Ephesians 5:15-6:9 paraphrased by Bruce C. E. Fleming
For more details see the book Beyond Eden, Ephesians 5-6 by Bruce C. E. Fleming
The passage of Ephesians 5:15-6:9 is primarily about the relationship of Christ and the church. This relationship goes beyond what was experienced in the Garden of Eden! In the key verse of the passage Paul reveals the truth of the “Great Mystery” in 5:32.
In Ephesians 5:15-18 and 19a-21, Paul gives two introductory four-part sections leading up to his development of the truth of the Great Mystery. First, in verses 15 to 18 he builds up to the truth in verse 18b that believers are to “be being filled with the Spirit.” Then, in verses 19a-21 Paul tells us how to be being filled with the Spirit. This Spirit-filling enhances our horizontal relationships (with one another) and our vertical relationship (with God).
After the two introductory “Jump” sections of 15-18 and 19-21, Paul develops the “High Jump” section of the passage that runs from 5:22-6:9. The center of the “High Jump,” the key verse of the entire passage, is found in the presentation of the Great Mystery in 5:32.
First, in verses 22-32 Paul gives three-part “as Christ” series of examples as to how Christ (1) gave himself for the church and (2) loved the church. A significant sub-theme is added here and there. It refers to the example of a Christian husband and wife who mutually build up one another joined together in one flesh in marriage and as members of the one body of Christ.
Finally in 5:32 to 6:9 Paul gives another three-part series of examples. These relationships, in the typical family of his day are also enhanced and are reciprocally beneficial thanks to our unity in Christ (5:32) and the infilling of the Spirit (5:18).
The hermeneutical key is verse 32. This entire passage centers on the Great Mystery, now revealed, which is that Christ and the church are united in one joint-body.
Note. This passage primarily is not about marriage, as many have been saying. Paul may use the marriage partners in several of his illustrations of mutual love and care, but the passage primarily is about the Spirit-filled unity of believers relating to one another in the church and with Christ. The wonders of this relationship described in Ephesians 5:15-6:9 go beyond Eden and what was experienced in the Garden in Genesis 2.
Here is a paraphrase of the key words and phrases from 5:18b on. Use them to get a “more true” idea of the meaning of these verses that are published in the Bible version you typically read.
(18b) Be being filled with the Spirit!
(19a) Be speaking to (or teaching and correcting*) one another in Psalms and hymns and spiritual songs … (21) … Be reciprocally submitting yourselves to the teaching and correction you are receiving from one another, in the fear of Christ.
Three points leading to key point in 5:32:
(about the unity of Christ and the church and Christ’s sacrifice)
(22) Christian wives, be reciprocally submitting yourselves to your own Christian husbands and vice versa.
(23) (This is possible because the husband is united as one with the wife,) just as Christ is united as one with the church, himself savior of the body.
(24) So as the church is submitting to Christ, so wives and husbands in everything.
(about Christ’s love and sacrifice for the church)
(25) (Husbands, love your wives,) just as Christ loved the church and gave himselfup for it
(26) in order that he might sanctify and cleanse the church by washing it with the Word
(27a) in order that he might present to himself a glorious church without spot or wrinkle or any such thing
(27b) in order that the church should be holy and unblemished
(about Christ’s love for the church)
(28) (So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. Love your wives as yourselves.
(29a) No man ever hated his own flesh but nourishes and cherishes it.)
(29b) Just as Christ loves the church
(30) For are members of his body.
The main idea: Christ and the church are united in one body. This Spirit-filled relationship goes beyond what the first couple experienced with God in the Garden of Eden.
(31) (Paul’s quotation from Genesis 2:24) For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife and the two shall be one flesh.
(32) This is a great mystery and I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church.
Three points pointing back to key point in 5:32:
(about reciprocal submission in the Spirit)
(33) Christian husbands and wives, be reciprocally submitting yourselves to one another in the fear of Christ (a link to end of verse 21).
(6:1-4) Children obey and honor your parents, in the Lord. Parents (not “fathers”) nurture your children in the Lord.
(5-9) Servants and masters deal similarly with one another in the Lord.
The entire passage of Ephesians 5:15-6:9 is the fifth major section of the book. In it Paul explains how to walk very carefully (5:15a). Each of these begins with “therefore walk” or a slight variation of this formula. Beginning with Ephesians 6:10 Paul moves on to the sixth major section in the second half of Ephesians 4-6.
* notice the more detailed actions described in the parallel passage in Colossians 3:16.