For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.
Note 10 at Eph 5:5: One of the main false teachings of Paul's day came from the Gnostics. They taught that the indulgence of sinful appetites meant nothing, because the inner spirit was pure. It is true that as believers, our inner spirits remain pure despite our sins of the flesh (see note 9 at 2Co 5:17 and note 23 at Eph 1:13), but Paul made it very clear in this passage that we are not to live in sin (see note 5 at Ga 5:15). The whoremongers, the unclean, and the covetous are idolaters. Idolaters do not have Christ as their God. They also don't have a place in God's kingdom.
Note 11 at Eph 5:5: On the surface, this verse may look contrary to the grace that Paul taught in other places, but that's not so. For one thing, there is a difference between a person who commits an act of whoredom and a whoremonger. The word "whoremonger" (the same with "unclean" and "covetous") is describing the character or nature of a person. The American Heritage Dictionary defines "character" as "the combination of qualities or features that distinguishes one person, group, or thing from another...moral or ethical strength." Paul was saying that those who are by nature whoremongers, unclean, and covetous do not have any inheritance in the kingdom of God.
Christians can and sometimes do commit sexual sins and operate in covetousness, but it's not their nature. In a parallel passage of Scripture from 1Co 6:9-11, Paul listed the same sins but went on to say, "And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God." He expressed this same thought in Eph 5:8 by saying, "For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord." Christians do not lose their righteous position in Christ and become whoremongers even though they may have sexual relations with whores. Sin doesn't make Christians sinners any more than good acts make sinners saints (see note 1 at Ro 6:20).
That is not to say that it is therefore unimportant to live holy. That is the false teaching Paul was countering here (see note 9 at Eph 5:4). It is important to be holy but not so that we can be accepted with God. God accepts us based on our faith in Christ. However, a lack of holiness is a bad witness and a direct inroad of Satan into our lives (see note 7 at Ro 6:15 and note 8 at Ro 6:16). Satan will make sure that we do not prosper if we yield to him.
So, Paul was stating the characteristics of unbelievers here and admonishing the Christians not to act like them. The very fact that Paul instructed the believers not to partake of these sins shows that Christians can partake (see note 13 at Eph 5:7).
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