“Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children” (Ephesians 5:1 NIV).
If you spend time watching little children, you’ll quickly see that children often learn by imitating others. For example, a child will learn to do things like walk, talk and interact with their world by watching others and then attempting to imitate what they see and hear. Ephesians 5:1 uses this idea to illustrate that Christians should also be imitators of God in much the same way.
In other words, the Bible encourages God’s followers to watch how God interacts with people and imitate His good example in their own lives. Of course, in order for someone to learn from God in this way, that person must first be familiar with Him and know about who God is and how He works. The very best way to accomplish that is to get to know God through the pages of His Word where we find the greatest example to imitate…
“Be full of love for others, following the example of Christ who loved you and gave himself to God as a sacrifice to take away your sins. And God was pleased, for Christ’s love for you was like sweet perfume to him” (Ephesians 5:2).
Jesus is the ultimate example for every Christian and as God helps us, it’s our responsibility to display the same kind of self-sacrificing love that motivated Him. However, this Christ-like attitude is directly opposite to what we see described in the next few verses…
“Let there be no sexual immorality, impurity, or greed among you. Such sins have no place among God’s people. Obscene stories, foolish talk, and coarse jokes—these are not for you. Instead, let there be thankfulness to God” (Ephesians 5:3-4 NLT).
The word used for “sexual immorality” here is an all-inclusive type of word that includes all kinds of inappropriate sexual behavior. For example, the term “sexual immorality” would include things like unmarried couples are sexually involved, a married person who has sex with someone other than their husband or wife, homosexual relationships or involvement with pornography. Now many people wonder why God would say “no” to such things. After all, if sex is something good, then why should there be any restrictions on it?
Well, The Doctor has talked about this before but it’s something that definitely bears repeating. The reason that God says “no” to sexual immorality has to do with the fact that the physical aspect of a human relationship is meant only for the man and the woman that God has permanently joined together. This commitment is represented by the act of marriage where a man and a woman publicly vow before God to forsake everyone else in favor of each other.
We can see that this was God’s intention for sex from the very beginning because Genesis 2:24 tells us, “…a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” This term “one flesh” also illustrates the kind of intimate relationship that God wants to have with people on a spiritual level but we’ll talk more about that a little later on in this chapter.
Anyway, this explains why the Scriptures tell us that sexual activity outside of or before marriage is wrong (see Leviticus 18:20, and Acts 15:20 for more on that). The Bible also uses the term “lust” to describe the motivation behind things like sexually immoral activity (see James 1:14-15). The Scriptures tell us that lust is wrong (1 Peter 4:3) because lust is opposed to what real love is all about.
You see, the difference between love and lust is that love involves giving and putting the needs of others first (see 1 Corinthians 13:4-7), while lust involves selfishness and using other people to meet your needs (see Colossians 3:5 and 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5). Because God is love (1 John 4:8), He can’t support any kind of action or activity that involves lust- that’s what makes sexual immorality wrong.
Another thing mentioned here is impurity. This is another broad term for immoral behavior and the Scriptures tell us that there’s no place for that in the life of a classy young man or woman of God. Neither is greed, for as 1 Timothy 6:10 tells us, “…the love of money is the first step toward all kinds of sin. Some people have even turned away from God because of their love for it, and as a result have pierced themselves with many sorrows.”
What else? Well, there’s obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking (NIV). Obscenity refers to a sexually offensive act or gesture and today we might say that this refers to talking or doing something “dirty.” Then there’s coarse joking, which involves conversations where there is a lot of double-meaning, especially of the sexual kind. We can see an example of this in the type of person who seems to be able to turn every conversation (no matter how innocent) into a joke or comment about sex. The Bible tells us that all these things are out of place for people who claim to be representatives of God. Instead of these things, we should let an attitude of thankfulness to God drive the way that we speak and act- that’s something that is far more honoring to God.
“Being greedy, indecent, or immoral is just another way of worshiping idols. You can be sure that people who behave in this way will never be part of the kingdom that belongs to Christ and to God” (Ephesians 5:5 CEV).
Notice that the Apostle Paul didn’t water down God’s standards to conform to the culture of his day in this letter. He clearly says that someone who chooses to do these things as part of their regular lifestyle is someone who shows by their actions that they are not related to God- and those choices will eventually keep that person out of heaven.
In fact, Paul points out that an immoral, impure or greedy person is really an idolater (NIV). How can that be? Well, if things like greed or sexual immorality have become more important than following God, then those things have taken the place that God should have in your life and have now become your “gods” instead. The Bible calls that idolatry and an idol can be anything that you love, respect or fear more than God.