Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Ephesians 5:7: Guard your Associations

Ephesians 5:7 7 Therefore do not associate with them;

The word for 'associate' is used in Ephesians 3:6 to describe the reality that Jews and Gentiles are fellow partakers of an inheritance in Christ Jesus. Paul is talking then about Christian associations. The "them" is 'sons of disobedience. The context then is clear that the Christian should not have deep associations of Christian fellowship with those who walk in disobedience. This would include those who are sexually immoral, impure and greed. Such people despite their claims do not inherit God's kingdom (Eph. 5:5). This is crucial because it is easy to become persuaded by all manner of empty words both in proclamation of new doctrines and new morals. People might have many fine sounding arguments for their 'Christianity' but the reality is if they are living habitually immoral lives and condone such things in others they do not belong to God. God has created us to live in truth and righteousness (Eph. 4:24)

Example: There is a need in the church for Church discipline. When a member continues in unrepentant sin we are to remove that person after attempts to reconcile and bring repentance fail. Why? We cannot have close associations of intimate fellowship with a son of disobedience.
1 Corinthians 5:9-13 9 I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; 10 I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world. 11 But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler-- not even to eat with such a one. 12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? 13 But those who are outside, God judges. REMOVE THE WICKED MAN FROM AMONG YOURSELVES.

(a) You do not have to break off relationships with unbelievers. We want to welcome unbelievers into our church. (b) A church does have to break of relationships with some one who says “I’m a believer” but they list as immoral, coveting, idolater, etc. Paul assumes here the person has been approached, Matt. 18 has been followed. When Jesus says “Judge not lest you be judged” is he very clear that how you judge will be how you are judged. But the Bible is clear there are proper times and places for judgment.

Walking in the light means keeping the light pure. Walking in the light means we do not share Christian fellowship with unbelievers. (1) We do not let them serve in our ministries [which is a new trend]; (2) We do not take them into membership; (3) Unbelievers are barred from the Lord’s supper. It is a tough balance: we must show Christ’s love; we must be warm, welcoming, and friendly. They should see our fellowship and desire the real relationships that are privileged to the body of Christ. But these real relationships are privileged within the body of Christ.

Interestingly we can associate with immoral people who are ‘in the world’—we cannot associate with immoral people who are ‘in the church’. You should be quicker to break of a friendship with a Christian who is characterized by habitual unrepentant sin, than you should be to break off a relationship with a non-Christian who lives just as bad. Why? Because you do not associate Christian fellowship with the non-Christian; the relationship with the ‘Christian’ would be considered a deeper level of ‘Christian fellowship’ and it is obvious the person is not a Christian.

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