Meaning of Ephesians Chapter 5

What does it mean to be imitators of God? In this summary of Ephesians 5, we will discover how we can imitate God by walking in love, light, and wisdom.

We will also take a look at how Christian marriage is designed to reflect the union between Christ and His church.

What is Ephesians 5 Talking About?

We saw that Ephesians chapters 1-3 were all about what God has done and what we have been given through Christ. Beginning in chapter 4, Paul encouraged the believers in Ephesus to walk worthy of their calling. 

In Ephesians chapter 5, Paul continues to instruct the church on how they are to walk in a worthy manner.

Walk in Love

Ephesians 5:1-2 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; 2 and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma. 

Ephesians 5:1-2

This chapter begins by referring back to the command given at the end of the previous chapter.

Be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. – Ephesians 4:32

The word “imitators” simply means a follower. We cannot imitate God according to His being, power, or knowledge. But we can heed the command to be kind, compassionate, and forgiving. This is what God has shown us in Christ and how we are to walk in love towards others. We share the love we have found in Christ. This is how we imitate God.

Ephesians 5:3-5 But sexual immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be mentioned among you, as is proper among saints; 4 and there must be no filthiness or foolish talk, or vulgar joking, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. 5 For this you know with certainty, that no sexually immoral or impure or greedy person, which amounts to an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.

This next section shows us the opposite of what walking in love looks like.

  • Sexual immorality
  • Impurity
  • Greed
  • Filthiness or foolish talk
  • Vulgar joking

This word “fitting” in verse 4 means “to have come to, arrived at, to reach to, proper, duty, to attain to”.

These behaviors are not to be admired or aspired by those professing to be children of God because they are in accordance with our old nature. Our new nature should reflect the love, nature, and glory of God.

Walk in Light

Ephesians 5:6-10 See that no one deceives you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.Therefore do not become partners with them; 8 for you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), 10 as you try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.

Paul begins this section by commanding the Ephesians to not partner with anyone or anything that is bringing the wrath of God.

As believers, we no longer belong to the darkness. We belong to the Light.

Works of Light:

  • Goodness
  • Righteousness
  • Truth
  • Trying to please the Lord

Ephesians 5: 11-14 Do not participate in the useless deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them; 12 for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret. 13 But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light. 14 For this reason it says, “Awake, sleeper and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”

Here we see a contrast of what it means to walk in darkness as opposed to walking in the light.

As children of God, and children of light, we are not to partake in the actions and lifestyles of unbelievers. We are to practice goodness, righteousness, and truth; the truth that is in accordance with God’s Word, not according to the world.

God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; 7 but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another – 1 John 1:5-7

We also see that as we walk in light we will expose the darkness. This is why the world hates the Light. Light exposes sinful deeds and behaviors. As personal sin is revealed to the people in the world they can respond in one of two ways:

  • They admit their sin, repent, and turn to God
  • They don’t want to be accountable for their sin and become aggravated or angry at the person or thing that exposed the darkness within them

And this is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the Light; for their deeds were evil. – John 3:19

Walk in Wisdom

Ephesians 5:15-17 So then, be careful how you walk, not as unwise people but as wise, 16 making the most of your time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

Ephesians 5:15-17

The term “be careful” in the original language means “to look, behold, beware”. We need to be intentional in how we walk. We need to be aware of how our actions, attitudes, and behaviors line up with the Truth revealed through God’s Word.

Ephesians 5:18-21 18 And do not get drunk with wine, in which there is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your hearts to the Lord; 20 always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to our God and Father; 21 and subject yourselves to one another in the fear of Christ.

The first thing we should notice in this section is the contrast between being drunk with wine (debauchery) and being filled with the Spirit.

The original word for debauchery means an abandoned, dissolute life.

The wore for “be filled” means “to make replete, to cram, level up”. Also, this command is in the present tense which means a continuous action. We need to keep on being filled with the Spirit.

Paul contrasts the effect of the Holy Spirit with the state of drunkenness. Alcohol is a depressant; it “loosens” people because it depresses their self-control, their wisdom, their balance and judgment. The Holy Spirit has an exactly opposite effect. He is a stimulant; He moves every aspect of our being to better and more perfect performance. – David Guzik

Verses 19-21 show us what the outcome is for those who choose to walk and live according to the Spirit.

Marriage – Christ and the Church

In this next section he gives commands to both wives and husbands then follows up each with the reason why their obedience to these commands is important.

Ephesians 5:22-24 Wives, subject yourselves to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. 24 But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.

Paul first commands wives to submit to husbands. When we submit to something or to someone, it’s an expression of our recognition to an authority. Paul goes on to say that wives are to submit to their husbands because, as Christ is head of the church, God has so designed the function of the family by placing the husband as the head. 

This does not mean that the husband has more value or importance than the wife, but simply that God has given each a role to play. They are meant to be a team.

The phrase “as to the Lord” means that we do it out of obedience to Christ. 

As to the Lord does not define the extent of a wife’s submission or the limit of a wife’s submission. It defines the motive of a wife’s submission. – David Guzik

Ephesians 5:25-30 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, 26 so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. 28 So husbands also ought to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; 29 for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, 30 because we are parts of His body.

Husbands are to love their wives. There are different words to translate different kinds of love in the Bible. The word used here is “agapeo”.

Agapeo love has more to do with action than with feelings. Here are a couple of other verses that use this same word.

“I am giving you a new commandment, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, that you also love one another. – John 13:34

“Just as the Father has loved Me, I also have loved you – John 15:9

Husbands have been given great responsibility! Also, notice the use of the word body/bodies in verses 22-30.


  • Christ is the head and Savior of the body.
  • The church is subject to Him.
  • Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her to sanctify her, to present her:
    • in glory/splendor
    • Holy
    • blameless / without blemish


  • Love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her
  • Love wives as their own bodies
  • They are to nourish and cherish her as part of the sacrificial love for her
    • as Christ does the church

Ephesians 5:31-33 For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. 32 This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church. 33 Nevertheless, as for you individually, each husband is to love his own wife the same as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband.

Christian marriage is to be a reflection of the union with Christ and His body. Husband and wife are one body as Christ has become one body with the church.

meaning of ephesians 5

Ephesians 5 Final Thoughts

I love how this chapter gives us practical instruction for how we, as the body of Christ, are to function in a way that not only brings glory to God, but also causes the growth and building up of the members of the church.

If we, as God’s children, walk in obedience to these commands the body as a whole will benefit. Not just the body, but the world as well. The physical world and the spiritual world. 

Remember we learned back in Ephesians 3 that the manifold wisdom of God is being declared through the church to the rulers and authorities in heavenly places. This was part of God’s eternal plan.

As we walk in a manner worthy of our calling, we reveal the wisdom and glory of God to the spiritual forces.

We also reveal His love to the people in the world who desperately need to know the hope offered through faith in Christ.

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