Ephesians

What pleases the Lord. 5:3-14

 
Introduction

In typical fashion, Paul the apostle concludes his letter with a practical exhortation on Godly living. In the passage before us he encourages his readers to move from darkness to light, from immorality to morality.

 
The passage

v3. Paul begins by warning his readers of sexual immorality. "No one should ever have a reason to talk about any of you ever doing such things."

v4. As for conversation, avoid foul language, "foolish talk" (possibly "dirty talk"), and sexual innuendoes (dirty jokes). It would be better to talk about all we owe to God.

v5. Paul states that those who live such evil lives have no place in the kingdom, cf. 1Cor.6:9-11. He is not saying that a believer who slips and falls into sin is barred from the kingdom, but rather that a believer should not imitate the behavior of unbelievers, those who have no part in the kingdom of God.

v6. The danger facing Paul's readers is that it is easy to be led astray by the permissiveness of other members. They must not be deceived; God's wrath will inevitably fall on those whose lives expose their disregard for God's grace.

v7. Believers must not participate in evil-living. There is nothing evil in associating with sinners; the problem is joining in with their sin.

v8. Paul now develops his practical exhortation by using the image of light and darkness. His readers were once in darkness, lost and alone, but in Christ they are light, therefore they should live as light.

v9. The natural produce, or "fruit" as Paul calls it, of a child of the light, is Godly behavior.

v10. Added to right doing there is right thinking. Paul encourages his readers to work out what is "acceptable" (better than "pleasing") to God.

v11. Keep clear of evil, letting the Word of God expose it. Let us set our face against the works of darkness.

v12. It is even difficult to speak of such shameful things openly.

v13-14a. Once such deeds, practiced in secret, yes, even within the congregation, are illumined by God's Word, they are exposed and seen for what they are. Yet, not only is the light is "capable of 'showing up' everything for what it really is. It is even possible (after all, it happened with you!) for light to turn the thing it shines upon into light also", J.B. Phillips. The light of Christ's Word has the power to renew.

v14b. Paul's rough quotation of Isaiah 60:1 serves to remind his readers that as believers they have risen to new life in Christ, they are "illumined", and therefore they should be what they are.

 
Live as children of light

Although we are primarily responsible for our own actions before God, there is a sense where the community of believers is bound to take responsibility for the sexual behavior of fellowship members. So, when Paul writes to the Ephesian churches, he takes time to teach them about sexual immorality. We should take time to note his words.

Paul warns us of three areas of sexual immorality:

i] The deed itself. The word he uses is "immorality" (uncleanness) which covers all areas of sexual activity outside marriage. Much like secular society today, Paul's society explored the full range of sexual possibilities.

ii] The intent. The word he uses is "covetousness". This is the constant imagining and preparing for sexual release outside marriage, to such an extent that it becomes our center of being. He is not speaking about the careless thought.

iii] Discussion. Filthy talk.

Paul gives three reasons for "having nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness":

i] Such behavior is "improper for God's holy people." It does not reflect Christ, whose image the fellowship bears.

ii] It denies "inheritance in the kingdom of Christ." A believer can slip and fall, but involvement in a life-style of sexual immorality aligns the believer with those who have no place in God's eternal family.

iii] It inevitably prompts "God's wrath". Sexuality serves to enhance the intimate relationship of marriage, which in turn images the intimacy of the relationship that is possible with God. To debase sex stirs God's anger.

Paul encourages his readers to do three things:

i] "Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness." There shouldn't even be a "hint of sexual immorality" within the fellowship. Walk away from it.

ii] "Live as children of light". Affirm "goodness, righteousness and truth." Be what we are.

iii] "Expose" sexual immorality within the fellowship. Certainly not in a judgemental way, but in the firm declaration of Christ's Word. Remember, the Word of Christ has the power to reclaim the "sleeper".

 
Discussion

1. The issue of sexual immorality is often raised in the Bible. Why is it given prominence? Discuss whether Christians make too much of this evil.

2. Paul calls on the Ephesians to expose the problem in their ranks. What purpose has he in mind?

3. Discuss the issue of known sexual immorality within a Christian fellowship, and the degree to which we should assess and respond to it.

 
 
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