Elon, North Carolina
We are studying the book of Ephesians and we come to a very important chapter in the book. It is very important. It is very practical. It deals with sexual sins. It deals with marriage and some other topics. Chuck Missler calls this ‘the X-rated section of the book”. We are going to spend several weeks on this chapter.
The chapter begins with a strange verse. Therefore be imitators of God (Ephesians 5:1 ESV). The KJV says “be followers of God” but the Greek is even stronger. Be imitators of God. The Greek word translated “imitators” is the word μιμητής from which we get the word “mimic” in English.
This is the only time in the Bible we are told to imitate God. We are told to imitate Jesus in other places but this is the only time we are told to imitate God and it is a command in Greek. It is a present imperative. It is something that we are to do all of the time.
How do you do imitate God. How do you mimic God, not just study God or worship God or meditate on God but copy Him? How is that even possible? There are some ways that we cannot imitate God. We are not all-powerful. We are not all-knowing. We are not everywhere present. What is this talking about? Let’s read the rest of the verse. Therefore be imitators of God, AS BELOVED CHILDREN.
Everyone imitates someone. Every since we were little, there were always people that we wanted to be like and follow. There are good and bad role models. Children also imitate their parents. They not only look like their parents, they act like their parents. How are we to act like God? How can we act like God? There are many ways.
1) We are to imitate God in forgiveness
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (Ephesians 4:32 ESV). God forgave us our sins and we are to forgive people who sin against us. We are to forgive like God. We are to forgive people who do not deserve to be forgiven. God forgives people who have broken His laws, and blasphemed His name.
2) We are to imitate God in love
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Ephesians 5:1-2 ESV). God loved us when we were unloving. He loved us when we were sinners. We are to copy God, not copy the world when it comes to love or copy Hollywood but copy God. We are to love other people the way God loves us. God does not just love people. He loves His enemies. That is radical love.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:43-48 ESV).
3) We are to imitate God in holiness
But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16 for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” (I Peter 1:15-16 NIV). Here is another way we are to be like God. We are to be like him in holiness. God is light and in him is NO darkness at all (I John 1:5). God wants us to live holy lives. He wants us to live uphold the family name.
Six Common Lies in the Church
That brings us to Ephesians 5:3-7. Today, we will be looking at these verses from the vantage point of lies Christians believe. There are lies in the world and there are lies in the church, not in every church but there are people who profess to be Christians and claim to believe the Bible but believe some crazy things and say some crazy things.
There were people like that in Paul’s day and there are people like that today. Some of them are common in the church. We want to look at six common lies Christians believe. We want to look at the lie and we want to look at what God’s Word teaches. The question for us is this: What lies are you believing?
Lie One: Everyone will inherit the kingdom
Paul could have said that but he didn’t. That is what universalism teaches that one day everybody will be saved but that is not what the Bible teaches. It teaches that some will enter the kingdom and some will be excluded.
and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels 8 in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might (II Thessalonians 1:7-9 ESV)
11 I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, 12 while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 8:11-12 ESV). Here we have some reclining at the kingdom with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and some excluded.
“But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. 12 And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. 13 Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ (Matthew 22:11-13 ESV)
“Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. 15 Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood. (Revelation 22:14-15 NIV). Here we have some inside the city and some outside the city. The cats are inside and the dogs are outside the city.
Everyone says the same thing. Paul says it. Jesus says it. John says it. There are two groups of people in eternity. There will be some in the kingdom and some excluded from the kingdom. There will be some in the new Jerusalem and some outside the city. They are not just excluded but punished (weeping and gnashing of teeth, outer darkness) away from the presence of the Lord.
Lie Two: Immorality is not a big deal
The world says it is not a big deal and some in the church say the same thing. Immorality is not a big deal in the world today. That is what our culture says. That is what the world says. It has become socially acceptable. They say that it is perfectly normal. It is natural. It is popular. Everyone is doing it. It is fun. It is legal. In fact, it is celebrated in the world.
Some Christians also act like it is not that big of a deal. We are going to heaven, so it doesn’t matter how we live. If you are a Christian, it does not matter what you do. You can commit rape or murder, but you will still go to heaven. There are many who teach this. What is wrong with this teaching?
Paul taught the exact opposite of what some people say today. He said that God’s wrath comes on people because of these sins. He taught that you cannot inherit the kingdom because of these sins. He said, “EVERYONE who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has NO inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God” (Ephesians 5:5 ESV).
Paul mentions three sins or types of sinners in that verse. If you are not guilty of any of them, don’t pat yourself on the back too soon. Paul mentions this list two other times and adds more sins to the list (I Corinthians 6:9-10; Galatians 5:19-21).
Does this mean that if a person ever commits these sins, he can never be saved? No. Some people in the Bible did some of these things. David committed adultery and murder. Will he be in heaven? Yes. What is the difference?
Paul is not talking about an occasional sin. He is talking about habitual sin. He is talking about a lifestyle of sin, a lifestyle characterized by sexual immorality, impurity or greed. Paul does NOT say that these sins are unpardonable. Jesus said that all manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven (Matthew 12:31). There is only one unpardonable sin and it is not a sexual sin. It is the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 12:31-32).
God can save murderers. God can save child molesters. God can save prostitutes. God can save adulterers. God can save homosexuals. God can save everyone WHO REPENTS. Paul is not dealing with a person who falls into sin, feels bad about it and repents. He is talking about a person who lives a sinful lifestyle on a daily basis, doesn’t feel bad about, doesn’t repent and in fact tries to justify it and excuse his or her behavior, and even thinks he or she is saved.
Lie Three: Christianity is just about a relationship
How many times have we heard the words that Christianity is about a relationship with Jesus? It is not about rules. It is not about a bunch of do’s and don’ts. It is not about an outward conformity to a moral code. That is religion. We are under grace, not law. Is there any truth to this? Yes.
What is the problem? It is not an either-or. Christianity is about a relationship with Jesus but that does not mean that we do not have any rules or any commandments to follow. In fact, that is part of the relationship with Jesus.
Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commands” (John 14:15 NIV). He said, “You are my friends IF you do what I command” (John 15:14 NIV). Just because you have a relationship with your spouse, does not mean that you can do whatever you want in marriage.
Paul gives some rules for Christians. He says that there are all kinds of things that we are not only to do but are not to be named among us. He mentions three WORDS and he mentions three WORKS. They are not fitting for Christians. They are fitting for the world. They are not fitting for the saints.
Unfortunately, many Christians have not followed what Paul said. The truth is that it is named among some Christians. Immorality has even been named among some pastors today. That is why what Paul said here is badly needed in the church today.
But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. (Ephesians 5:3 ESV).
What are the THREE WORKS? The works are immorality, impurity and greed. All of them do not deal with sex but two of the three are sexual sins. God hates sexual immorality. In many ways, immorality is far worse today than it was in Paul’s day. Gay marriage did not exist in Paul’s day.
Pornography was not as readily available as it is today because of modern technology. In fact, the word for “an immoral person” in Ephesians 5:5 (ESV) is the Greek word πόρνος. The word for “sexual immorality” in Ephesians 5:3 (ESV) is πορνεία. The word “pornography comes from those two Greek words.
You might expect the first two to be on the list, but greed is also on the list. We do not think that greed is that serious. It is the American Way. It is part of the American Dream. Greed made it on God’s Top Ten list. In fact, that sin is mentioned right next to sexual sins. Are you greedy? There are some greedy preachers. A greedy person is never satisfied. No matter how much you give them, they always want more and more. Paul calls greed idolatry (Ephesians 5:5). We were not told that in the OT but Paul tells us that here.
Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. (Ephesians 5:4 ESV)
What are the THREE WORDS? The words are filthiness, foolish talk and crude joking. The first type of words he mentions are obscene words, dirty talk. The last type that he mentions are dirty jokes, crude jokes.
Paul is not saying if you are a Christian that you can’t have a sense of humor. He is not saying that it is a sin to tell a joke. God has a sense of humor. He must have. He created both the giraffe and monkeys, as Ivan French used to say. We have a sense of human and we are created in the image of God but some type of humor is sinful. We should never joke about sin. We should not laugh at it.
Notice what is between dirty words and dirty jokes. It is not overtly sinful talk, just silly talk, stupid talk, saying dumb things. How many Christians are guilty of silly talk? We call it “fellowship.” Jesus said that every word we will give an account. Instead, we should be characterized by thanksgiving. Are we characterized by thankfulness? How often do we thank God for things? Do we do it once a week? Do we do it every day? Do we do it several times a day?
Lie Four: God is not mad at anyone
Joyce Meyer wrote a book entitled, God is Not Mad at You. This is a very common error in the church today. God is not mad at you. He is not mad at anyone. God hates the sin but He loves the sinner. What is wrong with that teaching?
It is not biblical. It is the Gospel of Oprah. God loves you. He has a beautiful plan for you life and He’s not mad at you. If it is true that God is not mad at anyone, then why did He send a flood on the earth and destroy every living thing (man, woman, child, animal). Can you imagine Noah going around with that message that God is not mad at anyone to the sinners in his day just before the Flood?
If it is true that God is not mad at anyone, then why did He wipe out Sodom and Gomorrah? This time God used fire, not water. Why did fire fall from heaven and burn up those cities and wipe them off the map? Was God mad at the behavior of the people in those cities? Yes.
If it is true that God is not mad at anyone, then why will He one day cast people into the Lake of Fire? Does He do it out of love? If it is true that God is not mad at anyone, then why does Paul say that “because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience” (Ephesians 5:6).
If He is not mad, then why is wrath coming on people? Why do hundreds of verses in the Bible talk about the wrath of God? Wrath means anger. Why would there be anger if God is not mad at anyone?
Lie Five: There are no serious warnings for Christians
Many preachers have completely misinterpreted this passage. They got it all wrong. In the Bible, there are some promises and there are some warnings. We should believe both of them. Some accept all of the promises but reject all of the warnings. They just explain them all away and that is what they do with this passage as well.
Some say all that this verse teaches is that some Christians will just miss the kingdom. They will miss the Millennium, the thousand-year reign of Christ. They will make it to heaven, but you won’t get any rewards.
For you may be sure of this, 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 God. (Ephesians 5:5 ESV)
Some say that they will be in the kingdom but will not have an inheritance. They will not get any rewards. Is that true? No.
Paul did not just say that they would receive no inheritance IN (ἐν) the kingdom (Ephesians 5:5). He said that they would inherit THE KINGDOM period (I Corinthians 6:9; Galatians 5:21). He said that the righteous will not inherit the kingdom. If they do not inherit the kingdom, it means that they will not get the kingdom. They will be excluded from it. If that was not clear enough, read the next verse.
Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience (Ephesians 5:6 ESV).
Paul doesn’t say if you do this, you will not inherit the kingdom. He says, “If you live this way, you will face the wrath of God.” You will not just miss God’s best for your life. You will face the wrath of God. You will not just miss the thousand-year reign. You will not just miss out on some rewards in heaven, if you live this way. God’s wrath will fall on you.
Lie Six: You can lose your salvation
Many teach that Christians can lose their salvation. They teach you can be saved today and lost tomorrow. It looks like it teaches it here. Paul is talking to Christians. Ephesians was written to saints. It wasn’t written to unbelievers.
The language used here is very strong. This is a very solemn warning. It is a warning of eternal damnation. He warns the church about God’s wrath falling on people and then says, “Therefore do not become partners with them” (Ephesians 5:7 ESV). Are they right? No.
The Bible teaches the doctrine of eternal security. Paul teaches it in Ephesians. He says that Christians are sealed to the day of redemption (Ephesians 4:30). What about Ephesians 5? There are two hints in the text which help answer that question.
First, notice who the wrath of God falls on? It falls on THE SONS OF DISOBEDIENCE (Ephesians 5:6). That is Paul’s term for the lost. It is his term for the unsaved. God’s wrath does not fall on Christians. It does not fall on the children of God. It does not fall on the children of the light.
For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. (I Thessalonians 5:9 NIV).
There is now NO CONDEMNATION for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1 NIV)
Second, notice the tense of the verb in Ephesians 5:5. It is a PRESENT TENSE verb. For you may be sure of this, 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 God.
Paul is not saying that Christians who are sexually immoral will have no inheritance in the future. Instead, he says that anyone who lives this way has no inheritance in the kingdom right now.
If you are genuinely saved, you cannot lose your salvation. The big problem today is that many people think they are saved who are not saved. Churches are full of people like that. They are unsaved but they think they are saved and they have a FALSE sense of security. That is the big lie of the devil.