Week Commencing 20th May 2018   With a PDF found here

Notes for next Sunday’s sermon on Ephesians 5:3-20


“Paul continues to describe the new standards which are expected of God’s new society – the life which is worthy of God’s call. Called to be one people, we must cultivate unity. Called to be holy, we must cultivate purity.” “The theme of these verses is the integration of Christian experience (what we are), Christian theology (what we believe) and Christian ethics (how we behave). They emphasise that being, thought and action belong together and must never be separated.” “For what we are, governs how we think, and how we think, determines how we act. It is only when we have grasped clearly who we are in Christ, that the desire will grow within us to live a life worthy of our calling and fitting to our character as God’s new society.” John Stott.

DAY 1: Read Ephesians 5:3-4

The Greek used translated here ‘sexual immorality’ and ‘impurity’ (porneia and akatharsia), together cover every kind of sexual sin – that is; all sexual intercourse outside its God-ordained context of a loving marriage between a man and woman. Paul adds ‘greed’ because sexual sin is a particular kind of greed – the coveting of someone else’s body for selfish gratification.

Paul urges not only that we do not indulge in any sexual immorality, but also that we ought not to be thinking about it or talking about it. There must not be any hint of it among God’s people. This was such a radical calling, as Asia was rife with sexual immorality. Since the Greek goddess Artemis, ‘Diane of the Ephesians’, was regarded as a fertility goddess, sexual orgies were regularly associated with her worship.

Nor is it appropriate for God’s people to be indulging in obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking. All three refer to a foul mind and foul conversation. They are not ‘worthy of our calling’ as God’s adopted people, chosen and called to be his holy people. Rather, there is to be thanksgiving. The contrast is striking and beautiful. In itself, thanksgiving is not an obvious substitute or antidote for obscenity, but perhaps the point Paul is making is that while sexual impurity and greed is focused on self, thanksgiving is focused on God’s generosity. It is not as if Christians are to avoid and dislike sex! It is God’s good gift! We have a high and holy view of it as God’s gift and do not want to see it cheapened! All God’s gifts, including sex, are subjects for thanksgiving, rather than for joking. To joke about them is bound to degrade them; to thank God for them is the way to preserve their worth as the blessings of a loving Creator.

DAY 2: Read Ephesians 5:5-7

If and when someone indulges in sexual immorality unchecked and unrestrained, with no reference to God and in fact in rebellion against God, then as for all other expressions of rebellion against Him, such people will face God’s judgement. Most immoral people get away with their immorality on earth, but they will not escape detection, conviction and sentence, forever. No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Note that the real issue is idolatry – that is, they serve another god! Their sexual immorality is an outworking of their idolatry. This is a person who is not a Christian. They have not turned from their sin to serve the true and living God. So, this is not to be confused with the Christian who has an immoral thought, or has in the past, been sexually immoral. Who among us has not slipped up that way? No, for Christians who fall into such sin, but afterwards repent in shame and humility, there is forgiveness. The immoral or impure person envisaged here, is the one who has given themselves up without shame or check to this way of life.

There are plenty of Christians today, who are teaching that sex outside of marriage, and sexual activity with someone of the same sex is no big deal. And there were those in Paul’s day who also were encouraging people to think nothing of sexual indulgence. Paul warns very clearly: Let no one deceive you through empty words. There were those who taught that bodily sins could be committed without damage to the soul, and with impunity. Today, there are those who teach that God is too kind to condemn everybody, and that everyone will get to heaven in the end, regardless of their behaviour on earth. We’re not ‘to be partners’ with those who teach and advocate such things. This again is a call to behaviour and lifestyle and passions and priorities that are radically different to the world around us. May God grant us grace to see the joy in and have the strength to live distinctively for him.

DAY 3: Read Ephesians 5:8-14

The reason believers ought not to indulge in sexual immorality, is not only because of future judgement. It’s also because, that kind of lifestyle is what we have been saved from, to live now in the light! The whole paragraph plays on the symbolism of darkness and light; ‘darkness’ representing ignorance, error and evil; ‘light’ representing truth and righteousness. We were darkness, now we are light, and we are now to live like people who belong to the light. It will mean a life shining with all that is good and right and true, for these things are fruit of the light. The metaphor speaks vividly of Christian openness and transparency, of living joyfully in the presence of Christ, with nothing to hide or fear. We will find out what pleases the Lord, (through the Bible) and live that way!

The light of our life lived in relationship with Jesus, will have the impact of exposing the darkness of the world around us. As we have nothing to do with fruitless deeds of darkness, some unbelievers will eventually see the futility of their way of life. And it may just be, that with their deeds exposed by our light, they too may want to leave their darkness and become light with us. As the quote says, if they rise from their sleep (from being dead in their transgressions), then Christ will shine on them. May our radically different system of ethics, including our sexual behaviour, cause others to see the light of Christ!

DAY 4: Read Ephesians 5:15-20

Be very careful then, how you live. We all take care with those things in life which are important to us: for example, our job, our education, our home and family, our hobbies, our dress and appearance. As Christians, we must take care over how we live as Christians. It will take serious thought and consideration. We must wise up both to the challenges and opportunities.

This means, first, that we will make the most of every opportunity. The verb used here means to ‘redeem’ or ‘buy back’ time. To save it from the trivial and use it for the significant. The days are evil – that is, we live in evil times. It’s very easy for time to be wasted away. We must redeem it for good – for God.

Second, wise people will work to understand what the Lord’s will is, just as in the previous paragraph he urged us to find out what pleases the Lord. Again, we will find his will for us in His Word and where there is no specific guidance given, we will find wisdom to make the right decision in all other matters. There is nothing more important for us, than to do God’s will. That is why Jesus taught us to pray ‘your will be done’.

Third, wise people will seek to be filled with God’s Holy Spirit, and not be drunk with wine. Whereas one who is drunk loses control, being filled with Spirit results in self-control. If excessive alcohol dehumanizes, the fullness of the Spirit makes us more human, for he makes us more like Christ. Furthermore, being filled with the Spirit will result in singing to God and to one another, the great truths of the Gospel, along with great thanksgiving for all He has done for us.

How careful and thoughtful are you being in terms of how you live as a Christian? Without careful thought and prayerful reflection, we may end up just living like everyone else!

References: “Church as God intended” reading notes; a sermon series from 2015.