Commentary on Ephesians, 5:20,21

Ephesians 5:20,21

“18 And do not be drunk with wine, in which is riot, but be filled with the Spirit;
19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord;
“20 giving thanks always for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father.”

Paul tells us in verse 18 to be “filled with the Spirit.” The evidence of being filled with the Spirit will be sincere worship from the heart in our corporate gatherings as we sing praises to the Lord. Furthermore, being filled with the Spirit will be evidenced by a style of music that is holy, set apart as being distinctly Christian, rather than in conformity to the world. Now we see in verse 20 that the evidence of being filled with the Spirit is the grace to thank God for all things at all time. Paul says much the same thing in 1 Thes 5:18:

“In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”

What does it mean to “give thanks always for all things?” I believe “all things” is a general statement, and not to be taken literally. For example, we don’t thank God for sin, for to do so would be attributing sin to Him. If some crazed killer comes into our home while we’re gone, and tortures and kills our spouse and children, we don’t thank God for that. If someone rapes our wife or daughter, we don’t thank God for that. Recently a whole classroom full of sweet, innocent children were massacred. We don’t thank God for the evil slaughter of those children. To thank God for any of those horrible things would be attributing evil to God, as being responsible for those things.

I believe the idea Paul has in mind, is that those who are filled with the Spirit, who are walking in the Spirit, will be able to maintain a sincere heart of thanksgiving and worship and praise no matter what happens in our lives. If any of the above things occur in our lives, and we’re able to continue to praise and worship God, maintaining a thankful attitude, that can only be a work of Holy Spirit in our hearts. The evidence of not being filled with the Spirit, would be anger and bitterness toward God in the midst of such things.

When bad things happen in our lives, and we’re able to continue to give thanks and praise to God, that’s an indication of two things: One, a genuine faith, and two, that we’re living with eternity in view. When bad things happen in our lives, whether it be personal suffering, or a family tragedy, we’re to be thankful for what those things provide, which is an opportunity to develop our faith and character. I believe there is great reward reserved in Heaven for those who are able to remain thankful and strong in faith in such situations. We must be able to trust God that He is allowing these things in our lives for an eternal and glorious purpose.

Paul said that the fruit of the Spirit is “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness (faith).” If we demonstrate these things while enduring trials or suffering or tragedies, then that is clear evidence of a spiritually healthy relationship with God. This is why it’s so important to be walking with God when things are going well, so that when bad things do occur, we’ll have the grace to endure with the power He provides. Paul talks about this very thing in 2 Corinthians:

“7 And by reason of the exceeding greatness of the revelations, that I should not be exalted overmuch, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, that I should not be exalted overmuch.
8 Concerning this thing I besought the Lord three times, that it might depart from me.
9 And He has said to me, My grace is sufficient for you: for [My] power is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
10 Therefore I take pleasure in weaknesses, in injuries, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.” (2 Cor 12:7-10)

We’re to thank the Lord for the things that come into our lives because it’s an opportunity to experience the power of God in our lives in an unusual way, in a way that we would not experience otherwise. Again, it’s not that we thank the Lord for evil or suffering themselves, but for the opportunity those things provide. Paul experienced a lot of suffering and hardship, but in the midst of it all, he was able to experience God’s power, for the Lord told him that “My power is made perfect in weakness.” For that Paul was thankful.

When things are going great in our lives, and we just couldn’t be happier, there’s an absence of opportunity to experience God’s power that can be gained no other way except through hard times. As difficult as it may be to accept, those are opportunities that should be valued, and even welcomed. Paul certainly did, for he said:

“I take pleasure in weakness, in injuries, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.”

He valued the “power of Christ” above the comforts of life. When he instructed us to “give thanks for all things,” he was speaking from personal experience. He knew the power of such thanksgiving, for he understood the reason for it.

Paul understood that his suffering was for the eternal benefit of others. He was an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, and his mission was to spread the message of life through Him, and to teach the Word of God so that the lost could be saved. He was therefore able to see purpose in his suffering, and was therefore thankful. He knew that is was all worth it.

Likewise, all of us, no matter what our calling is, no matter what we have to endure in life, we must understand and believe that God has an eternal purpose in it all. Paul’s calling and purpose may have been more clear-cut than most, and he could easily see the eternal difference he was making in people’s lives, but what we have to realize is that Paul was faithful. Since he was faithfully fulfilling God’s will for his life, he was able to look beyond the temporary hardships, with his eyes focused on the reward.

Likewise, if we’re walking faithfully with God, and fulfilling the particular plan that He has for our lives, we too will be able to look beyond the temporary hardships, with our eyes focused on the reward. Our faith is everything, therefore, we must be able to trust God in all things at all times.

The whole point of Paul’s instruction, is that when we’re walking in the Spirit, we’ll be able to maintain a clear vision of God and His faithfulness in our lives. We’ll be able to look far beyond the temporary circumstances of life with a clear vision of our eternal state where we will dwell in the presence of God in perfect peace and joy, where there will never ever be any suffering or hardship of any kind. We must always be living with eternity in view, with a clear vision of God and His glory, for only then are we able to endure the difficulties that come into our lives….with sincere thanksgiving in our hearts as we’re singing praises to the Lord (verse 19).

“in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ”

As those who are in Christ, everything we do is to be done in His name, and for His glory. He’s the whole reason for our existence. We have no purpose apart from Him. Therefore, when hard times come our way, what kind of testimony are we going to have before a world that needs Him? If we respond in anger and bitterness and hatred like those of the world, what good are we? What purpose are we serving? If the lost see no difference in us when tragedy strikes, how does that make them want what we have? It doesn’t.

On the other hand, if the lost see an unusual peace in us and unwavering faith in the Christ that we profess, it’s going to make a deep impression on them. Many will want to know the One who has given such amazing grace in such difficult circumstances. Trials are opportunities to honor Christ and to point others to Him.

“21 submitting yourselves to one another in the fear of Christ.”

“submitting” (Gr. hupotasso – 5293)

To place under in an orderly fashion. To yield to. To subordinate.

What this instruction really boils down to, is walking in humility toward one another.

The connection between this verse and the previous one seems to be that if we’re filled with the Spirit, worshipping together as fellow Christians, and thankful in all things, there will not be the type of conflict between people that there would be without it. For example, if we’re thankful in all things, we will be content with what we have, with what’s going on in our lives, and with the lot in life that God has given to us. Thus there will be an absence of rivalry and jealousy between us.

Walking in humility means first of all, walking in humility before God. If we’re truly walking in humility before God, we will also walk in humility toward others. Those who believe they’re walking in humility before God, but are not doing so toward others, are deceiving themselves. Submitting ourselves to one another in humility, means to put others ahead of ourselves. We’re to always be considering the interests and well-being of others ahead of our own.

Furthermore, submitting ourselves to one another means that we’re to recognize the authority figures over us, and to serve them faithfully in a spirit of true humility. It means to recognize our position in the body of Christ, and be content with the gifts and calling that God has given to us.

“in the fear of Christ”

“fear” (Gr. phobos – 5401)

Reverential awe and respect.

Submission to one another is to be out of a mutual respect for Christ, to be done in honor of His name. Jesus is our example of what submission looks like. He fully submitted Himself to the will of the Father. In His submission to the Father, He served others. As His followers, we’re not to do any less.

As we shall see in the following verses, this command applies to every area of our lives. We’ll look at that next time.