Today’s world is full of snares and traps to “stumble” our walking with Christ. This is why a scriptural examination of what this walk consists of is so vital. In part 2 of this Series we consider Ephesians, which contains some of the highest truths about Christians. In it we find that we must keep walking “in love ... as children of light ... circumspectly” (Eph. 5:2,8,15 NKJV) – consistently walking true to the Christian faith, no matter how strange the world thinks we are (1 Pet. 4:2-4). Ephesians provides much guidance for the Christian’s walk. First of all, we are to be like God Himself, because we are part of His family (5:1). Secondly, we must also imitate Christ (5:2). In Ephesians 4, Paul urges us to walk worthy of our calling and to be different from the rest of mankind (4:1,17).
This “calling” is the subject of the doctrinal part of Ephesians, chapters 1-3, and is described elsewhere in the New Testament as an “upward,” “heavenly” or “holy” calling. (Phil. 3:14; Heb. 3:1; 2 Tim. 1:9). Our lives should show that God has called us to be His children, His adopted sons. Because our walk must reflect our calling, Paul explains what to “walk worthy” really means in chapters 4-6, the practical section of this epistle.
1. “Walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma” (Eph. 5:2).
To “walk in love” is our response to Christ’s love (5:2). In life and death our Savior showed that He loved God with all His heart, with all His soul, with all His strength, with His entire mind, and His neighbor as Himself (Mk. 12:30-31). In His death He demonstrated His love for His Church (Eph. 5:25). First John 3:16 tells us that this is how we Christians know what love really is, and how we should react to it with sacrificial love for our brethren. If we walk in this love for God’s family, this brings pleasure to God. We may even have to pay the ultimate price, as Christ did. But according to Ephesians 4:1,2,15 we will certainly have to “walk … with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love … speaking the truth in love” to each other. We must also make every effort “to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (4:3). By these means the Church builds itself up in love.
Romans 12-15 centers on the love that should govern and pervade our Christian gatherings both internally and externally. Romans 12:9-16 paints a comprehensive picture of the qualities of Christian love: it is sincere, discerning, affectionate and respectful; it is enthusiastic and patient, generous and hospitable, benevolent and sympathetic; it is marked by good will, harmony and humility. Churches would be healthier and happier communities if we all loved one another like that! All this is clear from Paul’s use of the words “brotherly love,” “one another” and “the saints” (Rom. 12:10,13). Then Paul tells us that Christian love also includes both love for our enemies (12:17-21) and love for our neighbors just as we love ourselves (13:8-10). In 14:12-19, he shows how easy it is not to walk in love by lacking consideration for the conscience of others.
The fullest description of the character of love is given in 1 Corinthians 13. There we are told it is greater than both “faith” and “hope” (13:13). It is “a more excellent way” (12:31) which constantly must be pursued (14:1) so that each local church can function by the correct exercise of its gifts. Perhaps Paul felt he had to fully describe love and how it acts to those who seemed to love him less, the more he loved them (2 Cor. 11:11; 12:15).
Love is also an essential component of godliness, which the man of God must diligently seek after (1 Tim. 1:5; 6:11). In the words of Ephesians 5:1, both the character and quality of our love are to be Godlike.
2. “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light” (Eph. 5:8).
In Ephesians 5:10 Paul exhorts us to find out “what is acceptable to the Lord” – that is, what is pleasing to the Lord. In His true nature, God is light as well as love (1 Jn. 1:5; 4:8). If we know God, we walk in the light. If our Christianity is merely a profession, it is untrue and we actually walk in darkness (1 Jn. 2:11). But every true believer lives or walks “in the light” (1 Jn. 1:7), that is, in the knowledge of the complete nature and character of God as fully revealed through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. In 1 Thessalonians 2:12 believers are required to “walk worthy” of the God who is light. In every area of our lives we must avoid all evil. There is to be no hint of sexual immorality, any kind of impurity, obscenity, foolish talk, coarse joking or greediness among God’s people; and we are not to be idolatrous (Eph. 5:3-7). Paul goes on to explain in Ephesians 5:9 and 14 that the fruit of the light is to show “all goodness, righteousness, and truth”; and that we can get this light from Christ Himself by looking up to Him in heaven.
When we walk as children of the light, our conduct both exposes and reproves the dark ways of the sinful world (5:11-13). In others words, unbelievers can realize what sin actually is from the godly way we live among them. The Lord Jesus did this in the case of the woman taken in adultery (Jn. 8:1-12). He exposed the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees who brought her to Him by writing on the ground (Jn. 8:6-9; Jer. 17:13). Then He said to her, “Go and sin no more” and explained how she could change her way of living: “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life” (8:11-12). We have to “walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts” (Rom. 13:13-14). Our lives must honestly reflect the Light of the world, who said we must let our lights shine before men (Mt. 5:14-16). “Walking as children of light” involves renouncing all disgraceful and underhanded methods of preaching; and not distorting the Word of God when we teach it. But “by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God” (2 Cor. 4:2NIV).
3. “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Eph. 5:15-16 NKJV).
The word translated “circumspectly” can mean “accurately” or “in strict conformity to a norm.” Christians must “walk” in line with the Scriptures which specify what the Lord wants us to do. It also means “carefully.” Believers must put careful and prayerful effort into how we live – so we could paraphrase Ephesians 5:15 as “walk carefully and wisely.” Through detailed and continued reading of the Scriptures, and by prayer, each believer will come to realize what the Lord wants of us in the various spheres and relationships of life: in the church; the family (husband/wife, parent/children); the work-place (employer/employee); and in Christian warfare (friend/foe). The Lord’s will is stated in Ephesians 5:19-6:21, and other passages of Scripture. Specifically, believers must live out the life assigned to us by the Lord: “as God has distributed to each one, as the Lord has called each one, so let him walk” (1 Cor. 7:17); and notice that 1 Corinthians 7 is about whether to marry or remain single!
The secret of “walking wisely” is to be filled with the Spirit and to allow Him to control our lives (Eph. 5:18; Gal. 5:25). It is so easy for the flesh, rather than the Spirit, to guide our thoughts and actions. How often I convince myself that “I feel that this is what the Lord wants me to do” when it is actually the prompting of my sinful nature that is doing the convincing.
We are exhorted to redeem the time, that is, buy back missed opportunities for walking wisely and waking up to the fact that there is not much time left in which to serve the Lord: “Knowing … that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand; therefore let us cast off the works of darkness … Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts” (Rom. 13:11-14).
By David Anderson
Look for Part 3 of this Series next month.
To Walk With God
To walk with God is to walk in the light of God’s countenance – to live as people who remember that all things are naked and opened to the eyes of Him with whom we walk, that the darkness is no darkness with Him; and remembering this, to aim at never thinking or saying or doing anything we should be ashamed of in the presence of the great Searcher of hearts.
To walk with God is to walk after the Spirit – to look to the Holy Spirit as our Teacher, to lean on Him for strength, to put no confidence in the flesh, to set our affections on things above, to wean them from things on earth, and to be spiritually-minded.
By J. C. Ryle (1816-1900)
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA. Website: www.gtpress.org