Summary: Living as children of light
Flip the Switch – Eph. 5:3-20
Steve Simala Grant – Nov. 3/4, 2001
Making decisions in the dark can lead to some regrettable consequences. Back in the days before electricity, a tightfisted old farmer was taking his hired man to task for carrying a lighted lantern when he went to call on his best girl. "Why," he exclaimed, "when I went a-courtin’ I never carried one of them things. I always went in the dark." "Yes," the hired man said wryly," and look what you got!"
catching kids creeping around in the dark during an all-nighter…
Eph. 5:3-20 uses the metaphor of light and darkness to explain how we are to live as Christians. We can all relate to an experience of groping around in the dark, trying to get somewhere or accomplish something when we can’t see what’s around us. Paul uses this contrast to explain how we are to live – as children of light.
The passage continues the section that began way back in chapter 4:17. Paul has been telling us how to live as Christians, specifically mentioning areas of our lives that need to change in order for us to be more like Christ.
Our passage this morning jumps right in to this discussion, listing some areas of sin that we need to get rid of and then prescribing some alternatives. Since it is a long passage we won’t be able to look at it in detail, but we will try to hit the high spots.
A. Commands (vss. 3-7):
One of the things I love about Paul’s writings is that they are often really direct – no mincing words, no back-peddling, no trying to couch it in non-offensive language – he just gets right to the heart of the matter. That is how verse 3 begins – just jumps right in and tells it like it is. There are three prohibitions: against sexual immorality, impurity, and greed. Verse 4 lists another three related to speech: no obscenity, foolish talk, or coarse joking. And intermingled among these prohibitions are a series of reasons why Christians should be different.
1. Sexual immorality and impurity
(Sun) It might be helpful as we look at these first two commands to remember that Ephesus, the city listed as the destination for the letter, was a hotbed of sexual immorality. It was home to the temple of Artemis, one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world. Artemis was the goddess of, among other things, fertility – which led to a practice known as temple prostitution, where people engaged in sexual activity with temple prostitutes to “honor” the goddess. You can imagine what kind of atmosphere this created in the city with regard to sexual standards – a permissive atmosphere backed up by a “religious” philosophy.
I share that background because it reminds me a lot of our society. The goddess is not “Artemis,” it is “self-fulfillment.” But the result is the same – a cavalier attitude towards sexual matters and a complete lack of sexual purity. We end up living in a culture which celebrates and elevates personal sexual fulfillment to an ultimate level.
(Sat) This first command says “among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality.” Not even a hint. The standard is black and white – there is no gray area. This is about as blunt as it gets. Compare that standard to our society – where sexual immorality is glamorized and celebrated and even worshiped. The norm in our society is to be sexually active outside of marriage – to have numerous partners throughout our lives, to seek personal pleasure sexually at any cost. So people like me who have never been physically intimate with anyone except for my wife are freaks – wierdos – and much of our society would feel sorry for me for all that I have supposedly missed out on.
(both) What do I mean by sexual purity – what is the standard here? – to be quite blunt, it is any sexual activity outside of marriage – that is sinful and destructive. That includes premarital sex and extramarital sex. That includes sexual contact with anyone who is not your spouse, regardless of the level of intimacy created. It even includes spoken words without contact, as verse 4 makes clear. And when we take Jesus’ words into account from the sermon on the mount, Matt. 5:27-28 (read), we see the standard extended even further into our thought life. Lust is sin, it is impurity. It is destructive.
This is a big thing in our society because of the ease and availability of pornography on the internet. (Sat. “sleeping beauties” story; Sun gk. “porneia”). And this scares me especially for teens (Sat. story from my childhood re: availability). It is so easy to think that it is harmless, that it doesn’t hurt anyone. Yet if that were true, why are you so worried about someone catching you? And why do you feel so guilty afterwards? The truth is that pornography is incredibly destructive. It is sin against God, for one, as this passage makes clear. And it is harmful to you also – how?? Because it warps your sexual expectations, turns sex into something selfish rather than selfless, plants images in your mind that are difficult to get rid of and that plague you, and sends you down a self-destructive path. It is incredibly destructive to your ability to form healthy relationships with members of the opposite sex, especially marriage relationships. And all that is to say nothing about the objectification of women and the dehumanization and degregation that is part of the broader context of pornography. There is much more to say on this topic, but it is better said in a different context – so get some help in this area if this is a struggle for you. Know clearly that the Bible says sexual immorality is wrong, it is sin, it is destructive, and among us as Christians there “must not be even a hint” of it. Know too that simply being aware of the destructiveness is not enough – it takes submission and obedience to God and His power to break the hold. I can’t urge you strongly enough to deal with this issue in your life.