(If you would like to receive Pastor Harris’ weekly sermons via e-mail, Click here)
Faith Bible Church, NY
October 27, 1996
Walking in Love
I enjoy being a dad. I like having a family to go home too, and the little ones get so excited when I come in and run up to me and give me a great big hug. It is neat to see each of them growing and maturing. They ask such innocent questions and can often make very profound observations. Most of the time I like how they want to be their dad. Jonathan likes to whistle like I do. Jimmy is adorable when he puts on my boots and goes clopping around the house. David makes a big deal out of the fact that he is David Scott Harris and therefore the most like his dad because he shares his name.
Children naturally want to be like their parents. Little girls want to get mommy’s clothes and play dress up. Little boys want to be men and do what their dad does. They even try to talk like us.
The same should be true for all of us in our relationship with God. In Ephesians 5 we come to our seventh “therefore” in this book. Paul continually reminds us that the actions he calls us to are based on what God has already done for us. In view of the fact that all true Christians have been chosen by God before the foundation of the world, have been redeemed by Him through the bloody sacrifice of Christ, have been given the Holy Spirit, and have been made alive by Him, adopted as His children and placed within the body of Christ, we “therefore” are to consequently live in certain and specific ways. It is only reasonable. Here at the beginning of chapter 5 we find:
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children;
The general command which will be expanded on in verses 2-7 is that we, as the children of God, should be imitators of Him. This again is to be the normal reaction of every Christian. Just as our children want to imitate us, so we who have become the children of God should want to imitate our Father in heaven. The word “imitate” is the Greek word we get “mimic” from. We want to be and act like the one who saved us. But again, this is normal for true Christians. If your greatest desire isn’t to be like Christ, then you have a serious problem.
The title, “Christian,” is first found in Acts 11:26 where we find that “the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.” This first used as a term of derision by the Romans to describe the followers of Jesus. They meant it as ridicule because it literally means “a Christ one” or a “little Christ.” The lives of these men and women were so marked as imitations of Jesus Christ, that His name was used to describe them.
Other scriptures state even more directly that Christians are to become like Christ. Romans 8:29 – 9 says: For whom He foreknew, He also predestined [to become] conformed to the image of His Son. 2 Cor 3:18 likewise says: But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit. Eph. 4:24 says: and put on the new self, which in [the likeness of] God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth. Other verses could be added to these, for example, Jesus’ prayer in John 17 that we would be unified by His love dwelling within us. In fact, many scriptures tell of our hope in being like Jesus: 1Cor 15:49: And just as we have borne the image of the earthy, we will also bear the image of the heavenly. Phil 3:20,21 For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself. 1 John 3:2 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.
It can’t be stressed enough that becoming like Christ is the normal direction of life for the Christian. If that is not true in your life, then there is a serious problem. There can be no greater tragedy than to end up like those Jesus mentions in Matthew 7 who thought they knew and even thought they were serving Him by doing things in His name, but the final reality was that Jesus told them, “I never knew you, depart from me, you who practice lawlessness.”
I believe strongly in the eternal security of the saints – that those who are saved will always be saved, because salvation is the work of God. I do not believe you are secure because of something you may have done, whether it’s walking an aisle, raising your hand, praying a prayer or whatever salvation “experience” you may have had. Salvation comes by God’s grace through faith in Christ alone for the forgiveness of your sins, but remember that faith in Jesus Christ has consequences for you life which Paul describes in the book of Ephesians. If you are uncertain about your eternal destiny – whether you are bound for heaven or hell – then get it straightened out today!
As the adopted children of God we are to become imitators of Him. In what sense? Obviously not becoming god’s ourselves as some cults teach, but in character as verse 2 states. and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you, and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.
We are to walk in love, sacrificial “agape” love. This not the kind of love that is common to man. In fact, this kind of love rarely is found among mankind unless God is at work in the individual. Man’s love is always basically self-centered. We love what is lovely, or what loves us back.
Romantic love ebbs and flows depending on the emotional state of the individuals, or more accurately, depending on the desires of the individuals. Think of the reasoning behind a romantic relationship between a man and woman: she looks cute, he is handsome, she has been kind, he has been thoughtful, she has pleased him, he has pleased her – therefore they love each other.
The love of friendship has a similar basis, though usually the emotional element is not as strong. We like to be around people that do something for us, whether that is some physical act of kindness, the pleasure of pleasant companionship, the sharing of mutual interests, the fun of someone who has your sense of humor, the sense of belonging because your companions are like you. Yet, innately there is a sense of selfishness in our friendships. How do we feel about our “friends” when they hurt us or do what we do not like?
Even the love that exists within a family exists because each member gets something from the other members. Most parents love their children because they reflect themselves, or they fulfill their dreams. Some parents care for their children because they like the sense of power they gain from it or because their pride is wrapped up in it and they worry what others might think or say if the children reflect badly upon them.
The love that exists naturally in the world is not God’s love, but a fallen love. As Jesus said in Matthew 5, “if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax-gatherers do the same?” Even great sinners love in that sense, but we who belong to Christ are to be different.
We are to love in the same sense that God loved us, because He “gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.”
God’s love, agape love, is not a love of based on pleasant emotion or good feeling about another, but rather the giving of oneself for the welfare of the other. It is unconditional and sacrificial. It rises from the character of the one who loves and not the one who is loved. Jesus’ sacrifice of Himself on the cross in our place for our sin is the ultimate demonstration of this love.
Rom. 5:8 puts it, But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Verse 10 adds, For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. God’s love was extended to us while we were sinner and His enemies. His love was given without there being anything attractive in us – even our efforts at being good and righteous were as filthy rags before His absolute holiness. God loved us because of His own character, not ours.
When Jesus Christ died on the cross He was both an offering and a sacrifice. There are five different types of sacrifices talked about in Leviticus. The last two – sin and guilt sacrifices – deal with atonement for sin against God. This is reconciliation. The first three deal with fellowship with God – celebration. Each of these except the guilt is described as being a “soothing aroma” or “fragrant aroma” before God. It was pleasing to God to see His people desire the relationship with Him and He accepted their offerings. Jesus Christ, because of His great love, gave of Himself to pay for our sins thus reconciling us with the Father and bring us into fellowship with Him. His sacrifice on our behalf was well pleasing to and accepted by the Father.
We are to be reflections of that love. Jesus commanded us to “love one another” just as He loved us (John 13:34; 15:12). That is why it is not enough for us to love our friends, but also to “love [our] enemies and pray for those who persecute [us]” (Matt. 5:44).
Paul brings this love down to very practical applications in verses 3-7.: But do not let immorality or any impurity or greed even be named among you, as is proper among saints; 4 and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. 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. 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. 7 Therefore do not be partakers with them;
Immorality, impurity, filthiness, silly talk and course jesting are all in stark contrast to godly love. They are all opposite of the new nature that resides within the Christian, and so they should not be things that characterize us in the least.
Immorality = πορνεια. The world touts romanticism as the ultimate and uses it to justify what it calls love, but such is not true love. Leon Morris in his definitive work on the meaning of love in the Bible, Testaments of Love, demonstrates that this kind of love even in its best form is “in fact an impoverishment, a love with severe limits because it shuts out everything and everyone but the beloved.” He goes on to say, “it strips life of its greatest good and replaces it with what at best is selfish, tawdry and defiling.” We see this ugliness in our own culture. If we were to go by the form of love put forth by literature and entertainment, we would have to conclude that the most notable occupation of both Europe and America is adultery.
Immorality = πορνεια. This covers every kind of sexual sin and deviancy – adultery, fornication, incest, bestiality, homosexuality – all these things are abominations before God and are the opposite of true love for all of them are inherently self centered. ðïñí éá even came to be used as the antonym for self-control because it represented the loss of control. Immorality views everyone and everything else as a “thing” for its own fleeting sinful pleasure. Apart from the marriage relationship, anyone who says, “I love you,” and then wants a sexual encounter only proves themselves a liar. They do not love you, they have a lust for you and see you simply as the object of their selfish, sinful and untamed desire.
Impurity = ακαθαρσια πασα. This is a little more general than immorality and refers to anything that is unclean and filthy. It is used to describe a rottenness and decay such as a body in a tomb (Mt. 23:27). Ten times it is associated in the New Testament with sexual sin. It would refer to here to such things as contemplating immoral thoughts, passions, ideas and fantasies. It may be disseminated by sight or sound and it well describes pornography and a lot of what is called “art” by the ungodly and much of the entertainment now so readily accepted by our society.
Greed = πλεονεξια, and is closely associated with immorality and impurity because both of the later are simply forms of greed, for every expression of sexual immorality is also an expression of the selfishness of self-will, self-gratification and self-centeredness that make up greed.
Greed lies under immorality and impurity. True love seeks the purity and holiness of the one loved (Eph. 5:25-27). Greed wants its lustful passions fulfilled regardless of the defilement it brings. It covets and desires to possess. This greed drives people to forsake spouses, children, friends and responsibilities, all in the quest to gain the one lusted after – and this called love by our society.
There is no means by which any of these can be justified among Christians, and so they should never even be named (or even identified) as true about a believer. They are contrary to what is proper among the saints, those who have been set apart as holy to God. Such sins as these cannot be tolerated within the fellowship of believers, which is why Paul spoke so strongly in 1 Cor. 5 about the man who “had” his father’s wife (his step mother). Paul sternly rebuked that church for their toleration of the situation.
Paul continues in the passage that there must not be any: filthiness = αισχροτης. This refers to obscenity in general and includes anything that is degrading or disgraceful. Used here in association with silly talk and course jesting, it refers to any speech that could be considered base, shameful or dirty. It is those things that should be kept private as well as vulgarities. The problem we find now is that many in our society have descended into sin to the degree that they no longer are ashamed, but instead glory in it. TV talk shows are a good case in point, as they are also filled with: silly talk = μωρολογια. The word here is a combination of the Greek word we get “moron” from and the term “words.” Literally this word means “moronic words.” It is stupid, inane and absurd talk. It is speech fitting only for a buffoon, a dolt, an oaf or a fool. It is what is some times called “low obscenity.” It is the type of speech that might characterize a drunk or someone high on drugs. They think they are being really smart, but everyone else knows they are out of their minds. It is talk that has no point except to give an air of dirty worldliness. The vocabulary one uses displays both their education and intelligence.
Course jesting = ευτρπελια. This the last descriptive category Paul gives in this passage. It is the clever turn of meaning is toward that which is obscene, or a double entendre. This is ribaldry, the immoral wit of many talk show hosts and comics who thrive on double entendre and turning even that which is said innocently into something with an immoral innuendo. All it really shows is the state of their wicked hearts.
None of these things are to be characterize the Christian. That means not only one who would speak in such language, but also one that would willingly participate in listening to such language. It brings shame on the name of Christ when those calling themselves Christians are also found among those who discuss, laugh and joke about almost every form of corruption, perversion and sexual intimacy.
The speech of the Christian is instead to be characterized by thanksgiving, because that is the mark of a heart that truly loves. It marks a life focused on the needs of others with the self set aside selfish. To give thanks you have to think about the feelings of others and the efforts they have made toward you. You have to set aside your pride and realize that regardless of your position, you do not deserve what is given to you. It comes by the graciousness of others. The writer of Hebrews even states that this an element of our worship of God “Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name” (13:15).
Remember what Paul said just a few verses earlier – Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such [a word] as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, that it may give grace to those who hear (4:29). The one who truly loves, seeks to build up the other person in Christ and what Paul has mentioned here – immorality, impurity, greed, filthiness, silly talk and coarse jesting can never build up, but can only tear down. Edification includes helping others increase their faith and become more like Christ in holiness. The one who loves considers the appropriateness of the moment before they speak and makes sure that what they say is done to give grace rather than condemnation, to give hope rather than despair. We who have been adopted into God’s family should be marked by the characteristics of Christ. In short, if Jesus Christ would not say it, then neither should you, and if Jesus Christ would say it, then so should you. We are to be imitators of Him!
What about those who do not imitate Christ? Paul concludes with what I had briefly mentioned earlier. Such people do not belong to God’s kingdom for they are not His children. Vs 5-7 “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. 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. 7 Therefore do not be partakers with them.”
The Ephesians already knew this for certain because Paul had already told them many times before. There should have been no doubt in their minds and there should be none in ours. God does not tolerate sin. Jesus died to redeem us from sin and break our bondage to it. The Christian is a new creature and he should not keep putting on the old grave clothes and live like he did before. He has a new nature and he should live according to it. Those who are characterized as immoral, impure or covetous are idolaters. They worship something or someone else (often themselves) as the god of their lives. No such person has an inheritance in the kingdom of God.
Paul makes it clear that such a life demonstrates the person is unredeemed because they are living according to their natural sinful nature. It does not matter what they claim, because their words are empty. The Apostle John put it bluntly in 1 John 2:4, The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.
I have consistently found that when I talk with someone who is living that kind of life that had made a profession of faith sometime earlier in their life, one of two things will be true. 1) A few will have a genuine knowledge of God and they, like David of old, will admit their sin and tell how they are absolutely miserable in their current life and want help to get back into a proper walk with the Lord. In these cases we see God’s hand at work in convicting them of their sin and drawing them back to Himself.
Tragically, the more usual case is that the person is content in his wicked lifestyle and their profession of faith turns out to be a trust in themselves, not Jesus. They walked the aisle, they raised their hand, they prayed a prayer, they signed the back of a tract. They think they have a claim on Jesus, and they do not. They are liars and have deceived themselves. It is because of this type of prideful arrogance that God’s wrath comes down on disobedient mankind. They shall not escape. In contrast, every Christian here should be clear on the importance of living in the truth and being an imitator of Jesus Christ.
For comments, please e-mail Church office