Ephesians - Lesson 9

By Curt Niccum

A family inheritance worth keeping . Ephesians 5:1-6


  1. The student can list the four types of love identified by Bernard of Clairvaux,distinguishing between those of the present world and that of the Eternal Kingdom.
  2. The student can identify three ways that the world can introduce immorality into Christian homes.
  3. The student can state where to find assistance for protecting oneself and one's family from sexual immorality.


  1. Bibles and pens as needed.
  2. Handouts for all class members. (The template for the handout can be found at the end of the lesson. It would be best if the handouts were printed front and back. If the congregation has a website, it might be beneficial to create links to a number of the sites listed on the handout.)


In chapter 5 Paul, using family language, urges us to imitate our Father, God, as beloved children. Paul then moves from the heavenly family (deity - 4:32-5:2), to the spiritual family (the church 5:3-20), to the physical family (5:21-6:9). In 5:1-6, the focus is on true family love.

Lesson Plan for Conducting the Class


  1. Call the roll or have someone check it. (It is very important to know who is present so someone can check on those who are absent.) Introduce and welcome visitors, take prayer requests, and make any necessary announcements.
  2. Prayer and songs as desired.
  3. Assess assignment. Have students in the class share events from the previous week where they stood out as lights in a dark world.
  4. Preliminary remarks for setting up the lesson. Ephesians 5 and the first part of chapter6 center on the topic of love.
    1. Q: How does the world define "love"? How do you hear the word used in conversation? How do television shows portray "love"? What definitions best fit the use of words in popular song lyrics, both country and rock? A: Popular culturehas a rather weak understanding of love. The media in particular attempts to normalize alternative forms of love. In most cases, though, the world equates "love" with "sex." (The teacher should allow considerable time for discussion. Many in the class may not be fully aware of the considerable difference between God's definition of love and that of humanity.)
    2. Q: What attitude best characterizes most or all of these worldly ideas about love? A: Selfishness. At root is the overwhelming desire to obtain what I want.
    3. The world's concept of love is a perversion of its godly purpose. Certainly preachers and teachers of God's Word have repeated this often, perhaps so often that the church has become numbed and desensitized to the truth. Or perhaps the daily immersion into human depravity now offered by television and the internet has a greater impact than the occasional sermon or lesson. So, in the hopes of making a difference, let's look at this problem from a new perspective. Actually, this will not be new; it originated with Bernard, a monk from Clairvaux who lived about eight hundred years ago. He suggested there were four different types of love in the world. Not surprisingly, things have not changed over the centuries. Two levels he considered poor and two good. We will start from the bottom and work our way up. (See the handout. Underlined words fill in the blanks on the students' worksheets.)
      1. The lowest and worst type of love can be summarized, "I love me for me." Such people do not even recognize that others exist. They are a world untothemselves. They focus solely on self. Thankfully, few ever actually livewithin this category. Those that do often display pathological behaviors.
      2. The next level also should be categorized as bad, yet it is probably the most common. One who practices such "love" states, "I love you for me." In this category I recognize that others exist, but only to serve me. Peoplein this category are manipulative. Frequently verbal, physical, sexual abuse and/or codependency mark these relationships.
      3. The first level of a good relationship is attained when one can say and mean, "I love you for you." The person recognizes that others exist as people in their own right. A relationship can display equity and reciprocity. Here "love is a two way street." There is an earnest desire to know another and work with and appreciate the other. Bernard considered this to be rare in the world, but frequent among Christians. Still, in his opinion, this, although good, remains inadequate.
      4. The highest level of love says, "I love me for you." It states that I will be the best person I can be for your benefit. I am here solely to serve you. Here love is a "one way" street. This perhaps finds itself best expressed in Philippians 2:5-8.
  5. Have the class provide examples of the first three levels of love. Q: What type of love do you find depicted at the end of the previous section of Ephesians (4:32) and the beginning of this one (5:1-2)? A: Love at the highest level.

Learning Experience:

  1. Just as the world today often defines "love" as "sex," so also did the ancient world.
    1. Consider the story of the Israelites in their Wilderness Wanderings. Sexuality was an aspect of adultery with the golden calf and interactions with the Moabites.
    2. It continued to plague Israel's worship through the following centuries.Passages in Hosea, Ezekiel 16, and Malachi 2 indicate the Lord's posture towards such behavior.
  2. Even more importantly, God chooses to reveal Himself as a loving Father - standing within a familial relationship. (As we will see later in chapter 5, this has special significance for constructing our own families.)
    1. Thus, once redeemed, we no longer stand as "disobedient children" deservingGod's wrath (Ephesians 5:6), but we are dear children receiving God's love(5:1).
    2. The specific nature of that love God displayed through his unique son, JesusChrist (5:2).
  3. Therefore, through God in Christ, we catch a glimpse of sexuality as God intended - a physical relationship also described as "I love me for you," or, in Paul's words, "who gave Himself up on our behalf" (5:2, repeated in verse 25). List the words Paul uses in verses 3-5 in two separate columns, one marking the life of darkness and the other the life of light.
    1. As a result, words like "sexual immorality" (literally "fornication"),"impurity," and "covetousness" should not only be lacking in our vocabulary,they should not be words that come to mind when the world observes our behavior with each other. We are instead to be "holy" (5:3; sometimes translated as "saints").
      1. Because the word "fornication" no longer circulates widely in theEnglish language, translators often substitute the phrase "sexual immorality." To some extent this is good, for an unknown word can be interpreted in various ways. For example, a nominally Christian coworker of mine once defined "fornication" as "having sex with someone you do not like." The words employed in both the HebrewOld Testament and Greek New Testament, on the other hand, refer to any sex outside of the bonds of marriage - thus prohibiting pre-, extra-, and post- marital sex. Presidential (or other) objections to the contrary, the sexual relationship in all forms is restricted to husband and wife.
      2. The words "impurity" and "covetousness" in any other context could refer to broader types of sin, but here, as elsewhere in the Bible when collocated with "sexual immorality," they refer to sexual types of sin.
    2. The next three sins also relate to sexuality, but in speech rather than in action (5:4). The world loves to snicker and joke about sex, but the language so common in bars and men's (and increasingly women's) locker rooms has no place in the mouths of Christians.
  4. If perhaps Paul's warnings might prove insufficient, he restates the biblical position.Those who practice such debased forms of sexuality, whether in word or deed, cannot inherit the Kingdom (significantly identified only here in scripture as belonging to both "Christ and God"). Q: Why? A: Because it is idolatry!
    1. Q: By what might we be deceived in such matters? A: By empty words. Q:What might be examples of this? A: Advertisements. Conversations at workor school. Q: What comes on those so deceived? A: God's wrath.
    2. Note that Paul does not write to a community that practiced ritual prostitution in its pagan religious practices. Paul does not address a regional problem.
    3. Poor views of sexuality come from worshipping something else as god - most frequently ourselves. Note that "self" reigns supreme in Bernard's lower classifications and the examples the class provided earlier in the lesson. In other words, the idol most often worshipped today is ourselves.


  1. Considering its importance, churches do not address sexuality often enough and even less frequently direct enough. The need, though, is great!
    1. Divorce runs rampant throughout the church. For example, Oklahoma, a state located within "the Bible Belt," has the second highest divorce rate in the nation, with conservative Christians holding a higher than average rate within the state.
    2. The worldly view of sex is now ubiquitous.
      1. On the internet, "sex" is the second most frequent word searched on the internet, only falling behind the word "and."
      2. With the FCC's approval of commercials allowing the modeling of underwear came the expansion of showing near nudity in many primetime television programs.
      3. The rules regulating sexuality on cable television broadcasts are more lax, yet the availability of cable channels has exponentially multiplied. The major networks are understandably seeking less stringent rules so they can compete.
      4. With the development of the PG13 category, movies that once would have been rated ?R' are now accessible to teens.
  2. Something must be done. Begin by discussing ways the class can be "holy and blameless" (the aim introduced by Paul in Ephesians 1:4). Not all of the resources listed on the handout may be appropriate for the age group being taught, but also do not stereotype and thus fail to address a needed topic. For example, many elderly men are addicted to internet porn.
    1. The information provided on the handout is not exhaustive. It was, however,up to date as of August 2005.
    2. Other resources are currently being developed and others certainly will appear in the future. (Please help by providing us with additional information about available resources as they become available.)

The Levels of Love listed in order from worst to best I love ___ for ___ I love ___ for ___ I love ___ for ___I love ___ for ___

Protecting the Family

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