Understanding Ephesians 5

Q. I know that God requires nothing more from us for salvation than our faith in the redeeming sacrifice of Jesus. Most days I am comfortable in that belief, however, this morning in my devotional time, I read a passage that I have read many times before, yet today it struck a nerve. If Paul is addressing believers in the Ephesian Church, then why in chapter 5 does he warn that anyone who is guilty of the sins listed in verse 3 will not have an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God?

A. First you must understand that Paul’s letter to the Ephesians contains two messages. The first one, chapters 1-3, consists of all the things the Lord has done for us and how they bring eternal benefits that can never be revoked.

Ephesians 4:1-6:9 explains how we should express our gratitude for this by the way we live. His point in chapter 5 was that because of our inheritance we should be imitators of God (behaving like He would) and not imitators of the immoral, impure or greedy people around us who have no inheritance. He said that although we used to be like them we aren’t any more and so we shouldn’t act like they do (Ephes. 5:8). Chapter 6:10-18 explains how we can use God’s power to help us resist the ways of the world.

But one thing the letter doesn’t do is make our ongoing assurance of salvation contingent upon our behavior. Otherwise Paul couldn’t have said our inheritance is guaranteed from the time we first believe (Ephes 1:13-14) or that from God’s perspective we’re already seated with Him in the heavenly realms (Ephes 2:6-7) or that our salvation is by grace, not by works (Ephes 2:8-9) because that would have made the letter self contradictory.

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