Having mentioned several characteristics of counterfeit love in Ephesians 5:3-4, Paul now turns to the consequences of such immorality in verse 5-7: For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. Be not ye therefore partakers with them.
While popular “preaching” today is full of humor, it avoids the subjects of this verse at all costs, namely those who will be excluded from Heaven and are under God’s wrath. To underscore the certainty of this, Paul writes, For this ye know, that is, you’ve already been told this so you know it’s true and there is no doubt. It is, in fact, as Martyn Lloyd-Jones puts it, “something that is self-evident. How can you be a Christian at all and not know this?”
First, Paul mentions those whose lifestyle results in their having no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Whoremonger is pornos, which originally referred to a male prostitute, and which (with other words in this group—pornē, porneia, etc.) came to be used for any sexual relations outside of marriage. The Greek behind unclean person (akathartos) is a slightly different form of the word we noted in verse 3 for uncleanness and again speaks of that which is unclean, impure, and polluted.
Of special significance is the covetous man (pleonektēs), which is also a repeated concept from verse 3. It here speaks specifically of a person who wants what someone else has, “a defrauder for gain.”
Paul adds a deeper principle, however; such a person is actually an idolater. Ephesus was an important city in the ancient world, not only because of its being the capital of the Roman province of Asia Minor, as well as being and being its greatest commercial city as the “Gateway to Asia,” but also because it had become the religious center of pagan worship in all Asia. Ephesus was not only famous for the great temple of Diana (Artemis in Greek), which was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, but was known as the center of occult arts and practices.
So, the Ephesian believers would have been very much aware of what Paul was saying about no idolater being in God’s kingdom. Paul did not preach the soft Gospel of our day that tolerates and condones; he did not whitewash, dilute, or rephrase it to be it more palatable to “seekers.” He preached an exclusive Gospel that declares the necessity of repentance from sin, especially idolatry. As result of the Gospel, many came to Christ in Ephesus, and there was even the danger of Diana worship being destroyed altogether. Likewise, no Christian should allow anything pagan to touch his or her life. From horoscopes, to Halloween, Christianity makes no peace with idolatry. How tragic it is that many Christians, including preachers, just don’t seem to recognize how much God hates idolatry and anything reminiscent of it!
Further, man’s chief idol is himself. He worships at the altar of self-gratification and makes sacrifices to the god of pleasure.
Still further, all of us are, in fact, idolaters by nature. While we might not have a carved god on the mantle over our fireplace, we all love symbols. Many Christians want to hold on to Old Testament symbols, celebrate feasts, hang “pictures of Jesus” on their walls, stick religious symbols on their car bumpers, and so forth. There seems to be a ribbon to wear for every cause nowadays, from AIDS (Acquired Immunity Deficiency Syndrome) awareness to anti-abortion. We love this kind of stuff because it “represents something.” But Jesus Himself declared that we are to “worship the Father in spirit and in truth” (Jn. 4:23-4).
This leads to a second consequence, which we’ll examine next time.