SERMON SUMMARY. This study is based on a sermon titled “Love, Thanksgiving, and a Hint of Heaven” from Ephesians 5:1-4. The purpose of the sermon/study is to remind us – especially in challenging and trying times – of who we are and how we approach life as followers of Christ. Life, politics, seasonal depression, etc. often bring pressures that cause us to stress and be anxious about what is before us. Paul reminds us in these four verses — as he reminded the believers back then — to live a life of love and a life of thanksgiving. In doing this we will overcome tests and temptations in our lives and we will also be a “pleasant fragrance …a hint of heaven” in the lives of others.
Two things, the example of Christ’s love and our perosonal spirit of thanksgiving combat the things we do that are a “bad stench in God’s nostrils.” What kind of spiritual fragrance do we give off? Is it a “hint of heaven” or a hint of something else?
BACKGROUND. The apostle Paul is writing to Christians who reside in the metropolitan city of Ephesus. It is made up of primarily Gentiles (non-jews) who are likely more subject to the temptations of the modern culture. He writes to communicate to this community about the purposes of the church and christian living. We are not only saved for ourselves but to praise and glorify God and to be a blessing to others.
WALK IN LOVE (v1-2). Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
Paul first tells the believers to follow Christ’s example and to walk or live a life of love. The Bible tells us that the hallmark of a believer in Jesus Christ is that people will “know us by our love.” How are we doing?
- What are some examples of how we live out our love on our day-to-day Christian journey?
- What is Christ’s most sincere example of love?
- Read through 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. What are the attributes of love described in the verses? Identify those that you would say are your strengths or weaknesses.
A HINT OR A SCENT (v3-4). But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place . . .
Paul refers to Christ’s sacrifice as a “fragrant offering” to the Lord. In verses 3 and 4, Paul speaks to us about some less appealing fragrances or “hints.” Fragrance is very powerful in our lives. Just the hint of the right smell — our favorite meal, a brewing pot of coffee, some cologne or perfume — can get our attention, make us feel pleasant and eager. The opposite is also true. If we have something nasty on our shoe, or catch a whiff of some spoiled meat, it can cause us to cringe and gag. In verses 3 and 4, we see six different ways (pick six) in which we provide an unpleasant scent or hint as poor representatives of God. Sometimes by our actions and sometimes by our mouths we turn people off when we could have been, instead, a “hint of heaven.”
- What are the three actions that we do that are an unpleasant fragrance, a poor reflection on us and on our God? (See the definitions below)
- What are the three things we do with our mouths that are a hint of our worst nature? (See the definitions below)
- How well do we do at resisting these things in our lives to strive that not even a hint of our worst and fleshly nature shows up and damages our effectiveness in testifying about the goodness of God?
Remember, as we look at ourselves, we do not always need a list of do’s and don’ts. The Holy Spirit will often give us guidance on what is impure and not pleasing to God.
HINTS OF HEAVEN/WEAPONS OF OUR WARFARE (v4) . . . but rather thanksgiving.
The Lord gives us many “weapons of our warfare” to overcome tests and temptations. We have discussed love from 1 Corinthians 13. Abiding in love is one weapon of our warfare. Second, we see here Paul pushes us towards having a spirit of thanksgiving. This spirit combats the temptations we have to mess up with our mouths.
- What are some of the many ways that we use our mouths negatively?
- In contrast, if we have a spirit of thanksgiving, it is difficult for us to be negative with our mouths. We are focused on those things for which we are thankful. What are – what do we take our time – the things in life, or the day, that truly cause us to be thankful and have a spirit of thanksgiving? (See definitions below)
Remember, as Paul mentions in verse 3, that we are God’s holy people (see the definition). God’s holy people should give off a hint . . . a fragrance of heaven on their life’s journey. Remember that God provides us an opportunity to be a living hint or a fragrance. When we come into the presence of others we want to be a hint of heaven. When we are challenged in this two weapons of our warfare that we can use are love and having a spirit of thanksgiving. Below are a few scriptures on thanksgiving.
VERSES AND DEFINITIONS
1 Corinthians 13:4-7: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”
Fornication/Sexual Immorality: porneía, por-ni’-ah; harlotry (including adultery and incest); figuratively, idolatry:—fornication . . . illicit sexual intercourse; adultery, fornication, homosexuality, lesbianism, intercourse with animals etc.
Impurity/Uncleaness:akatharsía, ak-ath-ar-see’-ah; impurity, physically or morally:uncleanness;
Greed: pleonexía, pleh-on-ex-ee’-ah; avarice, i.e. (by implication) fraudulency, extortion:—covetous(-ness) practices, greediness.
Holy people/Saints: hágios, hag’-ee-os; from ἅγος hágos (an awful thing); sacred (physically, pure, morally blameless or religious, ceremonially, consecrated):—(most) holy (one, thing), saint.
Obscenity/Filthiness: aischrótēs, ahee-skhrot’-ace; shamefulness, i.e. obscenity:—filthiness.
Foolish Talk: mōrología, mo-rol-og-ee’-ah; from a compound of G3474 and G3004; silly talk, i.e. buffoonery:—foolish talking.
Coarse joking/Jesting: eutrapelía, yoo-trap-el-ee’-ah; (meaning well-turned, i.e. ready at repartee, jocose); witticism, i.e. (in a vulgar sense) ribaldry:—jesting.
Giving Thanks: eucharistía, yoo-khar-is-tee’-ah; gratitude; actively, grateful language (to God, as an act of worship):—thankfulness, (giving of) thanks(-giving).
Psalms 69:30 I will praise God’s name in songand glorify him with thanksgiving.
Psalms 95:2 Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song.
Psalms 100:4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.
Psalms 147:7 Sing to the LORD with thanksgiving; make music to our God on the harp.