Therefore, become imitators of God: Paul has just discussed some of God’s qualities, such as kindness, compassion, and forgiveness. (Eph 4:32) So here, by opening with the word “therefore,” he suggests that contemplating God’s appealing qualities can motivate Christians to imitate the One who best exemplifies such qualities. (Ps 103:12, 13; Isa 49:15; Eph 1:3, 7) Paul’s use of the Greek word for “imitators” in connection with God does not mean that Christians were to be an exact duplicate of God. Paul says that Christians should imitate Jehovah “as beloved children.” A child cannot imitate a grown parent perfectly. Nevertheless, the child’s sincere efforts are sure to make a parent happy.—Compare Ps 147:11.
loved us: Some manuscripts read “loved you,” but the current main text reading has strong manuscript support.
for us: Some manuscripts read “for you,” but the current main text reading has strong manuscript support.
sexual immorality: The Greek word por·neiʹa is a general term for all sexual activity that is unlawful according to the Bible, including adultery, sexual relations between unmarried individuals, homosexual acts, and other serious sexual sins.—See Glossary and study note on Ga 5:19.
not even be mentioned among you: Vulgar language and “obscene jesting” were considered socially acceptable in Ephesus. (Eph 5:4) Obscene talk was heard at plays presented in the city’s theaters and even at religious festivals, such as the Thesmophoria, a festival dedicated to the Greek goddess Demeter. Obscene jokes were said to make the goddess laugh. Paul says that Christians would never mention, let alone take delight in, such immoral talk. The Greek wording also allows for the idea that immorality should never be practiced by Christians.—Eph 5:3-5.
greedy person, which means being an idolater: A greedy person makes the thing desired his god, putting it above the worship of Jehovah. His chief aim in life is to satisfy his greedy desires. (Ro 1:24, 25; Col 3:5) While greed often involves an inordinate love of money and material things, it could include an immoderate desire for food and drink, ambition for power, illicit sex, or anything else that interferes with a person’s worship of Jehovah.—See study note on Ro 1:29.
the Kingdom of the Christ and of God: Paul says that the Kingdom is both God’s and Christ’s at the same time. Jehovah is the Universal Sovereign because of his Godship and because he is the Creator. (Ps 103:19; Isa 33:22; Ac 4:24) Jehovah always remains King. (Ps 145:13) However, at times he chooses to delegate authority and grant power to others. He has appointed his Son, Christ Jesus, to carry out His will by giving him “rulership, honor, and a kingdom.” (Da 7:13, 14) The extensive power that Christ wields as King comes directly from Jehovah God. (Mt 28:18) Though all others in the universe are subject to the Son’s rule, Christ himself remains subject to his Father and God.—1Co 15:27, 28; Eph 1:20-22.
the sons of disobedience: See study note on Ac 4:36.
not as unwise but as wise persons: Paul here adds to his comment on how “children of light” should walk, or conduct themselves. (Eph 5:8) Enlightened by the truth of God’s Word, they gain wisdom that is superior to mere intellectual ability or the worldly wisdom that amounts to foolishness in God’s eyes. (1Co 1:19, 20; 3:19) Godly wisdom is based on profound respect for Jehovah. (Pr 9:10) It moves Christians to “keep perceiving what the will of Jehovah is.” They eagerly make sure of “what is acceptable to the Lord.” They are aware of the urgency of the times in which they live. So the way they walk is in sharp contrast with the way in which “unwise” and “unreasonable” ones walk.—Eph 5:10, 15-17; Col 4:5.
making the best use of your time: Lit., “buying out the appointed time.” This expression also appears at Col 4:5. To apply this counsel requires sacrifice, for it implies the need to buy the time from other pursuits, exchanging nonessential activities for spiritual ones. Paul was not speaking of time in a general sense but, rather, of a particular period of time, or season. The Ephesian Christians were then enjoying a season of favor, during which they had a measure of freedom to carry out their Christian ministry. Paul urged them not to squander that favorable opportunity but to take advantage of it, to make the best possible use of the time.
do not get drunk with wine: Paul’s warning connects getting drunk with the Greek term for “debauchery,” since immoderate use of alcohol often leads to excesses and reckless or wild behavior. The counsel was especially fitting in Ephesus, where festivals were held in honor of Dionysius (or Bacchus), the god of wine. Those celebrations were characterized by heavy drinking, frenzied dancing, and sexual debauchery.
debauchery: The Greek word, which also occurs at Tit 1:6 and 1Pe 4:4, could be rendered “unruliness” or “wildness.” A related Greek word is used with a similar meaning at Lu 15:13 (see study note) regarding the conduct of the prodigal son.
psalms, praises to God, and spiritual songs: First-century Christians continued to use the inspired psalms in praising Jehovah. The Greek word for “psalm” (psal·mosʹ), also used at Lu 20:42; 24:44; and Ac 13:33, refers to Hebrew Scripture Psalms. Additionally, there appear to have been Christian compositions—“praises to God,” or hymns, and “spiritual songs,” that is, songs with spiritual lyrics. In his letter to the Colossians, Paul mentions that Christians teach and encourage one another by means of “psalms, praises to God, spiritual songs.”—Col 3:16.
singing . . . to Jehovah: This and similar expressions, which occur often in the Hebrew Scriptures, convey the idea of praising Jehovah with song. (Ex 15:1; 1Ch 16:23; Ps 13:6; 96:1; 104:33; 149:1; Jer 20:13) About one tenth of the entire Bible is made up of songs related to the worship of Jehovah; the foremost examples are Psalms, The Song of Solomon, and Lamentations. Singing praises to God seems to have been a custom of God’s servants in Jesus’ time as well. (See study note on Mt 26:30.) Paul’s statement at 1Co 14:15 indicates that singing was a regular feature of Christian worship.—Ac 16:25; Col 3:16; for the use of the divine name in this verse, see App. C3 introduction; Eph 5:19.
accompanying yourselves with music: Or “making music.” The Greek verb used here (psalʹlo) originally meant “to play a stringed instrument.” It is often used in the Septuagint to correspond to a Hebrew term meaning “to make music” or “to sing praises,” whether to the accompaniment of an instrument (Ps 33:2; 98:5) or not (Ps 7:17; 9:11; 108:3). In the Christian Greek Scriptures, this verb also appears at Ro 15:9; 1Co 14:15 (“sing praise”); and Jas 5:13 (“sing psalms”). One lexicon defines the expression as “in accordance [with Old Testament] usage, to sing songs of praise, with or without instrumental accompaniment.”
in your hearts: In the Bible, the term “heart” when used in a figurative way generally refers to the inner person, including all thoughts, intentions, qualities, feelings, and emotions. (Compare Ps 103:1, 2, 22.) The Greek expression used here and at Col 3:16 is broad in meaning and could be understood to include the idea of singing within oneself, silently. In other words, one’s heart and mind are filled with the spiritual sentiments expressed in songs of praise to God, along with the accompanying melodies. The Greek expression could also be rendered “with your hearts,” which would include the idea of singing in a heartfelt way, with the right heart attitude.
Be in subjection: The Greek expression is understood to mean “subjecting yourselves,” indicating that this subjection is not forced but voluntary. Paul prefaces the ensuing discussion of subjection in marriage (Eph 5:22-33) by noting that the same principle applies widely in the Christian congregation. (Compare Heb 13:17; 1Pe 5:5.) Obviously, then, the God of peace also wants this principle applied within the family arrangement.—1Co 11:3; 14:33; Eph 5:22-24.
in fear of Christ: In the Bible, this phrase occurs only here. The expression used for “fear” refers to “deep respect” or reverence. (1Pe 3:2, 15) It clearly does not refer to morbid fear or dread of Jesus. (Compare Lu 5:9, 10.) Christians rightly revere Jehovah as well as Jesus, the one whom Jehovah has appointed as heavenly King and Judge. (Re 19:13-15) Such respectful fear would motivate all to be in subjection.
continue loving your wives: In this verse, the Greek verb a·ga·paʹo (to love) is in the present tense, which is why it has been rendered “continue loving.” At Col 3:19, the same form is rendered “keep on loving.” Husbands are commanded to show enduring love for their wives. (Eph 5:28, 33) By doing so, they imitate Jesus, who constantly shows love for the Christian congregation.
the bath of water by means of the word: Paul likens God’s word of truth to water that cleanses. Just as a bride in Israel bathed and adorned herself, so the bride of Christ, the Christian congregation, must be washed clean. Jesus Christ sees to it that in preparation for marriage, the congregation is morally and spiritually clean, without a spot or blemish. (Joh 15:3; Eph 5:22, 23, 27; 2Pe 3:11, 14) Christ’s disciples are able to identify stains and blemishes in their conduct and thinking because they have accurate knowledge of God’s Word. As they apply Bible principles in their life, God’s Word, like water, will help them to be “washed clean” of even serious sins.—1Co 6:9-11; Heb 10:21, 22.
love: Paul uses the Greek verb a·ga·paʹo (to love) several times in this context to describe the love that a husband should show for his wife. (Eph 5:25, 33) Paul compares that love to the love that Christ shows for the congregation. (See study note on Eph 5:25.) The corresponding noun a·gaʹpe (love) is described in detail at 1Co 13:4-8. Christian love shown within the family combines affectionate feelings of the heart with a mental determination to apply the righteous standards established by Jehovah God.—See study note on 1Co 13:4.
body: Lit., “flesh.” The Greek word sarx is used here in the sense of a physical body.—Compare study note on Ro 3:20.
stick to: Or “remain with.”—See study note on Mt 19:5, where a related Greek verb is used.
should have deep respect: The Greek verb is broad in meaning, and many translations here render it “to respect; to reverence.” In other contexts, it often means “to be in fear of” or “to be afraid of.” Because a husband loves his wife as he does himself, he would not inspire fear or dread in her. The context shows that a loving Christian husband does not demand respect from his wife. Rather, he earns her deep respect by treating her as Christ does the congregation. (Eph 5:25) In addition, scholars have noted that Paul’s words to wives are phrased, not in the imperative form, but in a gentler, softer way than is the command to husbands.