Ephesians - Lesson 10

By Curt Niccum

Discerning the "spirits". Ephesians 5:7-20


  1. The student can describe the literary structure of 5:1-20.
  2. The student will identify "thanksgiving" as the action Paul presents as most opposed to the actions of the world.
  3. The student can state clearly that drunkenness has no place in a Christian's life.


  1. Bibles and pens as needed.


In chapter 5:1-20 Paul gives commands related to that walk. In the two sections to be examined today, Paul reiterates the need to have separate lifestyles (vv. 7-14) and addresses drunkenness (vv. 15-20).

Lesson Plan for Conducting the Class


  1. Call the roll or have someone check it. (It is very important to know who is present so someone can check on those who are absent.) Introduce and welcome visitors, take prayer requests, and make any necessary announcements.
  2. Prayer and songs as desired.
  3. Review the previous lesson.
    1. Q: What was the primary topic of the previous study? A: Sexual purity. Paul makes it clear that not only should our actions be pure, but also our words, especially as both relate to sexuality.
    2. Q: He bases his admonitions on something that has already been done and made known to God's people. Paul roots his argument in what relationship? In other words, where does Paul begin? A: God is a loving Father and we are His children,the objects of his affection. We are no longer objects of wrath but of love (2:1-6).
  4. The previous section is the first of three that can be found in chapter five. In the other two sections, which we will study today, Paul again anchors his teaching within this family relationship.
    1. In the second section Paul identifies us as children of light. Most scholars also consider verse 14 to be related to baptism, the means by which we become "born again" into God's family - and, especially here, into His light.
    2. In the third section, Paul closes with thanksgiving directed toward the loving Father (5:20).
  5. Other themes connect these three sections.
    1. Each of the sections begins with the word "therefore" and commands related to walking. Q: Can you find where those begin? A: Verses 1, 7-8 & 15.
    2. In addition, both the first and last sections discuss three types of speech with a conclusion about giving thanks.
      1. In 5:4 Paul contrasts thankfulness with shameful, foolish, and coarse language about sex.
      2. In 5:19-20 Paul associates psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with giving thanks.
      3. The last two sections also focus on God's will (5:10 & 17). This provides a contrast to the wrath of God mentioned in 5:6.

Learning Experience:

  1. The middle of the three sections reinforces the exhortations Paul provides in the first and last. In 5:7-14, Paul reminds the disciples that they belong to a completely different world. Language reminiscent of 2:1-6 and of the distinct differences between worldly and heavenly activities found in 4:17-32 reoccurs here to strengthen what has been written and what Paul is preparing to write.
    1. We cannot participate in worldly activities because this dark world belongs to disobedient children (5:6). Instead, we must recognize that we now "walk" in the light as children of light (5:7).
    2. Q: The world's consciousness produces what sexual sins according to verses 3 & 5? A:
      1. sexual immorality
      2. impurity
      3. covetousness.
    3. Q: The world's speech contains language of sexual perversion that includes what (v. 4)? A:
      1. shameful
      2. foolish
      3. coarse.
    4. Q: Those dwelling in the light naturally produce what according to verse 9? A:
      1. goodness
      2. righteousness
      3. truth.
  2. Our role goes beyond walking in the light and avoiding darkness. As children of the light, we must work together to expose darkness (verse 11).
    1. Christians must present a voice that challenges the world's lies. It seems that the "prophetic voice" of God's people seems diminished today. By "prophetic voice," I do not refer to the gift of prophecy, but the language found in the Old Testament prophets where God's opposition to the actions of government and society were publicly voiced.
      1. In the Old Testament prophets, many of the oracles decried fraudulent business practices, governmental abuse, the cheating of the poor by the rich, sexual immorality and marital infidelity. Q: What are our opportunities for presenting such a voice today? A: In conversations where we work or study, in clubs and groups where we have memberships, in letters to the editor, in special sermons and classes, and advertised meetings at church.
      2. For example, Oklahoma voted against the institution of a state lottery for years. Whenever an election date approached, churches voiced opposition. Christianity's position was clearly communicated - not only to the church, but to the public. This changed in 2004, when the state lottery bill finally passed. There was much less open opposition by church leaders. The absence was made all the more remarkable in light of the significant vocal and very public opposition against all previous attempts.
      3. The light does not just exist in its own tiny community. Its rays stream into the darkness and expose the dark for what it truly is.
    2. Paul underlines this with a passage almost certainly related to baptism. We ourselves were once in darkness and death (2:1-3), but responded through being exposed to the light and being raised from the dead through baptism(see Romans 6:1-4). In other words, we found the light because someone chose to shine Christ's light into our dark lives. Evangelism requires us to be alight set upon a hill so we in turn can shine Christ's light into the lives of others (see Matthew 5:14-16).
  3. Although our English versions opt for a more meaningful translation, the beginning of the third section begins with the command "See!" Since we live in the light we must see. As with the other sections, Paul applies this specifically with our "walk" (5:15).
    1. Wisdom and perception of the Lord's will mark our ways rather than the world's foolishness and lack of wisdom (vv. 16-17).
    2. Paul then urges his readers to be filled with the Spirit rather than with wine. Of course, in English, this allows for a wordplay that may help student memory. We are to be filled with The Spirit rather than spirits.
    3. To be filled with the Spirit means to let the Spirit's ways have more power in our lives (see Galatians 5:22-25). One of the things Spirit filled Christians will do is to speak to one another in song.
  4. The first section of chapter five dealt specifically with sexual sins, a problem still rampant in today's society and unfortunately among Christians as well. Paul now moves to another problem that has been around for ages - drunkenness.
    1. I find it disturbing that the two images most often presented in advertising today relate to sexuality and drinking. Obviously, Paul's letter to the Ephesians still needs to be heard.
    2. The opening imperative to "See!" may be intended to connect also with the problem of drunkenness. Scripture often associates poor vision with excessive drinking.
    3. Those familiar with drunken behavior, especially in Europe, will immediately recognize the connection to music. Whereas excessive alcohol produces foolish speech and action in exaggerated amounts, the Spirit should produce in God's people greater levels of praise and thanksgiving.
      1. The singing of 80,000 drunken soccer fans is rather impressive.
      2. In the 1800s, the Wesleys decided that if they were going to get men to sing in church, they would take spiritual lyrics and set them to the well-known pub tunes.
      3. During summer mission work in Austria, there was a bar just down the street from the church building. During Sunday worship, we would sometimes have to compete with the singing of drunks trying to find their way home.
  5. Daily the world bombards us and our children with images that glorify perversions of God's creation - illicit sexuality and excessive drinking. We should not be surprised that this unduly influences the church since many Christians see and hear from the world through their televisions, radios, and computers more than they hear from the Word. We must expose such behavior as the darkness it is. We must present the truth to expose the lie.
  6. The church must also compassionately serve those in the church and those of the world who have succumbed to these evils. We do not expose the dark in order to keep people from grace, but to make it possible for them to be drawn into the light.
  7. In these three sections of chapter 5, Paul makes a strong call for purity.


  1. If alcohol related problems are not significant for the class members and/or their families, spending the rest of the time in song would be worthwhile.
    1. Note that we are instructed to sing to one another. It would be beneficial,therefore, to focus on songs that encourage and edify.
    2. Thankfulness to God is another characteristic. You might choose to end the class with a song or two expressing thanks.
  2. If alcoholism presents a real problem, it would be good to provide explicit solutions just as were provided with the previous lesson.
    1. Let class members know of any assistance provided by the congregation.
    2. It might be helpful to let students know where AA and similar meetings are held (including those addressing children of addicts).
    3. If necessary, the locations of clinics and medical facilities designed to work with those overwhelmed by this or other drug related sins should be provided.

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