Peninsula Community Church
Ephesians – Looking for Love in All of the Wrong Places
Ephesians 5:4-6 But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous ( that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.
Before us today is one of the most pertinent scriptures of our day and of our times. In the last several decades, we have seen an explosion of immoral attitudes and mindsets that would cause past generations to blush with embarrassment. Today, we are dealing with open and perverse sexuality in our generation. We are seeing homosexuality and lesbianism being accepted as a normal way of life. To date, most states in America have accepted gay marriage as the new norm. We are now seeing a move toward the acceptance of transgender issues where we no longer have to accept the way we were created but we can choose our gender. And we can choose that gender on the basis of how we feel on any particular day. The list of sexual issues and sexual promiscuity goes on and on.
We may gasp at this, and rightfully so, but this phenomena is nothing new. The Roman Empire experienced similar shifts in morality and the cultural acceptance of perverted morals. Some studies have shown that one of the major causes for the fall of Rome, in the early 400’s, was the moral decay of the society. The actions of our current society also remind us of the days of Noah where everyone with the exception of Noah had been perverted by the acceptance of immoral lifestyles. As the Bible puts it, “all flesh had corrupted their way.”
As we look at this passage, we must do so in the context of Paul’s previous statements. In this text, Paul continues to show us what we need to to put off and what we need to put on as a passionate follower of Christ. In this particular passage, Paul delineates those things that are in opposition to the ways of God and those things that must not be allowed to permeate who we are. When we are obedient to these things with the right mindset and with the right heart, these actions do not steal our joy nor do they bind us but rather they give us life, peace, and contentment.
It is crucial in this passage that we do not just see what is prohibited but we need to see why these things are to prohibited. You see, if we don’t recognize the why, we will miss the power and relevance of the gospel. Without the gospel, these prohibitions become the letter of that kills instead of the Spirit that gives life (2 Corinthians 3:6). It simple becomes something we do rather than something we become.
So with that said lets look at this passage. Paul begins by making the proclamation that sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking. What Paul is saying is that as passionate followers of Christ we must live differently. We must act differently. We must be pure and holy in our lifestyles.
In the first part of the verse, Paul defines three actions that must be dealt with in the believer’s life. The first action is the avoidance of “sexual immorality.” This is a broad term for sexual sin and covers all sin and all sexual impurity. The King James Version uses the term “fornication” which primarily has been used for sex before marriage. However, the actually meaning of the term relates to more than sex before marriage and includes any sexual act that is opposed to God’s will and purpose. In the original Greek, the term included premarital sex, extramarital affairs, incest, and any act opposed to the worship of God. Too often we try to narrow the scope of the definition so that we do not accept our fault or sin in an issue.
The second action to be avoided is “all impurity.” By using the term all impurity, Paul, in essence, expands the idea of sexual immorality to include anything that is contrary to God’s intent for godly living. This impurity has a direct correlation to those things that exist when society replaces God with the creature and/or the creation. When society does this, man exchanges that which is natural for that which is unnatural and perverse. The idea presented by “all impurity” is that the whole personality has been infected by moral impurity. The heart is sick and needs to be redeemed.
The third action defined by Paul is “covetousness.” Covetousness is the unbalanced desire to get what one cannot have. It is a strong, inordinate craving. It is an inability to be content and satisfied with the necessities of life and ministry. It may be a inordinate drive for money and success, or it can be a craving for sex outside of the boundaries established by God. In terms of sexual greed, it refers to the desire for self-gratification at the expense of others. We satisfy our needs regardless of the desire or need of the other person. This action is not an example of love and concern for others, as it is opposed to God’s plan for our life. This is in opposition to Paul’s call to walk in love in verse one of Ephesians. To follow after these things is to look for love in all of the wrong places.
The first three terms in this passage deal with the actions of the passionate follower of Christ, the last three terms deal with the speech of the passionate follower of Christ. Paul uses a string of terms filthiness, foolish talk, and crude joking to define the kinds of things that the passionate follower of Christ must put off.
The term “filthiness” in the original Greek was a term used for “ugliness” and “deformity.” It is that kind of language that should not be used by believers. The term focuses on the crude and sinful behavior that attempts to legitimatize those sinful acts prohibited by God. We joke and make light of sin as we jest. The second term is the word “foolish talk.” The term refers to that kind of talk that detracts from the elements of faith and spiritual growth. Rather than edifying others and God, it is destructive and harmful to others. It tears down, instead of building up. The third term is “crude joking.” The term means sarcastic ridicule. It refers to joking that has gone too far. It is language that crosses the line and pushes the other person to embarrassment and thus diminishes the other person. It often begins as humor but there is a point that it crosses the line of acceptability and becomes unholy sarcasm.
So why does Paul deal with these things? He does so because he believes that in order to imitate God we must deal with these things in our lives. So how do we do this? What are the steps we can take to begin to change our hearts and our lives?
First, we must immerse ourselves in the word of God in order to understand what God values and what He establishes as the norm. Our reaction to these things is measured by God’s will and not by society’s norm. By immersing ourselves in God’s Word, we are not only instructed in how to live, but we are encouraged and motivated to do so.
Second, develop a grateful heart. Be content in what you have. Find ways to express thanksgiving to your spouse and others so that the enemy of our souls does not have the opportunity to plant opposing thoughts and ideas in our hearts. Gratitude has a way of expelling evil thoughts and mindsets. Gratitude has a way of healing the wandering eye that thinks that the grass is greener on the other side. Gratitude has a way of quieting the covetous heart.
Third, let your words means something. Remove empty thinking and empty talking from your life. The writer of Proverbs stated that even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent. Think before you speak. When you do speak, speak life. Speak truth. Communicate hope.
Fourth, remember that we must continually put on the new man, which means we constantly take off the old man. We must continually search our soul, mind, and heart to see how we line up with God’s will and His purpose. When we recognize an issue in our life, we must immediately deal with it and not allow time to pass before we must deal with the negative action in our life.
Fifth, we must rely on the Holy Spirit who empowers us to overcome these issues and to live out God’s will and purpose in our life. The Holy Spirit will lead us to truth. The Holy Spirit will purify our minds and hearts so that we are guided and directed by the Word of God and the ways of God.
Sixth, walk in repentance. Repentance is a change of the way we think. Change your thinking and your walk will be changed. What you meditate on you will become. Repentance opens the door to begin thinking rightly so that your thinking begins to change who you are.
One last thing that is not on a slide but it is just as critical. Don’t isolate yourself. Stay in fellowship with like minded believers.
For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/media.php?pageID=14
Copyright © 2014 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom