Be Imitators of God's Love Part 2: Ephesians 5:3-4
Passage: Ephesians 5:3–4
Be Imitators of God’s Love – Part 2
Turn to Ephesians 5. What I want you to see is what we have been learning in the book of Ephesians. That is, when you receive the Lord Jesus Christ, you become a son of God, a child of God and within you is the nature of God. Now when the life of Jesus comes into us, then there is life inside. We can do things we couldn’t do before. You see, before we had no life in us. Now there is life inside of us, and we are to allow the life inside of us to control us so that we might live in a supernatural way.
That is what chapter 3 is talking about in Paul’s prayer when he says that you might be strengthened in the inner man by the means of His Spirit with power. The word “power” means the ability to do and to be beyond what you could be in your own strength. Now that is the message we have been getting in the book of Ephesians.
When you come to chapter 5, he doesn’t change his pattern. Paul has picked up a pattern beginning in chapter 3 that shows you a contrast of the old garment with the new garment. The more we begin to recognize what the new garment is as compared to the old garment, then the more we are going to be willing to put on the new and cast off the old. I tell you that because we are getting to verses 3-5, and Paul does the same thing. After telling us to be imitators of God’s love, Paul is going to show us the opposite of what he has just told us. He is going to show us what we are like when we are not imitators of God’s love.
When we receive Jesus in our life, we now can love on a divine level. When you are not wearing that garment or you don’t even have it, then you have no capacity to love on the right level. On the one side, when you love as Christ loved, you are going to build up your relationships. On the other side, you are going to tear them apart. If you go back to the old, you are going to rip relationships to pieces. When you put on the new, you are going to build them and unite people with you. You are going to see relationships like you have never seen before.
Now remember, the devil is after us to put on the old garment. Why? Because when we give him opportunity and we grieve the Spirit of God, as we have already seen, then we become one who destroys instead of one who builds up. So now Paul is going to show you the immoral kind of relationships. He is going to show you what happens when you put on the old garment.
Verses 3-5 read, “But do not let immorality or any impurity or greed even be named among you, as is proper among saints; and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.” You have to agree with me that the context here is immoral people, people who are not living on a divine, moral level. When I put on the old garment, I am living in the dregs of what the old life used to be. But when I put on that new garment, it raises me up to a much higher standard, particularly in my morality and in the way I relate to people around me.
Let’s take it apart and see what we’ve got to look at. First of all he says, “But do not let immorality or any impurity or greed even be named among you.” The word “immorality” there is the word porneia. That is an important word because that word encompasses every immoral, sexual act with another person that you can possibly name. Let me give you some examples.
In I Corinthians 5:1 the first thing we look at is the sin of incest. The word “immorality” is associated with the sin of incest. Why is it that so much of this garbage has gotten into the church? Because people evidently don’t know or have not chosen to put on the new garment. We have to choose it every day of our life. Whenever we choose the old garment, it is an immoral garment. It’s a garment that will drag us down and flush us down that old drain of the cesspool of self. I Corinthians 5:1 says, “It is actually reported that there is immorality [porneia] among you, and immorality of such a kind as does not exist even among the Gentiles.”
Paul is saying, “Listen, you actually have reported that there are people in your midst who are doing things more vile than what is going on in the Gentile world. He goes on in verse 1: “that someone has his father’s wife.” There is a relationship here that is illicit. It is an incestuous relationship. Folks, I want to tell you straight out, if you are involved in any kind of sin that would be qualified in the area of incest, you need to repent of that and make it right as quickly as you possibly can. This is a serious matter.
Let me show you the verse again in Ephesians. “But do not let immorality or any impurity or greed even be named among you.” The word there means don’t even let people hint that this kind of sin is among you. Paul is trying to show you to look on one side, walk in love. This is the kind of relationship you want with people. On the other side, if you put on that old garment, it’s going to end up in this kind of awful, awful immorality.
Look at I Corinthians 6:13-14. Here “immorality” refers to having sexual intercourse with a person outside the bonds of marriage. Here Paul is talking about the importance of the body. He says, “Food is for the stomach, and the stomach is for food; but God will do away with both of them. Yet the body is not for immorality, but for the Lord; and the Lord is for the body. Now God has not only raised the Lord, but will also raise us up through His power.” What he is saying here is, “Listen, any kind of immorality that is illicit, that is outside the bonds of marriage, then that particular sin is outside the body.” God has redeemed the body. That is very, very important to understand. When we put on the new garment of Christ, then He gives us a morality that is divine and we are not going to have illicit sex with other people. It is a sin against the body as well as against the Lord.
Look in Matthew 19:9. We find, not only incest and illicit sex, we find adultery which is illicit sex in a category really by itself. This involves married people who have sexual intercourse with somebody outside of that marriage bond. The Lord Jesus is answering some of the badgering of the Pharisees. They said, “Moses commanded to give a certificate of divorce.” He said, “Oh, no.” It says in verse 9, “‘And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality [porneia], and marries another woman commits adultery.”
That word “immorality” is not just a man with a woman. It is any kind of illicit sex outside of what God has outlined in Scripture. It is incest, it is illicit sex or adultery, but it goes beyond that. It is homosexuality. In Romans 1 it talks about God giving the people up to depraved minds. It said these depraved minds cause men to go after men and women to go after women, unnatural desires for one another. God said homosexuality is a sin. God says incest is a sin. God says anything outside the bond of marriage is sin, adultery, illicit sex, wherever you are. Your body is important to God and is one day going to be redeemed. Illicit sex is a sin not only against God, it is a sin against the body that He died for. We have to realize this.
Let me show you another place it is used. I Thessalonians 4:3-6 says, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God; and that no man transgress and defraud his brother in the matter because the Lord is the avenger of all these things, just as we also told you before and solemnly warned you.” Now this gets into what leads up to that immorality. This is a defrauding. It means to take advantage of somebody.
Secondly, he mentions one that is kind of hard to distinguish. He mentions one that is so closely associated that it is difficult to even bring out a definition. It is the word “impurity.” He puts immorality right alongside impurity. Every time I found the word immorality it had to do with relationships with somebody else, the actual act. But it seems like when I found the word impurity, it covers all the other bases. You see, there may be somebody saying, “Alright, I have never done anything with anybody else. I must be pretty good. I am okay. I am clean. I am pure. I can keep on justifying certain things in my life because I have never had an actual relationship with anybody else.” Jesus told the Pharisees, “You say that you shall not commit adultery. I say unto you if you have lusted in your heart, you are already guilty of that sin.” In other words, it is not necessarily even the relationship. Yes, that is immorality, the actual act, the actual thing that took place. But he covers al the other bases by this word when he uses the word “impurity.”
Go back to 4:19. He has already used it and shown us the context where it comes from: “and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality, for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness.” Now who are the “they”? That is the Gentile world. That is the people who have darkened minds. That is the people who don’t know the Word of God. These are people who have given their bodies over to pleasure. He calls it impurity.
Romans 1:24 gives a perfect definition of impurity: “Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, that their bodies might be dishonored among them.” Anything that dishonors the body qualifies as impurity. The word means to be without cleansing, that which is unclean, that which has never been cleansed by God’s blood.
The word “impurity” is always associated with two other words, “immorality” and “sensuality.” You don’t have to go into describing what those words mean. They are always found together. It is like an unholy trinity. When you find one, you’ll find the other two. So you not only have the thought processes, you not only have the personal type of situation to where you think you can do something, but you also have the acts involved of one with another. Paul says none of these things are a part of the new garment we put on, which is Jesus Christ.
Then he throws in another one, which to me is sort of surprising. In the midst of all of this, he throws in the word “greed.” “But do not let immorality or any impurity or greed even be named among you, as is proper among saints.” Now why in the world would he mention greed? The context in verse 5 is certainly immorality. It is talking about relationships that tear down instead of relationships that build up. Why would he put greed in there? Because a person that is immoral is a person who is greedy and he never gets enough. Listen, that is one of the basic motivations of his life.
This is especially true of individuals who have not found what they are looking for in Jesus Christ, who don’t realize all the acceptance and all the love is found in Him. You don’t have to find that in a relationship. They want people to want to be close to them and they want a relationship so when a person comes along and says the right words, immediately they give in.
Usually, behind what he is saying, he wants something from you that you don’t want to give him and don’t ever do it. You see, that is a part of the old life. It is never to be named among us.
The word greed, pleonexia, means basically to never be able to get enough. You always want more and more and more. If you will look over in Colossians 3:5 it tells you pretty clearly what greed is: “Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry.” I want you to see something here. There are two strange bed fellows here. You’ve got immorality and you’ve got idolatry. You will always find them together. Now what is idolatry? It is worshiping anything but God. When an individual begins to worship himself and serve another master, immediately he becomes immoral. Why? Because he can no longer relate on a divine level. Now he is caught in the trap of wanting more and more and never being satisfied.
I talked to a man one day who had been effected by pornography for years. He said, “When I first got started, it seemed that anything would excite me. But after a while, I had to have more and more and more. It got worse and worse.” He lost his family over it. Why? Because when you are an idolater, nothing but Jesus will ever satisfy you. You go after self or anything else in that immoral tailspin, but you will never find what you are looking for. Don’t even let it be named among you. Don’t let there be a hint that you permit that kind of garbage in your midst. Greedy persons are idolaters. They do not love God. They do not serve God. They serve themselves.
Remember in Matthew 6:24 it says that no man can serve two masters. He will love one and hate the other. Someone may say, “No, no, no. I love one and maybe I will kind of like the other.” No way! You will love one and hate the other. You cannot wear the old garment and love the new garment. You cannot do it. You have to make up your mind which garment you are going to put on. That is the key, if you have the garment to put on.
Then Paul moves on. He says, “None of this is proper among the saints.” The word “proper” means becoming. In other words, you have a garment now that fits you. It is a becoming garment. That garment that is so becoming on you is the garment of the Lord Jesus Christ. Don’t put any other garment on because it won’t be fitting, it won’t be becoming to you.
What are you wearing? What garment do you have on? If you are playing around with this kind of stuff, hey, look at verse 4. This where it really goes home: “and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks.”
Let me explain these three words to you in the context that we are looking at of immorality. First, the context of the old garment. The context of that which we used to be, not what we are now in Christ Jesus. The word “filthiness” means shameful. If you find a person who is wanting to live some kind of life and he is feeding his mind with all the garbage of this world, when you hear him speak it is going to come out of his mouth. Filthy speech here has to do with immoral talk.
One of the things I have found, particularly with young people, has been that when you talk about it and laugh about it, it seems to be okay. It has become the norm in young people’s groups today to make filthy talk the standard of what they say to one another. I want to tell you something. If that filthy kind of talk has gotten into church, I want you to know that we are distinguishing it now from the book of Ephesians as nothing but the garbage of the old garment. That is all it is. It comes right out of the pit of hell itself. Filthiness means talking about stuff that is shameful and letting it be a standard of conversation.
Well, Paul goes on. He is not through. He says, “Let there be no silly talk.” When I first saw that, I thought, “Oh no, I can never tell another joke!” That is not what he is talking about. The context is very clearly immorality. The word “silly talk” here making something that is shameful funny. You mean to tell me we have gotten into immorality and impurity and greed and being an idolater? You mean the way we talk has something to do with this whole thing? It has everything to do with it.
He is not through yet. He says, “No coarse jesting.” The word “coarse jesting” takes that word “silly talk” and stretches it one more step. What it says is, you get a point across and you make your suggestive move on somebody by humor. You take something that is shameful and make it seem as if it is okay. In other words, it is the next step to taking advantage and defrauding an individual.
Paul said, “I want to tell you something, that is the old garment.” He is trying to simplify it for us. He is saying, “Listen, don’t try to figure it all out. Just take it off and put on the new garment. When you put on the new man, you are not going to lust for these things. You are not going to want these things. You are going to find what you are looking for in the Lord Jesus. You don’t have to find it in some kind of physical pleasure that is not going to gratify you. That will only lead you to a deeper move later on that is going to cause you all kinds of pain in your life. Put on the new garment. Mimic the love of God. Be imitators of God’s love.”
Look at verse 5: “For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.” That word “no” is the little word that means absolutely none of any kind. They do not have an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. What is he saying? If you are habitually living this way, you do not have an inheritance in the kingdom of God. The argument has popped up recently in circles, can a man be a Christian and be a practicing homosexual? Can a man be a Christian and be a habitually practicing adulterer? No way.
Let me show you something. Look at I John 3:1-8a and see what you think. “See how great a love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we shall be. We know that, when He appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is. And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure. Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness. And you know that He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin. No one who abides in Him sins [habitually]; no one who sins [habitually] has seen Him or knows Him. Little children, let no one deceive you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning.”
The purpose of the book of Ephesians is to raise people’s view of salvation. When you have a low view of salvation, it allows for that view. So when you have a high view of salvation, friend, it cuts it out. There is a brand new life. It doesn’t mean you can’t sin. It doesn’t mean you can’t struggle in an area of sin. It doesn’t mean that you can’t repeat that sin. But you are miserable in the process because the Holy Spirit lives within you. The Holy Spirit is there to convict you and bring you back to the cross to where you can repent and go on and wear that new garment.
Well, we have an old garment and a new garment. But what does I John tells us about the one who habitually wears the old garment? The same thing Ephesians says. He in no way has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ or of God. If you have struggles with that, go to the Scriptures and see what it teaches you. That is the key. Don’t argue with your experience. Go to see what God’s Word has to say. We need a high view of salvation. Salvation means more than just joining a church. It means that something has happened to us and the nature of God has come into us. His Spirit lives in our lives.
More in Ephesians
November 8, 1993One Last Look! Ephesians 6:23-24
November 7, 1993The Un-sung Heroes of the Faith: Ephesians 6:21-22
November 1, 1993In Spiritual Warfare, Victory is Assured (A Study in Ephesians 6:10-25) Part 8: Ephesians 6:18-19