I have so enjoyed working our way through the book of Ephesians in this Identified series, (click to catch up) but we’re finally getting really close to the end. I hope you’ve been following along as we’ve learned to find our identity in the labels given to us by our Lord, Savior, and Creator! After all, He’s the only one who should be able to define us! Today we’re talking about our identity as those set apart for God.
It’s a very special thing to be set apart, but it means we’re going to be different! I mean, the phrasing itself indicates favor, exclusivity, and most of all distinction. It’s a privilege to be set apart from the crowd in many situations, but to be set apart for GOD!?!? I mean, the very idea of it is more than I can even understand. It causes me to want to make the most of every opportunity I’m given to live my life for His glory! So let’s dig into our passage from Ephesians and see what that looks like fleshed out in our day-to-day lives.
Make the Most of Every Opportunity
Ephesians 5:15- 20 – So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do. Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts. And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Surely we know we’re living in evil days! Many of us have been betrayed by the people we love most. We’re acutely aware now of the fact that there aren’t very many people we can trust. Others of us have been the ones so stuck in slavery to sin that we’ve devastated the people we love and very nearly ruined our lives.
We wish we could say our stories are rare, but they’re just not! Sin is everywhere. Lives all over are being ravaged by it. These are evil days indeed!
I take comfort in knowing, though, that my God understands these evil days. The One who has made me new, who has chosen me and purchased me and sealed me with His Spirit saw it all coming and has told me how to handle it.
“Make the most of EVERY opportunity” He said.
How? By being careful how I live. By choosing wisdom rather than living like every other fool around me. In other words, by stepping out from the crowd and being set apart for God!
How to choose wisdom
What’s that going to look like? Our passage tells us!
- Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do.
- Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life.
- Be filled with the Holy Spirit
- Make music to the Lord in your heart, and lift Him up in song with other believers whenever you get a chance!
- Give thanks to God for EVERYTHING.
Most of these imperatives are pretty straight forward. It might not be easy to give thanks for everything, but I know what it means. I know HOW to do it, whether I want to or not. However, the first one – “Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do,” seems a little more ambiguous to me.
If I want to live like one set apart for God, making the most of every opportunity, I need to somehow understand what the Lord want me to do and then be intentional about living in obedience. Which is why I’m so thankful my God is so quick to spell out what He means in situations like this. Let’s look at the next section of our passage.
Submit to One Another
Ephesians 5:21 – And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
Submission means sacrificing self and willingly yielding to another.
The general population of the world is not living in submission to the people around them. Popular psychology is not teaching us to live our lives willingly yielding to others. Sacrificing self is not favored. Instead, we’re told to look out for ourselves, practice self-care, and prioritize our own ideas and desires. But, as we’ve already learned, those set apart for God are not going to conform to the patterns of the world.
So, does that mean God has called us to be doormats? Does the Bible teach that as those who identify as followers of God we’re just supposed to roll over and be trampled by the rest of the world just so we’ll stand out as different? What does God want from us when He says to submit to one another?
Well, the text says, “Submit to one another OUT OF REVERENCE FOR CHRIST.”
I think that last part is really important! We have not been set apart for the people in our lives. We have been set apart for God. We’re not called to elevate people, we’re called to elevate God. We don’t choose to submit ourselves to one another out of reverence for each other, but out of reverence for Christ.
As those set apart for God, everything we do is done FOR HIM and in honor of Him.
Husbands and Wives Set Apart for God
Ephesians 5:22-33 – For wives, this means submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For a husband is the head of his wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of his body, the church. As the church submits to Christ, so you wives should submit to your husbands in everything.
For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word. He did this to present her to Himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault. In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as they love their own bodies. For a man who loves his wife actually shows love for himself. No one hates his own body but feeds and cares for it, just as Christ cares for the church. And we are members of his body.
As the Scriptures say, “A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.” This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one. So again I say, each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.
Is there any institution more specifically designed to be set apart for God than marriage? A marriage which reflects the picture here shows the world Jesus and His bride! It’s a picture meant to be beautiful and desirable, and to draw in those far away from God. It makes the most of every opportunity!
But let’s not forget our motivation!
As unto the Lord
Echoing the sentiment we saw earlier about submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ, both wives and husbands are called here to behavior within their marriage that represents and reveres God.
Wives are asked to submit to their husbands “as to the Lord.” Husbands are told to love their wives “as Christ loved the church.” In both cases, I believe the emphasis is on God, not each other. When our identity is found in Him, He is going to be at the heart of everything we do.
Ladies, I believe this means we’re to submit to our husbands in the same way that we submit to God. Or, said another way, if God wouldn’t lead us to it, neither should we follow our husbands into it.
Unfortunately, our husbands aren’t perfect, as Christ is perfect. The church can submit to God without reservation because He is never going to lead us to anything less than what is right.
Let’s remember, the point of this submission is to make the most of every opportunity. We’re looking to paint for the world a picture of Christ and His church. This is most certainly going to mean we sacrifice our OWN desires and ideas at times. After all, obedience to God often means we give up our own desires and ideas. But it will never mean we sacrifice the desires and ideas of God. That is no longer submission, but partnership with sin, and it is not behavior appropriate for those who belong to God.
So, out of reverence for God, we are going to willingly sacrifice ourselves in deference to our husbands every single time it doesn’t dishonor God to do so.
As Christ loved the church
Men, I believe this also means you are to love your wife only in the ways Christ loves the church. It is a picture of self-sacrifice and tender care, but it is not one of forced reverence. It is not your job to MAKE your wife follow you or God.
God does not force us to obey Him, even though it would be in our best interest to do so. If we choose to reject Him and His ways, he lets us, though it breaks His heart.
His love also doesn’t get in between us and the consequences of our rejection UNLESS there is repentance. It is only after there is repentance that He washes us and cleanses us.
He died to save us from our sin. His love is willing to sacrifice ANYTHING if it means we’ll choose to follow God with our lives. His arms are always open for us to come back, and He often even pursues us with His love as we run from Him and His fold. But He does not put us on a leash, forcing us to stay by His side.
Again, the emphasis here is reverence for Christ. Because you’re set apart for God, you love your wife in ways that honor God and represent Him well. Because you revere Him, you give up your rights and love sacrificially.
Parents and Children Set Apart for God
Ephesians 6:1-4 – Children, obey your parents because you belong to the Lord, for this is the right thing to do. “Honor your father and mother.” This is the first commandment with a promise: If you honor your father and mother, “things will go well for you, and you will have a long life on the earth.”
Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord.
Once again, the focus here is all on God.
Many of our parents haven’t been honorable, yet we’ve all been called to honor our fathers and mothers. It’s not about whether or not they’ve earned our respect, but living as those set apart for God. It’s about making the most of every opportunity, and living in submission to one another.
Children, obey your parents, and all of you honor your father and mother for one simple reason. BECAUSE YOU BELONG TO THE LORD.
In the same way, those of us who are parents have been called to bring our kids up with discipline and instruction THAT COMES FROM THE LORD. We’re not supposed to provoke them, or treat them badly. We’re simply supposed to make the most of every opportunity to live sacrificially out of reverence for Christ so that we will point them to Jesus!
Slaves and Masters Set Apart for God
Ephesians 6:5-9 – Slaves, obey your earthly masters with deep respect and fear. Serve them sincerely as you would serve Christ. Try to please them all the time, not just when they are watching you. As slaves of Christ, do the will of God with all your heart. Work with enthusiasm, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will reward each one of us for the good we do, whether we are slaves or free.
Masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Don’t threaten them; remember, you both have the same Master in heaven, and He has no favorites.
I’m not going to say much about this one, because not many of us are slaves or own slaves. (I hope) I’m simply going to point out that even in very difficult circumstances like slavery, God calls His people to be different.
He doesn’t tell the slaves who have been identified among His own special treasure to flee their captivity or fight against their oppression. He calls them to live sacrificially. Out of reverence for Christ.
Set Apart for God
I hope the theme here has been resounding! I hope there is no room left for doubt. We are a people SET APART FOR GOD!!! It IS our identity. It is who we are.
And set apart means different.
No matter the relationship, no matter the circumstance, we are not like the rest of the world. Everything we do, we do out of reverence for Christ. We’re not all that concerned with our own rights, but instead are willing to live sacrificially in submission to one another as long as God is being honored.
Most of all, we are making the most of every opportunity to let the world see what is different about us. We live for the glory of the One who has saved us and identified us as His own. For the One who has set us apart from all the rest!
*How about you? How are you making the most of every opportunity to live as one set apart for God?
If you enjoyed this post, check out the rest of the Identified Series as we work our way through the whole book of Ephesians to discover everything God has to teach us about who we are in Him.