#BetterTogether Series 
  • We all know life is richer and more meaningful when we're connected yet for centuries tensions exist in society due to terrorist activities, racial divisions, fearful economics, and the seeming futility of "success." Relationships have deteriorated all around us. We believe God has planned more for His people, don’t you? Come with us as we study Ephesians...together!
3. We Are Adopted [Ephesians 5:1-20]
  • As a Christian, you've been welcomed into a family with Jesus. Walk in love as children of light!
Sermon Preparation Guide
  • Importance – What are the central ideas of the text?
    • In Christ, we are God's beloved children. (Ephesians 5:1 & 2)
    • As God's children, we are to live as children of light, as that is what we are. (Ephesians 5:8 & 9)
    • As God's children, our lives in the community of faith are to be characterized by love, by joyful song, by thanksgiving, and by humble submission. (Ephesians 5:2, 19-21)
  • Implications - What questions should the listener be asking?
    • What does it mean to be a child of God?
    • What does it mean to live as a child of light?
    • How can we live out our life as a community of faith in a practical way as God's children? What does that life look like?
Talk it Over Discussion Guide 
  • Interpretation - What is the text telling/showing us?
    • We have been adopted into God's family. How did that happen?
    • What does it mean to be a fully adopted member of God's family?
    • What does it mean to “walk in love?” What is the measure and example of that love?
    • What is the opposite of a life of love, and why is such a life to be avoided?
    • List the actions and thoughts and words that are to be avoided. (Ephesians 5:3 & 4, 11, 18). What is the problem with such things?
    • What is the fate of the person who continually and intentionally lives a life of darkness?
    • Why are we not to be “partners” with those who live in darkness?
    • How do we shine on darkness by our lives?
    • What does it mean to “look carefully” how you walk?
    • What does it mean to submit to one another?
  • Implementation - What should the listeners response be?
    • As a follower of Jesus, you have been adopted into God's family. What does that mean to you and how does that make you feel?
    • How can you “walk in love?”
    • Describe the old life. Why are you not to practice such things?
    • What is the impact of practicing the ways of darkness among others?
    • What does it mean that you are light in the Lord?
    • How can yo “expose” the darkness by your life?
    • Examine your life; are you walking in love? Are you living as a child of God, as light? Are you “fully awake” in Christ?
    • If you come up short in any way in your answers to the last question, what do you need to do about it? Ask God right now for the strength to live out the transformed life that you have already.
    • How can you “be filled with the Spirit?”
    • Read Ephesians 5:19-21 again. What ways do you have to change to live out what those verses tell you? Again, ask God right now for the strength to live out these verses.
Sermon Teaching Notes (as prepared by Pastor Dick Murphy)
  • Investigation - What's generally going on in this area of scripture?
In the passage covered by these Notes, Paul continues to write of the contrast between the old life and the new life, but he moves the thought along with a “therefore” in chapter 5, verse 1 that looks back to what he just wrote. The word “therefore” permits verses 1 and 2 in effect to sum up what Paul just wrote by saying that the walk of the new life is one that imitates God and is based in love, a love that is measured by Jesus offering of Himself on the cross so that we might have life. But the “therefore” also indicates that what he is about to write derives from the truths of the prior verses (that we are one body in Christ, that we are to live a new life in that community of faith, and that we are to be ruled by the principle of self-sacrificial love); but Paul is going to recast the contrast between the old life and the new life in a different light, specifically, that of our being God's beloved children who are to imitate Him as our Father (Ephesians 5:1). So the question to be answered is what is this new life from the perspective of being God's children?

First, though, what does it mean to be God's children? It means that we have been adopted into God's family (Ephesians 1:5) and therefore have rights and privileges as well as an inheritance in His kingdom. But it also means that we have responsibilities to live like we are a part of God's family, following the principles and expectations of our being linked to and carrying the Name of Jesus (We are “Christ followers”, that is, Christians.). And that life is not merely to be lived out on an individual level, but it is to be lived out as part of the family, in relationship with each other, with our spiritual siblings, and with our Father. Furthermore, the key characteristic of that life is love. (Ephesians 5:2), which reflects the same love of God out of which we were adopted. As God's children, we must stand on the reality that our adoption by God out of His love is sure and certain, and was accomplished solely by God. Our adoption “reaches back into eternity” (Ephesians 1:4 & 5. The phrase is thanks to John Piper), is not based on our goodness or worth, is paid for by Jesus' death on the cross, is the result of God's mercy, love and grace, is not tenuous, cannot be undone by us, and is for God's glory. We are His ... fully His, and nothing can separate us from His love (Romans 8:38 & 39). We are His children!

As God's children, we are to “imitate” Him. To imitate means to be like, to follow the example of, emulate, copy, model oneself on (Compare Matthew 5:48; Luke 6:36; I Corinthians 4:16; I Thessalonians 1:6). And this includes imitating God in the context of our relationships and living in the community of the faithful. When we think of the relationship of the three Persons of the Godhead – Father, Son and Spirit – we can see there is mutual submission, love, righteousness and truth. That is how we are to live as His children. But Paul then gets specific and real; he gets to where the “rubber meets the road.” He says that as God's children, immorality (meaning sexual immorality and activity outside of marriage), impurity (meaning sexual perversion), and covetousness (meaning worshiping the created thing and always wanting more of it, whatever it is) should not exist must less even be mentioned “among” us. The “among” means the body of believers, what Paul calls the “saints.” (Ephesians 5:3) Such activities are not befitting holiness. These are actions; but Paul goes further and then speaks of words, that there is to be no filthiness (sordid, disgraceful, shameful topics), foolish talk (words devoid of honor or decency), or crude jesting (dirty insinuations and course joking typically at the expense of others). Such words are “out of place” in that they are not holy, they cut against the unity of the body and they undercut the spiritual family relationships. Instead of such words we are to be people of spoken thanksgiving (Ephesians 5:4b).

Then, as if to underscore how such actions and talk are part of the old life, Paul tells us that people who habitually practice the foregoing things are not part of God's kingdom; that they are, rather, “sons of disobedience” (Ephesians 5:6b). Is Paul saying that if you ever uttered a filthy swear word or engaged in an immoral sexual act you cannot be a Christian? No. But he is saying that people whose lives are constantly characterized by and focused on such actions and words are not believers in the first place; they are outside of God's kingdom and are objects of God's stored up wrath (Ephesians 5:6). And he adds that believers shouldn't be fooled by those who would argue that such activity is acceptable by saying that we have God's grace and therefore we can sin at will (Romans 6:15). Before we believed in Jesus for salvation we were in the “darkness” outside of God's kingdom of light (Colossians 1:13), and our lives were of the darkness (Ephesians 4:18 & 19). But now we “are light in the Lord.” (Ephesians 5:8). In other words, in our adoption we have been transformed into children of light, Jesus being the light of the world (John 8:12). And as such, our lives should be lived accordingly (“walk as children of light,” Ephesians 5:8b), resulting in lives of “all that is good and right and true” (Ephesians 5:9), lives that have no partnership with the actions and words of darkness (Ephesians 5:11), lives that don't even talk about the deeds of darkness (Ephesians 5: 12), lives that discern what pleases God (Ephesians 5:10), and lives that shed light on and thus “expose” the darkness (Ephesians 5:11b, 13 & 14). In short, once we have been adopted and become children of light, we must not “do” darkness. So writes Paul, using what was likely a phrase from an early Christian hymn, and which can be paraphrased as “Wake up! Live like the light you are!” (Ephesians 5:14). Thus, as believers we are not to “sleep-walk” through life, living the “old way;” but instead are to live as those who have been saved and transformed into light and empowered to live like God, and filled with thanksgiving for what has happened to us.

Paul then sums up by telling us to take care (literally “act with precision”) in how we live (“Look carefully then how you walk ...” Ephesians 5:15), living wisely which, as we recall from our study of the book of Ecclesiastes, means centered on God, His will and His way. And this life, this walk, is not static; rather it is movement. We are to exercise intelligent judgment as we relate our “theology” (what we believe and know of God's truth) to our circumstances and situations, discerning right from wrong (Ephesians 5: 17), and making good use of the gift of time given to us by God albeit in the midst of evil (Ephesians 5:16). When we live this way, that is wisely and with understanding of God and His will, we are living in an informed way so we can be conformed to His way (cf. Romans 12:2). Moreover, as we live together in community, we are not to be drunk with wine which leads to lack of self-control, but rather to be in the Spirit. Interestlngly, Paul writes that we are to “be filled with the Spirit.” (Ephesians 5:18b) Why does he write this when the truth is that the Spirit takes up residence in us when we confess Christ as Lord, and we are already, in that sense, filled? The answer is that “being filled” is the continuous, intentional act of our appropriating the power and guidance of the Spirit who is already present in us (cf. Romans 8:1-16; Galatians 5:16) Thus we have a part to play, though even at that it is the Spirit who empowers us to live out this part. We are to set our minds to spiritual things, to being under the control of the Spirit (Romans 8:6); we have an obligation to put to death the things of the old nature and live by the Spirit (Romans 8:13). And as it has to do with each other, this being filled with the Spirit will issue in our making spiritual music to and with each other (“psalms and hymns and spiritual songs; Ephesians 5:19), with the melody of the life of the Spirit in us being sung to the Lord Jesus Himself in our hearts (Ephesians 5:19b). And more, we are to do all this with the attitude of thanksgiving to God through Jesus for everything and in humble submission to each other in “reverence for Christ.” (Ephesians 5:20 & 21)

Certainly a life lived in the way described above, specifically a “life of light,” supports and furthers the unity which we have in Christ and which we are to preserve (Ephesians 4:3). Such a life honors God, reflects who He is, and witnesses to the world which is otherwise in darkness, to the light of the gospel that has transformed us and can change all who come to Jesus for salvation. Such a life is one of love as it demonstrates serving others and treating them as more important than ourselves, and build up the body of Christ in the process. What better way to sum up this lesson than with Paul's words that call us to the life of light: “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” (Ephesians 5:14). Might we all live this way, fully awake in Him, His dear children, imitators of God, witnesses to the world of His grace in Jesus.