Ephesians 5:1-5

“Therefore, be imitators of God, as dearly loved children, and walk in love, as Christ also loved us and gave himself for us, a sacrificial and fragrant offering to God. But sexual immorality and any impurity or greed should not even be heard of among you, as is proper for saints. Obscene and foolish talking or crude joking are not suitable, but rather giving thanks. For know and recognize this: Every sexually immoral or impure or greedy person, who is an idolater, does not have an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.”

Paul uses the word therefore three times in chapter 4 and he starts chapter 5 with the word. I’m sure you have heard the expression that you always have to look at what the “therefore” is there for! Paul ends the last section about the putting off the old self- lying, stealing, foul language etc. and putting on the new self- speaking the truth, doing honest work so that we can share with those in need, speaking words that build up, etc. He then starts this section with, “Therefore be imitators of God, as dearly loved children, and walk in love, as Christ also loved us and gave himself for us, a sacrificial and fragrant offering to God.”

The way that we are going to be able to do the things that Paul writes about is to imitate God. He uses the example of little children. Children are natural imitators. Our example is Christ. He loved us with a sacrificial love. We are to love others that way. We are to put others needs before our own. In this society that values self above just about everything, that is getting harder and harder to do, but it is what we are called to do. Philippians 2:3-4 says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. Everyone should look not to his own interests, but rather to the interests of others.”

This section, where we are to be imitators of God, is a break in his practical dissertation of the Christian life that he started at the end of chapter 4. He then goes on to the last prohibition and positive command. He writes, “But sexual immorality and any impurity or greed should not even be heard of among you, as is proper for saints. Obscene and foolish talking or crude joking are not suitable, but rather giving thanks.”

The audience that Paul was writing this to was the church at Ephesus. The temple of Artemis was there. Ritual prostitution was part of the worship for the temple. Sexual immorality was as prominent then as it is today. The difference today is that we have more ways to spread it as I will discuss later. My point is that Paul’s message is just as relevant today as it was 2000 years ago!

John Stott writes in his commentary about why Paul adds thanksgiving as the antidote for coarse talk. I’ve always read this as just a general attitude of thanksgiving. But that is not what Paul is writing about here. Stott writes, “It seems to me probable, however, that Paul is setting vulgarity and thanksgiving even more plainly in opposition to each other, namely as alternative Pagan and Christian attitudes to sex… All God’s gifts, including sex, are subjects for thanksgiving, rather than joking. To joke about them is bound to degrade them; to thank God for them is the way to preserve their worth as the blessings of a loving creator.”

Many people will try to say that Jesus didn’t say anything about sexual immorality, and it was only Paul, so we don’t really have to obey. But Jesus was clear in Matthew 19: 4-6, that sex was to be between one man and one woman for life. Here is the way I look at it. Everyone (or so I should hope) has a line that they think should not be crossed when it comes to sex. When society chooses the line, it moves. It used to be the same as the biblical line. Now it seems to be changing on a weekly basis. Tomorrow, it might be somewhere that we think it would never be. Pedophilia? It seems to be getting there. I will stick with the line that God set up.

50 years ago, Ray Stedman said the following in his sermon. “We are being engulfed by a tidal wave of sexual propaganda designed to undermine the foundations of morals and Christian faith. Unless Christians are ready to take a stand in obedience to what God has said, there is nothing we can do to stem the tide.” Remember this was said in the 1960s. Since then, we have had the advent of the Internet and smartphones. Christians have not taken a stand, but instead many denominations have embraced every sexual lifestyle imaginable. I looked up some statistics and here are just a few. In 2019 there were 11,500 human trafficking reports with 8,248 of those being sex trafficking reports (Info from the National Human Trafficking Hotline). Every second, 28,258 users are watching pornography on the Internet and $3075.64 is being spent on it. Every day, 37 pornographic videos are created in the United States and 116,000 queries related to child pornography are received. Here are some more statistics. About 200,000 Americans are classified as porn addicts. 35% of all internet downloads are related to pornography. Those statistics were all taken from webroot.com, which has this to say. “Among adolescents, pornography hinders the development of a healthy sexuality, and among adults, it distorts sexual attitudes and social realities. In families, pornography use leads to marital dissatisfaction, infidelity, separation, and divorce.” Enough.org gave me these last two statistics:

-A nationally representative estimate of U.S. youths (ages 14-18) exposed to pornography: 84.4% of males and 57% of females.

-A 2016 Barna Study found: Teens and young adults view “not recycling” as more immoral than viewing porn. (survey responses: 88% stealing; 56% not recycling; 32% viewing porn).

We have come to a place in today’s society where sex has lost any meaning. God gave it to us as a beautiful gift to be enjoyed between a husband and wife. Matthew 19: 6, “so they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, let no one separate.” Ray Steadman also had this to say. “When we indulge in this kind of talk or this kind of activity, through movies, books, and ribald literature, then the sex drive which is designed to be channeled and kept within bounds, to make us men and women as God intended men and women to be, breaks over its boundaries, overflows its banks, and becomes a flood which inundates the whole landscape, in which we find us wading continuously. Eventually sex loses its attraction and power to attract.”

Let’s go back to the biblical standards. First Peter 1:15-16 says, “But as the one who called you is holy, you also are to be holy in all your conduct; for it is written, Be holy, because I am holy.We need to look different and act different than the world. Paul finishes this section with some pretty strong words.“For know and recognize this: Every sexually immoral or impure or greedy person, who is an idolater, does not have an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.”

Grace be with you!

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