God's New Family: An Exposition of Ephesians: The New Walk (2): More Reasons Why (Sexual Immonrality #3)

Sermon by J. Ligon Duncan on June 18, 2006

Ephesians 5:5-7

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The Lord’s Day
Morning

June 18, 2006

Ephesians 5:5-7

“The
New Walk (2): More Reasons Why”

Dr. J. Ligon
Duncan III

Amen. If you have your Bibles, I’d invite you to turn with
me to Ephesians 5 as we continue to work our way through this book.

Let me just remind you that in Ephesians 4:17ff, the
Apostle Paul begins a section of the book which we’ve been studying for a number
of weeks, where he exhorts us to live distinctly as Christians, to be different
from the world. And he says this is important for our unity, for the enhancement
of the fellowship of the body of Christ, and it’s important for our witness to
the glory of God in the world.

Beginning in Ephesians 4:25 and running all the way
to Ephesians 5:4, Paul gives six specific answers, or examples, of areas in
which we are to live distinctively as Christians. The Apostle Paul is not
satisfied with giving some sort of a general exhortation to live as Christians.
He wants to give us specific examples about how he wants us to live as
Christians, how God wants us to be distinct and to manifest the unity of the
body in our uniqueness as followers of Jesus Christ. And we’ve been studying
those six specific examples for a number of weeks.

The last couple of weeks we have looked at Ephesians
5:3,4; and then last week, we looked at Ephesians 5:5, and one of the things we
noticed — even though we have said that Ephesians 5:5 begins a new section of
the book — is that the topic of Ephesians 5:3-4, the end of those six examples,
and the topic of Ephesians 5:5, the first verse of this new section, continue on
the same subject; that is, the subject of sexual immorality, and Christians not
engaging in sexual immorality, but rather manifesting sexual purity and sexual
fidelity.

The subject is the same, but the focus has slightly
changed, and let me explain very briefly that focus. The Apostle Paul has moved
from giving us examples for areas in which he wants us to manifest our
distinctiveness as Christians in the context of this world to the subject of
motivations — why it is that we ought as Christians to live distinctively in
this world. And we’re so thankful for that. The Apostle Paul doesn’t just say to
us, “Stop sinning.” He actually gives us arguments to use with ourselves in the
fight against sin, because he knows that Christians continue to have battles in
the area of our desires. There are times when the desires of the flesh, fleshly
desires, overwhelm us in temptation and we give in to those fleshly desires, and
the Apostle Paul is concerned to arm us with arguments to fight against those
desires.

In this passage, he’s actually going to give us
four motivations, four incentives, four reasons, four arguments to use with
ourselves as we attempt to live the Christian life distinctively in this world,
and the first of those incentives we’re going to study today, in Ephesians
5:5-7.

Now let’s look to God in prayer as we prepare to
read and hear His word.

Lord, this is Your word, and we honor You and
bless You for giving us this word. But we also recognize that our hearts are
exceedingly wicked and are capable of deflecting the truth of Your word, so we
ask that by Your Spirit You would illumine our heart, that You would search us
out to see if there is any unclean thing in us in those areas of our heart which
we are trying to protect from Your sovereign lordship. We pray that You would
seek us out there, and find us, and drag those parts of our heart out into the
light of Your word, so that we would see ourselves as we are, and we would see
our need for forgiveness, having seen our sin, and would see Your grace held out
to us in Jesus Christ, and would respond. We ask that You would help us now as
we consider this Your word, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

This is the
word of God:

“For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous
man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.
Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath
of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with
them.”

Amen. And thus ends this reading of God’s holy, inspired,
and inerrant word. May He write its eternal truth upon our hearts.

Motivations are important. Businessmen know this;
that’s why employers are interested in providing a setting in which there are
incentives for effective labor. Workers are productive not only when they enjoy
what they’re doing and they’re good at what they’re doing, but when they realize
that there are reasons for which they ought to perform excellently and to work
hard.

I had a roommate at the University of Edinburgh my
first year who was a Brazilian agro-economics major, and his name was Julio
Velozo, and he was very Brazilian…he would be rejoicing during World
Cup time, I assure you, right now! But we would often talk about economic
systems, and the strengths and weaknesses and the deficiencies and excellencies
of different systems. And at one point we were having a conversation about some
particular form of communism or socialism, and I asked Joui, I said, “Joui, why
is it that that system doesn’t work?” And he said it like this — he said,
“Ligon, no motivation!” And by that he meant that there was absolutely in that
system that we were discussing at that time no motivation for a person to work
hard or work excellently, because in that particular system if you worked
without excellence, and if you were slovenly in your work and you were lazy in
your work, you were given the same rewards as a person who worked hard and with
excellence; and, therefore, he said, there was no motivation in that economic
system for anyone to do anything with excellence, and to work hard.

Well, our heavenly Father knows how we work as
Christians, and He is kind to give us motivations to live the Christian life,
and the Apostle Paul is giving us motivations here.
And in this passage in
Ephesians 5:5, all the way down to verse 21, he’s going to pile on motivations
for living the Christian life.

Now, we said last week these are not the only
motivations of the Christian life, and we also said that the grace motivation
underlies everything in the Christian life – our realization that our heavenly
Father has saved us by grace alone, that He has not saved us by saying ‘OK,
look, buddy, you earn salvation. You be obedient enough to be My child, and I’ll
make you My child.’ No, in fact He has saved us by His grace. He has said ‘I
will save you by the blood of My Son, not by your own merits, not by your own
works, not by your own deserving, not by your own inherent worthiness. I will
save you by My grace. I will be the One who will save you.’ That realization
informs everything that we do in the Christian life, because everything that we
do in the Christian life is a grateful response to a God who has saved us not on
the basis of our performance, but on the basis of His love and the provision of
the sacrifice of His Son, and that underlies and informs everything in the
Christian life. We can never get away from that.

But it is interesting that that is not the only
motivation that is given in the New Testament for how we are to live the
Christian life, or why we are to live the Christian life. In fact, the Apostle
Paul in this very passage will never explicitly mention that motivation,
although he has already implicitly mentioned that motivation in chapter two.

And so I want us to look at the motivation that
the Apostle Paul is speaking of in verses 5-7, because it may surprise you. The
Apostle Paul says that for Christians who have been saved by grace, the
anticipation of the final judgment is a motivation to us to be sexually pure and
faithful.
Now, this motivation applies to all the things that the Apostle
Paul has been speaking about in Ephesians 4:25-5:4, but he’s especially applying
this here to the area of sexual immorality, and he’s saying that the Christian
is motivated to sexual morality, sexual purity, and sexual fidelity because of
the realization that there will be a final judgment in which God condemns those
who are unrepentant in their sexual immorality.

And we may think, ‘Boy! That should be left to
backwoods, uneducated, unsophisticated, fire and brimstone preachers somewhere!’
But this is the Apostle Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, saying
‘Christian, I want to take you to a scene, and that scene is the great assize.
It is the final judgment. It is the place where God, the Judge and Lord of
heaven and earth, hands out His assessment of every man and woman that has ever
lived. And I want that scene to be in your mind as you grapple with the issue of
sexual purity and morality and fidelity.’

And I want us to see three things in this
passage.

First of all, I want us to see that Paul says
that every Christian knows that God is going to condemn unrepentant sexually
immoral people.
Every Christian knows that.

Secondly, I want you to see that the Apostle Paul
also knows that there will be many people, including religious leaders and even
Christian religious leaders, that say ‘Aw, come on now! God is a God of love.
He’s not going to condemn anybody!’
The Apostle Paul knew that 2,000 years
ago – that there were going to be people that were saying that: ‘Come on! You
Christians are too hung up about sexual morality. Live a little! It’s not that
big a deal. God is a big-hearted God; He’s not going to condemn anybody.’ The
Apostle Paul says ‘No, no. Don’t you think that what I am telling you is not
true.’

And then, finally, in verse 7, the Apostle Paul
urges us not to become partners, not to become partakers of this way of living,
of these practices, of these desires, with unbelievers around us.

Let’s look, then, at this great passage together.

The first thing that Paul says, you see in verse
5:

“You know with certainty that no immoral or impure person or covetous man,
who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.”

I. No
unrepentant sexually immoral person has the rewards/blessings of the kingdom (5)

Now, what is it that the Apostle Paul says that
every Christian knows? Paul says that every Christian knows that no one who
lives a life of unrepentant sexual immorality is a citizen of God’s kingdom.
Every Christian knows that no one who lives a life of unrepentant sexual
immorality is a part of the true church. Every Christian knows that no one who
lives a life of unrepentant sexual immorality has the gift of salvation, is a
recipient of God’s kingdom blessings. That’s what the Apostle Paul is saying:
that whatever they claim, those who live an unrepentant, immoral life show that
they are not a part of the kingdom of grace.

Now those are hard words. What do they mean?
Well, let’s let Scripture interpret Scripture. Let me ask you to look at six
verses this afternoon.
We’re going to look at two of them right now, but let
me ask you to look at six passages this afternoon. Look at I Corinthians 6:9-10;
look at Galatians 5:19-21 [we’re going to look at those two passages right now];
but also look at Colossians 3:5; Hebrews 13:4; Revelation 21:8; and Revelation
22:5. [And if you’ve forgotten those verses or didn’t get them down, they’re
already on the website. You can just pull up the Pastor’s Blog, and they’re
there.]

But let me point you to I Corinthians 6:9-10. Just
turn back a few pages from Ephesians, if you’re already there. Turn back to I
Corinthians 6. The Apostle Paul does something interesting when he’s talking
about this subject, and he talks about it a lot; in the language of this
passage, he talks about it at least four times in his writing, so it’s on his
mind. The Apostle Paul always connects three things: sexual immorality;
idolatry; and the judgment of God
…excluding those who are unrepentant in
their sexual immorality from His kingdom. He always connects those three things.
Let me give you an example of that – I Corinthians 6:9-10:

“Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? [Have
you heard that phrase before?] Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, not
idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the
covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom
of God.”

There’s that language again: sexual
immorality…idolatry…will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Now why is that so important? For the Apostle
Paul, sexual immorality is an ultimate expression of idolatry.
It is an
ultimate expression of will-worship, of self-worship, of worship of our own
desires. Paul says that God has given us the gift of sex to enjoy, to revel in,
to delight in to the fullest, in the context of a permanent, committed,
monogamous, heterosexual, marital relationship. And outside of that, any
expression of our desires in the realm of sexual relations is wrong, not because
God has a hang-up about sex [He invented it!], but because He has ordained that
our enjoyment of that gift is to be in the context of a relationship in which a
man is committed to a woman to provide for her, and only in that context; and
any experience of it outside of that, on the part of a man or on the part of a
woman, is wrong. Thus, when we decide that we’re going to go ahead and do it
anyway, we are worshiping our desires instead of worshiping God.

In other words, we’re committing idolatry, and the
Apostle Paul knows that that is an exceedingly, , exceedingly dangerous
sin, precisely because of the power of sexual desires when they break out of the
framework in which God has meant them to operate. They can become so powerful
that they overthrow our love for God, they overthrow our love for all that is
good and noble, they overthrow our love for our own family; and they can destroy
us, they can destroy our family, and they can destroy our love for God when they
transgress the bounds which God has established for our sexual desires.

Now notice that Paul says in Galatians. Turn forward
to Galatians, right between Corinthians and Ephesians…Galatians 5:19. Notice
again how he puts this:

“Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity,
sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger,
disputes, dissensions, factions, envyings, drunkenness, carousings, and things
like these, of which I forewarn you just as I have forewarned you that those who
practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”

And notice again: Immorality…idolatry…will not
inherit the kingdom of God. The Apostle Paul is brutally consistent on this,
because he knows that sexual infidelity, sexual immorality, puts a hook in our
heart that draws us away from God, enables us to worship ourselves and our
desires instead of worship Him, and they are sins that are so powerful that
sometimes we never extract ourselves from them.

You know, those of you who are my age and older
remember a pop/jazz song that was very sophisticated and urbane and laid back,
by Billy Paul, called Me and Mrs. Jones:

“Me and Mrs. Jones, we got a
thing going on.

We both know that it’s wrong,

But it’s much too strong

To let it go now.”

Or maybe you remember If Loving You is Wrong, I Don’t
Want to be Right
. There are hundreds of songs just like that.

Now, let me stop and compliment them for a minute.
At least, 25 years ago they still knew it was wrong! Today, “wrong” is just out
the window in the lyrical content of the pop world, OK? But 25 years ago, at
least they knew that it was wrong. But notice the perfect illustration of what
the Apostle Paul is saying: Billy Paul is ready to say ‘I know that this is
wrong, but I’m going to do it anyway.’ And the Apostle Paul says that is a hook
that is connected directly to the deepest pit of hell. It is a hook that you
must never, ever, think ‘I can do this, and I can get out of this.’

You know, if you’re a young person and you’re saying
‘You know, I know this is wrong, but, boy! do I want to do this right now! And
I’ll do it, and then I’ll be repentant about it later,’ you may not be able to
be repentant about it later. You say ‘Oh, I know I can’t go all the way, but I
can get pretty close, and that doesn’t count.’ Don’t think that you can let the
hook get in, and that you can get out of it.

Or maybe you’re a husband, and you’re thinking ‘It’s
so bad in my marriage; Ligon, you don’t know how bad it’s been. She yells at me;
she doesn’t respect me. It’s like a war zone when I walk in the house. And I’m
at this bar tonight, this lady thinks I’m pretty smart and pretty good looking,
and nobody’s around, and I’m hundreds of miles from Jackson. And what could it
hurt? Just one night?’

Or you’re saying to me ‘But you don’t know my
husband! You do not! He has not connected to me emotionally from the day that we
said ‘I do.’ And now there’s this man, and he listens to me, and he talks…I
don’t have to yell at him to get him to talk to me. And I just feel so drawn to
him.’

Or maybe you’re saying to me, “But, look — I feel
attracted to a person of the opposite sex.” Or whatever you’re going to say to
me today! But the Apostle Paul is saying please know for certain that there is
going to be nobody…nobody!…nobody!…who stands before the judgment throne
of God on the last day and says ‘O God, I worship me. I worshiped my desires. I
transgressed Your commands sexually; and I worship You, too.’ In that set
there is going to be nobody — not one!

Does that mean that if you’ve ever fallen in this
area you can “Abandon hope, all ye who enter here”? That you’re done for? No.
No, it doesn’t. Because this room is literally filled with dear people that I
love who have fallen precisely in this area. But let me tell you something: they
have come under conviction. They have gone through the process of repentance,
and it has cost them dear. And they have been restored to the joy of their
salvation, and in many cases their relationships with their husband or wife or
future spouse has been restored, and they are walking with Christ and they are
faithful in this area. But there is no one who sins in this area without
repentance, without remorse, without regret, who continues on, who lives a life
of immorality in this area, who also at the same time loves and trusts in Jesus
Christ alone for salvation as He is offered in the gospel. They do not exist.

You hear what the Apostle Paul is saying: There
is no one who trusts in Christ alone for salvation who also continues to live a
life characterized by not trusting in Jesus Christ alone for salvation as He is
offered in the gospel.
That set is empty! No one is in it! The Apostle Paul
is not saying that you’re saved by faith plus your faithfulness. He’s not saying
that you’re saved by faith plus your works. He’s not saying that you’re saved by
faith plus your obedience (you’ve got to trust in Christ and you’ve got
to be sexually obedient). What he’s saying is there is nobody who trusts in
Jesus Christ [faith in Christ] who is not also being sanctified. He’s saying
that justification and growth in grace, growth in godliness, are a package deal:
they always go together. And you’re never going to find someone before the
judgment seat of God who was justified by faith who decided that they would just
go right on living a life as if they were a pagan. It doesn’t exist.

And so, what the Apostle Paul is wanting us to do,
he’s saying ‘Come with me for a moment.’ He says ‘I want you to see something. I
want you to see the final judgment seat of God, and I want you to notice what is
happening to everyone who has decided to live a life of unrepentant sexual
immorality of whatever sort: they are all being condemned for their sins.’ And
it’s so interesting that in the end, as dangerous as the sin is because it draws
our heart away–I cannot tell you…especially, men, this is a dangerous sin for
us. (It’s not just dangerous for us, dear sisters in Christ; it’s dangerous for
you, too.) But for men, we are particularly vulnerable with this. I cannot tell
you how many men that I have seen gone the way of sexual immorality and along
with that sexual immorality has gone any trust in God, any following after God,
any love for God. It evaporates at the same time. I can’t tell you how many
times I have seen that. I can’t tell you how recently I have seen that. I see it
all the time.

But the Apostle Paul is saying ‘Let me show you how
people who desire to worship their own passions, who make their own rules, who
decide that God’s law is wrong in this area for them, and they’re just going to
go on their merry way–let me show you how they fare before the judgment seat of
God. ‘The verdict,’ he says, ‘is ‘Guilty’ every time. There’s not one of them
who says ‘I can do this…I can go on and live this way…I can indulge in this
behavior. God’s going to cut me some slack.’’ There’s nobody, he says. He says
‘Let me show you that scene: there’s nobody who’s going to be acquitted.’ And
the Apostle Paul wants us to stand before the judgment throne as we consider the
power of this sin to ensnare us.

II. Don’t let anyone
tell you otherwise (6)

And you see, it’s not just the specific sin, is it? It
is the unrepentance.
As I say, there are so many people here…we can think
of David: dear, dear David, the man after God’s own heart, a model of Christian
living, fell in this area; but he repented.

You see, a Christian who can say ‘I can go on doing
this’ — a Christian who does go on doing this — never comes to the conviction
and never has the repentance, and there’s never the turning, and there’s never
the forgiveness, and there’s never the restoration. The Apostle Paul is begging,
he’s pleading with you and me and with these Ephesians, don’t go there!

For those of you this morning — young people and
older people — who haven’t gone there…you Christians. The Apostle Paul is
wanting to show you that scene, that judgment seat of Christ, so that you won’t
go there. And for that second group of people — Christians who have been there —
they’ve been there, much to their regret; they’ve been there. They have come to
conviction and repentance and renewed walk with Christ. They’ve had restoration;
they’ve been forgiven of this sin. They’re saying to you who haven’t been there
yet ‘Don’t go there.’ None of them will make light of it. None of them will be
nonchalant about it. They know how deadly it has been. They know how costly it
has been. And the Apostle Paul is not showing you, if you’re there, dear
Christian, if you’re that restored, repentant Christian who has fallen in this
area, he’s not showing you that judgment seat to scare you. He’s just saying to
all of us it’s good to be reminded that that judgment seat is there. It’s good
for us to remember that. And in the fight against this sin, as pernicious, as
dangerous as it is, it’s good to be reminded that that throne of judgment is
there.

But to those of you who are in this sin and you’re
not repentant of it–maybe you don’t even realize you are unrepentant of it
today–the Apostle Paul wants to show you this scene precisely because he loves
you. And so, in verse 6, precisely because he loves you, he says look, don’t let
anyone tell you otherwise. Don’t let some smooth-talking religious leader, some
“Christian” leader come along and assure you, ‘Aw, come on, now! God’s not going
to condemn anyone for this.’ The Apostle Paul says “Let no one deceive you with
empty words.”

It’s so interesting…a congregation member came up
to me last week after we were looking at this verse, and gave me an article out
of the previous day’s Clarion Ledger religious section, in which a former
Baptist minister was assuring everyone that sexual immorality was OK, and that
Christian hang-up’s about sex went back to Augustine. Let me introduce you to
the Apostle Paul and Ephesians, chapter five! And it’s not a hang-up! And here’s
the Apostle Paul, 2,000 years before that sophisticated ex-Christian minister
declared that we’ve got hang-up’s in this area and whatever you want to do in
the area of sexual expression is fine, the Apostle Paul is saying don’t let
anyone come along and tell you otherwise. Do you want to bank your eternal
future on God’s words or man’s words? Do you want to bank your eternal future on
what the word of the living God says, or on the opinions of men? The Apostle
Paul says don’t let anyone tell you otherwise; the wrath of God is very popular
to deny. It always has been. The judgment of God is very easy to deny. It always
has been, and the Apostle Paul says precisely because I love you, precisely
because I love you–don’t listen to that.

You know, today…there may well come a day when to
read the words of I Corinthians 6:9,10 gets us kicked off of the television here
at First Presbyterian Church, because we’ll be accused of hate speech.

Now let me tell you this, my friends: If what the
Apostle Paul says is true (and it is), then is it loving to tell someone ‘Go
ahead and do what you want in the area of sexual expression — whether it’s
adultery or fornication, whether it’s premarital sex or extramarital sex,
whether it’s same-sex marriage, whether it’s homosexuality, lesbianism,
bi-sexuality, whatever — to tell that person that’s fine, God’s not going to
condemn you…and have them stand before the judgment seat of God and face
eternity? That is not loving. That is not loving. It is loving instead to say
‘Dear friend, that way is the way of destruction. And because I love you so
much, I’m going to tell you.’

III. Don’t find yourself
under God’s searching, condemning judgment with them (7)

The Apostle Paul closes in verse 7 by saying, “Do
not be partakers with them.”
He doesn’t mean don’t associate in any way with
anybody who’s sexually immoral. If that were his command, Christians would have
to take a rocket to the moon! He’s not saying don’t have any contact whatsoever
with people who are sexually immoral. We’d have to leave the world. What he is
saying is this: Don’t become partners with them, don’t participate in sexual
immorality with them; don’t let the way they live influence the way you live,
because if you partake of the kind of sexual lifestyle that they are partaking
of, you are going to partake of the same judgment that they partake of. And if
you partake with them in their sin, unrepentantly, you will partake with them in
the judgment.

You know, the interesting thing about this is, this
motivation makes sense only to those who know the grace of God. This motivation
to be brought before the final judgment makes sense only to those who know the
grace of God. Only those who know the grace of God can and will rightly respond
to that motivation. We don’t resent it.

But those who don’t know God’s grace, and
consequently they don’t know their own sin, they hate this motivation. They hate
it! They resent it; they see it as mean; they see it as vindictive. If that’s
where you are today, if you just think that this is manipulation, threats…let
me ask you this: Can you live in light of your obituary today, and think about
your death and ask yourself, “When all is assessed [and it will be assessed, our
contemporaries will assess it], what will have mattered in my life? Will that
night, that week, that month, that year, those years, those 10-20-30 years of
indulging my own sexual desires outside the bounds of God’s commands (whether it
was adultery or fornication, or homosexuality, whether it was premarital sex or
extramarital sex)…was that now, in light of my whole life, was it worth the
relationships that I destroyed? Was it worth the family that I destroyed? The
people that I hurt? Was it worth the estrangement from God which I will now have
to accept forever? That night, that week, that month, that year, those
years…was that worth it, in light of eternity?”

That’s what the Apostle Paul is asking you to ask
yourself. He’s not asking you to ask that because he hates you. He’s asking you
to ask yourself that because he wants you to be a joint heir with Jesus Christ,
the Son of God.

May God bless His word.

Let’s pray.

Lord, we know in this area we need every
argument, every reason, every incentive, every motivation that we can get our
hands on, because we are bombarded from every side in our culture to indulge
ourselves in transgressive behavior. The world applauds us when we do this as
brave and heroic. Before the final judgment seat our God will pronounce the sad
judgment that ‘You have chosen to destroy yourself in life and forego fellowship
with Me in life, and this is the choice that you have made forever.’ O God,
grant that by Your grace we would see and remember that judgment seat, and that
we would instead trust You and desire You and love You, and not worship
ourselves in our immoral sexual desires and our passions, but rather would have
more love for Christ. We ask this in His name. Amen.

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