Yesterday, I had the privilege to preach Ephesians 5:1-7 in our morning worship service. As we continued through the book of Ephesians, we focused on the first seven verses of chapter five on our calling to imitate God. What better example could we have to imitate than God? Although to the church at Corinth (1 Cor. 1:11), Paul said to follow him as he was following Christ, in this letter to the church at Ephesus, he directed them to imitate God.
As we examine ourselves, and it’s necessary to do so, we must make sure that we are not imitators of the world. We are commanded as Christians to mimic God as children who would mimic their parents. In other words, we are to exemplify the communicable attributes of God in our daily lives as Christians. In the preceding chapter, we see the need to forgive and show love toward one another. We learn to do that by examining God. If we want to know God and imitate Him, we should spend time studying Christ.
Once again, we see Paul pointing to the danger of following in the footsteps of the culture. When we consider the culture of Ephesus, its obvious why Paul was concerned. The entire city was given over to horrible sins of the flesh. The city of Ephesus was engaged in sexual perversion and idolatry. Ephesus was located on the coastal region of modern day Turkey. It had four main roads that came from different directions and due to its location – it became known as the “gateway to Asia.” It has been labeled as “the Vanity Fair of the Ancient World.”
The city of Ephesus was also the home of the Temple of Artemis or the goddess known as Diana. The Temple was filled with a shrine and a bank. The goddess Diana was a multi-breasted idol that was said to have fallen from the heavens. She was worshipped through prostitution along with other idols that were crafted in the city of Ephesus by tradesmen. In fact, we find that the Apostle Paul disrupted their trade through his preaching when he was there – resulting in a city wide riot. The city was so bad that the philosopher Heraclitus, also known as the weeping philosopher, once said, “No one could live in Ephesus and not weep over its immorality.”
Here, Paul warns the church in Ephesus regarding two specific sins:
- Sexual Immorality
- Sins of the Tongue
As Paul addresses the sin of sexual immorality, he also covers the subject of covetousness (idolatry) which was closely connected to the sexual practices of the day in Ephesus. As he addressed the sexual sins, he used two specific Greek words:
- Sexual Immorality = πορνεία – This is the Greek term meaning sexual sin, including heterosexual and homosexual sins alike. This term has in mind – fornication, prostitution, and sexual misconduct. The term has in mind lewdness and sexual sin.
- Impurity = ἀκαθαρσία – Any substance that is filthy or dirty, a state of moral corruption, immorality, vileness. This word has in mind deeds, words, thoughts, and intents of the heart. Anything that’s filthy and dirty – avoid it.
The point was clear, God expected the church in a sinful city like Ephesus to remain pure. He then moved on to address the sins of the tongue. In order to do so, he used three specific Greek terms:
- Filthiness = αἰσχρότης – behavior that flouts social and moral standards, shamefulness, obscenity.
- Foolish Talk = μωρολογία – Foolish or silly talk. Coming from the word – moros (foolish or stupid – ENGLISH – Moron).
- Crude Joking = εὐτραπελία – facetiousness, coarse jesting involving vulgar expressions and indecent content, vulgar speech / talk. A wittiness in telling coarse jokes.
Just as the church should remain pure in sexual practices, the followers of Christ are likewise commanded to remain pure in speech. In our present culture, the sexual sins and depraved speech patterns often spill over into the church community as well. This is something that we must continually resist and guard against. When we see t-shirts that read, “I Love Jesus But I Cuss a Little” — we must remember the words of Paul to the church at Ephesus. The idea that edgy speech patterns are cool and hip and acceptable among the Christian church is simply not true. The culture may accept it, but God doesn’t.
Paul calls the church to walk in love and to engage in the practice of thanksgiving. We should be thankful for the gift of marriage, intimacy within marriage, and speech that can be used to glorify God. Paul finishes in verses 5-7 with a sobering warning—reminding the church of Ephesus that anyone who practices an unbroken pattern of sexual immorality and depraved speech will have no place in the Kingdom of God. Instead, the wrath of God will consume them.
What about you? What about your spiritual life? Do you imitate God or the world? Is your Christianity real or counterfeit?