(Eph. 5:5-6) Is Paul teaching works here?

CLAIM: Paul writes, “For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience” (Eph. 5:5-6). Does this passage teach that Christians will be sent to hell for living an immoral lifestyle?

RESPONSE: The key to understanding Paul’s statement is to understand our identity in Christ, which Paul has been expounding throughout the book of Ephesians. If we have been made holy, blameless, and forgiven in Christ, then we shouldn’t continue to pursue a selfish lifestyle. These statements in verses 5-6 are sandwiched by our new identity in Christ (vv.1-2; 7-8). We already are children of God (v.1), and we have confidence that Christ gave himself up for us (v.2).

Notice the connecting word between verse 7 and 8. Why should we not pursue a selfish lifestyle? Paul writes, “For you were formerly darkness, but not you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light” (v.8). The basis for not pursuing these things is that we now have a new identity in Christ. For further reading, see our earlier article “Eternal Security.”