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Fight Valiantly! No inheritance, no partnership

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Posted by Lee Gatiss, 19 Mar 2019

In our continuing series looking at what the New Testament says about false teaching, Lee Gatiss expounds Ephesians 5 on our eternal destiny. Watch the video podcast episode for today on our YouTube channel.

The link between the eternal destiny of false teachers and our present relationship to them is made abundantly clear in Ephesians. Having spoken of how immorality and covetousness is out of place amongst God’s people at the beginning of Ephesians 5, Paul explains why that is, by showing what happens to those who pursue this way of life. He writes:

“For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them” (Ephesians 5:5-7).

Paul preached and explained the kingdom of God (e.g. Acts 14:22, 19:8, 20:25, 28:23, 31), and the idea of inheriting God’s kingdom was a common apostolic way of referring to our eternal destination or reward as believers (James 2:5; 1 Corinthians 6:9, 15:40; Galatians 5:21; cf. receiving a kingdom, Hebrews 12:25). To say that someone would not inherit the kingdom of Christ and of God is therefore the most serious thing Paul could say about them.

If that is their eternal destination, therefore, the church should have no present partnership with them. Our partnership is shown by our behaviour, by how we “walk.” It is obvious who we are associating with if we join in with “foolish talk and crude joking” (5:4) for example, and there is a clear distinction between getting drunk and being debauched versus being controlled by the Spirit in all we do, with joy, thankfulness, and loving, orderly reverence (5:18-21).

The idea of being partners with someone is crucial to Ephesians, since it is part of the description of what we have “in Christ Jesus through the gospel” (Ephesians 3:6). In Ephesians 3:6 we are said to be fellow inheritors of the promise, and the word for “sharers together” in the gospel is echoed in Ephesians 5:7 where Paul says do not be partners with the sexually immoral.

Ephesians 5:11 also urges the believer to “take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.” The word for “take no part in” uses a similar compound verb for having fellowship together with others. That is to say, our partnership and inheritance are either with Christ in the gospel or with the immoral and impure. Whether we are sons of disobedience or sons of God is shown by our sexual behaviour and covetousness (or lack of it), but also by whom we choose to be in partnership with.

Paul warns us not to be deceived by the false teachers, in Ephesians 5:6. The alternative they offer may have some superficial attractions within it, which may lure the unsuspecting away from the truth. Paul specifically mentions not being deceived about how dangerous an ungodly, disobedient lifestyle is: the wrath of God comes upon people because of this he says (5:6), even if they are blind to that consequence. As Paul already warned the Ephesians, if we live “in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind”, then it is clear that we are “by nature, children of wrath” (Ephesians 2:3).

Questions for Reflection

1. In what ways can our spiritual partnership be revealed by our behaviour?
2. In what ways might we be deceived into thinking that immoral, impure, and greedy behaviour is OK?
3. What sorts of present partnerships should we avoid with those who are not in Christ?

Lee Gatiss is Director of Church Society and the editor of Gospel Flourishing in a Time of Confusion, the latest book from Church Society.

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