“…everyone who is sexually immoral or impure… has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God” (Ephesians 5:5)
Bible Reading: Ephesians 5:5-7
We have noted that in this section of his letter, Paul is warning his readers to avoid practices that are hateful to God. His language is so strong we might even think he is “a little over the top” in insisting that such things as sexual immorality are “not even to be named” within the Christian community (Ephesians 5:3).
Aware of how prevalent immorality and the like were in the world of his day, Paul backs up his instructions and warnings with a chilling reason (v. 5) and further warnings (vs. 6-7).
“For you may be sure of this,” he says, “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 of God” (v. 5). Upon first reading, this might strike us as alarming. For who among us has not flirted with “sexually immoral and impure” thoughts, and at times succumbed to covetousness? If such lapses are in view here, no one can hope to enter the kingdom of God and of Christ.
More likely, however, Paul is not speaking of people who yield to occasional or periodic temptations in these areas, but to people whose lives are characterised by these vices. They are people who are so governed by these things that they define their lives (compare with 1 John 3:6).
So it is that when John sees a vision of the New Jerusalem, the eternal city of God, he sees a place where “nothing unclean will ever enter, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false” (Revelation21:27). “The cowardly, the faithless, the detestable… murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars” will have their portion “in the lake that burns with fire and sulphur, which is the second death” (v. 8). What a sobering and shuddering picture.
Almost as though he expects there to be people who scoff at these warnings, and try to rationalise indulging in evil, Paul warns his readers against being misled. “Let no one deceive you with empty words,” he says, “because of these things, the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore, do not become partners with them…” (vs. 6, 7).
Whatever arguments people use to dismiss the moral evil of sinful practices, we are not to listen to them. Their reasonings are but “empty words” – the proud imaginations of hearts refusing to acknowledge God.
We may be sure that the evil practices that Paul has been targeting are just as hateful to God today as they have always been. How hard it is for us to realise that the overt sexualisation of almost every aspect of our culture (even when it comes to buying items in a supermarket), is repulsive to God, and will bring his judgment upon humankind. Sadly, we become dulled to these things and accept them as normal and inevitable if not harmless.
Paul’s words are a wake-up call to us all.
- Is there a difference between “a liar” and someone who tells a lie in a moment of weakness?
- Do we take Paul’s warnings here as seriously as we should?
– Andrew Young