Eschewing Sin

Posted on May 2, 2017
Filed Under From Daily Readings, Short Pauline Epistles | 1 Comment

Repentance seems to be an evil word (or at least an evil concept) in today’s religious world. One cannot talk about what practices need to be removed from the life of another without being accused of judging…and we all know that Jesus said that you should not judge! While a further discussion of Matthew 7:1-2 (the source most use to claim that Jesus said that we should not judge) would certainly be beneficial, it is beyond the scope of this particular study. However, there is much in the epistles of Paul that convey the importance of repentance. We will be considering, at least briefly, Ephesians 5:1-21.

Be imitators of God…

Paul encouraged the Ephesian brethren to imitate God, as a child would imitate his father (Ephesians 5:1). Lest the reader be left in the dark about what such a teaching could mean, Paul spent several verses addressing the specific actions that one would adopt, or that one would reject, if he were to be an imitator of God, our Father.

Paul’s instructions were not merely a suggestion for the first century Christians. These instructions were delivered so that Christians could know what God expected of them. That point was made abundantly clear by Paul in the following verses!  

Eschewing sin…

Being an imitator of God means that a person has to put sinful behavior away from themselves. There are many who believe that the grace of God allows for men to continue in sinful behavior. However, Paul made it clear that sin must not be a part of the Christian’s life! We are to “walk in love, as Christ has also loved us…”

Paul used several expressions throughout this context to emphasize how important it was for those who became Christians to put sinful behavior behind them, and instead walk as Christ walked.

First, he addressed “fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness…” Of these sins, Paul said that the Christian should not have these things “even named among them, as is fitting for saints…”  He told them that there should not be any instances of these sinful practices among them! He then introduced the idea of identifying that which was fitting for the saints. This word means:

prepo (πρέπω, 4241) means “to be conspicuous among a number, to be eminent, distinguished by a thing,” hence, “to be becoming, seemly, fit.” The adornment of good works “becometh women professing godliness,” 1 Tim. 2:10. Those who minister the truth are to speak “the things which befit the sound doctrine,” Titus 2:1. Christ, as a High Priest “became us,” Heb. 7:26. In the impersonal sense, it signifies “it is fitting, it becometh,” Matt. 3:15; 1 Cor. 11:13; Eph. 5:3; Heb. 2:10. See BEFIT, COMELY. 

Paul made it clear that there are some things that are simply not becoming of Christians. It has become more and more prevalent among those who claim to be Christians to accept and continue in sinful practices. It is not fitting for Christians to involve themselves in fornication, uncleanness, or covetousness.

Paul did not stop with identifying those practices as sin, and therefore unfitting for the Christian to participate in.  He continued with a further list:  “neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting…”  Paul said that these things were also “not fitting” for those who are saints!  Perhaps this list hits a little closer to home with most people. While one may reject the practices of fornication, or even covetousness, controlling the tongue is far more difficult!  Sometimes, we as Christians try to make excuses, or at least exceptions for failures when it comes to controlling our language.  The inspired writer here makes it clear that misusing our tongues is “not fitting” for Christians. That does not mean that such control is an easy thing to have. James said that the tongue is difficult to tame (James 3:1-12).  Just because something is difficult does not change the fact that God intends for us to work to master it! If it is not fitting that a Christian should misuse his tongue, then we need to work diligently to control it. We cannot simply accept that it is hard to control, and therefore continue in the sinful practices!


If Paul’s previous statement, “…let it not even be named among you as is fitting for saints;” was not a clear enough directive that Christians should eschew these evil practices from their lives, Paul addressed the consequences of continuing in these sinful practices.  He told the Ephesian brethren that those who would continue in these practices would have no “inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.”  Eternal salvation is at stake for those who refuse to give up these sinful practices! Paul’s teachings in this passage do not fit with the generally accepted doctrines throughout the denominational world. Many believe that God’s grace will cover all sins if a person is saved, and they cannot do anything to lose that salvation. They believe that people should do what God commands, and that they will do so if they are really saved. However, if they are saved, they can technically do whatever they want to do, and God will still give them salvation.

Paul was writing to those who were Christians; he spoke to them as saints (vs. 3).  Yet, their salvation was in jeopardy if they were unwilling to leave behind the sinful practices in which they had been involved in their past. This was not a new approach for Paul in his writings. When he wrote to the Corinthians, he also addressed their need to refrain from sinful practices. In 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, Paul warned that those who were continuing in sinful practices “will not inherit the kingdom of God…”

How can we ignore such serious consequences? How can we think that continuing in sin will not affect our eternal state?  Paul was adamant about the warnings that he gave, by inspiration, to lead people away from this eternal destruction. And yet, there are many who are continuing to teach that it is not imperative that believers turn away from their sinful practices. We must decide: will we believe and accept the teachings of the apostle Paul, or will we put their confidence in men whose teaching clearly contradicts that inspired writing?

Do not be deceived…

Paul knew that there would be those who would contradict his plain teaching on this matter. He warned the Ephesian brethren (much like he warned the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 6:9) that they should not allow themselves to be deceived. The message that says that you can live however you want, involved in any kind of sin that you want to be involved in, is an appealing one. But, it is not the message that comes from God!

If you want to have an “inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God” then you must be willing to eschew sinful practices! You must be willing to work toward a life of holiness, rather than hedonism. You must be obedient, not rebellious. You must be intent on being a saint, not a sinner!