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5. Living as Children of Light

1Be ye therefore imitators of God, as beloved children; 2and walk in love, even as Christ also loved you, and gave himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for an odor of a sweet smell. 3But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as becometh saints; 4nor filthiness, nor foolish talking, or jesting, which are not befitting: but rather giving of thanks. 5For this ye know of a surety, that no fornicator, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. 6Let no man deceive you with empty words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the sons of disobedience. 7Be not ye therefore partakers with them; 8For ye were once darkness, but are now light in the Lord: walk as children of light 9(for the fruit of the light is in all goodness and righteousness and truth), 10proving what is well-pleasing unto the Lord; 11and have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather even reprove them; 12for the things which are done by them in secret it is a shame even to speak of. 13But all things when they are reproved are made manifest by the light: for everything that is made manifest is light. 14Wherefore he saith, Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall shine upon thee. 15Look therefore carefully how ye walk, not as unwise, but as wise; 16redeeming the time, because the days are evil. 17Wherefore be ye not foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18And be not drunken with wine, wherein is riot, but be filled with the Spirit; 19speaking one to another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; 20giving thanks always for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; 21subjecting yourselves one to another in the fear of Christ. 22Wives, be in subjection unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. 23For the husband is the head of the wife, and Christ also is the head of the church, being himself the saviour of the body. 24But as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives also be to their husbands in everything. 25Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself up for it; 26that he might sanctify it, having cleansed it by the washing of water with the word, 27that he might present the church to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. 28Even so ought husbands also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his own wife loveth himself: 29for no man ever hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as Christ also the church; 30because we are members of his body. 31For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh. 32This mystery is great: but I speak in regard of Christ and of the church. 33Nevertheless do ye also severally love each one his own wife even as himself; and let the wife see that she fear her husband.

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3. But fornication. This chapter, and the third of the Epistle to the Colossians, contain many parallel passages, which an intelligent reader will be at no loss to compare without my assistance. Three things are here enumerated, which the apostle desires Christians to hold in such abhorrence, that they shall not even be named, or, in other words, shall be entirely unknown among them. By uncleanness he means all base and impure lusts; so that this word differs from fornication, only as the whole class differs from a single department. The third is covetousness, which is nothing more than an immoderate desire of gain. To this precept he adds the authoritative declaration, that he demands nothing from them but that which becometh saints, — manifestly excluding from the number and fellowship of the saints all fornicators, and impure and covetous persons.

4. Neither filthiness. To those three — other three are now added. By filthiness I understand all that is indecent or inconsistent with the modesty of the godly. By foolish talking I understand conversations that are either unprofitably or wickedly foolish; and as it frequently happens that idle talk is concealed under the garb of jesting or wit, he expressly mentions pleasantry, — which is so agreeable as to seem worthy of commendation, — and condemns it as a part of foolish talking The Greek word εὐτραπελία is often used by heathen writers, in a good sense, for that ready and ingenious pleasantry in which able and intelligent men may properly indulge. But as it is exceedingly difficult to be witty without becoming satirical, and as jesting itself carries in it a portion of conceit not at all in keeping with the character of a godly man, Paul very properly dissuades from this practice. 155155     “He doth not condemn the innocent pleasantries and mirth of a cheerful conversation; but that kind of obscene discourse which we mean by the French expression of double entendre; when men, for the sake of merriment and sport, convey lewd sentiments and thoughts to others, under chaste and cleanly expressions. This seems to be the proper meaning of the word εὐτραπελία, jesting, in this place. The original sense of it is, ‘an artfully turned discourse.’ And accordingly it is used either in a good sense, to denote proper wit; or in a bad sense, to signify any kind of lewd and scurrilous discourse, that artfully conveys an ill meaning. And as it is here joined with ‘filthiness and foolish talking,’ it is plain that the apostle intended by it such ambiguous forms of speech as are intended to raise mirth by dishonest and corrupt meanings.” — Chandler. Of all the three offenses now mentioned, Paul declares that they are not convenient, or, in other words, that they are inconsistent with Christian duty.

But rather grace. Others render it giving of thanks; but I prefer Jerome’s interpretation. With the vices which had been formerly mentioned it was proper that Paul should contrast something of a general character, displaying itself in all our communications with each other. If he had said, “While they take pleasure in idle or abusive talk, do you give thanks to God,” the exhortation would have been too limited. The Greek word, εὐχαριστία, though it usually signifies Thanksgiving, admits of being translated Grace. “All our conversations ought to be, in the true sense of the words, sweet and graceful; and this end will be gained if the useful and the agreeable are properly mingled.”

5. For this ye know. If his readers were at all captivated by the allurements of those vices which have been enumerated, the consequence would be that they would lend a hesitating or careless ear to his admonitions. He determines, therefore, to alarm them by this weighty and dreadful threatening, that such vices shut against us the kingdom of God. By appealing to their own knowledge, he intimates that this was no doubtful matter. Some might think it harsh, or inconsistent with the Divine goodness, that all who have incurred the guilt of fornication or covetousness are excluded from the inheritance of the kingdom of heaven. But the answer is easy. Paul does not say that those who have fallen into those sins, and recovered from them, are not pardoned, but pronounces sentence on the sins themselves. After addressing the Corinthians in the same language, he adds:

“And such were some of you; but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified, in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.”
(1 Corinthians 6:11.)

When men have repented, and thus give evidence that they are reconciled to God, they are no longer the same persons that they formerly were. But let all fornicators, or unclean or covetous persons, so long as they continue such, be assured that they have no friendship with God, and are deprived of all hope of salvation. It is called the kingdom of Christ and of God, because God hath given it to his Son that we may obtain it through him.

Nor covetous man, who is an idolater. “Covetousness,” as he says in another place, “is idolatry,” (Colossians 3:5,) — not the idolatry which is so frequently condemned in Scripture, but one of a different description. All covetous men must deny God, and put wealth in his place; such is their blind greediness of wretched gain. But why does Paul attribute to covetousness alone what belongs equally to other carnal passions? In what respect is covetousness better entitled to this disgraceful name than ambition, or than a vain confidence in ourselves? I answer, that this disease is widely spread, and not a few minds have caught the infection. Nay, it is not reckoned a disease, but receives, on the contrary, very general commendation. This accounts for the harshness of Paul’s language, which arose from a desire to tear from our hearts the false view.

6. Let no man deceive you. There have always been ungodly dogs, 156156     “Mastins.” “Mastiffs.” by whom the threatenings of the prophets were made the subject of merriment and ridicule. We find such characters in our own day. In all ages, indeed, Satan raises up sorcerers of this description, who endeavor by unholy scoffs to escape the Divine judgment, and who actually exercise a kind of fascination over consciences not sufficiently established in the fear of God. “This is a trivial fault. Fornication is viewed by God as a light matter. Under the law of grace God is not so cruel. He has not formed us so as to be our own executioners. The frailty of nature excuses us.” These and similar expressions are often used by the scoffers. Paul, on the contrary, exclaims that we must guard against that sophistry by which consciences are ensnared to their ruin.

For because of these things cometh the wrath of God. If we consider the present tense to be here used, agreeably to the Hebrew idiom, for the future, these words are a threatening of the last judgment. But I agree with those who take the word cometh in an indefinite sense, — the word of God usually cometh, — as reminding them of the ordinary judgments of God which were executed before their own eyes. And certainly, if we were not blind and slothful, there are sufficiently numerous examples by which God testifies that he is the just avenger of such crimes, — examples of the pouring out of divine indignation, privately against individuals, and publicly against cities, and kings, and nations.

Upon the children of disobedience, — upon unbelievers or rebels. This expression must not be overlooked. Paul is now addressing believers, and his object is not so much to present alarming views of their own danger, as to rouse them to behold reflected in wicked men, as in mirrors, the dreadful judgments of God. God does not make himself an object of terror to his children, that they may avoid him, but does all that can be done in a fatherly manner, to draw them to himself. They ought to learn this lesson, not to involve themselves in a dangerous fellowship with the ungodly, whose ruin is thus foreseen.