"But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints; and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. 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." (Ephesians 5:3-5)Paul speaks of what is, or rather is not, proper among the saints. This Greek word for "proper" can also be translated as "befitting" and means to be conspicuous or to stand out. Paul is asking us to consider how others see us and to identify those characteristics that define our lives before men; is it a life lived in righteousness and holiness or is it a life steeped in the same sin and depravity as we see in the world around us today? If we have a claim to be saints of God and if we profess that Christ has forgiven us and set us free from the bondage of sin, then ought not our lives be a conspicuous show of the truth and fruit of what we confess? If we claim to be born again then should we not show forth a newness of life that wasn't present within us before our rebirth? Paul is calling us to consider that there are those things that are befitting of a born again child of God and there are those things that are befitting of those who have yet to find freedom from sin in Christ. Therefore, if we have become saints of God then we ought to live as such in holiness, righteousness, and all purity.
To this end, Paul focuses on three thing regarding our behavior and three things relating to our manner of speech. Paul says that we must lay aside all immorality, impurity, and greed. The Greek word for "immorality" is the same word from which we get our English word for "pornography." This word refers not only to fornication but to all forms of sexual impurity, license, and perversion. This includes not only the actual participation in illicit sex but also participation in pornography and other forms of sexual impurity. In Paul's day, sexual sin was just as rampant, if not more so, than it is in our world today. Paul warns believers not to bring their old sexual practices with them into the Kingdom of God but rather to learn a new way of living and to return to purity when it comes to the issue of sex. In speaking of impurity, Paul is making a reference to the old Jewish law that classified things as either clean or unclean. The Jewish law taught the Jews to live a life of purity, shunning those things that were unclean and cleaving to those things that were clean. As saints of God, we are called to live a life of purity; to put aside all mixture in our lives, to not grasp for what is clean while we still try and hold onto what is unclean. Our lives should not be a mixture of light and darkness, or good and evil, or clean and unclean but rather a life that is singularly consistent with our confession.
Paul also references our manner of speaking when he says that we should lay aside all filthy talk, silly talk, and course jesting. It is interesting that the three Greek words used here are only use in this passage of scripture. Filthiness refers to all shameful and/or obscene talk, including filthy stories and obscene jokes. The phrase "silly talk" can also be translated "foolish" or "vain" and it means to talk like a fool. Solomon had a lot to say about the speaking of a fool: "A fool finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own opinions." (Proverbs 18:2 NIV) "A fool vents all his feelings, but a wise man holds them back." (Proverbs 29:11 NKJV) As believers it is fitting for us to use discretion and understanding in our speech, not simply blurting out everything that come into our mind. The Greek word for "jesting" means "easily turned" and refers to a quick wit and an ever ready repartee. Wit and good humor are pleasant among friends but it can be taken to an extreme where it descends into base, course, and obscene banter that can wound, hurt, and offend the hearers. Paul's remedy for these things is that, in laying aside these things, we instead take up the practice of giving thanks; to lay aside old manners of speaking and put on a new manner that is characterized by gratitude and thankfulness.
Paul warns us that, for those who fail to lay aside the old life, a life characterized by impurity, immorality, greed, and idolatry, that they will have no inheritance in the Kingdom of God and of Christ. It is interesting that Paul speaks of having no inheritance and one could read into this that such a one may yet still be saved, but will suffer lost of inheritance upon entering into eternal life. Peter speaks of that inheritance that awaits us in heaven, "to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you," (1 Peter 1:4) and Paul speaks of those who, while yet obtaining salvation, still suffer loss in their salvation, "each man's work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man's work. If any man's work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any man's work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire." (1 Corinthians 3:13-15) Either way, we must understand that the life we live here on the Earth had a direct influence on the life we will inherit in the age to come. Let us therefore choose to live a life different from the prevailing wind of our culture and those around us so that in the life to come we may also live a life that is different from that which once was our destiny and the reward of our sin.