Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God (Ephesians 5:1–5, esv).
Just as the obedience of Christ was a fragrant aroma rising up to God, so our lives also have a scent. If our lives are pleasing to God, then it’s like a sweet-smelling offering rising up to God, and He’s breathing it in. In heaven, God may be sniffing and commenting, “Now her life has a satisfying odor,” or “Smell his life!” Yet some who profess to be followers of Jesus are a stench in God’s nostrils. In order to be a fragrant aroma, you have to live a life of purity.
The opposite of purity is perversion. Paul describes perversion this way: “But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints” (Ephesians 5:3).
First, Paul mentions immorality, from the Greek word porneia, from which we get our word pornography. This word encompasses all forms of sexual sin. This is perversion.
Second, impurity. Jesus used this word to describe decaying bodies in a tomb. It paints an ugly picture of an impure, dirty, decaying, foul life. Another brand of perversion.
Third, covetousness, or greed. What is that doing on the list? Think of it this way. In the filing system of sin, the first two words, immorality and impurity, are specific folders in the drawer of sexual sin. The whole filing cabinet is covetousness or greed. It’s a big, summary term, and all the sin in that cabinet is rooted in covetousness—wanting what I want, not caring what God says, because I come first, and I will have what I want. Yet again, perversion.
Notice that Paul says those three things—immorality, impurity, and covetousness—must not even be named among us. Not much squirming room in that! Zero tolerance, don’t mess with it, not appropriate for the children of God.
Then Paul broadens the scope from physical, sexual sin to verbal, sexual sin. “Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving” (Ephesians 5:4). Filthiness refers to general obscenity, any talk that sexually degrades someone. Foolish talk literally means moron words—not playful teasing with our kids but gutter mouth or silly, base, perverse filler words. Crude joking turns any comment, no matter how innocent, into something obscene or suggestive. This sexual innuendo is “out of place” in the family of God.
All of this is perversion, the opposite of purity, and it stinks in God’s nostrils. Why is God so concerned about a little bit of impurity? Because at the root of all these sins is something sinister: idolatry. “For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God” (Ephesians 5:5, emphasis added).
There’s the rub. At the root of these patterns, at the root of a life consumed with sexual immorality, impurity, covetousness, and filthy talk, is idolatry. In that life, God isn’t the object of worship. Who’s worshiped? Not a Buddha or statue. Self. The unstated mantra is “I’m the one I worship, I’m most important, what I want comes first.” And if that’s the pattern of your life, then you have an idol problem.
God’s never been casual about idolatry. The second commandment is “NO IDOLS” (Exodus 20:4–6). And the insidious idols of our day aren’t statues but self. Gratifying self instead of pleasing God. And God’s verdict on that life? It stinks.
Father God, I find this passage convicting. Forgive me for the perversion in my life, whether overt or subtle. Your Word has authority in my life. I don’t care what others say or think; I want to be a holy person whose life has a pleasing smell to You. Thank You for calling me Your beloved child and for giving me a pattern of purity for my life: Jesus, in whose name I pray, amen.