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Pett's Commentary on the Bible Pett's Commentary
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Ephesians 5". "Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ pet/ ephesians-5.html. 2013.
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Ephesians 5". "Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://studylight.org/
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The Christian Walk in Love, Light and Wisdom (5:1-21).
‘Therefore you be imitators of God as beloved children, and walk in love, even as Christ also loved you, and gave himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling fragrance.’
The imitation of God looks both back to Ephesians 4:32 and on to Ephesians 5:2. We imitate God in being those who forgive, and we also imitate Him by walking in love, a love that is comparable with Christ’s love. And it is because we are His beloved children, those loved by Him, that we are to walk in love.
‘As beloved children.’ Christians are regularly described as those who are beloved by God (compare Romans 1:7; Colossians 3:12; 2 Thessalonians 2:13) and this is because they are ‘in the Beloved’ (Ephesians 1:7). God’s love for His own is a constant theme (Romans 5:8; Romans 8:39; 1 John 4:9-10).
‘And continually walk in love even as Christ also loved you.’ You are to continually walk in love because you are imitating God (Ephesians 5:1), because loving your neighbour as yourself fulfils the law (Galatians 5:14; Romans 13:8), because the Father’s love is in you (John 17:26), because you are rooted and grounded in love (Ephesians 3:17), and because Christ so loved you. His love is the example of what our love is to be. Christian love is to be something special. It is to be genuine and not feigned (2 Corinthians 6:6) for real love is the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). Love is to colour everything we do and say.
This Christian walk is often emphasised. We are to walk in love (here and in Romans 14:15), we are to walk in the Spirit (Galatians 5:16), we are to walk in newness of life (Romans 6:4), we are to walk in accordance with the Spirit (Romans 8:4), we are to walk honestly as in the day (Romans 13:13; 1 Thessalonians 4:12), we are to walk by faith not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7), we are to walk in good works (Ephesians 2:10), we are to walk worthily of our calling (Ephesians 4:1), we are to walk as children of light (Ephesians 5:8), we are to walk carefully (Ephesians 5:15), we are to walk worthily of the Lord (Colossians 1:10; 1 Thessalonians 2:12), we are to walk in the light (1 John 1:7), we are to walk as He walked (1 John 2:6), and we are to walk in the truth (2 John 1:4; 3 John 1:4). Walking in love will accomplish all these.
‘Even as Christ also loved you, and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling fragrance.’ We must love as Christ loved, and that was totally sacrificially. He held nothing back but freely gave everything. So Paul’s demand is absolute. There should be no limit on our love.
He gave Himself up for us as ‘an offering and a sacrifice to God’, a propitiation for sin so that God’s wrath against sin was borne by Him on our behalf (compare 1 John 4:9-10), dying on a cross, and bearing our sin in His own body on the tree (1 Peter 2:24), offering Himself as the Lamb of God (John 1:29; 1 Corinthians 5:7), being offered to bear the sins of many (Hebrews 9:28). And His offering was a sweet smelling fragrance (compare Genesis 8:21; Exodus 29:18; Exodus 29:25; Exodus 29:41), and thus acceptable and delightful to God.
But how could such an offering be acceptable and delightful to God? The answer lies in the loving heart that it revealed and in the full satisfaction it gave for sin, meeting all the requirements of justice and holiness. It was acceptable because it fulfilled all that Jesus sought to accomplish.
The ideas behind such sacrifices and offerings were numerous. The sin offering and guilt offering were substitutionary in the sense that because the sacrifice died the sinner was forgiven and his sin was borne in some way by the sacrifice. It was the offering of the shed blood, which represented the life yielded in death, which was of crucial importance (Leviticus 17:11). A life given, a death died. The whole burnt offering was a total offering to God, a complete act of worship which also contained within it the idea of propitiation and atonement resulting in God being able to deal with the sinner without taking account of his sin. And these sacrifices were effective because they looked forward to the one great sacrifice in the death of Jesus (Romans 3:25; Hebrews 9:9-14). Thus they came up to God as a sweet smelling savour.
The suffering Servant in Isaiah 53:0 was to be such an offering for sin, ‘He was wounded for our transgression, bruised for our inquities’ (Isaiah 53:5), He was ‘made an offering for sin’ (Isaiah 53:10), through His humiliation (from Ugarit we know that the verb yatha‘ also meant humiliation) He would justify many and He would bear their iniquities (Isaiah 53:11). And from this passage Philip ‘preached to him Jesus’ (Acts 8:35). At important moments of His career God declared His Son to be this suffering Servant, ‘the One in Whom I am well pleased’ (Matthew 3:17; Mark 1:11; Luke 3:22 compare Isaiah 42:1), ‘My elect’ (Luke 9:35 with Isaiah 42:1). See also Matthew 12:17-21. He came not to be served but to serve and to give His life ‘a ransom instead of many’ (lutron anti pollon).
‘But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you as is becoming to those set apart, nor filthiness, nor foolish talking or jesting which are not befitting, but rather giving of thanks.’
These are in stark contrast to the sweet smelling savour. These smell rank and putrid in the presence of God. ‘Fornication’ (porneia) - ‘every kind of unlawful sexual intercourse’. ‘All uncleanness’ - (akatharsia), both violent and immoral, viciousness and immorality, the word is used literally of refuse and especially the defiling contents of graves. Thus that which is defiling and an abomination. Sexual misbehaviour and violent behaviour, and especially sexual perversions, are an abomination to God.
‘Or covetousness.’ (Pleonexia). ‘Greediness, insatiableness, avarice, covetousness’. Greed, which means being taken up with ‘things’ and wanting excess, and an insatiable desire for more than we have, is as abhorrent to God as sexual sin. For this is the equivalent of idolatry (Ephesians 5:5). It is to put them before Him. Rather we should ‘seek first the kingship of God and His righteousness’ (Matthew 6:33).
‘Let it not even be named among you.’ Christians should take no delight in talking about evil behaviour. It should only be mentioned where strictly necessary and only by those with responsibilities, for whom it is sadly sometimes necessary.
‘As is becoming to those set apart (to saints).’ Those who are set apart to God as holy must be such as are pleasing to Him. To talk about such things unnecessarily would mar their holiness and the pleasure they bring Him, and would indeed make them contaminated.
‘Nor filthiness, not foolish talking or jesting.’ The smutty remark, the laugh at unseemly behaviour are as bad as indulging in the acts themselves, and are as degrading and as abhorrent to God.
‘But rather giving of thanks.’ This should be what fills the mouths of His people, this is what is befitting to saints. Worship, praise, gratitude and talking about the things of God are what should monopolise our tongues. For by our words and what we talk about we will be shown to be righteous and will finally be ‘justified’ (Matthew 12:37).
‘For this you know of a surety that no fornicator, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.’
Paul strongly reinforces what he has said so that there can be no doubt about it. As we learn from Revelation (Ephesians 2:14-15; Ephesians 2:20-22) there were those who were claiming that sexual freedom was right and good, and indulging in sexual perversions, claiming them as a kind of worship. They may even have spoken of them as ‘revealing love’. Paul condemns them utterly and completely. That is the opposite of Christian love. Such people have no part in Christ or God.
‘You know for certain, of a surety.’ His language could not be stronger. He does not want anyone under any misapprehension. Neither unclean nor covetous people have any part in Christ. We must be careful not to water this down. To play with such attitudes is to demonstrate what we really are.
‘Who is an idolater.’ To put things before God, to give them precedence, is to make them idols. Such a man worships the things that are made rather then the Creator. He is a lover of mammon, a money-grubber, a desirer of wealth for its own sake or in order to indulge in fleshly living.
‘Has any inheritance.’ Compare Ephesians 1:11. These people have no part in Ephesians 1-3. They are on the dark side.
‘In the kingdom of Christ and of God.’ The sphere of God’s rule is now also the sphere of Christ’s rule (compare Colossians 1:13). There is no room here for acts of darkness. Ephesians 5:6 ‘Let no man deceive you with empty words, for because of these things comes the wrath of God on the sons of disobedience.’
Paul’s continual stress shows how strongly he felt on the issue and how dangerous he saw it to be. They are to be in no doubt, uncleanness and covetousness bring men under the wrath of God. By such behaviour they are ‘sons of disobedience’, that is, they reveal that they are disobedient by nature and determined to remain that way. The language is repeated from Ephesians 2:2-3. They are still in their sins whatever their profession.
‘You, therefore, do not be partakers with them.’
His command is straight. Have nothing to do with them or with such things. See 1 Corinthians 5:4-5 for the way such things should be treated in the churches.
‘For you were once darkness, but are now light in the Lord. Walk as children of light. For the fruit of light is in all goodness and righteousness and truth.’
Having dealt with the dark side Paul now returns to the theme of the Christian’s walk. They did once walk in darkness. They were darkness through and through. Many of them had once participated in such things. Indeed they epitomised ‘darkness’. But now their darkness has turned to light. They are light, as God is (1 John 1:5). They have come to Him Who is the light of the world receiving the light of life (John 8:12). They have become partakers of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4). They live as in His presence, in heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6). They are no longer under the power of darkness (Colossians 1:13). They dwell in the kingdom of His beloved Son, enjoying the inheritance of the people of God ‘in light’ (Colossians 1:12-13). Thus they are to walk in the light (1 John 1:7), as children of light.
Living in the light is seen as a huge privilege. They should enjoy it and exult in the privilege and live continually in the light. To walk in the light, to be children of light, signifies living in the light, open before God, with nothing hidden from Him, being totally honest with Him and daily, no, each opportune moment, joyously bringing their lives to Him like an open book and letting His light shine on them. It is a life of not hiding anything from His gaze. It is letting His word be a lamp to our feet and a light to our way (Psalms 119:105), showing us the way ahead. For the entrance of His word gives light (Psalms 119:130). It is an attitude of heart and life to be continually fostered. So we are to walk in love (Psalms 119:2) and in light. The two must go hand in hand. And this will result in the fruit of goodness, righteousness and truth, the very opposite of uncleanness and covetousness.
As Paul spoke these words he must surely have had in mind that first moment at the beginning of time when all was darkness, and God said, ‘Let there be light’, and light flooded everything. His people have now entered into a new creation. They have come from nothingness and vanity to a glorious new future. They must walk in the light that shines from God.
‘Proving what is well pleasing to the Lord.’
‘Proving.’ (dokimazo). ‘Putting to the test, examining.’ Everything we do and are must be brought to His light to be examined and tested. This does not mean negatively, by examining our lives through a microscope for every possible defect, resulting in continual self-doubt, but a positive willingness to let the light reveal our failures and what our way ahead should be. We should live our lives before the Lord desiring only to please Him. We too should be a sweet smelling perfume to Him (compare Ephesians 5:2).
‘And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather even reprove (convict) them, for the things which are done by them in secret it is a shame even to speak of.’
Living in the light means avoiding the darkness and its ‘unfruits’. They must not have any part with the behaviour of those who are still in darkness. But it is their behaviour they must avoid, not them (this means non-Christians, not defaulting Christians). Indeed by the purity of their lives they should act as a reproof and a way of convicting such people about their manner of life so that they may be converted. That this means primarily by life and not by word comes out in the last phrase. Christians should not even talk about, or think about, such behaviour as they witness in others. They must refute them by their lives. Thus men will see their good works and glorify their Father who is in Heaven (Matthew 5:16).
‘The unfruitful works of darkness.’ In direct contrast with ‘the fruit of the light’ (Matthew 5:9). That which is done in spiritual darkness can be of no lasting benefit.
‘But all things when they are reproved (convicted, brought to light) are revealed openly by the light. For everything that is revealed openly is light.’
The result of the convicting power of their lives will be that in some people there will come conviction as the light shines in their hearts and what they are is made clear to them, they will feel reproved as they see the glory of Christ (2 Corinthians 4:4-6). And the effect of this will be that they too become light as God works on their lives. For when God’s light reveals openly what men are, and they do not shy from the light but respond to it, that light transforms them into light (compare John 3:19-21).
‘For everything that is revealed openly is light.’ Darkness, and that which is in darkness, never reveals itself openly. Only those who come to the light reveal themselves openly and do not hide in the darkness. And then they themselves become light as God is light.
‘For this reason he says, “Awake you who sleep, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you”.’
We do not know the source of this saying. It may well be a conflation of Isaiah 60:1 combined with Isaiah 52:1, with Daniel 12:2-3 in the background. ‘Awake, awake, put on your strength --- arise, shine for your light is come and the glory of the Lord is risen upon you -- His glory shall be seen on you’. We may thus see it as a Pauline, or early church, combination of these Scriptures. However, its import is clear. Those outside of Christ in darkness must awake out of their deadness and let Christ shine on them. He is there to shine on them and reveal His glory to them. So, as the light of Christian lives convicts them of their sin and need, this is to be their response And Christ Himself will shine on them once their hearts are open to Him.
‘Look therefore carefully how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, buying up the time because the days are evil.’
The Christian is to live a life of careful thought. He does not blunder blindly on but weighs up his life and makes the most of his time, ‘buying up the time’, to bring the most glory to God. He makes sure that he walks in the light before God, and in these ‘evil days’ ensures that his life is a force for the good. He walks as one of those who is truly wise, in contrast with the unwise.
‘For this reason do not be foolish but understand what the will of the Lord is.’
Because we live in evil days we must be the more careful to ensure that we know what the Christ’s will for us is by allowing His light to constantly shine on our lives, by reading His word and meditating and praying in His presence (Matthew 6:6), and listening to His word expounded by reliable men of God. Not to do so, says Paul, is foolish. We learn the will of God as we get to know Him better through His word and through Christian teaching.
‘And do not be drunk with wine which results in riotous behaviour (or wastefulness), but be being filled in (or ‘by’) the Spirit.’
Continuing his contrasts which are a feature of Ephesians 4:22 to Ephesians 5:21, bringing out the contrast between the old man and the new man (Ephesians 4:22-24), Paul points out that the old man looks to drink for his consolation but the new man looks to the Holy Spirit. Thus they are not to get tipsy but are to continually drink of the heavenly wine which is provided by the Holy Spirit (compare 1 Corinthians 12:13; John 7:37-39). It is something they must go on doing continually, enjoying the continual flow of God’s blessing by looking to Jesus Christ (John 7:37) for their sustenance, and drinking of His word as the instrument of His Spirit. Note how in Colossians this spiritual singing in the heart results from ‘the word of Christ dwelling in them richly in all wisdom’ (Colossians 3:16).
This is the only use of ‘filled by the Spirit’ (plerousthe en Pneumati) in the New Testament. (‘En’ never means ‘with’. It means ‘in’ or ‘by’).
Luke, in Luke and Acts, uses the verb pimplemi followed by ‘of the Holy Spirit’ (Luke 1:15; Luke 1:41; Luke 1:67; Acts 2:4; Acts 4:8; Acts 4:31; Acts 9:17; Acts 13:9) and in his case the phrase is always describing inspired words to be explained in terms of the Spirit’s working, and is usually temporary to that occasion. The exceptions are in the cases of John the Baptiser (Luke 1:17), the disciples (Acts 4:31) and Paul (Acts 9:17). The Acts 2:0 experience as a whole was, of course, permanent, but the actual phrase ‘filled of the Holy Spirit’ applied to the vocal phenomenon specifically referred to on that occasion.
The phrase ‘full of Holy Spirit’ is used of Jesus (Luke 4:1) as a more permanent experience (it is also used of Stephen in Acts 7:55).
‘Pleroo’ is used followed by ‘of the Holy Spirit’ in combination with some spiritual attribute in Acts 6:3 (‘and wisdom’); Acts 6:5 (and ‘of faith’); Acts 11:24 (‘and of faith’); Acts 13:52 (and ‘with joy’) to explain in each case some spiritual attribute. So pimplemi signifies being filled to utter inspired words in the proclamation of God’s truth and pleroo signifies the possession of spiritual attributes resulting from the presence of the Spirit.
Here in Ephesians the pattern is followed but the verb is in the present tense and the attributes are as in Acts 13:19. The Christian life is to be one of continual worship and praise through the infilling work of the Spirit.
‘Speaking one to another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father.’
Rather than the bawdy singing of the drunk they are to engage in spiritual song, indeed they will not be able to help it, their hearts overflowing through the word of Christ (Colossians 3:16) and the Holy Spirit. They are to be continually filled with worship and praise, expressing their continual gratitude to God the Father for all they have received in Christ, which is everything that is important.
‘Psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.’ Covering the whole range of spiritual music. The Holy Spirit allows variety.
‘Subjecting yourselves one to another in the fear of Christ.’
The exuberance of the Spirit does not lead to wild abandon but to thoughtful consideration for others and humility. Each is to be ‘subject to’ the other and responsive to the whole. While the church is full of individuals it should be of individuals subject to one another for the good of the whole.
‘In the fear of Christ.’ A reminder that while we rejoice in His goodness and exult in His love, we must still remain in awe of His power and authority.
‘Wives be in subjection to your own husbands as to the Lord, for the husband is the head of the wife as Christ also is the head of the church, being himself the saviour of the body.’
From time immemorial the husband has been head of the family in all societies with rare exceptions. And this natural order is confirmed by Scripture on the grounds that man was first made and the woman was created for the man (1 Corinthians 11:9). Both are equal in God’s eyes (Galatians 3:28) but the man takes precedence in the line of authority (1 Corinthians 11:3). So Paul says that just as Jesus, in the plan of salvation, subjected Himself to the Father even though He was co-equal and co-eternal, and the man subjects himself to Christ, so the woman is to subject herself to the man (1 Corinthians 11:3). It is the divine order and those who rebel against it rebel against God. Thus the wife in fact reveals her submission to the Lord by a proper submission to her husband.
However subjection is a voluntary state and does not mean being browbeaten. Each member of the church is to submit to the other (1 Corinthians 11:19), but not to be browbeaten, and Christ subjected Himself to God, with mutual ‘respect’ being shown. So husbands are to love their wives as Christ loves the church (1 Corinthians 11:25), nurturing and caring for them and showing them proper respect, and the wives are to respect their headship. The whole relationship can only work properly when all parts are doing so.
‘As Christ is also the head of the church.’ Here the headship of Christ over His church is likened to that of the husband over the wife. Christ is head over all things, but He is in a special way head over His people, and He watches over them, cares for them and seeks their responsive obedience and submission.
‘Being Himself the Saviour of the body.’ Notice the careful wording. Not the head of the body but the Saviour of the body, for the body is made up of His people in union with Himself and He is revealing His Headship by being at work in saving them (see 1 Corinthians 11:25-27). The husband/wife analogy is suspended. He is elsewhere said to be ‘the Head of the body’ (Colossians 3:18 but see Colossians 3:22) but there the idea is of His Headship rather than as differentiating between the head and the rest of the body (see Appendix below).
It should be noted that outside Revelation 19-21 and 2 Corinthians 11:2 Jesus Christ is never strictly said to be the husband or bridegroom of the church nor is the church said to be His wife or bride. While the illustrative idea is used it is never made specific. In 2 Corinthians 11:2 the idea is different from here. There Paul, acting as a father with a beloved daughter, espoused the church to one husband, to Jesus Christ, that he might ‘present them as a chaste virgin to Christ’. There the idea is that he has obtained from them a permanent commitment to Jesus Christ, so that they are betrothed to Him and will not go running off and being unfaithful to Him or misbehaving. The context is the possibility of being unfaithful by following false teachers. (A betrothed man could be described as a husband, and Mary, while only betrothed to Joseph, is described as a wife).
Here, however, in Ephesians the comparison is more of the wife to the husband and there is no suggestion of betrothal. Given that fact interpretation of the passage often tends to be more romantic than exact.
Husbands and Wives Are A Pattern of Christ and His Church (5:22-33).
In this passage there is a constant movement from the husband wife relationship to that of Christ and His church. In one sense it is the former which is the main theme, for both opening and closing verses refer to it. But Paul’s illustrative application of the idea to the Christ-church relationship leads him on to an expansion of that relationship as he exults in the wonder and glory of it, so that it too becomes a main thought. However, the church is never spoken of as His wife (or His bride) and there is no direct application of the idea. The application is rather of His Headship and His care and nourishment of His church as being similar to that required of a good husband.
‘But as the church is subject to Christ so let the wives also be to their husbands in everything.’
The wife is to follow the pattern of the people of God who are submissive to Christ ‘in everything’. Thus she is to be subject to her husband in everything. But in a godly household this will result in reasonable discussion not dictatorship, just as a good king would discuss matters with his counsellors. However this is because the wife has the right to expect her husband to behave towards her with the same consideration as Christ does to His church.
‘Husbands love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church and gave himself up for it, that he might sanctify it, having cleansed it by the washing of water with the word that he might present the church to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish.’
Although Paul is strictly supposed to be talking about the husband/wife relationship he takes the opportunity of his analogy to bring home some theological lessons, and these soon take over. Here Christ is described as loving the church as the husband should love his wife. There is not strictly a bridegroom analogy. What bridegroom dies for his bride before marrying her? And what bridegroom washes his bride in preparation for the wedding and provides her beauty treatment? He would soon be sent packing! Christ is shown here to be even more than a husband (and certainly more than a bridegroom). He is Saviour, husband, attendant, ladies’ maid, beauty expert and everything. He is depicted as the Carer and Nourisher supreme. Contrast this with Revelation 19:7 where the bride makes herself ready! There the thought was of the works of righteousness which result from the Saviour’s saving work. So to His people He is not just the bridegroom, He is all in all, and here we see the Godward side of His working.
‘As Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for it, that He might sanctify it, having cleansed it with the washing of water with the word.’ Here He is acting as ‘Saviour of the body’ (Ephesians 5:23). His motive is love, and the price paid is Himself. ‘He gave Himself up’ for His people (see Ephesians 1:7; Ephesians 2:15; Romans 3:24-25; Romans 8:3 and often). The result is then His continued saving activity as He first washes them with the washing of water with the word (compare 1 Corinthians 1:17-18) and then sanctifies them.
‘He gave Himself up for it.’ Voluntarily humbling Himself (Philippians 2:5-8), and suffering death on their behalf. Always, as with Israel when salvation is spoken of, it is ‘the true church’ that is in mind, that which is made up of all those who are truly responsive to Christ.
‘That He might sanctify it.’ The verb is aorist representing something done once for all. His people are ‘set apart’ as His own once and for all, as ‘holy’ to God and to Himself (each as they respond), and then go through the process of being made perfect before Him.
‘Having cleansed it with the washing of water with the word.’ It is not baptism that washes, but the application of the word, the preaching of the cross (1 Corinthians 1:18) (baptism symbolises the life-giving rains from Heaven, representing the Holy Spirit, rather than washing). Compare ‘of His own will He brought us into life by the word of truth’ (James 1:18). This is quite clear here. Reference to ‘the word’ refers overwhelmingly to the preached word. Had baptism been in mind he would have said so.
Note. It is a mistake to equate washing with baptism. It is true that the idea of the new birth is related to washing, ‘the washing of new birth (regeneration)’, in Titus 3:5, but even there it is not directly connected to baptism. The idea there is of spiritual renewal as being like the ‘washing’ of rain that regenerates the earth. Indeed Peter specifically warns us not to relate baptism to washing. He says that ‘it is not the putting away of the filth of the flesh’ (1 Peter 3:21) precisely because some were seeing it in that way. Rather, he says, it is ‘the appeal of a good conscience towards God (a baptism of repentance and faith) through the resurrection of Jesus Christ’. In other words the emphasis in baptism is on new life.
This is possibly also what Ananias meant in Acts 22:16, although he does relate washing there indirectly to baptism. But he uses ’apolouo which is used only once in LXX, and that of washing in the snow (Job 9:30) (thus what comes directly from the heavens) as opposed to louo which is used for ritual washing. Thus even here he does not relate baptism to ritual washing. Apart from this possible reference baptism is never spoken of in terms of ‘washing’ in the New Testament. That is mainly a later idea. Baptism rather represents the coming of the Holy Spirit like rain from heaven, producing grain and fruit and good trees, and new life out of death, and providing spiritual water to drink.
End of note.
However, there are no grounds for referring to baptismal formulae here in Ephesians. That is a mere invention of fertile (and sacerdotal) minds. Of course those who always see any mention of water as referring directly to baptism will see baptism here but that is not sound exegesis. The washing here refers to the purifying activity of the word of God.
‘That He might present the church to Himself, a glorious one, not having spot, or wrinkle or any such thing.’ Having washed, cleansed and sanctified His people He will remove every blemish so that He can receive His church as fit to bring before God. Every spot or wrinkle or blemish will be done away (see Ephesians 1:4 where this was promised as part of His plan). Through His sacrifice on the cross we will be presented ‘holy, and without blemish and unreproveable before Him’ (Colossians 1:22 compare Jude 1:24).
This is often interpreted as signifying that He presents herself to Him as His bride, but this is nowhere clearly suggested and the comparison is more of a husband to a wife all the way through. A bridegroom is not noted for having nourished and cared for his bride until after the wedding. Even then the comparison is indirect. The church is never spoken of in this passage as His wife or His bride. The emphasis is rather on His Headship, and on the loving relationship revealed by His expressed care and concern, and the great efforts He makes for the well-being of His church, the same care and concern that a husband should have for his wife (in general, not in detail).
‘Even so ought husbands to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself.’
This confirms that the proper love of a husband can be compared with the love of Christ for His church. Just as Christ loves His church which has been made one with Him in His body, so a husband should love his wife as his own body, with which she is made one in marital union. ‘He who loves his wife loves himself.’ This is because they have been made one flesh (Ephesians 5:31). So he cares for her as for himself, just as Christ cares for His church.
‘For no man ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, even as Christ also the church, because we are members of His body.’
A man takes great care of his own body, and nourishes and cherishes it, and he will therefore do the same for his wife who has been made one with him. So Christ does the same for His people for they have been made one with Him and are members of His body. The analogy is that just as husband and wife have been made one by the act of union, so Christ and His church have been made one, and because this is so He will nourish and care for it too.
‘For this reason will a man leave father and mother and will cleave to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’
This is cited from Genesis 2:24, also cited with approval by Jesus (Matthew 19:5) who added, ‘so that they are no more two but one flesh. What God therefore has joined together let not man put asunder’. In God’s eyes the man and woman become one. Yet they are still two individuals. The point is that their relationship is such that it is inviolable and the two should act and think as one.
‘This is a great mystery, but I speak in regard of Christ and of the church.’
The church too on being united with Christ become one. It too is made up of individuals but is one in God’s eyes. Their relationship with Christ is also inviolable and they should act with Him and think with Him as one.
‘This is a great mystery.’ This refers back to the previous verse which Paul assures us he is applying to Christ and His church. It thus signifies that Jesus left His Father in order to cleave to us so that we may be one with Him. Our maker is our husband (Isaiah 54:5).
‘Nevertheless do you also severally love each one his own wife even as himself, and let the wife see that she fear her husband.’
Paul does not want the practical lesson to be lost, and applies it at the end. Each husband must love his wife as he loves himself, and each wife must hold her husband in godly reverence.