I have always been frightened most by stories of trickery and deception. I remember the feelings I had when I first heard how Hansel and Gretel were helped by a sinister witch whose only motive for assisting the young vagrants was to eventually trap them and cook them. To compound her craftiness, she built a cabin that was made out of cookies and candies to lure small children into her grasp. As a child I was horrified at this story, and struggled with stranger-danger feelings until my adult years.
At the root level, perhaps the most frightening part of the story was that they were most endangered at the very moment when they felt most safe and most secure. The two children had been abandoned by their woodcutter father and their stepmother. Now, in their moment of desperation, someone was offering them a hand up. Who wouldn’t want to take the help when they were in need? But in the end the cost of the deception would leave them wishing they had merely been abandoned and left alone.
It is this level of duplicity that Paul warns the Ephesians of in Ephesians 5:6-7. He had just cautioned against a myriad of sins that people commit, and now, he was saying, “don’t be deceived by anyone who excuses these sins.” Christians may sin, but their response will always eventually be repentance. What Christians won’t do is be deceived into saying, “Well everybody sins, but that is just my problem.” Accepting sin is not the mark of a Christian, it is a sign that a person has been deceived into accepting their sin.
Paul’s admonition is that those who love their sin are not Christians. After warning against being deceived by those who say these sins are acceptable in the life of a Christian, Paul explains that these very sins bring the wrath of God.
But someone might answer, “But I’m a Christian, it’s just that I sin in this way.” Paul’s response to that would be, “If your life is so defined by sin that you could be grouped among the ‘children of disobedience,’ then you have no grounds upon which to say that you are a Christian.” Just because I own a gun doesn’t mean I’m a Navy Seal, and just because a person goes to church or claims to have prayed a prayer or says that they are a Christian doesn’t mean that they are the real thing. Their life will be the testament to their profession. Christians will war against sin, and not fall prey to the deception that any sin is ever acceptable.
Paul is so emphatic about this point that after saying in verse 3, “let it not be named once among you,” he again reiterates in verse 7, “don’t be partakers with them.” Don’t allow the lifestyle of the deceived to become your lifestyle. God has saved you from the penalty of your sin, eternal death. If you are a believer, he is now saving you from the power of sin in your life. Instead of living a life of sin, convincing yourself that “well, everybody sins,” a true Christian will repent and turn from the destructive deceit that brings damnation.
Reflect: What were the Ephesians in danger of being deceived into believing according to verse 6?