It is obvious from Ephesians 4 that God considers Christian behavior very important.
He didn’t save us so we could continue living by our worldly behavior. He didn’t save us so we could continue living in bondage to our old life.
When we became saved, we received a new identity, and God wants us our daily walk to be in accordance with that new identity, that new life He has placed in us.
We can’t do this by ourselves, this is a work of the Holy Spirit; but we must allow the Holy Spirit to do the necessary work in our hearts so that those things that are holding us back from the life of Christ are removed and so that we can walk in true freedom.
Yet, we must be careful that we have the right motivation.
The motive behind true Christian behavior cannot be our justification or acceptance by God. He justifies us by Christ’s blood and because of Christ’s blood we have already been made accepted in the beloved (Ephesians 1:3-6)
With that foundation, we move on to Ephesians 5, where Paul goes on to warn about the dangers of ungodly behavior in the life of a Christian.
We must understand two things:
1. To err is human
God understands that we are human, and as humans we will make mistakes.
A mistake occurs when while doing something right something wrong happens.
There will be times when we are in a situation and we instinctively react in a wrong way. If we are sensitive to the Holy Spirit, He will signal to us that our behavior was not in line with our new identity in Christ, at which point we have an opportunity to repent.
This signal by the Holy Spirit also serves to alert us to an area of our life that may need some adjusting so that we don’t continue to react in that wrong way.
2. To intentionally sin is unChrist-like
If we enter into an activity that is wrong from the start, and something wrong occurs, this is not a mistake, but a sin.
If an unmarried couple begins engaging in inappropriate physical activity, they have intercourse, and she becomes pregnant, they did not “make a mistake”, they have sinned. The initial behavior was wrong from the start.
To be clear, sexual intercourse is never a mistake but a choice, and a series of choices. Christians should never refer to this as a mistake in order to ease their conscience.
The Bible has much to say about intentional sin, but the most glaring and dire warning can be found in Hebrews 10:26-31
For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries. Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. And again, “The LORD will judge His people.”It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
Ephesians 5 gives us three commands:
1. Be imitators of God as dear children.
This is the very definition of a Christian – being Christ-like, little Christ. Paul says we are “dear children”, this is our identity. It is who we are.
As children of God we ought to imitate God.
One day my oldest son – an old soul from birth – looked at me with very serious eyes and said, “Mama, when will I be big like daddy?”
He is always trying so hard to say everything like daddy, do everything like daddy, and be strong like daddy. He imitates his daddy.
And this is what Paul is saying. “Be like your daddy!”
2. Walk in love.
The Greek word for walk means to conduct oneself in a certain manner. Our conduct should always be loving.
Paul’s instruction here repeats Jesus’ words in John 13:34, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”
Jesus repeated this command again in chapter 15, “This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”
This love is a supernatural love, not just a kind and loving demeanor, but specifically a love that only comes from God; loving others in the same way that Christ loved us.
Without hidden motives
No strings attached
3. Don’t be deceived with empty words
This phrase literally means, don’t let anyone delude you with spiritual talk void of any visible spiritual fruit in their life.
Paul gives this warning based on the 5 things he listed in chapter 4 and on his explanation of those things in chapter 5.
Paul is making a point to warn all believers that their lives must be submission to and controlled by the Holy Spirit, so that their conduct is in agreement with their new identity in Christ; because they will come across carnal people who call themselves Christians but whose lifestyle in no way reflects Christ.
Their words are empty
Their words are deceptive
Their goal is delude you into believing that you can live in a compromising way and still be called a Christian.
But Paul clearly says two things about this:
- It is because of them that the wrath of God is visited on the sons of disobedience
- Those who continue to live this way will not inherit the kingdom of Christ and God – literally speaking, they are not truly saved.
What brings the wrath of God?
Appetites of the Flesh
Fornication – The Greek word Porneia isn’t just limited to sex outside of marriage, in the sense that we use the word fornication, but includes adultery, homosexuality, lesbianism, bestiality, and incest.
Basically any sexual relation and lifestyle that is outside the bonds of marriage.
Uncleanness or covetousness – The word “uncleanness” is very interesting because it doesn’t just mean moral impurity or lust, but also means luxurious or extravagant living and impure motives; which goes hand in hand with covetousness or greed.
“Let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints.”
In the King James Version it says, “Let it not once be named among you…”
Paul is saying that no one should be able to accuse even one believer of any of these things, because it isn’t who we are! Christ has made us better than this!
Filthiness – This means obscenities. Our speech should be free from obscenity. If this is a struggle for you, you need to begin by first ridding all of your entertainment of obscenities and then begin renewing your mind with God’s Word.
Foolish talking – Buffoonery, mockery. I must admit, I often find Christian comedy fits this description; especially when they mock those things that should be considered sacred, such as biblical sacraments, worship songs, the way we worship, the way we pray, and sermon delivery.
This shouldn’t be considered comedy, but mockery, foolish talking. Racial jokes also fit in this description as well. It is ungodly and displeasing to God.
Coarse jesting – Dirty jokes and sexual innuendo.
“…which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks”
Again, the word “fitting” is used here. Paul is reminding us once again that this isn’t who we are. Christ purified us from these things, and we shouldn’t defile ourselves with them again!
If we were to take our entertainment and remove every obscenity, sexual reference and portrayal, dirty joke, and sexual innuendo out of it, how much of it would be left?
These are things that sent Jesus to the cross, and not only shouldn’t be named among us, but we shouldn’t be entertaining ourselves with them.
This kind of behavior and entertainment is beneath us as dear children of God.
And that is why Paul wraps up this warning by urging us to not be participants with them; do not be co-conspirators in their sin.
Jesus Christ has justified us, He has cleansed us from sin, He has wiped out the record of judgement against us, and He took our judgement on Himself in our place.
To become a repeat offender would be the height of ungratefulness, which is why Paul said, “…but rather giving thanks.”
Remember what Christ has done for you, and live a life of gratefulness and thanksgiving that He has set you free from these sins, and go out and walk in that freedom with obedience and love!