The Sermon for Sunday, March 19th, 2023, the Fourth Sunday in Lent
The Lessons: 1 Samuel 16:1-13; Psalm 23; Ephesians 5:1-14; John 9:1-13, 28-38
The Text: Ephesians 5:1-14
Len Sullivan wrote about his grandparents’ move into his grandfather’s old family home:
In the late 1920’s my grandparents married and moved into Grandpa’s old family home. It was a clapboard house with a hall down the middle. In the ‘30s they decided to tear down the old house and build another.
Much to my grandmother’s dismay, many of the materials of the old house were recycled into a new house. They used old facings, doors, and other pieces of lumber. Everywhere my grandmother looked, she saw old doors that wouldn’t shut properly, crown molding that was split and riddled with nail holes, and unfinished window trimming. It was a source of grief to her. All her life she had longed for a new house; now all she got was a recycled one.
When God brings us into the kingdom, the old way of living must be dismantled and discarded.
IMITATING GOD BY WALKING IN LOVE
Our Epistle today calls us to abandon sinful ways and substitute for this the righteous way of life characterizing God’s beloved children.
The first verse of our Epistle today is “Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children” (Ephesians 5:1, KJV). This verse immediately follows the command to Christians to be kind, compassionate, forgiving one another as also God in Christ has forgiven them (Ephesians 4:32). What this verse calls us to do is to emulate God’s love for all people and to practice his virtues in our lives. Following God by reflecting his love and virtues in our lives follows logically from the fact that Christians by their repentance from sin and by their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ have been adopted as God’s beloved children (Galatians 4:4-7). We have been adopted by God the Father as his children, and his means all our behavior all our life must show God’s love in action and all the fruit of the Holy Spirit.
The next imperative in this passage is the command to walk in the divine love, just as Christ has loved us and given himself for us as an offering and a sacrifice to God which is pleasing to him (Ephesians 5:2). The Greek word translated by “walk” here means in the writings of St. Paul “to live life, conduct one’s life.” This word applies to the way we behave ourselves, and to our actions in life. Because we are God’s children, and God is love (1 John 4:7-8), the way we live and conduct ourselves must be governed by the divine love. The Lord Jesus Christ set the supreme example of divine love by dying on the cross to redeem mankind from sin (1 John 4:9-10).
After telling us to imitate God as his dear children and to live in divine love, as Christ loved us and gave himself for us, St. Paul proceeds to warn Christians against distorted forms of love, vices that have no place in the Christian life, beginning with immorality, uncleanness, and covetousness, or greed, that should not even be mentioned by Christians, let alone indulged in. The coarse jokes of which some people are fond are excluded by verse 4.: “Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks” (Ephesians 5:4, KJV). By “convenient” is meant “appropriate” or “fitting.” In place of such talk, we must be giving thanks to God. Does this mean one cannot hold conversations about things going on in the world? No, but if we are thinking of telling coarse jokes and have no better conversation material than this, we should replace it with giving thanks to God.
After this verse, St. Paul issues a very important warning. It is one of those verses in the New Testament where sins are listed that exclude a person from God’s kingdom. No one who is a habitually moral or unclean (this could refer to homosexual sin), or a covetous person, meaning one who is greedy for wealth, possessions or food, and is really an idolater, has an inheritance in God’s kingdom. All these sins are distortions of God’s love, when people love something else, or themselves, or other people more than they should love God.
But Christians belong to God’s kingdom of light, though before Christ we were in darkness. Here light and darkness refer to good and evil. Therefore, because Christians belong to the light, they must forever avoid all sin. Instead, they must show in their lives the evidence of “the fruit of the light” (Ephesians 5:9) which is revealed in all goodness, righteousness, and truth. Instead of participating in bad deeds and unfruitful works, Christians must show them up for what they are.
But if a person comes to the light of Christ and allows the Holy Spirit to convict him of sin, and he turns from it, then he enters the light of God’s kingdom. Therefore, it is appropriate that in our Sunday services there is always a General Confession, so that each believer may come to God, bringing in his own mind the specific sins he has committed and the good things he has left undone and unite with others in confessing his sins and receiving God’s forgiveness. Every time we confess our sins to God and turn away from them, St. Paul’s saying in Ephesians 5:14 becomes true for us:
Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.
(Ephesians 5:14, KJV)
Will you see to it that you are daily living in the divine love of the Lord Jesus Christ and doing everything according to his will?
 p. 81, Craig Brian Larson & Phyllis Ten Elshof (General Editors): 1001 Illustrations that Connect. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, Christianity Today International, 2008.