Ephesiansby Robert M. Solomon
Ephesus was a centre for many things. Like many pagan cities in the Mediterranean world of the first century, it was a centre of idolatry, which was often associated with temple prostitution. Society then was permissive in sexual matters, and sexual immorality was common and tolerated—in some cases, even celebrated. Greed was also common; Ephesus had many wealthy people with big houses. It was a commercial centre that profited from being an idolatrous city of sex.
The readers of Paul’s letter were used to living and thriving in such a sinful environment. But now they were to be different: they must resist the temptations and renounce their former way of life. Paul makes a list of things that must not be tolerated among Christians—there “must not be even a hint” of these sinful practices (Ephesians 5:3).
The list includes sexual immorality and greed. Impurity includes obscene and dirty talk. Such things are “improper for God’s holy people” (v. 3) and “out of place” (v. 4). Paul warns: “No immoral, impure or greedy person . . . has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God” (v. 5). Why? Because such practices are contradictory to life in the church and in heaven. God’s children must not live like the children of the world. They must be different precisely because they are the children of God, who is holy.
Instead of immorality and greed—which is idolatry, because it is the worship of material things above God to gratify one’s desire (v. 5; see Matthew 6:24)—God’s children are to be known for their habit of thanksgiving (v. 4). Gratitude to God will help believers stay away from immorality, impurity, and greed.
Today, Christians live in a hyper-sexed and greed-driven world. How can they live as God’s children? Christians must remember their true identity and stay away from anything that is incompatible with being God’s children. They must not allow themselves to be deceived by “empty words” (v. 6), whether these come from loud and misleading advertisements, or irreverent gossip in the social media. They must remember that God’s wrath will come upon the disobedient, and must therefore not be partakers (v. 7 KJV) with those who embrace such sinful lifestyles and habits. Rather, they should be partakers of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4).
How important is the Christian identity? What are some modern habits, experiences, or places that are connected with immorality, impurity, and greed? How can you resolve to have nothing to do with these things?
How can you reach out to those imprisoned in the sins that are rampant in this world, without getting caught in those sins? How would you make your Christian principles and values clear to them?