(Taken from my commentary on Ephesians, with editing)
3 But among you there must not be either sexual immorality, impurity of any kind, or greed, as these are not fitting for the saints. (NET)
Up to this point in the book of Ephesians, Paul has been instructing us on living the Christian life, about living in a way that is consistent with our calling in Christ. He continues that here. In verse one, he tells us to “be imitators of God.” In verse two he tells us to “walk in love” in the same manner in which Christ walked. We are to be focused on, and continuously growing in Christ-likeness. We’re to be fully aware of who we are in Christ, and seek to live according to that truth.
Can a genuine, born-again believer in Christ live contrary to the truth of who we are, as “children of God?” The answer is yes….and no. I will explain what I mean by that later on.
“immorality” (Gr. porneia – 4202)
“sexual immorality” (ESV, CSB, NIV, NLT)
This is a general term that refers to every form of sexual immorality: sex outside of marriage, adultery, homosexuality, rape, incest, etc. In other words, it refers to every form of sex that is not between husband and wife.
Sex outside of marriage and adultery is a very big problem in the Christian community. We all know that it’s sinful to have sex with someone other than the one you’re married to. However, sex outside of marriage, or sex before marriage, has become so common among professing Christians that it leads one to think that it’s now a common belief that there is nothing wrong with it, especially if there are plans of getting married.
Either Christians are not being properly taught and exhorted to live sexually pure lives, or Christians have simply talked themselves into believing that sex outside marriage is no big deal. After all, “everyone is doing it.” Or “I’m an adult, this is what adults do.” Or “We’re in love and faithful to each other.” We tend to justify and rationalize the sins we love and don’t want to give up.
However, the truth of the matter is, sex outside of marriage is not only sinful, but it’s one of the most serious sins we can commit as born-again Christians. Why are so many Christians not getting the message? There has to be a reason for it. May I suggest two reasons:
One, is the worldly approach to ministry that many churches have today, which may actually encourage – in general – a permissive type of lifestyle. This points directly to the type of teaching they provide.
Two, is a lack of accountability, which ties in with the first reason.
This permissive environment and lack of accountability would certainly have an influence on one’s viewpoint regarding sex. It seems that the more worldly churches have become, the bigger the problem there is with sexual sin. Something to think about. This all falls squarely on the shoulders of the pastors/elders. They’re responsible. They will give an account for what they teach and how they lead.
In regard to a lack of accountability in many churches, I believe the overall teaching of the New Testament makes it clear that we’re to make ourselves accountable to one another. Again, that begins with church leaders.
I’m also a big supporter of small groups. I believe there are three things that should be central in a small group: discussion of God’s Word, prayer, and accountability. A small group allows the members to discuss the things they struggle with, which gives the other members the opportunity to provide biblical and practical solutions, and also prayer support throughout the week (As a side note, I think it wise that men confide with men, and women with women).
In the contemporary church today, there is no small shortage of small groups. This is something very positive about most churches today. However, it’s been my experience that not all small groups are created equal. As I already indicated, the Word of God and prayer needs to be central. However, we must also use that opportunity to make ourselves accountable to each other. Accountability is a safeguard that helps us to make right choices and to stay on the right path. Without accountability, we’re more free to sin. That’s a freedom we don’t need…and shouldn’t want.
There was a time in my life when I didn’t like the idea of accountability. My thinking was, my life was my own, between me and the Lord, and no one else had to be in on that. That’s pride, and there is always a price to pay for pride. We’re called submit to one another and to walk in humility toward one another (Eph 4:1-3; Eph 5:21). There’s no place for Lone Ranger Christians in God’s will. God has designed the members of the body of Christ to function together, not independently of each other.
In part two I will explain why sexual sin is so serious.