoops to earn his love. He won’t love you any more if you succeed and he won’t love you any less if you fail. There is nothing you can do to make him love you more, and nothing you can do to make him love you less. See the entry for The Love of God.

Ephesians 5:27

that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.

Holy and blameless. Collectively Christians are known as a holy priesthood and a holy nation (1 Pet. 2:5, 9). The church is both God’s holy temple (1 Cor. 3:16-17, Eph. 2:21), and the Lord’s radiant and holy bride (Eph. 5:27).

Ephesians 5:28-29

So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church,

Aristotle said husbands rule their wives like kings, and Paul replies, “More like King Jesus.” Christ nourishes and cherishes his church. He cares for it and helps it grow. In the same way, a husband cares for his wife as he cares for his own body.

Ephesians 5:30

because we are members of His body.

His body; see entry for 1 Cor. 12:27.

Ephesians 5:31


(a) Leave… joined. Children obey their parents, but when a marriage is formed, everything changes. The daughter no longer submits to her father, for she has become joined to her husband. Her husband is now her head (Eph. 5:23). Similarly, the husband is no longer beholden to his parents, but he submits to his wife (Eph. 5:21). They have become a one-flesh team ready to take on the world.

Just as wives need to be liberated from patriarchal bondage, husbands need to be liberated from the unholy burden that they alone are responsible for all that happens in the home. You and your spouse are a one-flesh team created to lead together.

(b) The two shall become one. When a man and a woman come together in marriage, they create something new – a marital union (Gen. 2:24). This union symbolizes the unity the believers have with the Lord (1 Cor. 6:17, 12:13).

(c) One flesh or one body. The joining together of a man and a woman into one body has both a physical aspect (see 1 Cor. 6:16), and a spiritual aspect (1 Cor. 6:17).

Ephesians 5:32

This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church.

The union of a man and a woman in marriage is a picture of the mystical union of Christ and his bride, the church. See entry for Rev. 19:7.

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