For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, …has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ …. Eph 5:5
Recall that beginning in verse 25 of Ephesians 4 through verse 1 of chapter 5, we have come across 11 imperatives or commands in 9 verses! Verses 2 and 3 of chapter 5 begin with two more imperatives; this section containing “instructions for the new creation” is as loaded with imperatives as chapter 1 of Ephesians overflowed with indicatives. Now of course, precepts of imperatives are only issued in light of indicatives; that is to say, we are only called to act in a particular way because of what we first are in Christ; however, this does not diminish the importance of obedience to the Scriptures’ commands. Christian obedience is essential to Christian discipleship; and the reality is, that continual, willful disobedience is a mark that one is not in reality a disciple at all.
D. Martyn Lloyd Jones has written:
I do not know of a single scripture—and I speak advisedly—which tells me to take my sin, the particular thing that gets me down, to God in prayer and ask him to deliver me from it and then trust in faith that he will.
Now that teaching is also often put like this: you must say to a man who is constantly defeated by a particular sin, “I think your only hope is to take it to Christ and Christ will take it from you.” But what does Scripture say in Ephesians 4:28 to the man who finds himself constantly guilty of stealing, to a man who sees something he likes and takes it? What am I to tell such a man? Am I to say, “Take that sin to Christ and ask him to deliver you?” No, what the apostle Paul tells him is this: “Let him that stole, steal no more.” Just that. Stop doing it. And if it is fornication or adultery or lustful thoughts, again: Stop doing it, says Paul. He does not say, “Go and pray to Christ to deliver you.” No. You stop doing that, he says, as becomes children of God.
There is an anti-drug ad campaign that says, “just say no.” Well the Christian must “just say no” when faced with temptations to disobey the Scriptures’ commands. Of course the ability to resist temptation is not natural, and the power to overcome is supplied only to Christians by the Holy Spirit, but the command comes to the new man in Christ – Christ does not resist for us; it is up to you to turn away, resist and overcome.
The two commands in Eph 5:2-3 are first, to walk in love, and second to completely avoid the counterfeits of Christian love – namely fornication, uncleaness, and covetousness.
What does it mean to walk in love? It means we’re to love as Christ loved; forgiving, unconditionally, self-sacrificing. That’s the positive presentation, but watch how fast Paul goes to the opposite – the negative. Whatever it is that God establishes Satan counterfeits, and the perversion comes immediately in verses 3 and 4 – fornication or sex sin. The world’s counterfeit love is propagated by deceivers with their vain words who are nothing more than the object of God’s wrath (verse 6). Where God establishes true love, the world comes along and establishes the phony counterfeit – that is what you are called to resist – fornication or adultery or lustful thoughts, again: Stop doing it!
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