Ephesians Meditations No.40
Eph 5:3,4 But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.
In 4:25-32 Paul gave us a list of specific things that should or should not be in our lives now we are Christians. Now sometimes you hear people say, “Christians aren’t under the Law any more” and as far as the Law of Moses is concerned that is true, although we are still required to love God and our neighbour as ourselves (the summary of the Law – Mt 22:37-40). Yet there are a number of instructions within the teaching of the New Testament which still apply to us. However you might say that if we were living ‘lives of love’ that we referred to in the previous meditation, we would not need these, yet the truth is we do need these guide lines that Paul gives us and so now we come to his second group.
“But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality.” For there to be any form of sexual immorality there is a lack of love for God and a lack of love for your partner. Love in marriage is first of all a commitment and then an emotion. If the emotion has burned down, you remain committed and work at rebuilding it. Not even a hint! “or of any kind of impurity.” We have spoken before about purity being a characteristic of the Holy Spirit and therefore of us. Whatever you might think of as ‘impurity’ – that’s out! If in doubt, stay away from it.
“or of greed.” Oooops, that might come a bit closer to some of us. What are our eating habits like? But greed also applies to wanting more and more – of anything! The counterpoint to greed is contentment. Are you content with a reasonable amount of anything in life or does something drive you to constantly wanting more. Do we ‘comfort eat’ because we have not appreciated the wonder of God’s love for us? Greed may be a sign of something else wrong that needs attending to.
“because these are improper for God’s holy people.” This is Paul’s reasoning. Very simply such things are inappropriate for a holy people – a people who are pure and righteous. If you have questions over your spiritual life, look at the rest of your life (because we so often wrongly divide our lives like this) and ensure you are totally at peace about all your habits, all your behaviour. Is there anything you would be ashamed about if it became public knowledge? If there is, you probably shouldn’t be doing it.
But then he returns to the subject of speech, just like Solomon in the Proverbs so often went back to cover speech – possibly because we say so much and therefore this is a big area of our lives to be looked at: “Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.” There again there is first of all the negative, followed by the positive. No obscenity means no swearing – none! Check it out and be honest. ‘foolish talk‘ is linked with ‘course joking’. As we said before, whatever you say, could you say it in front of your grandmother? This is a time for honesty if the word of God is going to mean anything at all to you. What is your language like? Do you take for granted words you use and excuse them by “Well everyone says that.” No they don’t. If it is ‘course’, cut it out.
Then Paul says some strong stuff: “For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person–such a man is an idolater–has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.” (4:5). Here he identifies three groups who don’t have a part in God’s kingdom. First anyone who is ‘immoral’. If you stood before Christ who sees right into you, would you be ashamed of some part of your behaviour because deep down you know it is immoral? Then ‘impure’. Again, we can kid ourselves or other people, but in front of God can you truthfully say that nothing you do is impure? And finally ‘greedy’. Again, check it out before God. But why does he say that a greedy person is an idolater? Because if you are greedy you are putting food – of whatever else it is – before God and when we put anything else before God, we worship (submit to) that more than we do God. If you are in any of these three groups, the sad truth is that you cannot enjoy the inheritance that God has in Christ for His children. Very simply you are not enjoying God’s blessing if you are allowing these areas of darkness to reign in your life. (Yes, they do reign if you have allowed they to hold sway so you are struggling to say you will get rid of them!).
Then Paul says something which seems out of place, that doesn’t seem to fit the list he has just been bringing to us: “Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them.” (5:6,7) What are these ’empty words’ likely to be? Probably words of justification, why these things aren’t so terrible as Paul makes them out to be, excuses why it is all right to live these sorts of lives. The key is that these people are ‘disobedient‘ which means they do not do what God has told them to do or they do what He has told them not to do. These are people who justify their lack of truthfulness (4:25), their unrestrained anger (4:26), their disregard for others’ property (4:28), their unwholesome talk (4:28, 5:4), their generally bad attitudes and rowdy behaviour (4:31), their immorality, impurity or greed. More than that, they try to get you to agree with them. Make sure you don’t join with them in these things, don’t become a ‘partner in crime’.
The overall lesson? Having the Holy Spirit in your life as a Christian has consequences. He is holy and doesn’t like sharing a home with immorality or impurity. This is a serious call to conform to the will of God! No excuses. Do it!