But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks.
We live in a time of great prosperity. The standard of living in the U.S. far exceeds any other nation, past or present.
With this great prosperity has come an alarming increase in wickedness in our land. The principle here is that the more the Lord gives a wicked nation, the more they have with which to sin, so that they abound more and more in sin. The Word of God before us speaks of some of the wickedness that prevails in our land—fornication, uncleanness, covetousness, filthiness, foolish talking, jesting.
And there is very little giving of thanks to the Lord.
With the national Thanksgiving Day drawing near for the churches in the U.S. it is well that we focus on this Word of God.
Let none of these vices be named among us.
But rather giving of thanks!
What a contrast! Vices of every kind over against giving of thanks!
The Word of God here mentions various vices that were prevalent in the Gentile community of Ephesus. Sadly, they also prevail in our society.
Fornication, all uncleanness, and covetousness are grouped together.
“Fornication” is a broad term that describes sexual sins in general. It includes such things as adultery, homosexuality, pornography, rape, and sexual abuse.
“Uncleanness” is added to this to make this as broad as possible. The term “unclean” as used in Scripture is not limited to sexual uncleanness and deviation. But here it seems to be used to emphasize anything that is sexually unclean or perverse.
Added to this is “covetousness.” Covetousness is avarice, a greedy desire for and pursuit of material things and pleasure. Covetousness is added here because it is especially covetousness that gives rise to fornication and all uncleanness. A pleasure-mad society necessarily becomes a society given to sexual sins. Sexual sin becomes one of the distinguishing marks of a covetous society. This is what characterized society in Paul’s day. And it certainly also describes our society.
Closely related to this are filthiness, foolish talking, and jesting. All three describe the sinful speech of this world. “Filthiness” refers to shameful obscenities that come from the mouth of the ungodly, like putrid sewage flowing from a moral sewer. “Foolish talking” is conversation that degrades marriage, sex, authority, and whatever wholesome thing God has ordained for our lives. Finally, mention is made of “jesting,” which refers to coarse jokes.
This kind of talk is invariably found among those who are covetous and unclean. The same evil heart that produces unclean thoughts, desires, and actions also produces filthy talk.
They were very prevalent in Paul’s day, as they are also today in our society.
The contrast to this, however, is giving of thanks.
We have much for which we can and ought to give thanks. As we soon celebrate Thanksgiving Day, our attention is drawn to the material abundance God has given us. God has prospered the works of our hands. He has given us much, both as a nation and as the church.
But more importantly, God has showered us with the spiritual blessings of salvation in Jesus Christ. In Jesus Christ God has provided forgiveness of all our sin and reconciliation to Him. In Christ God has given us a new life in which we are able to enjoy a most intimate relationship of friendship and fellowship with Him. In Christ we have the hope of better things to come in heavenly glory. In Christ we have all that we could possibly wish for and more besides. And it is all a gift of grace to undeserving sinners.
For all of these gifts, spiritual and material, we are to give thanks. We are to thank God first of all in prayer. This is the chief part of thankfulness that God requires. And we are to thank God in spiritual songs that praise Him for His greatness and express gratitude for His gracious gifts. And do not forget to thank God by performing works of gratitude. These are works in which we use all of God’s gifts, spiritual and material, to serve Him as an expression of our deep gratitude to Him.
This is something that a covetous person cannot do. One who is covetous is not a grateful person. He does not acknowledge God as the Giver of what he possesses. He does not express thanks to God for His good gifts. Nor does he use them to serve the Lord. Instead of speaking words of gratitude to God, his mouth is filled with obscenities and foolish talk. Instead of using God’s good gifts to serve God, he uses these gifts for his own sinful pleasure.
And so covetousness is contrasted here with giving of thanks.
“…As becometh saints!”
The vices mentioned in this Word of God are not becoming of us. They do not suit us; they are not fitting for us. Nor are they convenient. They are out of place with us.
This is because of who we are. We are saints.
A saint is one who has been made holy. And the basic idea of holiness is separation. One who is holy is separated by the grace of God in Jesus Christ from the sin and vices of this world, and separated unto the service of God. He has been cleansed from the pollution of sin by the cleansing blood of Jesus Christ. He has been delivered from the power of sin, set free to serve God in love.
How out of place and unfitting it is for us as saints to be involved with the vices of the world!
It is fitting, rather, that we give thanks.
How richly God has blessed us as His dear children. He has showered us with great material abundance. More importantly, He has rescued us from a world headed for destruction and has secured for us a place of honor and glory in heaven.
Certainly, this deserves our thanks.
How fitting it is that we express words of thanks to God in prayer and song!
How fitting it is that we show our thanks by using all of God’s gifts in the service of His name!
And we are able to do so exactly because we are saints, holy ones, separated by the love of God from the depravity of this world.
“Let it not be once named among” us!
The vices mentioned in this Word of God must not be named among us.
This does not mean that we may never talk about them. We need to talk about them by the very fact that the Word of God brings them to our attention. We must talk about them in order to warn against them. Parents must warn their children against such things in our homes. We must warn each other in the church as we look out for each other’s spiritual welfare. We must also warn the ungodly about these vices for which the wrath of God comes.
The meaning is rather that these vices should not become the topic of discussion because they exist among us. How easily filthy talk, fornication, and covetousness creep into the lives of the saints. How easily they defile our homes! How quickly they compromise the integrity of the church! When that happens, these vices become the topic of discussion. Some revel in these sins and boast about them. Reports of this sinful behavior become the subject of juicy gossip. Those that abhor these sins find it necessary to admonish and rebuke those given over to them. Saints from other churches sadly shake their heads and talk about what they see and hear.
This is not becoming of us as saints. So let it not be once named among us.
What must be named among us is giving of thanks.
As saints, we must be characterized by the giving of thanks in both word and deed.
This, then, will be what is named among us.
How wonderful and fitting it would be should the topic of discussion among us as saints be the godly, thankful talk of our young people, the grateful service we see in each other, the chasteness of our people, and the heavenly mindedness of our fellow saints!
Pray for this and strive for this in Jesus Christ.