Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Eph. 5:6a “Let no man deceive you with vain words:. . .”
There are always many among nominal Christians and the lost who seek to justify sin with “vain words.” This means their words are but a shell, hollow, “empty, not containing the kernel of truth” (Alford). These deceivers champion the cause of wrong, and defend a life of sinful pleasures, as if it were the ultimate good. Their words are false, full of error, not based on facts, but since they sound plausible, they “deceive you.”
We are susceptible to “vain words” because they say what we want to hear. People not only want to sin, but to do so without guilt, without fear, without having to hear of possible dangers and judgment. Sinners want to live securely and undisturbed in their sin.
Be ever on guard against “vain words.” We are all ever in danger of being seduced by “sorry fig-leaves by which men hope to cover their nakedness” (Manton). Here are examples of “vain words”: God made me this way, these are natural impulses, no one is perfect, God is tolerant and forgives, we will not be punished, young people need an outlet for their hormones, live and let live, if it’s fun and safe and no one get hurts, do it.
Deceit of this kind has always been an effective ingredient in successful temptations, for it is the devil’s way of joining with our self love. We already have a depraved desire to gratify our flesh. Satan uses deceit to encourage this inner lust. He deceived our first parents with the taunt, “Hath God said” (GN 3:1) and with the lie, “You shall not surely die” (3:4). All our troubles, all the sin, agony, death, war, disease, and turmoil in our world can be traced to this initial deceit, the first “vain words” ever spoken.
People continue to be fooled by “vain words.” We are cursed with a pride of learning and knowledge. We think we are extremely smart about life, and congratulate ourselves on our keen intellect and common sense. We tend to downplay old ways, and sense no need for a holy book. Thus, God often appropriately punishes us by revealing how foolish we really are. God proves that the ideas of sinful men are absurd and do not work. When social problems arise and Christians can see a plain and obvious solution, the lost seem blind and unlearned, completely spellbound by “vain words.”
America only recently began to come to grips with its alcohol problem. Baptists have lead in this struggle since Prohibition was repealed in 1933. Why did it take our culture 60 years to admit the obvious? People want to commit their sins, and seek ways to do them without consequences. This love of the evil made people susceptible to “vain words.” Our Surgeon General has called for a total ban on tobacco advertising. Many preachers have decried the wrongs of tobacco for over a generation. Why is the culture only now beginning to respond? Love of the product made people susceptible to “vain words.” Our culture is in a life and death struggle with AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. Everyone knows sexual abstinence outside marriage would end the crisis immediately, but few consider this option. Why? Love of sex-sins, and pride of knowledge in finding a cure or a safe way to indulge, makes them susceptible to “vain words.”
What should believers do in such a situation? Keep telling the truth. After enough people die and enough lives are ruined, someone somewhere in the right position of authority and influence will say, “Maybe we should advocate abstinence.” God’s way is the right way. It is also the best way because it works. Any other approach to solving moral problems is merely “vain words,” an empty, hollow gesture, a putting of band-aids on cancers.
Eph. 5:6b “. . .for because of these things cometh the wrath of God
upon the children of disobedience.”
“Vain words” make light of deeds which put one under God’s special displeasure. “Wrath of God” is no figure of speech nor a figment of Paul’s imagination. God’s “love cannot possibly modify His holiness” (Moule).
If you deem the Bible obsolete, or think someone has found a better solution to the world’s moral problems, we challenge you to take the acid test–open your eyes and look around. God speaks not only in His written word, but also through remarkable acts of punishment against sins. “Providence is a comment on the Word, and therefore it is stupidness not to take notice of it. They that will not observe God’s hand shall feel it” (Manton).
Whatever “vain words” the scoffers use, their premise is swept away by one awful, obvious fact–the wrath of God “cometh.” Note the present tense; His wrath “cometh” here and now in this life. Wrath will also come in the future, but here the emphasis is on the present. Sinners may not admit the wickedness inherent in their sin, but if they open their eyes and are honest, they can see the devastation caused by their sin. Punishment for immorality is seen everywhere. Nature avenges her broken laws by deadly diseases, plus disappointment, sadness, regret, and desolation of soul.
Eph. 5:7a “Be not ye therefore. . .”
God’s wrath “cometh” on sex sins, “therefore” let Christians avoid them, “lest by infection of their sin ye come under infliction of their punishment” (Trapp). Open your eyes. Do not follow sinners into their misery.
God inflicts remarkable judgments on obstinate sinners in order that His children might be taught to beware. Believer, be alert. Look around you. Consider evil people, scrutinize their lives, and see if you do not see reflected in them, as in a mirror, the dreadful judgments of God. Examine others, not to lord over them or to rejoice in their calamity, but to learn from their error. Avoid the vices to avoid the wrath.
If we share the sins of unbelievers we will share their punishment. Christians are not exempt from God’s wrath. After David sinned, the sword never–never!–departed his house. One of my saddest experiences involved a young Christian couple. The wife, not receiving the affection she desired, in a moment of weakness slept with another man. She immediately repented and cut off all contact with him, but the damage was done. She later sensed discomfort, went to a doctor, and learned she had a venereal disease. She had to tell her husband about the whole sordid affair. Both required treatment. Worst of all, she was made infertile. It happened a decade ago, but still pains me to recall. The wrath “cometh,” “therefore” be ye not. . .
Eph. 5:7b “. . .partakers with them.”
“Partaker” refers to more than the actual committing of particular deeds. The word bespeaks co-partnership, being confederate with others. We may not actually commit certain sins, but if we tolerate or encourage them, we are “partakers” with those who do commit them.
We begin not being “partakers with them” by not committing their sins. “Come out from among them, and be ye separate” (2 C 6:17), while in their midst. Jesus was “separate from sinners” (HB 7:26) yet always in society that he might win sinners to God. We are to be separate in the sense of being circumspect. Stand apart from the crowd while in the crowd.
We avoid being “partakers with them” by teaching, correcting, and punishing those under our authority. The words of Joshua (24:15) remain a good watchword, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
When we do not have the right to punish and correct, at least complain to those who do have this authority. We must seek to prevent or hinder sin as far as it is in our power to do so. Not to oppose sin emboldens transgressors. They must sense resistance. Otherwise, we become “partakers with them” by our refusal to say something pertinent in a given situation. A believer must never give silent assent to evil deeds.
To reprove another is a thankless job, and sinners often receive it as an expression of hatred. Any type of complaint, correction, or reproof is often deemed odious, and can gain one the reputation of being a rabble-rouser. This is a valid accusation if the crusader acted from spite, malice, or revenge. Our method must ever entail tender love for others.
In my opinion, this is one reason why conservative, Bible-believing, Christians are not having more of an impact on our culture. We have responded to the moral decline around us with too much anger, and not enough sadness. Anger has its proper place in battling evil, but so does brokenness. Anger helps us rise up, grief helps us do it in the right spirit.
We will not be very successful in stemming the flow of sin around us until we are brokenhearted over it. The same Jesus who in anger drove out the moneychangers also in brokenness mourned over Jerusalem. With a broken heart, He cried, “Behold, your house is left unto you desolate” (MT 23:38). In promoting the kingdom of God and its moral standards, we do much better at penetrating our culture when we are more sad than mad. Before we speak in anger let us be sure we have mourned in prayer.
It is high time, past time, for all God’s children to join in the spiritual warfare being fought for the soul of this country. Brothers and sisters, pray, weep before God. We have much at stake. Never underestimate the penetrating and pervasive influence of sins. Evil men endanger the good as weeds do the corn. The effects of sin spill onto the innocent. We all suffer for sins current in our society. When an overflowing storm sweeps away the wicked, the tail of it often dashes the best.
Believers need to mourn in prayer. It is not right for God to have to weep alone over what is happening in this land which He has blessed. Daniel wept and prayed over his people’s sins as if he were guilty of committing them himself. Where is that level of concern among us today?