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Ephesians 5:1-21; Be Imitators of God, Part 3
by Karl Kemp
9/04/2014 / Bible Studies
We continue with the lengthy discussion on Col. 3:5-9 and the love of God and the wrath of God under Eph. 5:7. We will finish this discussion and to on the Eph. 5:8-13 here in Part 3 of this 4 Part paper.
For God to love mankind "unconditionally" would mean that His love would "not be conditioned" by (that is, it would have nothing to do with) what the people believed or what they did, or did not do, including repentance and faith in Christ. As I mentioned, in most ways this view is simply wrong. God's blessing all people with the sun and rain (Matt. 5:43) and, more importantly, His desire that all people repent and be saved (1 Tim. 2:4) are areas where it is appropriate to speak of His "unconditional love."
In this discussion about the love of God, I am not dealing with God's emotions. I am dealing almost entirely with His final (eternal) judgment of all people. Are we going to experience His eternal love, enjoying an eternal love relationship with Him, living in His presence in His eternal kingdom that is literally full of glory and abiding in all the blessings that He has prepared for those who love Him (cf. 1 Cor. 2:9)? Or, are we going to be totally separated from Him in the eternal lake of fire experiencing His eternal wrath? Even if He did continue to have feelings of love for the people He casts into hell, it would not affect their eternal destinies; according to the Bible, they will experience His eternal wrath, not His eternal love. There is an emotional component of love, but love is a lot more than emotions - love is an action word. If we want to experience the eternal, abiding love of God, we must believe in Him and His truth (which includes being submitted to Him and His truth from our hearts) and live the way He requires us to live (by the sanctifying grace of God in Christ through faith); we will be judged according to our works (cf., e.g., Rom. 2:2-13; 2 Cor. 5:9-11; Gal. 5:19-21; 6:7-9; Eph. 5:3-7; and Rev. 22:11, 12). Our works demonstrate whether our faith is genuine, or not.
I'll quote the brief remarks I made regarding the parable of the ten virgins (Matt. 25:1-13). This parable warns that although there were ten virgins at the beginning (they were all born-again Christians, who initially had oil in their lamps, which lamps were burning [Matt. 25:8]), only five of the virgins were ready when the bridegroom returned. Christ gave this teaching to exhort all Christians of the need to make it top priority to get ready, and stay ready, for His return. The bridegroom says to the five foolish virgins, who were not ready for His return, "Truly I say to you, I do not know you." Those are not the kind of words we want to hear from Christ at the end. (We will not hear such words if we make God, His Son, His truth, His Spirit, His righteousness, and His kingdom top priority. In other words, we will not hear such words from Christ if we meet His "conditions" for salvation.) Those words spoken to the five foolish virgins hardly fit the idea of God's "unconditional," never-ending love. ... To face the wrath of God on judgment day will be quite the opposite of experiencing His love.
God's judgments never are arbitrary; He is a good God, and His judgments are always righteous. He is a God of great mercy, but there are, as there must be, definite limits to His mercy. His righteousness and His love for His people require that He eventually remove those who persist in sin and never will repent (including the devil and those who follow him); they cause chaos in His kingdom; they destroy divine order; they attack His people; etc.
James 4:4 speaks of people making themselves enemies of God by becoming friends of the world; James 4:6 speaks of God's being opposed to the proud. Neither of these expressions goes with abiding in the love of God.
Luke chapter 15, with its three parables (including the parable of the prodigal son), strongly emphasizes the point that heaven rejoices when sinners repent. This chapter was dealing, for the most part, with the repentance of backslidden children of God, but I believe it has much application for the repentance of all mankind. The parable of the prodigal son deals with a prodigal son who repents; it powerfully illustrates the point that God greatly loved this son and strongly desired his repentance. What about those prodigal sons who never do repent? ... It seems clear that those who do not repent will not be able to experience the Father's love, and especially not after the age of grace is over and the final judgment has taken place.
(I'll add a long paragraph here that deals, to a significant extent, with repentance.) Joseph Prince, in "Destined to Reign" (Harrison House, 2007), discusses the prodigal son on pages 153-156. He says that the prodigal son did not repent. He says, "We all know that the son was not returning to the father's house because he had realized his mistake. He was returning because he was hungry!" Prince says a lot of other things that I disagree with in this book. On pages 134, 135, for example, he argues that "the Holy Spirit never convicts you of your sin. He NEVER comes to point out your faults" (page 134). I'll quote a few sentences from what I said on pages 2 and 3 of my 47 page paper titled, "Some Comments on 'Destined to Reign' by Joseph Prince" that is on my internet site (I recommend reading that paper; I should mention that I didn't write the paper to attack Joseph Prince. I said for example, "I respect him as a sincere evangelical Christian pastor, who loves God and His Word, who wants to live for Him and to be a great blessing to the members of his very large church in Singapore and to Christians around the world."): "Joseph says Christians (true Christians) are automatically righteous and holy. [I had a footnote: "When you receive Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, you are made holy and righteous by His blood once for all" (page 12). "God sees you as righteous as Jesus himself" (page 18).] He argues against what 'conventional theology' teaches, that the New Testament speaks of a 'practical righteousness,' where the word righteousness is used of doing right and keeping God's law. 'You are either righteous or you are not. There is no such thing as first having "positional righteousness" and then having to maintain that through "practical righteousness." You are the righteousness of God in Christ, period!' (page 27)." (Passages like Romans chapter 6, where the word "righteousness" in used 5 times, and 1 John 3:7 suffice to show that what Joseph says about righteousness is wrong.) I was surprised to learn that Prince doesn't believe that Christians can lose their salvation. And lastly, I'll quote part of what he said about repentance, quoting from pages 8 and 9 of my paper: "Joseph says that he disagrees with the idea that we should preach on repentance and with the idea that we must confess our sins to be forgiven: On page 232 (in chapter 18) Joseph says, 'nevertheless, there are still people who insist that we have to preach on repentance [to exhort Christians in sin to repent]. Well, I disagree. I think we should do it God's way - preach the goodness of God and allow the goodness of God to lead people to repentance. ....' Joseph makes some valid points in that chapter, but he certainly overstates the case and misses the balanced truth of what the New Testament (and the Old Testament) teaches about repentance here. God (and His spokesmen) frequently calls Christians to repent throughout the New Testament. In Revelation chapters 2 and 3, for example, the Lord Jesus powerfully called for the majority of the Christians in several of the seven cities to repent, or lose their salvation. And Jesus made it quite clear that He still considered them to be part of His church when He called them to repent, or else. He told the Christians at Ephesus, for example, that He would remove their lampstand if they didn't repent. The fact that they still had their lampstand showed that they were part of His church (see Rev. 1:20)." (See my paper "Once Saved, Always Saved? on Revelation chapters 2 and 3.)
Repentance is not optional, and if we put off repenting while clinging to some out-of-balance understanding of God's love, or some other error, we are making a big mistake. The time will come when it is too late to repent.
I winced as I read parts of what Clark Pinnock, a contemporary evangelical scholar (now deceased), said in his article written to advocate "annihilationism" and to reject the traditional view that God will literally send people to eternal torment ("Four Views on Hell" [Zondervan, 1992], pages 135-178). This is an important topic in its own right, but the primary reason that I wanted to quote from his article here is that Pinnock bases his rejection of the traditional view of hell to a significant extent (as the quotations will show) on the mistaken idea that such a view is incompatible with God's love, goodness, and justice. Something must be wrong with our ideas about God's love, goodness, and justice if our ideas force us to reject what the Bible says about His wrath, vengeance, and hell. We cannot afford to challenge God by saying that if the traditional view of hell is true, then God is not a God of love, goodness, and justice. "...what shall we say? That God is unjust in bringing His wrath on us? ... Certainly not! If that were so, how could God judge the world?" (Rom. 3:5, 6).
His view, Pinnock says, unlike the traditional view, "does not portray God as being a vindictive and sadistic punisher" (page 137). ... "Let us begin with the moral problems surrounding the traditional view, which depicts God acting in a way that contradicts his goodness and offends our moral sense. According to Christian theology the nature of God is revealed in Jesus Christ and shown to be boundlessly merciful. God loves the whole world. His heart is to invite sinners to a festive meal (Matt. 8:11). He is a forgiving and loving Father toward them (Luke 15:11-32), not a cruel and sadistic torturer as the traditional view of hell would suggest. ..." (page 149). But what about those who spurn His mercy, who reject Him as God, who fight against His righteousness and divine order, and who join the devil in his never-ending hatred of God and rebellion against Him, not to mention attacking the people of God? ... I am sure that many Christians do not have an adequate understanding of the seriousness of sin. Perhaps none of us adequately understand its seriousness.
It is a very serious matter when a high-level being like Satan rebels against God and is followed by a third of the angels, by the demons, and then (to a significant extent) by mankind. Consider the infinite price that God paid in the incarnation and atoning death of His unique Son, the Lamb of God, to dethrone sin and Satan and all who follow him and to save those who will repent and submit to His plan of salvation. I am totally convinced that when God's final judgment is over, after the great-white-throne judgment, our hearts will be full of praise and thanksgiving - with no complaints or suggestions on how He could have done things better. ...
Many Christians have accepted worldly, far-from-the-Biblical-balance ideas of God's love. I am afraid that many who call themselves Christians are not interested in the God of the Bible; some are only interested in a caricature of God derived from what man (sometimes with the help of the devil, even as the devil helped Eve see the "truth" in the garden) thinks God must be like to be acceptable to man, or to be worthy of the worship of man.
There are many things that we do not know or fully understand (at least not yet); the Bible has not revealed them to us, but I feel confident that when the devil, evil angels, demons, and many people are cast into the eternal lake of fire it will not be because God has a hard time forgiving, far from it. I believe the dominant factor will be that those persons never will repent, and it would be impossible for them to have a place in God's eternal kingdom without causing perpetual havoc. They would not love God, or His truth, righteousness, holiness, people, etc. They would not want to have a place in God's eternal kingdom on His terms, not that they will want the alternative.
We very often hear that there must not be a God, or even if there is a God, He must not be a good, loving God, because of all the problems in the world, problems like hunger, warfare, strife, natural disasters, plagues, and sicknesses of the inner man and the body. Some think that God should make everything go smooth on the earth while mankind, for the most part, continues to reject Him, His Son, His truth (His Word), and His righteousness. And that is only half of the problem, not only do people reject God and substitute things like secular humanism, evolution, and the god of science in His place, but they typically, whether directly or indirectly, knowingly or unknowingly, submit to and fellowship with Satan and his hosts through things like false religions, the occult, psychic powers, and demon worship, things which are forbidden in the Bible. People cannot be neutral; if we do not pursue God with all our hearts, based on His Word, we will be influenced by the devil to one degree or another. He is the "god of this world."
The Bible promises that God will come and make things right on the earth; the day of judgment is coming. Our top priority must be to get ready and stay ready for that day. Then we will be able to judge God and straighten Him out - No! It doesn't work like that! We will be the ones who are judged. Every time we take a stand against God and His truth and righteousness, we hurt ourselves. (This is the end of the lengthy footnote. Now we will continue with the discussion of Col. 3:5-9 [in the verse-by-verse study of Eph. 5:1-21], starting with Col. 3:6.)]] (6) FOR IT IS BECAUSE OF THESE THINGS [these sinful things] THAT THE WRATH OF GOD WILL COME UPON THE SONS OF DISOBEDIENCE [my emphasis], (7) and in them ["these [sinful] things"] you also once walked, when you were living in them [before they became born-again Christians]. [[I'll quote Eph. 2:1, 2: "And you were dead [spiritually dead] in your trespasses and sins, (2) in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit [the devil] who is now working in the SONS OF DISOBEDIENCE [my emphasis]."]] (8) But now [Or, "So now," now that you have become born-again Christians, and in light of the fact that "the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience"] you also, put them all aside [[(This double bracket goes on for two paragraphs.) I would translate "put off all these" with the KJV and NKJV. The Greek behind "put off" or "put aside" is an aorist imperative of the verb "apotithemi." An aorist participle of a different verb ("apekduomai") is used in verse 9 for laying aside the old man, but the meaning of the two verbs is essentially the same here. The aorist imperative fits the idea of putting off (or, putting aside) everything sinful once-for-all and completely, and the aorist participle fits the idea of having put off (or, having laid aside) the old man with its evil practices once-for-all and completely. The Greek participle at the beginning of verse 10 ("having put on," or the equivalent) is an aorist too; it fits the idea of having put on the new man once-for-all and completely. If we put off the old man once-for-all and completely and put on the new man once-for-all and completely and are living in a state of holiness, which is the ideal state to which we are called, we still need to keep growing in Christ (cf., e.g., 2 Cor. 3:18).
The Greek ("ta panta") behind "them all" (in Col. 3:8) literally means "the all things." "The all things" include all the sinful things his readers had been doing before they became Christians and all the sinful things they were doing or could potentially do now. The apostle goes on in Col. 3:8 to give a partial list of sinful things that must be put off or put aside, which is the equivalent of putting them to death in Col. 3:5. It was understood that everything that was sin (by God's definition), everything that was part of the old man (cf., e.g., Col. 3:3, 9) was to be put off/put to death once-for-all and completely. In the following verse (Col. 3:9) the apostle adds lying to the list (cf. Eph. 4:25). I believe it is obvious that the apostle didn't mean we should gradually reduce our lying, or any other sin. These things need to be put to death once-for-all and completely. This is the Christian ideal, and we need to think this way in our hearts (faith is of the heart). (Now I'll quote the rest of Col. 3:8 and then 3:9.)]]: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth. (9) Do not lie to one another, since you have laid aside [or, put off; see under Col. 3:8] the old self [old man] with its evil practices." (This completes the lengthy digression where I quoted and discussed Col. 3:5-9.)
(Now we come to Eph. 5:8 in this verse-by-verse study of Eph. 5:1-21.)]]; (8) for you were formerly darkness [cf. Eph. 4:18], but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of light [[The light includes the truth, goodness, righteousness, and holiness of God. Christians are required to walk in the light on a continuous basis (cf., e.g., 1 John 1:5-7). This is a great privilege! The "darkness" includes spiritual death, all sin, deception and lies (not the truth), and Satan and his kingdom.]] (9) (for the fruit of the light [the fruit that the light produces; this is comparable with the fruit of the Spirit of Gal. 5:22, 23] consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth [being doers of the truth is included here]), (10) trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. [[I would translate, "approving" or "demonstrating" instead of "trying to learn." For one thing, the "goodness and righteousness" of the gospel isn't that complicated. Note what the apostle says in Eph. 5:17, for example, "So then do not be foolish, but UNDERSTAND WHAT THE WILL OF GOD IS" [my emphasis]. When we walk by God's Word and by His Spirit (which includes thinking in our hearts in line with God's Word by the Spirit, with a renewed mind [cf., e.g., Rom. 8:5-9; 12:2, 3; Eph. 4:23 (see my article, "Ephesians 4:17-32; Righteousness, Holiness, and Victory Over Sin" on my internet site]), we will think right, thereby "approving" the things that please God and live right, thereby "demonstrating" the things that please God. We must think right in our hearts to live right. We think right and live right by the saving, sanctifying grace of God in Christ, which includes all the work of the indwelling Holy Spirit.]] (11) Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds [or, works] of darkness [[The "unfruitful [sinful] deeds [works] of darkness" are contrasted with "the fruit of the light" of verse 9.], but instead even expose them [[See verse 13. The "works of darkness" are exposed (at least to some extent) when we "walk as children of light" (verse 8), doing works of the light, which includes speaking the truth.
I'll quote a few sentences from what Peter T. O'Brien says here ("The Letter to the Ephesians" [Eerdmans, 1999], page 371): "The conduct of the children of light will shine as a beacon to others, revealing evil deeds for what they are [and righteousness for what it is]. To interpret the verb along these lines of exposing sin for what it is does not imply that Christians should remain silent or fail to speak out against evil. But the particular point being made here is that of living a godly lifestyle and showing evil to be evil." It must be made clear that the righteous lifestyle of Christians comes, by grace, as a result of repenting and submitting (in faith) to the gospel of new-covenant salvation offered to mankind by the God of creation, the God of the Bible.]]; (12) for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret. ["In secret" goes with the darkness and the "deeds [works] of darkness."] (13) But all things become visible ["are made manifest" (KJV; NKJV); and we are able to see that those things are evil; they are aligned with the darkness, which totally contrasts with the light, which includes God's truth, righteousness, and holiness] when they are exposed by the light [[The Greek verb "elegxo" that is translated "when they are exposed" here (it is a present participle here) and "expose [them]" in verse 11 includes the idea of showing that the works of darkness are evil; they are seen in contrast with the works of the light, for one thing. The BAGD Greek Lexicon (under "elegxo"), commenting on the use of this verb in Eph. 5:11 and 13 says: "the darkness-light scheme suggests exposure, with implication of censure." I'll quote the definitions given for this Greek verb in the "Greek-English Dictionary of the New Testament" by Barclay Newman (in the back of the "United Bible Societies' Greek New Testament"): "show (someone his) fault or error, convince (someone) of (his) fault or error; show (something) up for what it is; prove guilty, condemn; rebuke, reprove."]], for everything that becomes visible [or, everything that is made manifest] is light. [[Everything that becomes visible/manifest through Christians "[walking] as children of light" (verse 8), including being able to see that the "works of darkness" are evil and that the things of God, including His truth, righteousness, holiness, goodness, divine order, love, etc. are totally true and righteous and good (in total contrast to the things associated with the kingdom of darkness), IS LIGHT - these things are associated with the "light" of God and His kingdom of light. The apostle is not saying that those who are confronted with the light through Christians walking in the light will become light, but it is understood that some will go on to become Christians and become light in the full sense pictured in verse 8. Verse 14 goes on to invite those who will repent to become Christians. Others will, of course, react against the light with hatred, etc.
These last words of verse 13 are difficult, but this translation of the NASB (or the equivalent) fits the Greek perfectly in this context. The translations of the NIV ("for it is light that makes everything visible"); the NKJV ("for whatever makes manifest is light"); and the KJV ("for whatever doth make manifest is light") seem far less reasonable.
I'll quote what William Hendricksen says here ("Galatians and Ephesians" [Baker Book House, 1979], page 234): "That is, whatever, whether attitudes, words, practices, etc., is made manifest by having been thus contrasted [contrasted with the Christians "walking as children of light" (5:8)] loses its hidden character, takes on the nature of light, and is seen for what it really is. ... They are made to see how great their sins and miseries are; hence, how desperately they need a radical change of life. The transition to the next line [next verse] is very natural."]]
We will start with Eph. 5:14 in Part 4 of this 4 Part paper.
Copyright by Karl Kemp
http://www.karlkempteachingministries.com Karl Kemp worked as an engineer in the space field throughout the 60s. He became a born-again Christian in 1964. He received an MA in Biblical Studies in 1972. He has been a Bible teacher for 45 years. See the website for more info on his books, papers, etc.
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