The Deception of Empty Words
“Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience” (Eph. 5:6).- Ephesians 5:6
John Calvin, in his commentary on Ephesians 5:3–5, offers the church a helpful reminder of the difference between repentant sinners and those who obstinately continue in their transgressions. He writes: “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.” There is a difference between those who profess Christ, seek to mortify the flesh, and occasionally sin, and those who profess Christ but celebrate their sin. The latter group — the impenitent — has no share in the Lord’s kingdom. On the other hand, Jesus receives with open arms those who hate their evildoing, even if they sometimes fall (1 John 1:8–9).
Let us always remember this when we consider Scripture’s teaching on the fate of the sexually immoral. Only “the sons of disobedience” receive the wrath of God (Eph. 5:6). Sons typically bear many of the physical and personality traits of their parents; thus, the sons of disobedience have their father’s nature. They reflect their lineage consistently, relishing their sin, even demanding that others approve of it. These individuals show no desire for repentance, and they have no place in Christ’s body. Converted people, however, have “become children of God” (John 1:12). They are “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4) and are being slowly conformed to it over their lifetimes. Such individuals resist temptation, hate it when they sin, and never seek approval of their transgressions. We gladly welcome these men and women in our churches, for they are recovering sinners just like us.
Today, many churches look the other way when there are cohabitating unmarried couples in the congregation. Entire denominations consecrate impenitent homosexuals as pastors. These are examples of those who attempt to deceive the church “with empty words” — words devoid of gospel truth (Eph. 5:6). They are engaged in a deadly business, providing false assurance to many and rejecting Jesus’ demand for faith and repentance (Mark 1:14–15). If these leaders continue in their lies, they have a dreadful judgment awaiting them (James 3:1).
There are men and women struggling with sexual sin in all of our congregations. They want to please God and are seeking to mortify the flesh, and we should do all that we can to help them. This means creating an atmosphere where repentant sexual sinners feel that they can share their burdens without being seen as scum. If we are honest about our own sins without seeking to excuse them, other repentant sinners will feel welcome among us.
Passages for Further Study