Walking as Children of the Light
Passage: Ephesians 5:1–5:14
Walking As Children of the Light
After laying the deep and strong theological foundations of the Christian faith in chapters 1-3, in chapter 4 Paul calls Christian believers to walk (live) in a manner worthy of the glorious calling we have received through faith in Jesus Christ. We have been made new creations in Christ - now be what you are! And so in chap 4 his instruction moves from theological to practical application of that theology.
Chapter 5 continues to be very practical in application as in verse 3-14 Paul tackles the subject of sexual immorality. But the Christian's morality doesn't flow from a list of do's and don'ts. It flows from who we are in Christ. And so in verses 1-2 Paul reminds us of who we are and from that flows why we are to do these things - actually continues from the end of chapter 4: we are called to forgive one another as God in Christ forgave us. We are to be imitators of God. Why? Because you are beloved children.
I. We are beloved children of God
God is our Father, we are His children, and He loves us with an everlasting love. If you are born again you are a beloved child of God and nothing will ever separate you from His infinite love. No matter how difficult the trial you are going through, no matter how hard your life, no matter how unloved you might feel by others, the banner written over your life is beloved by God. So imitate your Father.
Every one of us who are parents has seen our kids at times imitating us. They want to be like us. Kids do that. We are to do that as children of God.
And walk in love - why? Because Christ loved you and gave Himself up for you on the cross, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Love always expresses itself in self-sacrificing giving - and we are to walk in that kind of love because Christ loved us in that way - giving Himself on the cross so that we could be accepted and forgiven by God.
So as beloved children - imitate Father. There should be a family resemblance.
II. As children of God, there should be no sexual impurity among us (vv. 3-4)
The opposite of walking in love is walking in the self-indulgent impulses of sexual lust. There is to be
zero tolerance for immorality, impurity - it should not even be named among us. It might surprise us that Paul includes covetousness in this list of immorality. Covetousness can extend to coveting anything that does not belong to us, but covetousness seems to have a gravitational pull toward sexual immorality. If you remember God's command not to covet found in the ten commandments the example God uses is that we are not to covet our neighbor's wife. Immorality and coveting travel in pairs.
Now we need to recognize that Paul is not speaking against sex, he's speaking against sexual immorality. Some people have idea that Christians are down on sex. They are embarrassed, maybe even ashamed. Not something to talk about. In fact some of you might be wondering, are we allowed to say the word "sex" in church?
One writer on human sexuality claims that Christianity's most intolerably burdensome legacy is that of seeing sex as sin. They got that very wrong. Sex is not a sin, nor is it a shameful thing - believe it or not, sex was God's idea, not Satan's! Sexual union is a precious gift from God and it is to be guarded and held precious - contained within the sacred union of marriage. John Stott writes,
The reason why Christians should dislike and avoid vulgarity is not because we have a warped view of sex, and are either ashamed or afraid of it, but because we have a high and holy view of it as being in its right place God's good gift, which we do not want to see cheapened.
Satan didn't invent sex - like everything else he isn't an innovator, he's a perverter. He perverts sex so that it becomes something God never meant for it to be. Not sex, but sexual immorality.
I was listening to car talk with Click and Clack yesterday while driving and a guy came on who had an unusual problem with his truck. He loved this truck for fishing excursions, but it would sit unused for long periods of time and during one of these times a rat climbed into the spare tire wheel well and died. When he opened the door after 6 months the stench nearly knocked him over. So to get rid of stench, he left the vehicle for a while but left the windows open 2" to keep airing it out and bats got in and roosted in his sun visors and came back there were bats and bat guano all over the car - in the vents, melted by the sun into vent openings, on the seats - all over.
The problem isn't the truck - the problem is the foul stuff that climbed into the truck and foul activity engaged in within the truck! Immorality and impurity and vulgar and coarse jesting produces spiritual guano that pollutes the church and the Christian. Sexual immorality should not even be named among us.
Instead, we should guard God's precious gift and keep it holy with proper thanksgiving for it. Sadly this has not been the case. Churches that are riddled with adultery, fornication, pornography, impurity. One Christian leader stepped down in sexual scandal said his sexuality was "complicated". Probably not to his wife or children. It is dark and enslaving, not complicated. Simple.
III. Those who habitually practice immorality have no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God (vv. 5-6)
Verses 5-6 continue the family theme only from the negative side - speaking of those who have no inheritance in God's kingdom. These verses contain a very strong warning and Paul wants his readers to hear the warning loud and clear, so he uses terms like "you may be sure of this..." and "Let no one deceive you with empty words."
How is a Christian supposed to take warnings like this? First thing is we don't take Paul to be saying that
anyone who struggles with an impure thought or deed is shut out of the kingdom of heaven. Jesus came to
save us from sin and that includes sexual sin. In a similar text in 1 Cor. 6:9 Paul writes:
Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Cor. 6:9-11)
God's sanctifying work is an ongoing on and we will have to fight against sin, including sexual sin, to some degree all of our lives. So it's not saying, if you have any remaining struggles with sexual sin then you are not a Christian. That is not Paul's message. What it is saying is that, as God's children, we must not become complacent about sexual sin, for God is most definitely not!
This is a warning that we are meant by faith to hear and heed. If there are arenas of immorality or impurity in our lives, faith in the warnings of God ( which are types of promises) motivate us to confession and repentance before God - that we might find the cleansing and forgiveness and grace to change from the Lord.
But we must not write off these warnings as if they had no voice to the Christian, for Paul is writing to Christians. Christians who, he has already written, are sealed with the Holy Spirit as a guarantee of our inheritance in Christ (1:13-14). Christians are sealed, saved, and no one can snatch them out of the Father's hand (Jn. 10:29). So how can we be eternally secure in the Father's hand and sealed by the Holy Spirit and still need warnings of not inheriting the kingdom of God?
Because hearing these warnings and seeing the beauty and rightness of them, and being sure that they are true is an evidence of our being true children of God. Strong faith that those who speak empty words trying to deceive people into believing that there is no wrath of God for such things are dead wrong and deceivers is an evidence that one is truly saved. Regeneration gives us ears to hear God's promised threats, not just His promised blessings.
If anyone here who professes to be a Christian is ensnared in a sexual sin - adultery, pornography, fantasy, crude jesting, coveting - don't try to write off or dismiss these warnings. Hear them with faith and allow the stunning severity of them to motivate your heart to run to God and ask forgiveness and cleansing and then turn from them in repentance. That is what warnings like these are for - they are to turn us before its too late.
IV. You are children of light - so walk as children of light! (7-14)
Paul then changes the metaphor while maintaining the family theme in verses 7-14. The metaphor becomes the contrast of darkness and light and he reminds them "at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light..."
Appropriate metaphor because sexual immorality and associated sins are sins that especially love the dark. There is a built-in shame that doesn't want to be exposed - so these sins love to thrive behind closed doors, closed shades, after dark. Adult shops are usually not filled with windows - in fact often don't have any windows - or they are covered over.
On the way home from the Marriage Conference, Janice and I were remarking on how many Adult Shops we passed in just a few miles time. And that's not a good name - there's nothing adult about them. I'm always amazed at how many cars are parked around them. People (mostly guys I imagine) are in these dark little buildings looking at things that most of them would be ashamed to have people know.
One store had a sign out by the highway: Your pleasure is our business. That's not the whole story. Yes there is a short-term pleasure to indulging in immorality - but there is a long term enslavement that leads to destruction. Darkness leads to unfruitful works that sow to pleasure and indulgence but reap a horrifying harvest of regret, barrenness, brokenness, inability to experience or appreciate true love. The sign should read Your destruction through pleasure is our business. It's more accurate.
Paul says in verse 7 we should not "associate with them (those who are sons of disobedience), but the unfortunate translation for it sounds like we should shun them and keep away from them. How could we then share with them the good news of Jesus Christ? How could we love them as Christ loves them? This leads to an isolationism that insulates the church from the world.
Word translated "associate" is same word found in chapter 3:6 where it says that Gentiles are the partakers (the same word) of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. Partakers or participators. We are to love and share Christ with them. We are not to partake or participate in their sin.