Ephesians Sentence by Sentence: 5:3-4

Πορνεία δὲ καὶ ἀκαθαρσία πᾶσα ἢ πλεονεξία μηδὲ ὀνομαζέσθω ἐν ὑμῖν, καθὼς πρέπει ἁγίοις, καὶ αἰσχρότης καὶ μωρολογία ἢ εὐτραπελία, ἃ οὐκ ἀνῆκεν, ἀλλὰ μᾶλλον εὐχαριστία. But fornication and all immorality or greediness must not be named among you, just as is proper for saints, and filthiness and foolish talk or coarse jesting, which does not belong, but rather thanksgiving.

Continuing his section on the new person, Paul gives further instructions. The new person is not marked with fornication. This word in Greek, πορνεία, can mean fornication, adultery, or prostitution. In a general sense, this word denotes extramarital sexual relationships–any sexual activity outside of a marital relationship. Paul takes the next step and prohibits immorality in general. The Greek word, ἀκαθαρσία, means impure or filthy, but in a context regarding morality it simply means immoral. Both πορνεία and ἀκαθαρσία ought to be understood in connection with each other; to have sexual relations outside of marriage is linked with being immoral. But Paul throws another item into the mix–greediness. Greediness is also linked with sexual immorality and immorality in general. Paul is saying that sexual immorality, general immorality, and greediness should be be named among you, and this is in contrast to what he said before, that they should imitate God. The contrast is seen in the Greek conjunction, δὲ. The new person imitates God. Sexual immorality, general immorality, and greediness are not patterns that reflect or mimic God. Such things must not even be named or mentioned among the saints. This word, μηδὲ, emphasizes the command not to be involved in such behavior.

Now Paul gives rise to the idea of what is fitting or proper. The saints are to imitate God, which includes not partaking in sexual immorality, general immorality, or greediness to the degree that it is not named among them. This absence is fitting for saints. In addition, filthiness, foolish talk, or coarse jesting are to be absent, because such behavior does not belong. Filthiness, αἰσχρότης, concerns language regarding obscene or shameful behavior in respect to social standards. It’s cognates are used in connection with adultery or pederasty. Paul exhorts his readers and listeners to use socially acceptable language. But he also exhorts them to give up μωρολογία, unwise language. In connection with μωρολογία, Paul also exhorts the readers to give up εὐτραπελία, crude sexual jokes. Such things simply are not appropriate. But notice the development of the sentence.

Paul starts with a vice list. Sexual immorality, πορνεία, and general impurity, ἀκαθαρσία, are connected terms, which is why καὶ is used. But these two concepts are not related to greediness, πλεονεξία, which is why ἢ is used–it separates the first two from the third vice. Yet, these three vices must not even be mentioned among the new person, because such things are not fitting for saints. After having restricted their content of their conversations, Paul further limits their language with another list. Obscene speech, αἰσχρότης, and silly language, μωρολογία, relate, it seems, in the sense that they are both dealing with the content of speech, which is why they are connected with καὶ. The conjunction ἢ is used to separate εὐτραπελία, sexually crude jokes, from the first two language vices because it appears to be a genre of speech. These language vices must not be named among the saints either, for these do not belong, i.e., they are inappropriate. Paul’s sentence develops by starting with inappropriate behavior in the first set of vices, and then shifting to inappropriate language in the second set.

Juxtaposed against the last set of vices is Paul’s exhortation to thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is the one thing that Paul says should be named among the saints. The new person should not be characterized with foul language, but rather, thankful language.

But sexual immorality and any impurity or greediness must not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints, along with obscenity and silly language or sexually crude jokes, which are inappropriate, but rather thanksgiving.

From a behavioral perspective, Christians are commanded to live a life of sexual faithfulness and commitment. Adultery or prostitution, for example, should not be practiced by Christians. What about pornography? Since pornography is the equivalent of prostitution or adultery through the eyes, such material is also inappropriate for Christians. Furthermore, we should not be people who are subject to the lust for more. We should, for example, not resort to extortion in order to build our pockets. We should learn contentment and be thankful for what we have. Christians are not to be greedy, but rather, they should share. In addition, Christians need to learn to watch their mouths. We should not be guilty of taking sin lightly. We should not tell amusing stories about adultery. We should not be resorting to sexually crude and witty jokes like the contemporary one from The Office, ” . . . that’s what she said.” Our language should not take sex lightly. Sex, whether in word or in deed, belongs to the marriage bed, outside of which it is entirely inappropriate. Instead of reflecting base morality, we should reflect thankful hearts. Our language is a window into our hearts. What comes out reveals much of what is going on inside. What does your language say about you?

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