I. Imitate God.
A. Walk in love. THEREFORE be imitators of God as dear children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.
By using the image of children, Paul evokes our understanding of God as Father. Just as earthly children will imitate their earthly father, we as children of the Father must imitate Him. Jesus exhorted us, “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Just as Christ reflects the Father by nature, those who are in Christ are to reflect the Father by grace.
We are also to love as Christ loved. Christ loved sacrificially. The love of Christ is seen in forgiveness and sacrifice. “No greater love …than a man lay down his life for his brother.” To love one’s enemies especially is to imitate Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.
To love also is an act of worship. Our lives are an acceptable sacrifice when we love one another. It’s amazing how often Paul uses the language of worship throughout these Prison Epistles. Not surprisingly he would dip into OT sacrificial images to describe the person and work of Christ, but he uses that of our own lives as well.
B. Avoid Sin 3 But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; 4 neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. 5 For this you know,* that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.
Just as Paul exhorts positively to walk in love, he warns in the negative to avoid sin. In doing so, he lists a number of sins common to the culture of the day. Fornication and uncleanness should be avoided. Once again this was common among the Gentiles and at times part of their worship. Fornication in Greek is “porneia” Although we live in a fairly sexually promiscuous society today, the world of the first century was truly sex-saturated. In this respect Christianity was truly counter-cultural.
Paul does include covetousness or greed in this, and vs. 5 summarizes all this behavior as idolatry. Sexual sin and greed have in common the act of idolatry. They both remove God from His proper place, and replace Him with other objects.
Next he mentions sins of the tongue. Chrysostom says, “words are the ways toward acts”. Jesus also warned of no idle words. Paul is also speaking here of joking. This is tougher to grasp. It seems apparent that we are to be careful what you joke about because by doing so you lessen the evil or seriousness of it. We are to use our mouth for thanksgiving rather than “idle speech”
C. Avoid deceitful company
1. Avoid the dark 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. 7 Therefore do not be partakers with them. 8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.
It’s important to remember that Paul is speaking primarily to a Gentile church with a vastly differently morality than those who came from Judaism. He is addressing those who try to hold onto Christ yet live those sins. This is a warning of not just running with your old crowd, but being alert to those within the church (false teachers) that condoned this behavior for Christians. This happened often in the early church because of the threat of Gnosticism. See the addresses to the seven churches in Revelation for examples. Many Gnostics taught that only the spirit mattered, so physically morality did not matter because it had no effect of the life of the spirit. Man is union of matter and spirit so any behavior will affect man as a whole not in parts. These new Christians had to be reminded that life was new in Christ and their behavior must be different.
2. Walk in the light. Walk as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the Spirit* is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), 10 finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. 11 And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret. 13 But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light. 14 Therefore He says:
"Awake, you who sleep,
Arise from the dead,
And Christ will give you light."
Chrysostom: “bring all the things of your heart to light so that the darkness can be exposed and removed”. This is extremely descriptive of the pattern of the Christian life. We open our hearts constantly to God so that we may be exposed and then confess and then healed. If there is a good reason for the sacrament of confession it is this. By confessing us to another it forces us to come face to face with the condition of our heart. It is too easy to lie to ourselves when we really on a relationship of just me and Jesus. Unfortunately, Jesus often becomes an image of our own soul in this scenario.
This exposure to the light can be depressing and painful. The saints speak often of this experience. Often upon beginning this path, one may feel he is worse than before he embraced the path of salvation. Before embarking on this path, man was deceived about his own condition, now he sees his self in new light and it looks dark. One must trust in the transforming grace of God. Once healing takes place, the process begins anew. In fact, the closer one gets to the light of Christ, the more of one’s sin he will see. This explains the saint’s attitude toward themselves. Those in this life closest to God always see themselves as the darkest sinners and most unworthy of Grace.
II. Be careful how you walk
A. Be wise 15 See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, 16 redeeming the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.
Paul exhorts to wisdom. In fact wisdom is defined not as knowledge but the application of God’s truth to life. It is the “living out” of God’s will. We are to ”redeem the time” meaing to buy up every opportunity to do good. Col.4:5
B. Be filled with the spirit 18 And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, 20 giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,
This passage seems related to our worship. To be “drunk with wine” is reference to their old way of worship, and maybe referring to excess at agape meals (1 Cor. 11:17ff). This seems apparent because the rest of the passage refers to attentiveness in worship. One can’t be attentive to God if one’s senses are dulled through intoxication. Vs. 19-20 are perfect descriptions of early Christian worship. One only has to look to places such as the Didache or Justin Martyr to sees these early forms of liturgical worship. The Church coming out of Judaism respecting and continued the forms of synagogical and temple worship. Psalms, hymn, and spiritual songs along with the reading of Scripture formed the worship attached by the service of the Eucharist. In fact, in this passage the heart of worship experience in made clear as everything culminates in giving thanks to God. This is what we as Orthodox do every time we gather, we give thanks to God through the breaking of the bread.
Chrysostom: “in your hearts” means with understanding and attention. “For those who give no heed merely sing, uttering word, while their heart is roaming elsewhere.” Jerome: give thanks to the Lord in the good times and bad.
The Orthodox New Testament
Ancient Christian Commentary
Also Chrysostom’s commentaries which can be found online here: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf113.html