Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Eph. 5:2a “And walk in love,. . .”
“Walk” refers to one’s lifestyle, the habitual, ongoing actions of everyday living. The word is important in Ephesians. In the book’s first section, chapters 1-3, we are told to walk in “good works” (2:10). The second section (4:1-6:9), which deals primarily with our “walk,” tells us to walk worthy of our calling (4:1), walk different from the lost (4:17), “walk in love” (5:2), “walk as children of light” (5:8), and “walk circumspectly” (5:15). A believer’s “walk,” one’s everyday lifestyle, is vital. Behavior matters to God.
To “walk in love” means to conduct one’s daily activities with love as our unceasing, omnipresent motive. Every Christian should be conspicuous for love. It should be the prominent feature in our everyday conduct.
Our lives should be spent in a fog of love. We ought to drink in love from Heaven, as plants drink in sunshine, and then radiate love forth from our eyes, face, and hands. Love should be an atmosphere we carry with us.
Daily put on love like clothing. Dressed in love, each morning go forth to meet the world. Let love be the deciding factor in all our choices, the appointed path in which our feet walk every moment. Do not seek to perform one, two, or three acts of kindness a day, but instead desire to have love as the all encompassing fervor of our lives. “Let all that you do be done in love” (1 C 16:14, NASB).
Strive to excel in love. The love we show is one part of our lives we will never regret. When we come to die, we will rue our harsh words and unkind deeds, but will never regret the times we chose to “walk in love.”
Eph. 5:2b “. . .as Christ also hath loved us,. . .”
People often speak of love as the summon bonum, the ultimate good, and make other rules and laws subservient to this wonderful thing called love. Live by love, some say, and all else will take care of itself. In my college days this was the “in vogue” way of determining personal conduct. Decisions were made by considering the question, “what would love do?”
On the surface, this system known as “Situation Ethics” sounds well and good, and looks attractive, but the whole process breaks down when love is wrongly defined. Not just any definition of love will suffice. All kinds of silly and sickly sentiments, plus countless irrational and sinful deeds, have been justified by being described as based on love. This is preposterous. Depraved humanity is not at liberty to define Biblical terms with our own definitions and in our own ways. God knows us too well to let us define for ourselves the exact meaning of His sacred terms.
The Bible never leaves us with a vague and general notion of what love is. Love is defined by God’s law and demonstrated by Jesus’ life. God’s Word is the parameter within which love operates, and Jesus’ life is the pattern for a loving lifestyle. Christ’s own self-sacrificing love for us is our example. Biblical love is neither romanticism, a pleasant emotion, nor a good feeling, but the giving of one’s self for another’s well-being. “Hereby perceive we the love of God, because He laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 J 3:16).
Holding to the proper definition of love is critical, for what a person believes determines the way one behaves. The rest of our text helps us define love by naming several key characteristics of Christ’s love for us.
Eph. 5:2c “. . .and hath given himself for us. . .”
Paul tugs at our heartstrings by stating in a very few words the Benefactor, the benefit, and the beneficiaries. Jesus gave up not only things, but also His own self, for us. All Christ was as God, all He became as man, He completely yielded for us. With Jesus there was no holding back, no reservation. His was a complete self-surrender in our behalf.
In eternity past, Jesus made a choice which overruled all succeeding choices and decided the course of His own fate. Long before the cross, He chose to let His destiny be determined by the needs of others. He decided His life would be dictated, even to the point of dying, by the hurts of others.
Jesus on the cross was not a victim of circumstances. His crucifixion was not a passive submission, but an active, deliberate choice based on a decision made way back in the eons of time from which He never wavered.
The devil tempted Jesus (LK 4), and tried to deter Him, but the Savior had already decided He was not His own. His essence belonged to us. He had long before already chosen whose path He would follow.
The key passage in the book of Luke, the verse on which the whole Gospel hinges, is 9:51b, “He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem.” Danger and death awaited Him, but His face was set, for He had already decided long ago to give not of Himself, but Himself, for us.
Jesus said He “must” (MT 16:21) go to Jerusalem, suffer, and be killed. The Son of Man “must” (JN 3:14) be lifted up. Why “must” these things happen? No one can force God to do anything. No being has power to coerce omnipotence. He obviously “must” do certain things now because He Himself had chosen long before to do them. Jesus said, “No man taketh it (His life) from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again” (JN 10:18). Jesus had the power, the right as well as the ability, to control His own destiny. No outside pressure was brought to bear on Christ which He could not have successfully resisted. With entire concurrence of His self-predetermined will, He gave.
To love as Jesus loved is to choose to give not of or from self, but to give self. It is to decide even before a day begins to “walk in love” that day. We do not wait until an opportunity to show love presents itself and then decide whether or not we want to be bothered or have the time to love. Our decision to love was made in the past, we no longer control our actions, our day was turned over to God’s providence to create opportunities for us to show love, we chose to live today based on the hurts of others. To love as Christ loved, to give self, entails the choice to be no longer in control, but rather to be ruled by needs placed in our paths by providence.
Have we given self? Do we rock along, driven by circumstances, deciding in each individual situation whether or not to love, or do we choose to love, and make all other choices in light of that supreme choice?
Eph. 5:2d “. . .an offering. . .”
“Offering” and “sacrifice” are synonyms whose meanings often overlap. They cannot always be precisely distinguished, but each does have its own unique nuances. “Offering,” the more general word, could be used of anything presented to God, including temple sacrifices, the giving of alms, or giving gifts to the poor. “An offering” is any voluntary, outward giving or helping which springs from true inner dedication and absolute surrender.
Not long after D.L. Moody became a Christian, he heard Henry Varley say, “It remains to be seen what God will do with a man who gives himself up wholly to Him.” Moody said to himself, “Well, I will be that man,” and the rest of Moody’s story is an epic of spiritual success. He lived a life of love, seeking to pour out his life for God and others as “an offering.”
We regularly see gifted and brilliant people who do well in Christian work, but one thing remains between them and being used mightily–full and unreserved surrender of themselves to God and others as “an offering.”
Eph. 5:2e “. . .and a sacrifice. . .”
“Sacrifice” was a more specific term, usually involving the death of a victim, and essentially always carrying the idea of loss to the giver. We cannot be a propitiation as Jesus was, but we can practice self-sacrificing love, a love which results in personal loss, for the good of others.
To love as “a sacrifice” means to help or to give until we feel a keen sense of loss. Years ago in one of my pastorates we had a month in which our people gave more tithes and offerings than they had ever given in any month before in the church’s history. Wanting to encourage my people and thank them for their generosity, I asked the Wednesday night crowd how many had consciously given up something they had wanted in order to give so much to the church. Since it was a record offering, I thought many hands would go up. To my shock, with over 200 people in attendance, only two or three hands went up. I was so taken aback by it that I impulsively said, “Then why do we not give this much to our church every month?”
Are we giving to the point of sacrifice, of conscious loss? Under the Old Covenant, David said he would not give to God “that which doth cost me nothing” (2 SM 24:24). We who have seen the example of Christ should be even more eager to give sacrificially. Christian love is always costly.
Ultimately, the choice to give self as an offering and a sacrifice is the choice to die, not always physically, but spiritually, to selfishness. It is to rise each morning and to say with Paul, “I die daily,” and since we are dead, our desires, our needs, our wants, are no longer primary. When we die spiritually, self becomes a small part of the whole picture. Each person we meet becomes our property in the sense of being one for whom we are responsible to care for. We are under obligation to care for their affairs, to be concerned with their hurts. In Christ we are no longer free in our daily lives to be a little world of one. We are to be a vortex, a whirlpool of love drawing everyone nearby into our web of love. We are thus not one over others, or one apart from others, but one welded to others through love.