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Understand the Language in Ephesians 5 (Is Jesting Bad?)

A Video Supplement for
Come, Follow Me Lesson 39:
“For the Perfecting of the Saints”




In Ephesians 5:3-8, Paul rebukes a number of activities that are unwholesome and impure. I will read these first in the King James Version and then read them in Wayment translation in order to clarify aspects of the meaning that are obscured by the language. Beginning with verses 3 and 4,

3 But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints;
4 Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks.

Fornication and covetousness make sense to me as things we would want to forsake. Both are also referenced in the ten commandments, and filthiness also seems self-evidently bad, but what does it mean by jesting? Are all varieties of humor right out? Is Paul punishing my penchant for puns, or can I persist in punning with impunity?

As Wayment renders these verses, “Let there not be sexual impropriety, uncleanness of any kind, or greed among you, as is fitting for the saints. Neither should there be vulgar speaking, foolish talk, or rude humor, which are out of place, but rather there should be thanksgiving.” So it is not all forms of humor which are condemned but the dirty kind, and it is not just getting mud on you that is the issue, but rather vulgar speech. Continuing with King James Version, versus 5 and 6,

5 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.
6 Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience.

Again, as Wayment renders these verses, “For you know this, that no person who is immoral, unclean, or greedy (that person is an idolater) has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the children of disobedience”

Wayment’s translation nicely brings out the idea that greed is a form of idolatry, a connection which, once made, makes this passage all the more relevant to our day of the idolatry of things rather than miscellaneous faux deities. Paul makes clear in these passages that, lacking repentance, such actions are disqualifying. Paul sometimes gets abused to justify permissive approaches to morality, but Paul having been at it for nearly 2000 years, would be one of the first to condemn such a reading.

Closing with verses 7 and 8,

7 Be not ye therefore partakers with them.
8 For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light:

May we all put away the works of darkness and walk in the light as its source, the Lord, gives us to see the light.

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