“But fornication and impurity of any kind, or greed, must not even be mentioned among you, as is proper among the saints. Entirely out of place is obscene, silly, and vulgar talk; but instead, let there be thanksgiving.”
~Ephesians 5:3-4 (NRSV).
The Apostle Paul uses a deeply admonishing tone right here, and through the ensuing verses. We’re not to be under any false allusions—with the new life in Christ comes a new expectation for the manner of living. He hardly stops short of issuing it as a commandment.
Watch Speech Closely
If there’s one thing of A.W. Tozer’s teaching I hope to never forget it’s that, though we were pagans, and did pagan things, we’re not to glorify those, or even bring attention to them. Not even for a laugh. It doesn’t bring God any glory; rather it diminishes our credibility as sinners, once and always, saved from sin by grace.
I have not always held to that I have to admit; deceived by the devil in the presence of pagans, I’ve been caught magnifying past deeds enshrined in vice. We all have.
We’re reminded in this passage to conduct our lives in a manner “proper among the saints,” and “saints” here is not perfection. But it is to the accord of sanctification; for what is rightful among those cleaving to God.
Turning Vice into Virtue
Instead of glorifying our pasts, we’re to replace the “obscene, silly, and vulgar” talk with thanksgiving.
So, we’re to use the very opportunities where vulgarities (if we can combine the three previous words into this one word) would reign, and cover them over in annotations of gratitude.
All speech is to be underpinned in such gratitude, and the sense here is to recognise the power of God’s Spirit in claiming positive ground over the negative.
Our past deeds of vice—those pagan ways—are not so denied, as recognised, yet not elaborated over. Over which we place the gratitude we have of God’s grace forgiving those ways.
Most Particularly in Fellowship
If it’s important to not speak grossness out in the world, it’s even more important to save such speech at the occasion of church fellowship. Yet, we know this. We’re probably quite the other way; appearing at church fellowshipping events with our church faces painted on.
Still, we’re commended for watching our speech—for behaving as a saint would, for saved in Jesus—if that is us—saints are we.
© 2011 S. J. Wickham.