Here is yet another chapter that is all about holiness, and which Paul begins by admonishing his readers to imitate God (5:1). There is no better role model. If we do imitate Him, our outstanding character trait will be unselfish love (5:2), of which Jesus, who gave His life for us, is the perfect example. As we start our day today, let us determine to treat others as Jesus would treat them.
There should be no impurity, immorality or any greed even named among us (5:3). Those who are guilty of such sins are idolaters, and they’re bound for hell (5:5-6). Paul warned us not to be deceived about this fact (5:6). Sadly, so many are. Most professing Christians possess some degree of conviction regarding sexual immorality, yet it seems so few possess any conviction regarding greed, having relegated it to being nothing more than an attitude of the heart that has no bearing on what one does with his money. But greed is just as damning as adultery. Those who ignore the poor are greedy, and they will be cast into hell according to Jesus (Matt. 25:31-46).
Some professing Christians promote the idea of being “drunk in the Spirit,” based on Paul’s words in 5:18: “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit.” In such circles, one can attend church services where people laugh uproariously, stumble around, shake uncontrollably, fall on the floor and act like fools, all supposedly under the influence of the Holy Spirit! Yet Paul was in no way intimating that Spirit-filled people act like drunks. Rather, he indicated that Spirit-filled people “speak to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs,” and that they “sing and make melody with their hearts to the Lord, always giving thanks for all things” (5:19-20). Spirit-filled people are full of the fruit of the Spirit, such as love, joy, peace and so on. As to the idea of acting drunk, Scripture repeatedly instructs believers to act soberly (see Tim. 4:5; 1 Thes. 5:6, 8; 1 Pet. 1:13, 4:7, 5:8).
The call to holiness extends to our treatment of our spouses, concerning which Christ’s relationship with the church is the pattern that should be imitated. Although the responsibility of wives to be subject to their husbands “as to the Lord” is certainly endorsed in 5:22, it should be noted that in the verse directly before that, Paul instructs all believers to be subject to each other “in the fear of Christ.” That is, we are all supposed to strive to get along and give preference to each other in Christ-like servanthood. Verse 22 literally reads, “Wives, to your own husbands, as to the Lord.” The words, “be subject,” were added by the translators, to apparently help readers who skipped over verse 21! In any case, no husband has a right to expect from his wife what he does not give to others in the body of Christ (including her). He is commanded to love her as Christ loved the church (5:25). Jesus loves the church so much He died for her! On the other hand, nothing can ruin a marriage relationship more quickly than a wife who is always disagreeable and who does not honor her husband by showing him due respect as the God-ordained head of the family.
Let me emphasize that the husband is the domestic head of his wife and family, but he is not the spiritual head. Jesus is the head of every member of the church, and so every woman’s spiritual head is Christ. If that is not the case, then a woman whose husband is unsaved has an unsaved spiritual head.
Finally, what is the reason that Jesus “gave Himself up for the church” (5:25)? It was to “sanctify her” (5:26), that is, to set her apart for His holy use. He has cleansed us by His word in order that He might “present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing…holy and blameless” (5:26-27). Jesus died to make us holy! That is why believers are called “saints” in the New Testament.