25 March 2008

Verse-by-verse through Ephesians (5:3-5:8)

Ephesians 5:3-8

3 But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; 4 neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. 5 For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. 7 Therefore do not be partakers with them. 8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light

Paul spent much of chapter 4 commanding us in the ways we are to act toward those who are in the church. Now, he’s going to command us in the things we are to put away viz. the “old man” (4:22-24). And other than Corinth, there was probably no better example than Ephesus of a people who had much to put off. Which is why, I believe, God chose this city to receive one of Paul’s letters. Because f you look around at the world today, much of what was happening in Ephesus is happening in America today. And some of these things have found their way into the church (or at least those who call themselves “the church”)!

But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints… In the phrase let it not be named among you, guess what verb mood Paul uses? Yep, the imperative. “Do not be let it named among you!” So, what are we commanded to “not be named among us”? It won’t take long to look at each of these, for they are rather self-evident.

Fornication. The Greek word is porneia (porneia), from which we get the word “pornography.” In its most literal sense, it means “prostitution.” Now, this command would cause a great uproar in Ephesus. (In fact, Paul got caught up in such an uproar in Acts 19.) You see, in Ephesus there was a great temple to the pagan goddess Diana. And one of the distinguishing marks of this temple was the presence of temple prostitutes, a practice that is still being followed in many Hindu temples in India. And if the people were to stop frequenting these prostitutes, not only would the women lose their jobs, but the men who ran the temple would lose their livelihood as well.

I do not think it is a coincidence that porneia can be used in the figurative sense to describe idolatry. After all, isn’t that what one does when they visit a prostitute, whether in a temple or in a motel room? Paul had a similar conversation with that other greatly pagan city, Corinth, in 1st Corinthians 6:15-18Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot? Certainly not! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a harlot is one body with her? For “the two,” He says, “shall become one flesh.” But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him. Flee sexual immorality. We are not to join ourselves, literally or figuratively, to such a one. For when we, the church, practice those things which are unlawful, sinful, and abominable to God, “if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men” (Matthew 5:13). We are reprobate and useless for every good work (Titus 1:16). Of course, porneia also refers to all other kinds of sexual uncleanness: bestiality, homosexuality, lesbianism, adultery, and of course sex outside of marriage.

Uncleanness. akaqarsia (akatharsia). It is a word that has its roots in the sense of uncleanness as regards the Levitical law. Now, we are not still under the Law, that is not Paul’s point here. What he is saying, however, since the Law of YHVH is perfect (Psalm 19:7), and in that Law we find what pleases Him and what is unpleasing to Him, we should keep ourselves from those things which defile us before the LORD. In fact, in Romans 1:24, we see that when those people who have heard and seen the good things of God do not retain Him in their knowledge, He will in fact give them up to uncleanness. We see in Colossians 3:5 that we are to put to death our members of uncleanness. We are not under the Law. But if we love our Lord Jesus Christ, we will seek to obey those words of His Law (1st John 5:2).

Covetousness. Greed. The sense of “I don’t have enough, I need more, and I'll do anything I can to get it.” Do you know the story of Achan? He was one of Joshua’s men, and after the battle against Jericho, when “the walls come a-tumblin’ down,” Joshua commanded the people to not take even a sliver of anything. But Achan just could not resist taking some of the spoils. And in the battle against Ai (Joshua 7:2-5), the LORD caused the army of Israel to suffer a crushing defeat, and Achan with all of his family to be stoned (Joshua 7:22-26)—because of one man’s greed. And lest you think this is a unique event, “remember Lot’s wife” (Luke 17:32), the second-shortest verse in the Bible. She just had to have one more look back at the horrible, degraded city of Sodom—a singular act that changed her forever.

We are to be separate from the world. We are to be holy, blameless, and to walk worthy of our calling. What if we don’t? What happens when the church begins doing the things that its Lord has commanded them not to do, and is no different from the world? Romans 2:21-24You, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that a man should not steal, do you steal? You who say, “Do not commit adultery,” do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who make your boast in the law, do you dishonor God through breaking the law? For “the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you,” as it is written. We are to be the ones who show Christ to the world, but if we are breaking the very commandments laid down by our Lord, then what does the world have to say about that Lord? Let us not bring shame and reproach upon His name.

…neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. Oh, Paul ain't done, my friend! He’s still got some things to guide us away from. It’s not just our actions we need to worry about, but also our words. Remember in chapter 4, verse 29, when Paul told us to let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth? What constitutes a “corrupt word?”

Filthiness. aiscroths (aischrotes). Obscenities. People will ask, for various reasons, “Well, where does the Bible say we can't cuss?” Friend, you have your answer. Mark Driscoll, a man I have not listened to much or read much, likes to use some pretty filthy language when preaching. I guess it’s supposed to make him “relevant” or some other such nonsense. Well, it may make him “relevant” to people who aren't so concerned about pleasing God. But, if Paul was led by the Holy Spirit to include this command against such talk (and he was, indeed), then Mr. Driscoll should, at once, stop cussing in the pulpit. I mean, really, did Jonathan Edwards have to use such crudeness? What about men like Whitefield and Wesley and John Knox? Baxter and Watson and Nettleton? Did Bunyan have Pilgrim spouting a bunch of obscenities from the depths of Doubting Castle? Yet these men are just as “relevant” now as they were when they wrote over 250 years ago (if holiness is still “relevant” to the church).

Foolish talking… mwrologia (morologia). It comes from the Greek root mwros (moros). We get the English word “moron” from it. I think that says it all. Coarse jesting… Dirty jokes, ribald humor. These are very specific words Paul uses, as he will also be using some very specific words in the next verse. And it is well that he does use such specificity here, that when someone tries to claim that such-an-such an issue is not addressed in Scripture, we might show them that yes, it is.

…which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. These things are not fitting for saints. These are the types of language that we, if we love our Lord, should not be found using. Whether in the assembly or in our common conversation. If we are to speak, let it be with not only words of encouragement (Hebrews 10:25), not only with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs (Ephesians 5:19), but also words of thanksgiving, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you (1st Thessalonians 5:18).

For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. The first part of this verse is best translated Know this, knowing that no fornicator…! It is another imperative. But here’s the tricky part. The verse starts out touto gar iste ginwskontes (touto gar iste ginoskontes. Some Greek texts read este instead of iste. However, iste is probably preferred). Now, the roots of iste and ginwskontes both mean, in different ways, “to know.” So why the two different words, especially if they both mean pretty much the same thing? Well, eidw (eido), the root of iste, means “to perceive” while ginwskw (ginosko) means “to possess knowledge of something.” In other words, they know that one thing is a certainty, thus giving them the ability to make a conclusion about something else. Basically, Paul was telling them “Understand what I’m telling you, since you know that no fornicator” &c.

The parallels between this debauched city and Corinth continue. Not only does Paul warn both cities to avoid much the same things, but he also warns both cities about—not so much who will inherit the kingdom of God, but who won’t inherit the kingdom. He warns the Corinthian church that neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God (1st Corinthians 6:9-10). And here, using many of the same words, he warns a city given over to all kinds of wickedness, that unless they repent, they too will be left out of the kingdom. Let us look at the warning to the Ephesians who will not inherit the kingdom.

Fornicators. Actually not the best rendering of the Greek. The word pornos (pornos) is a word that means a man that lays down with another man for sexual purposes. Now, there are some who will try and tell you that this word only refers to male prostitutes. It does, but it also means more than that. It is a general term, one that refers to all types of male homosexuality. These shall not inherit the kingdom of God.

Unclean person. One who pollutes themselves with those things God calls unclean. Which is why we are commanded (2nd Corinthians 6:14) to not be yoked with the unrighteous. It is why Paul will warn us in an upcoming verse to have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness. Because when we come into contact with uncleanness, and with their works of uncleanness, that uncleanness has a tendency to rub off on us. As Paul said in 1st Corinthians 15:33, evil company corrupts good habits. How hard it is for those slack in business to become diligent by working alongside diligent workers! Yet how much easier it is for a hard worker to become slack in their business while surrounded by slackness!

Covetous man, which is an idolater. Many today make a god out of material things. you can watch them on the television, these who claim that if you are in Christ, you shall be in wealth. Ah, fools! For has Christ not said that “Ye cannot serve two masters…ye cannot serve God and mammon” (Matthew 6:24). Yet many follow those who claim that Jesus lied when He said that. Or, they take the word of God, and twist it for their own purposes, as if to say, “Hath God surely said…?” It’s the same lie that Satan used over 6000 years ago in the Garden of Eden, and it is the same lie he is using now.

Idolaters are also those who worship statues. Rome likes to tell us that they do not “worship” statues of Mary and the saints and angels. That they simply “pay homage” to the ones portrayed by said statues. Well, it doesn’t matter what Rome calls it. God calls it idolatry. Exodus 20:4-5You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. Anyone who practices such a thing will not have an inheritance in the kingdom of God.

None of these …has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Do not be mistaken. Paul is not referring to two different Persons here. The kingdom of God is the kingdom of Christ. The kingdom of Christ is the kingdom of God. They are one in the same, there is only one kingdom. For we know that Jesus Christ was indeed the Word of God made flesh (John 1:14). We know this also: that as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God (John 1:12). Now, how does one who is not of God give someone the right to be a Son of God? God the Father did indeed bestow His love upon us (1st John 3:1) and has translated us into the kingdom of His dear Son (Colossians 1:13), and Jesus Christ bestowed upon us the right to be children of the Most High.

Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Because of these things: uncleanness, fornication, homosexuality, idolatry, and the like, God has sent the sons of disobedience to everlasting destruction (1st Thessalonians 2:9). These were those who did not believe, who did not endure to the end, and who were told to “Depart!” Paul is warning the Ephesian believers to beware of such false teachers as those who will entice them into sin with all kinds of flattering words, crying “Peace and safety!” Unfortunately, many will be swept away because of their smooth words, whisked along by the ever-changing doctrines of men, only to find that when the river of life stops, and they fall asleep, and they stand before God, they are left to make their own defense as to why they were so careless with the Cross, and why they neglected so great a salvation (Hebrews 2:3).

Therefore do not be partakers with them. For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Do not allow their uncleanness to be sloughed off onto you. Do not be counted among the dogs when the gates of Heaven are shut up forever, not allowing any others to enter in. Do not be as the lazy, foolish virgins (Matthew 25), who were slack in the things of God, and when the bridegroom came, they were not ready, and banged upon the gate for to enter, and were told, “I do not know you!” But rather, we are to be as the wise virgins, who keep our lamps trimmed with oil, and whose light is always burning that the world may see Christ in us. And the oil we are trimmed with is to be pure oil of pressed olives for the light, to cause the lamp to burn continually (Exodus 27:20). After all, what song do we teach the little ones?

This little light of mine,
I’m gonna let it shine!


May we always let our light so shine before men that they see and give glory to our Father in Heaven (Matthew 5:16)! May our speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt (Colossians 4:6). May we always be the light of the world.

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