Bible Study from Calvary Chapel Newberg
with Tom Fuller
Living Life in the Light
At the beginning of Chapter 5 of Ephesians, Paul tells us two things: imitate God in your character, and be an agent of His self-sacrificing, other-centered affection to those around you. That?s much easier to say than to do. One of the hardest things about belonging to Jesus is that we have to live on in a world that constantly pulls at us to imitate the ways of this age and walk in selfishness, not love.
Ephesians 4 and 5 (up through verse 14) is all about the contrast between the values of this age and the values of God?s kingdom - the differences in what our character should look like, expressed in our thoughts words and deeds. At the end of Chapter 4 the contrast was between doing and saying things that will hurt or. Now he focuses on the contrast between how we used to live in this age, and how we should live now that we belong to Jesus.
Now he talks about greed and idolatry. Greed is an unbridled selfish desire and idolatry is putting that desire, or anything, in front of God as taking first place in your character. To illustrate how this should be thrown out of a Christian?s character he uses one of the most powerful forces we know of: sexual desire.
Let?s start from the end of the verse. If you name Jesus as your Lord and Savior, He has made you holy, or pure, by His blood shed on the cross. That?s what the word translated ?saints? means: holy. You are meant to reflect God?s pure character.
So among Christians there are ways of thinking, speaking and acting that are or are not ?fitting? for people who belong to Jesus. That?s what the word ?proper? means here.
Paul mentions three things that are not only unsuitable for an apprentice of Jesus, they shouldn?t even be mentioned. Those three are: sexual immorality, impurity, and greed. In reality they are three words for the same subject: using sex in a way God did not design.
Sexual immorality means any sexual act outside of the marriage between one man and one woman. ?Impurity? means ?uncleanness? which refers to those things people think, say, or do that promotes or participates in a sexual act outside of marriage. Greed is the Greek word for lust, which speaks to the continual appetite for more and more immorality and uncleanness (in this case sexual immorality).
I need to stop here for a moment and make a statement. God created sex. It?s wonderful and very powerful when used in the way God designed, and that was in marriage?something else He made. In Genesis 2, God created Eve and gave her to Adam and said:
Gen. 2:24 ?This is why a man leaves his father and mother and bonds with his wife, and they become one flesh.?
The word ?man? in Hebrew is ?ish? which means ?man.? The word ?wife? in Hebrew is ?isht? which means woman or wife. Later, God clarified that the sexual union described here is exclusive between one man and one woman:
?You are not to sleep with a man as with a woman; it is detestable.?
(Leviticus 18:22 HCSB)
Sex has always been something man has struggled with. In recent decades it has been perverted from what God intended, and actually that is nothing new but we?ve seen a great wave of change recently, starting in the 1960s with the ?Sexual Revolution? which I would call the ?Sexual Devolution?.
It?s happened in three areas: starting with sex outside marriage between a man and woman, pornography, which is sex outside of marriage in your mind, and homosexuality, which is sex outside of marriage between members of the same sex. This latter has been the topic de jour for years now.
The great theologian Elton John said recently that Jesus would approve of homosexual marriage because He was all about forgiveness and getting people together. Mr. John is gravely mistaken.
Jesus said: (Matt. 5:17-18) ?Don?t assume that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For I assure you: Until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or one stroke of a letter will pass from the law until all things are accomplished.?
Jesus followed the Law?all of it, and that includes Leviticus 18. And by us clinging to Him, we get that fulfillment credited to us. Jesus came to forgive, yes, not by claiming that what is wrong is right, but to die for every wrong thing we?ve ever done. He came to get us together, yes, but by bridging the gap sin caused between us and God through that sacrifice.
Now don?t get me wrong?we are all sinners saved by grace. None of us is any better than the other. And sometimes we struggle with doing things we want to do, though they are not like God, and then we justifying it by claiming God is really for something He explicitly states He is against.
It goes the same for premarital sex and for engaging in pornography. It might feel good, and I know of many homosexual couples who have extreme affection and love for each other. The need for intimacy is good. The need for friendship from members of the same gender is good. The need for physical intimacy is good. But this world is so mixed up that we put those things together in a way that doesn?t work in God?s universe. And as we?ll see in a bit, one of these days things will work here just like they do in heaven.
I don?t have to tell you how rampant sexual immorality is in the world today. Why did God design sex only to be used between men and women in marriage? Marriage is supposed to be a picture of the holy union between Jesus Christ and His bride. We?ll get to that picture later in Chapter 5. The intimacy we have with Jesus should be shared by no one else, just as the intimacy shared in a married couple?s union should be shared by no one else.
The problem starts when the values of this age, which treats sex as an idol, start to infect the minds of believers who have come out of the world and declared their allegiance to Jesus. In the process of the change in our character we are at times vulnerable to the influences of this age. This age loves sex. This age worships sex. This world uses sex as a sales strategy. The problem becomes when we start loving the wrong thing, and if you love something more than God, it is an idol.
Paul warns: don?t do it. Don?t go back there. Once you start down that road it is very difficult to back up.
What happens is that not only do people fall back into using sex in a way God did not intend, but they let that attitude infect their conversations. Let?s look at verse 4.
Turn on any late night talk show, or watch nearly any sitcom, and jokes about sex abound. These three words for this type of talk are found only here in the New Testament. ?Coarse? can be though of as patently obscene. The second is ?silly talk? and the third a word used in classical Greek is ?wittiness.? You might think it?s funny to throw witty little sexual phrases into conversation. ?I?m just joking? you say. Paul says: don?t. You are buying into a perversion of the way things work in God?s universe.
Instead we should be giving thanks. Sex outside of marriage between a man and a woman is ultimately very selfish?it is about self-gratification. Instead we should give thanks to God for creating us and giving us such a wonderful way to express love.
You may get in situations where the banter turns sexual. As an ambassador of Jesus, don?t let their crude talk infect your mouth.
Why is this important? Let?s read on:
5 ? 7
Pretty strong stuff, huh? First of all, Paul says ?For know and recognize this? which is to say: ?Listen up, people, this is important.?
Paul then repeats the same three words he used in verse 3 and says that the sexually immoral, impure, and lustful person has no inheritance in God?s kingdom. This age will ague with you to say it?s not that way, like Mr. John. The arguments are ?empty? (vs 6) because they are simply not true.
Here we talk about God?s wrath?not a pleasant subject. God?s wrath is simply His continued opposition to anything that does not reflect His character. You cannot get into heaven unless you are like God. The only way to become like God is to appropriate the sacrifice of Jesus in your life so He gives you His life. God killed Jesus so you could become pure.
By saying ?the kingdom of the Messiah and of God? Paul is saying that God opposes sexual immorality now and also in the kingdom to come. If you think you can get into heaven without having sexual immorality cleansed, you are mistaken.
Now Paul uses this as an example but it?s not the only thing that keeps you from inheriting eternal life. Revelation 21 adds to that list anyone who is too afraid to give their lives to Jesus, murderers (anyone who hates another), drug users, and anyone who lies.
Paul?s point as he?s talking about ?walking worthy of the calling? is that we cannot let a sex-crazed culture infect the church, not in what we do or in what we say. That?s why he says for us not to ?partner? with them. It means to ?share?. Don?t share in the sexual immorality around you.
So next he uses the analogy of darkness and light to contrast the attitudes and actions of this age versus the way God wants His children to act.
8 ? 10
Paul here pictures the way we used to live as darkness and the way we should live now as light. This contrast is common in John?s writings. Light represents the character of God. Here, Paul describes it as ?goodness, righteousness, and truth.? He wants us to live our lives according to the new character that God is building within us?a character that will be the default in God?s universe when he remakes this creation. In verse 10 he?s saying that looking at the character of God we should be able to discern the difference?and the sexual practices he?s been talking about are simply not a part of God?s character so we shouldn?t live that way anymore.
11 ? 12
Not only should we not participate in these things, but the lives we live as Christians, trying to mirror God?s character, actually exposes the deeds of others as not like God. He?s not talking about looking around for sinners and exposing them, he?s just saying that living in contrast will itself show people that they are ?falling short of the glory of God.? Not only that, but we shouldn?t even talk about the perversions done in secret.
There is a wonderful benefit to living this way?it can actually change others? lives.
13 ? 14
The idea of these verses, it seems, is the suggestion that living a life in concert with God?s way will encourage others to turn to Christ. The lines in verse 14 are thought to be an early Christian hymn with its source in Isaiah 26:19, 60:1,2 and Psalm 68:18. The hymn could have been one sung at baptism, but the focus here is on repentance and conversion. Living life like God intended will shine the light of truth on others and will encourage them to ?rise up? from death into life, letting the truth of the Messiah?s death, burial, and resurrection shine on them.
This is a tough section. And I want to make sure I leave you with an important point: It is not designed to bum us out but to wake us up. It is not designed to bring judgment on people and make them feel like they are eternally condemned. Just the opposite.
I think Paul?s two points here are:
- There is a way of living sexually that is God?s way, and not God?s way. That?s not up to us to determine, but as Christians, we should know God?s way and try to live that way, realizing we will blow it, but can always seek and find God?s forgiveness.
- Doing that?trying with the power of the Spirit to live purely, can actually help others come to Jesus. It?s not up to us to condemn others. Jesus Himself said ?Judge not, lest ye be judged?, but it is up to us to be an example, which can lead others to faith in Christ too.