These small group studies of Ephesians contain outlines, cross-references, Bible study discussion questions, and applications. Visit our library of inductive Bible studies for more in depth inductive studies on this and other books of the Bible you can use in your small group.
Ephesians 5:1-14 Inductive Bible Study Lesson Plan
I. Follow Christ’s example of love (1-2)
II. Stay far away from all immorality and impurity (3-6)
III. Be children of light, not of darkness (7-14)
I. Follow Christ’s example of love (1-2)
- How can we imitate God?
- What aspects of God should we imitate?
- How can we walk in love?
- What standard should we try to reach?
- Why is Jesus love the ultimate example?
- Why is Jesus’ sacrifice called a fragrant aroma?
- Who was it fragrant to?
Matthew 5:48 – Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
1 Peter 1:15-16 – But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”
1 John 4:11 – Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
Colossians 3:12-14 – Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
1 Peter 4:8 – Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.
Matthew 25:35-36 – For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.
1. Be imitators of God. A lot of people have idols, heroes they look up to that they want to be just like. They want to talk like they talk; they want to look like they look; they want to have similar hair styles, similar fashions, similar personalities. But the problem with most of these idols, is that they are spiritually corrupt. Ask a lot of people who their idols are and they will say sports stars like Wilt Chamberlain (serial adulterer), singers like Michael Jackson (sexual pervert), actors like Tom Cruise (scientologist), or politicians like Bill Clinton (also adulterer). I am not writing this to disparage these people. All of us are in the same boat. If someone held a magnifying glass up to our life, our sins too would be evident for all. The problem is not in the specific person people idolize, but in idolizing anyone!
People either have incredibly low standards or they ignore the moral character and focus on outward looks or success.
As believers, we should be imitators of God. He is the one we should look up to and try to emulate. Why? Quite simply because He is perfect. He is the standard in holiness, love, kindness, righteousness, mercy, justice, etc. We shouldn’t model our lives after morally bankrupt superstars or we will follow the same dark road they do.
We should model our lives after Christ, who lived a perfect life in this world and showed us how to respond to all kinds of problems and temptations. If we have heroes, they should be Christian heroes who modeled Christ in their own lives. We should respect them for their character, not for their looks or success. Paul also said to follow him as he followed the Lord. Don’t set people up on a pedestal, but we can learn from them so that we can better imitate the Lord ourselves in our lives.
2. Walk in love –
While we are to imitate many of God’s characteristics, love is the central one for the believer. It is mentioned over and over again because it is so important. Again, walk, is a day to day lifestyle. Love is something we need to live out day to day in both small and big situations. While we need to be willing to make the ultimate sacrifice, a lot of times love can be shown in even the smallest gestures.
It is not something we can ever take a break from or ever finish. We need to show love whether we are tired, overworked, sick, under pressure, on vacation, at the office, home, on the road, working, or playing. To do that we need to be alert and give 24/7 effort. Love could be cleaning out the toilet, taking out the trash, sweeping the floor, washing the dishes, filing the report at work that no one else wants to, going to the store, making the bed, listening, speaking a kind word, comforting the discouraged, making a phone call to our parents, asking about someone’s life, visiting an orphanage, visiting the sick in the hospital or spending quality time with our family.
3. How high is our standard? Our standard is Christ, who made the ultimate sacrifice, His own life. Their are no restrictions on how much we are to love others. There is no time limitation. It doesn’t apply to only people we know or only our friends or family. It is applied to strangers, enemies, bosses and employees. It doesn’t matter if they deserve it. We didn’t deserve Christ’s sacrifice on the cross for us and the people around us probably don’t deserve our love either, but Christ still did it and we are too. We need to love others whole heartedly, completely, and all the time.
4. Jesus’ sacrifice was pleasing to God. It was a fragrant aroma, like some of the sacrifices in the Old Testament. It pleased God because it demonstrated His perfect plan and His perfect love and justice, because it brought sinners to Himself, because it showed Christ’s perfect submission, and because it defeated Satan. Christ’s obedience and love pleased God and if we love others by sacrificing ourselves for them, this also pleases God, which is what verse 10 tells us we are to do
II. Stay far away from all immorality and impurity (3-6)
- What does it mean that immorality/impurity/greed must not be named among us?
- Does this mean we should keep our mouth shut about it?
- What is silly talk?
- Can you give any examples?
- What is course jesting?
- Why are these kinds of talk not fitting?
- What do these instructions tell us about our speech?
- What kind of speech should we replace this wicked speech with? Giving of thanks to who?
- What warning does Paul give in verses 5-6?
- Does this mean that believers will be perfect?
- Then what does it mean?
- How should we, as professing believers, take this warning?
- What would you say to someone who tells you not to worry about it because you have prayed the salvation pray and cannot lose your salvation?
Proverbs 12:23 – The prudent keep their knowledge to themselves, but a fool’s heart blurts out folly.
Matthew 12:34-37 – You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.
Ephesians 5:19-20 – Speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Colossians 3:17 – And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Revelation 21:27 – Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.
1 John 3:7-8 – Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. The one who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.
1. These things must not be named among us. It means they must not occur, that we must not give unbelievers any chance to point to Christians and say that we are doing those kinds of things. When professing Christians scandalously have an affair and get divorced, it is improper and tarnishes the name of the church. It allows unbelievers to accuse us.
We must stay far away from any compromising situations so that those who wish to accuse us can find nothing and will have nothing bad to say.
Billy Graham knew this principle. He knew that if he was involved with a scandal it would give all of Christ’s enemies ammunition to attack the church. So he set several standards. First, he would not meet with a lady one on one. Second, he had a team of people go into his hotel room and check it out first. He was concerned that enemies of Christ may plant a lady, perhaps immodestly dressed, who would jump out and have a photo snapped. Such a photo and story, even if untrue, could do great damage to his ministry. So he made sure to never be caught in any compromising situation.
Christians as a body should be above reproach and star far away from the wickedness listed in verse 3. They are putrid and evil and we should recognize them as such.
2. No filthiness. Evil, dirty, and wicked things. These things are specifically applied to speech here. No filthy speech. This could include things like cursing, bad jokes, and any kind of dirty talk (the kinds of things that parents used to wash their kids mouths with soap for). Although this kind of talking is extremely common in the world and viewed as humorous or masculine (sometimes), there must be no hint of it in the church.
I guess you probably don’t have issue with this when you are are around believers, but what about when you are around your worldly friends? Do you stay there and listen to it? Do you laugh at it?
3. Silly talk. Talk that is nonsensical and has no value. Could include things like speculation about things that can never happen, excessive joking (tends to happen more with guys), flirtatious or wishful talk (tends to happen more with girls). “Do you think so and so likes so and so? Don’t you think so and so is handsome? So and so looked at me and I think he likes me.” Such talk is silly and has no value.
God created us with a sense of humor and joking can be positive and healthy. But it can also cross a line and become destructive. When does it pass the line of harmless fun and enter silly talk? Should we not joke at all? How can we discern between healthy joking and silly talk?
Here are a few principles to consider:
A. Talk less and listen more. Be quick to listen and slow to speak. The abundance of words brings strife.
B. What is the opposite of silly talk? Meaningful talk. Be sure to have meaningful, deep conversations with others. The majority of your conversations should not be jokes or surface talk. Empty talk accomplishes nothing of eternal value.
C. Control ourselves. Consider whether or not your “harmless” jokes are going to hurt others. Is it a bad testimony? Does it tear others down? Are we being rude or misleading others? Does it build us up? Hurting others and then laughing doesn’t make it any better. Once we say something, we can’t take it back.
4. Course jesting. This refers to harsh joking, the kind that hurts other people. It is unedifying and not pleasant to listen to. Sometimes there are 1-2 people engaging in it while everyone else sits around uncomfortably noticing that their laughs are hurtful and degrading.
5. Our speech is important. Those were all kinds of speech we are to avoid, but we are to replace those with giving of thanks. Let our words be glorifying to God, focused on the gifts and grace He has given to us. Let it be testimonies of His grace in our lives. Use our words positively instead of negatively.
6. Paul gives a strong warning. The wicked people are not saved, don’t belong to God, will not go to heaven, and are sons of disobedience. Some people may come along and say that if we have confessed our sins and are saved, we need not worry to much. “Don’t stress yourself out,” they say.
But the warning is clear. This kind of person is not saved. We need to take this warning to heart, repent, and avoid this kind of lifestyle. If we practice these things, then we don’t belong to God. The true believer will repent and hunger for what’s right. He will be sensitive to sin and hate it and grow. The real believer will heed these warnings and make sure they are not following this path to destruction. The unbeliever will not heed the warning.
Don’t be deceived, whether you have prayed some prayer or not, if these character qualities define us, then that is who we are, and we don’t belong to God.
III. Be children of light, not of darkness (7-14)
- So what is the application/conclusion for us?
- Why does Paul say he reached this conclusion?
- What is the difference between Light and dark?
- Contrast “sons of disobedience” with “children of Light”.
- What will be the evidence in our lives of us walking in the light?
- How to “expose” the deeds of darkness?
- Is it OK for believers to talk about immoral things, as long as they don’t do it?
- In light of verse 13, how should we live our lives?
- Explain verse 14.
John 8:12 – When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.
John 12:46 – I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.
1 Peter 2:9-11 – But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
Philippians 2:14-15 – Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky
Matthew 18:15-17 – “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.
1 Timothy 5:20 – But those elders who are sinning you are to reprove before everyone, so that the others may take warning.
2 Timothy 4:2 – Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.
1. Do not be partakers with them. The conclusion is that we can’t engage in any of these worldly activities. The consequence is facing the wrath of God and eternal separation from Him.
2. Why must we not? Because we have a new position; we are even a new person. We have been saved into God’s family and must live like it. We are called to reject the dark, evil, wicked lifestyle and reflect the light of God through our lives by a godly testimony to the world. Light and dark cannot be reconciled or combined. They are opposites. The Christian life is at odds with the unbeliever’s life. One is dark and one is light. There can be no compromise and no going back.
3. How can we know which life we are living? By our fruit. The life in the light will bring goodness, righteousness, and truth, while there are no redeeming qualities of the darkness. They are unfruitful, meaning they are not pleasing to God. But they have their own “fruit of the flesh.”
4. If we are in the light, we will try to do the things that are pleasing to God. We need to study the Bible to know what pleases Him and what doesn’t. It is like a husband and wife.
The husband is commanded in 1 Peter 3:7 to study/learn the wife to know what pleases her and how to best show love to her.
That is what we should do to the Lord.
5. We are not only supposed to avoid the evil deeds of darkness, but we are to expose them. We are to oppose them, rebuke them, and fight against them wherever we find them, whether it is in our lives or the lives of others in the church. If these deeds are not exposed and dealt with, they will grow and spread.
Application: What is an evil deed of darkness in society that is becoming common around you? What should you do to expose and fight against this practice?
6. Verse 12. The things done in secret are so evil they should not even be talked about, lest they have a polluting influence on those who hear it. The only case where they should be talked about is if doing so exposes the sins so that the sinner can be dealt with appropriately. An example might be a rape case. It is necessary to mention the details in a court so that the perpetrator might be punished. They are not to be gossiped about or joked about, but only mentioned when necessary to expose and deal with the sin.
7. The light will finally make everything visible. So we should live our lives above reproach knowing that no secret sin will stay secret forever. Live uprightly and holy lives so that if others were to dig in our lives they could find nothing. If we have nothing to expose, we don’t need to worry. Don’t hide any skeletons in the closet!
8. Verse 14 is probably part of a hymn, which was a hymn of invitation to unbelievers to repent to experience the light of Christ.
E-book: If these notes are helpful you can download the entire Ephesians E-book study guide to use on any device or print the entire series.
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