A very wise theologian said “Whatever God establishes, Satan will counterfeit. Where God established true love, Satan produces counterfeit love.”
Counterfeit love characterizes Satan’s children, those who are of the world. True love characterizes God’s children, those who are citizens of Heaven. The visible church is supposed to represent Christ and the gospel to a lost world under the bondage of sin and Satan. The church is to represent not just outwardly, but an inward change that is drastically different between the lifestyles of a Christian and the people of the world. It’s when we compromise for the sake of this world that the church doesn’t look like Christ, but like this world for which Christ came to save us from. This was a problem during the time of the Apostle Paul and this church in Ephesus.
Quick background: The city of Ephesus was quite wealthy since it was the center of travel and commerce, had a major seaport, a theatre which housed 25,000 people, wealthy houses and a library. Ephesus was chiefly famous for the temple of a Greek demon called Diana. One of the seven wonders of the world, the temple of Diana in Ephesus was the capital for demon worship in its day. Worship in the Temple was comprised of the burning of incense and the playing of flute music as a result of which the people reached an emotional frenzy in which shameless sexual orgies were engaged. These immoral practices made it a difficult place to preach the Gospel. While the citizens of Ephesus viewed Diana as a great and magnificent goddess, The Apostle Paul continued preaching that “a god cannot be made with hands.” Acts 19:8-10 reports Paul encounter “And he entered the synagogue and for three months spoke boldly, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God. But when some became stubborn and continued in unbelief, speaking evil of the Way before the congregation, he withdrew from them and took the disciples with him, reasoning daily in the hall of Tyrannus. This continued for two years, so that all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.”
Paul warned the elders about the possible struggle they will have when Paul leaves Ephesus. Paul said “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears.” Acts 20:28-31. The Church of Ephesus existed in the context of a difficult situation. This church was faced with external satanic influences; they also had to contend with false apostles, such as the ones who infiltrated the church of Antioch.
This cry from Paul is still being shouted in the halls of the church today. If you don’t believe me listen to some of things going in the church today around the globe. The bride is repeating history all over again for the sake of fitting in with this present immoral world system. A system of influence by the world to change the church was the warning to the Ephesus church some 1500 plus years ago. For example some of the perversions and immorality that is happening in the church today! When Christians show up to "church" to be entertained rather than discipled. When a so-called church service goes from focusing on Christ and His word to focusing on making us feel good and turning a blind eye to sinful practices for the sake of loving our neighbor.
But I ask………………Is that really loving your neighbor? The world claims to want love, and love is advocated everywhere you look. From songs on the radio, best-selling novels, movies, and television series all point to the fact that we want love. The greatest sin is fantasizing about the “perfect love”. Sadly that is sold to us to pursue that ultimate love, because this is the ultimate human experience. The downfall to this thinking is that this quest usually leads to immorality and impurity of heart. Why? That kind of love is selfish and destructive because we are seeking what we want and the conditions are on our terms and not someone else. This line of thinking is only concerned about my satisfaction and not being content or seeking the interest of others. It’s the idea! If you cannot make me happy, I will look elsewhere; where I will fulfill my greatest longings and desires.
Isn’t this one of the major issues when it comes to broken marriages?
Isn’t this one of the major issues when it comes to relationships at all?
The church is to be different and to live by a different set of standards and those standards are a “biblical world view” that is pleasing to God. We are to imitate Him by the example of His Son Jesus Christ to an immoral and perverse world, who is hell-bent on having their hearts desires fulfilled on this earth. Paul is warning us to be extremely careful to think that this isn’t happening in the church when we gather to worship.
Paul uses some strong language to describe the issues…
“Sexual immorality and impurity” this is referring to all sexual sin and all sexual sin that is against God and godly love. Much of the ancient world had sexual practices wrapped up in their idolatry. What Paul is saying is that we are to self-control over these urges or desires because they only lead to sinful practice in the body of Christ. Why? Your life is an overflow of your heart. And this issue is a fundamental problem to your worship. It’s referring to anything unclean and filthy. Matt 23:27-28 we read this when Jesus said “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people's bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” This continued behavior is still found in the church and this lustful world has persuaded the church that this is acceptable behavior. All in the name of love and grace; due to an evolving and changing societies and cultures. But these crimes are against God and His holy standard for our expressions of love. Paul penned these words of rebuke “It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father's wife. And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you. For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing. When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord. Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?” 1 Cor 5:1-6. This has no place in the life of the believer! PERIOD!
Paul said in the next chapter 1 Cor 6:13-20 "All things are lawful for me," but not all things are helpful. "All things are lawful for me," but I will not be dominated by anything. "Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food"—and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, "The two will become one flesh." But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”
Paul also goes on to say this impure and sinfilled behavior results in Covetousness or greed.
“Covetousness” is an expansion of all forms of greed, but also in every form sexual immorality. This is an insatiable desire for more, so covetousness is about the heart. It’s about desiring something more than God.
For context! Paul is saying is this behavior leads to “greed for someone’s body”. Covetousness is an expression of self-will which is self-giving. Jesus on the other hand commands us that our delight is in the God and we are to store up treasures in Heaven. "Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Luke 12:32-34. Unfortunately! Young ladies eat this up daily wanting to look a certain way to fit into a certain group or to attract someone of the opposite sex. Men do the same to some degree; but this is what is marketed to us every day and everywhere we go and its happening in the church as well. If you do this or that, you will be as successful like me, or look like me; because this is what you should be perusing daily in your life. Calvin Klein ads do this all the time…one ad many years ago selling the cologne “Obsession” showed where the camera focused close up, in black and white, on an intense, lustful male face, which then has superimposed on it an amber flame that became the amber bottle of Obsession as he intoned his desires.
Paul says there “must be none of this amoung us” where? Here amoung the family of God…. who have been adopted out of such perversion and lusts of the natural man or woman’s heart. One Theologian said “America’s moral compass seems no longer to have a true North. The needle spins crazily looking for a direction on which to settle…” The reason for this chaos is that we the church has accepted or compromised God’s truth to fit the need and desires of those outside the church. One of the biggest enemies to truth is what the culture embraces on a day by day basis. We call this “Moral relativism”
Moral relativism is the idea that all decisions of what is right and wrong is up to an individual; not an outside sources such as the church, the bible or God. According to Barna Research they say 93% of people claim to individually decide what is right and wrong. And we wonder why society is the way it is and sadly we are stunned that this is happening in the church. Because we have not heeded the warning from the Apostle Paul to the church. According to a 2008 survey by The Barna Group asked adults which, if any, of eight behaviors with moral overtones they had engaged in during the past week. Now I don’t need to show you stats to convince you of the moral decay we are seeing in our present world system, but I will any ways. The behaviors included looking at pornography, using profanity, gambling, gossiping, engaging in physical relations with someone to whom they were not married, retaliating against someone, getting drunk, and lying.
Of those surveyed:
Twenty-eight percent had used profanity.
Twenty percent had gambled.
Nineteen percent had viewed pornography.
Twelve percent had gossiped.
Twelve percent had gotten drunk.
Eleven percent had lied.
Nine percent had engaged in sexual relations with someone to whom they were not married.
Eight percent had retaliated against someone.
The results of the survey also indicated that younger generations are twice as likely to engage in immoral behavior than Baby Boomers. Younger participants were nine times more likely to engage in intimate relations outside of marriage, six times more likely to have lied, three times more likely to have gotten drunk, three times more likely to have gossiped, twice as likely to have viewed pornography, and twice as likely to have engaged in some form of retaliation against someone.
This is in the church circles of life…this isn’t talking about those outside the church. There was a problem in the time of Paul and the rest of the Apostles, just as there still is a problem today. Paul’s war cry for the church…… Is for this not to be named amoung us, for this is improper and out of place for the true gospel confession of God’s children.
“Must not even be named amoung you, as is proper amoung saints.” (v3)
This is not what we have been called to in the Christian life. These sins can in no way be justified and they shouldn’t be tolerated amoung the family of God. Paul calls Christians “Saints” (v3) this is referring to “holy ones” and those who are holy have nothing to do with that which is unholy. Paul doesn’t say “love God and do as you please.” What he does say is “If you want to know what love demands, then pay attention to our source of love.” That source being…..A holy and transcendent God who has a moral standard for you and me to live by every day, for His glory, and for our good. R C Sproul said “this is not done oppressively, out of submissive fear or out of some rigid, enduring desire for rule-keeping, but rather from a profound desire to express our love for the Father.” Our love for God and His word should be the standard to how we treat and act towards our relationships inside the church and outside the church. The world need to see Christ, not you in me, living like the world, and smelling like the world, and acting like the world. Our lives are to spent and be spent for the glory of Christ and His precious gospel. Rom 12:1-2 reminds us of this truth “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
Paul doesn’t just stop at the issue of sexual corruption; to top of that there should be none of this as well…. No filthiness, foolish talk, or crude jokes….this is a general call to flee all form obscenity, and talk that is degrading and disgraceful, especially toward image bearers. Paul says in (v12) “For it is shameful even to speak of “ Such things should not be mentioned, much less participated in from the children of God.
What standard are you governing your heart by? Because it’s a sad thing where this needs to be addressed in House of the Lord with God’s adopted children who have been called out of darkness. And to top it off to hit the “ouch button” of our hearts! Christ died for our foul and perverse mouth, and immoral behavior of the past. Why would a Christian continue in habitual sin like this? Thinking that it’s ok and acceptable for others to do it in the body of Christ. To do so according to Paul is what? (v4)
“which are out of place” (v4)
Out of place because we have been brought into His glorious light through the gospel that saves us from the wrath to come. Out of place for a people who were darkened but now seen in the light of Christ. What is the Christian supposed to be doing with this new life we have in Christ? Answer is found at the end of (v4). “Thanksgiving” is an expression of unselfishness and the result of the Spirit’s work in the believer. See! The selfish and unloving person does not give thanks because he or she thinks they deserve whatever good thing they receive. The unselfish person focuses on his or her life concern on the needs of others. Instead of being involved in immorality or filthy speaking…. the believer’s life should consist of thanksgiving.
Why is thanksgiving the proper substitute for impurity and immorality? Because it is the replacement of idol worship with genuine worship towards God. It’s a spirit of loving and giving instead of using others for personal gain. Pursuing godliness is a daily battle as we fight the goods fight of faith for the glory of His name. This is no easy battle that is won in a day on the battlefield. This will be a life long struggle for many, and battle for some in the family of God. Simply seeing sins deceptive nature will not in itself create the praise that Paul wants to us to see from the list mentioned. He goes to the source of this offence and that being God, Himself. In the process of this we are to flee this behavior and rest in His provisions to see us through each moment and we are to do this with thanksgiving.
Thanking God for His goodness and mercy.
“Praise the LORD! Oh give thanks to the LORD, for He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever!” Psalm 106:1
Thanking God for He is holy and worthy of all our worship.
“For you, O LORD, are most high over all the earth; you are exalted far above all gods. O you who love the LORD, hate evil! He preserves the lives of his saints; He delivers them from the hand of the wicked. Light is sown for the righteous, and joy for the upright in heart. Rejoice in the LORD, O you righteous, and give thanks to His holy name!” Psalm 96:9-12
Thanking God for everything, including the gift of Christ.
“You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God. By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission that comes from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others, while they long for you and pray for you, because of the surpassing grace of God upon you. Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!” 2 Cor 9:11-15
Understand! Paul is not talking to perfect people who have it all together ….if that were so, there would be no reason to write to them and warn them of their present dangers. Paul is reminding us that we are not under the bondage of sin and we are not to treat our liberty lightly as a clean slate to sin on demand. We are to guard our hearts and be transformed by His power that He provides though the gospel of His Son through the Spirit. We are made not to sin! But to live our lives with thanksgiving praises to God for a world to see and hopefully taste His mercy and grace. We are fundamentally different creatures in Jesus Christ……Still sinful but different! We are declared holy and set apart for God for the purpose that no sin will win my heart as easily as it did before Christ raised my dead life and gave me a new heart. Our hearts are too filled with thanksgiving and praise to the only one who loved me….. to death.
What is a sweet smelling aroma to the Heaven?
The ultimate answer to that question is the gospel……Christ’s finished work on the cross. Second is the thankfulness of the saints “God’s holy ones” praising a holy God who loved us, when we at times are still unlovable. Paul says may this never be known amoung us! Because this is out of place and has no place in the family of God. Instead this place is to be filled with thanksgiving praising God for He is good. This is what is pleasing to God……a good example to others and beneficial to your soul.