“But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints; and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.” (Ephesians 5:3–5, NASB95)
Moral standards in our society have changed dramatically and are on a path for continuing change far beyond what many of us would have imagined. The reason for this is not due to some dramatic realization that what once was believed wrong really isn’t wrong any longer, but rather due to people living as if there is no standard other than what they feel is right in their own eyes. The standard hasn’t changed or moved, but our culture has chosen, in a significant degree, to deny that standard as valid for themselves or those they oversee.
As much as we might be surprised by this and shocked by how people have openly embraced this rebellious living, we really should not be that surprised except for when that living happens among those who call themselves Christians. The world has been lost to sin, seeking their own desires and subject to the evil one since the Fall. Man has repeatedly suppressed God’s right in their hearts in lieu of his own pleasures. The flood happened because the wickedness of man was that prevalent in the earth. We read in Genesis 6: “Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. The Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. The Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky; for I am sorry that I have made them.” But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.” (Genesis 6:5–8, NASB95) Then after the death of Joshua the people of Israel took their eyes again off of God, and we read these last words in the book of Judges: “And the people were sorry for Benjamin because the Lord had made a breach in the tribes of Israel.” (Judges 21:15, NASB95)
This country was founded on religious principles with the words of the fathers recognizing that they viewed the only way a government such as this would survive is if the people were a moral people. Well, the people, to a significant degree, have followed after other people before them who had lived apart from God for thousands of years. As a result, the “rights” that were granted in the founding documents for this country have been turned into rights to do things that are greatly disconnected from their early moral framed intent. And now, rather than the people doing what is right in their own eyes because there is no king in the land, the people today are doing what is right in their own eyes with the endorsement of much of the top leadership and the judges who were appointed by them.
No country is adequate to preserve the moral fabric of a people apart from the leadership and the people of that country holding to a standard and a standard giver far beyond themselves. As followers of Christ we have been called to live like Christ. In these verses today we are told, “But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints;” As Christians we are not to engage in the sins of the world. In the New American Standard Bible, we read that no “Immorality” is to be named among us. This word “immorality” is the Greek word porneia, and it covers all forms of sexual sin including adultery, all illicit sexual activity, and the entirety of the promoted freedoms of the LBGTQ community. In many ways the advent of the no-fault divorce may have opened wide the doors for the entrance into the acceptable no-limit relationship. If something is no longer termed wrong, then by implication no one is to then be accepted who speaks against it as right. That is what has happened as those who hold to the standard of God are being rejected in a country where the moral fabric was formed from the Word of God. We read in the Bible that God has ordained sex for the marriage between one man and one woman. We also read in passages such as here that all other forms of sexual activity that are outside the bounds for proper Christian activity are activities that Christians are not to engage in or endorse in any way.
We also read that no impurity or greed (or covetousness) is to be named amongst us either. Sexual immorality may be a most obvious form of impure action, but it is not the entirety of that which is impure nor that which we wrongly desire or strive after. Is some sense sexual immorality might reflect the extreme action that arises from impure thoughts and selfish desires working their way out in practice. But all three of them are included by Paul as that which is not to be named among us or that which we engage in as saints or saved and set apart ones by God as His holy ones. We are His holy ones, made righteous by the blood of His Son, and as such we are called to live in accordance and not entertain that which stands in stark contrast.
But Paul does not leave it with these biggies. He brings it next to our very speech saying, “there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting (crude joking), which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks.” Those “big” actions are one thing, but what about the talk that surrounds it? Filthiness is just that. It is talk that is based in filth including that which is deemed obscene. When we realize how we have been cleansed in Christ, to speak anything that does not reflect that cleansing is really in essence to speak filth. Some of it may be more obvious, but it is not limited to the obvious. The NAS uses the word “silly” talk. Other translations use words such as “foolish.” I can’t even pretend to number the times I’ve heard that someone spoke “without thinking.” This is what a fool does. He allows words to spew out of his mouth before he stops to consider their worth. We are called as believers to be slow to speak and to guard our words. We are not to speak carelessly as the fool. And of course, we are not to engage in coarse jesting. Included in this might be all of the things that we say that tears down another or the things we say that minimize and maybe even glorify the very actions that as believers we are to refrain from doing. There is so much that can be included in these three prohibitions, and every single one of them is countered with the instruction, “but rather giving of thanks.” Rather than speaking that which is filthy, destructive, and thoughtless we are simply to pursue speech that builds up and encourages one another and that reflects our thankfulness to our God.
The kingdom of God has closed doors to sinners. No one is permitted into His presence who is identified in any of these listed ways. But our great hope and encouragement is that not one of us, who has trusted Jesus Christ for His salvation and who has along with that received His forgiveness of all of our sins once and for all, is counted in that group. Our sins have been washed away and we have the righteousness of Christ put on us. It is because of His righteousness that we have entrance into eternity in His presence. In light of this we are to take serious who we are and how we live with each other, and purpose to not engage, endorse, or speak lightly of those things which reflect in our old identity. Instead we are to put on Christ, and live as He has called us.