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TALKING THE WALK OF LOVE – Ephesians 5:1-5

Posted by Pastor Greg Allen on June 14, 2017 under AM Bible Study |

AM Bible Study Group; June 14, 2017 from Ephesians 5:1-5

Theme: Paul urges his readers to no longer talk in the manner of unbelieving people, but to speak in a way that is consistent with a walk of love in Christ.

(All Scripture is taken from The New King James Version, unless otherwise indicated).

The city of Ephesus—and its surrounding region—a would have been a hard place in which to live a holy life. Reading from the 19th chapter of the Book of Acts, we find that—when Paul went to Ephesus—he encountered a city greatly given over to occultic practices and magic arts. It had an economy that was based on the sale of idols and immoral worship. And it was also a place in which talk was big, and in which clever orators swayed the masses. The believers to whom Paul wrote would have had a hard time not allowing themselves to be squeezed into the thinking of the world around them—easily behaving like the unbelieving people with whom they lived.

We live in a situation very much like that today. It is very hard for a believer to avoid being influenced by the constant barrage of filthy talk, or crude humor, or cursing and swearing, or appeals to gratify the flesh, or the worship of selfish desires and passions all around us. Hard—but not impossible. And what’s more, it’s appropriate to do so as those who have been set apart by God as His own people to live in a completely different way.

After having made the case to these Ephesian believers that they have been risen with Christ and empowered for a new life—and specifically, after having just exhorted them to let no unwholesome word come from their mouths (Ephesians 4:29-30)—he urges them to walk worthy of that call. Specifically in our passage this morning, he calls them to to talk in a way that is consistent with holy imitation of the love of the God who saved them—and to avoid walking and talking in the unloving ways of those around them.

Note that …


Paul begins this section with the word “Therefore”; and this points our attention back to Ephesians 4:17. We are to no longer “walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk …” Their ‘walk’ is a figure for their daily lifestyle conduct; and their walk is given over to the lewdness and uncleanness and greediness. That is not the pattern we are to imitate. Instead, Paul writes, “Therefore be imitators of God as dear children” (v. 1).

Have you ever watched a little boy or little girl try to imitate their daddy? If a father is thinking rightly, he’d want to be very careful; knowing that his little ones are looking up to him and imitating the things he does. But just as that happens in a natural way with little children, we are to intentionally seek to imitate our heavenly Father. Paul speaks of us as God’s “dear” or “beloved” children; and we are to look up to the one who loves us, and seek to be like Him. Jesus taught us, “Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). If we truly have experienced His love, then we will want to be more like Him.

You might say that this speaks of a ‘vertical’ imitation. We look up to our Father and want to be like Him. In fact, we would want to be like our Lord Jesus; who Himself always did what He saw in the Father (John 5:19). But how should that impact our relationship with each other? In that case, verse two gives us the standard for a ‘horizontal’ imitation. Paul writes, “And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us” (v. 2a). We are to love each other as Jesus has loved us. He gave this to us as the ‘new commandment’ (John 13:34-35); “that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”

How did Jesus love us? Paul goes on to specify; “and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma” (v. 2b). Even when we were still sinners, Jesus lovingly gave Himself to the death of the cross for us—taking all our sins upon Himself and paying the penalty before the Father for us (Romans 5:8). He did this as an “offering” and a “sacrifice” to God—just as the priests of the Old Testament offered up to God in the tabernacle for sin. And to the Father, this was a “sweet-smelling” savor (Psalm 66:15). Our walk of love toward one another in the imitation of Jesus—giving of ourselves in order to love and serve one another—is also “a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God” (Philippians 4:18).

And in the light of this, note also that …


Paul writes, “But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints (v. 3). “Fornication” speaks of sexual immorality; and here, may include the idea of even talking about it in a favorable or explicit way. “Uncleanness” may involve the idea of being characterized by impurity in a more ‘suggestive’ way; what we sometimes call ‘dirty talk’. And “covetousness”, in this context, seems to speak not only of the inordinate passion for things, but also for the desire of things that are sinful in nature. To want such things that are the harm of others is very ‘unloving’ indeed! (see Romans 13:8-10). These were the kinds of things that characterized daily life in Ephesus; and sadly, they characterize the world we live in and the kind of talk we find on the social media. But they were not to even be ‘named’ among the saints—certainly things that ought not to be known to characterize the saints; but more, not even to be the kind of things that the saints talk about.

Those words describe a bold, direct lust for and approval of such things. But as God’s people, we’re not even to entertain ourselves with such things or make jokes about them. Paul goes on to say, “neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks” (v. 4). “Filthiness” speaks of talking about unclean and immoral things in a way that expresses delight in them. “Foolish talk” is a more general term for talk about stupid nonsense that is unbecoming, or talking in the kind of way that makes fun of things that ought to be taken seriously by a follower of Christ. And “course jesting” is the kind of talk that makes light of sin, or that makes jokes that are designed to make us laugh about things that put our Savior on the cross, or that involved crude and gross humor.

It’s important to understand, of course, that humor itself is not wrong. Someone does not become ‘more holy’ by being ‘more boring’. Engaging in good, godly laughter is never contrary to holiness. But we must never allow humor to become sin. As King Solomon put it, “For like the crackling of thorns under a pot, So is the laughter of the fool. This also is vanity” (Ecclesiastes 7:6). We know we’ve gone too far when our humor leaves us feeling dirty inside, and when we feel the rebuke of the Holy Spirit.

Such humor is a serious matter. Paul writes in verse 5, “For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.” The Bible is dreadfully clear about this—warning that people who are persistently characterized by such things thus identify themselves as being outside of the realm of God’s saving grace (see 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; Galatians 5:19-21). When Paul says that someone who is greedy for such things is “an idolater”, he is saying that they are making clear that they worship another god than the one true God; and that their supposed ‘devotion’ to the heavenly Father is of a divided nature. How can we dare to laugh about or talk casually about things that lead people to eternal damnation?

* * * * * * * * * *

There’s a sense in which we show whose child we are by who we imitate. May it never be that we imitate the unloving ways of this world in what we say or do. May it never be that we end up being knowing by the language of Canaan.

May it be, instead, that people know us by the fact that we speak the dialect of heaven. Let’s make sure we walk in imitation of our Father; and walk—and talk—in genuine love toward one another; just His Son Jesus did for us.

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