Ephesians 5:3 But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints.

mean that if a person fall into sins that are "sexual" or "covetous" he/she should not confess it to anyone in the Church ?

What does must not even be named mean?

I ask because there is another verse which says

James 5:16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

Also I came across the book Continous Revival by Norman Grubb who was a missionary in Africa working along C T Studd who said that confessing the sins to each other were characteristic of communities where Christ was most manifested.

  • We should confess our sins to God, and our faults to others. The latter would be to say to a friend: "I have problem in this and that area"; could you please pray for me. Apr 15, 2019 at 11:58
  • 1
    I generally go by this rule, a sin committed in private is confessed in private and a sin committed in public is confessed in public. It’s not appropriate for someone to openly confess certain sins to the whole congregation even in general terms because some sins are very egregious. Some newly converted Christians will not be able to handle some of these sins. A mature godly trustworthy leader (generally one is enough if it’s for the same gender) should be consulted if indeed such sins have been committed and are to be confessed. Apr 15, 2019 at 16:16
  • The expression is equivalent to saying I don't even want to hear it (nici sa n-aud de-asa ceva, or, as both Romanian Bibles render it, nici sa nu se pomeneasca).
    – Lucian
    Apr 23, 2019 at 20:18

3 Answers 3


The word that the ESV is translating as named is ὀνομαζέσθω (onomazesthō), a passive form of ὀνομάζω (onomazō).

In the passive voice, onomazō can mean to be known or be heard of.* An example of this can be found in Romans 15:20, which the ESV translates:

I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named (ὅπου ὠνομάσθη χριστός)

The NIV, though less literal, might be the better translation here:

It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known

Thus the idea behind the verse is not that if iniquity is found that it should not be confessed, but rather that it should not be found in the first place.

There seems to be support for this interpretation in the writings of the Church Fathers. John Chrysostom (late 4th c.), for example, in his commentary on the passage wrote:

But fornication, and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as becometh saints.

He has spoken of the bitter passion, of wrath (v.32ff); he now comes to the lesser evil: for that lust is the lesser evil, hear how Moses also in the law says, first, Thou shalt do no murder (Exodus 20:13), which is the work of wrath, and then, Thou shalt not commit adultery (Exodus 20:14), which is of lust. For as bitterness and clamor and all malice and railing and the like, are the works of the passionate man, so likewise are fornication, uncleanness, covetousness those of the lustful; since avarice and sensuality spring from the same passion (Homily XVII on Ephesians)

* See, e.g., Barclay, A Concise Greek-English Dictionary of the New Testament


The above text should really be taken in conjunction with the context which follows in verse 12 of Ephesians 5, namely :

... it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret. [KJV]

Sins of the kind you mention are particularly personal and discretion is necessary. It would be highly inappropriate to discuss such matters with a young or inexperienced person. It would also be inappropriate for someone prone to such things to talk privately with another person, also prone to such things. I surely do not need to say that they would not be discussed between genders.

The ministry, that is, in context, the apostle, advises that certain matters should not even be named among saints. But to do so, he himself had to name them. Therefore if such matters have to be spoken of, then it should be spoken of to the ministry. Or to the presbuteros, the presbytery - the eldership.

Such a one should be restored, not indulged. They should be warned, but not overwhelmed. These matters require spirituality which is why the apostle says that the spiritual should restore such a person, in meekness, considering themselves, lest they also be tempted. But this speaks of a fault, not outrageous sin which the general public would find offensive. Such serious matters require immediate discipline, possibly exclusion.

Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. [Galatians 6:1 KJV.]

We see how a person in Corinth was excluded as 'wicked' for such things. Yet even he was restored and received again with love, obviously penitent. If un-penitent, and there do appear to have been such at Corinth, they would face Paul, personally, when he visited again (after the second epistle) and he says he will not spare them.

I told you before, and foretell you, as if I were present, the second time; and being absent now I write to them which heretofore have sinned, and to all other, that, if I come again, I will not spare: II Corinthians 13:2 [KJV]

It requires considerable maturity to deal with such things. It is not for novices. I mention this from my own perspective, being sixty seven years of age.

  • Excellent comments in you answer, such matters may only be discussed with the elders of the congregation and the spiritually sick should heed their advise " Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, [a]anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord." Suggest you include this verse in you answer, as comments are deleted and are not an extension to the answer.(James 5:14) +1 Apr 16, 2019 at 14:28
  • :No,it refers to the spiritually sick, read the following verses 15-19 Apr 16, 2019 at 19:58
  • @OzzieNicolas It's the same word Strong 770 as Matthew 10:8 'heal the sick'.
    – Nigel J
    Apr 16, 2019 at 20:57
  • @Nijel J :James speaks of a spiritual ‘greasing with oil’ in the name of God for spiritually sick ones as the proper procedure for one needing spiritual help. That he refers to spiritual sickness is indicated by his statements: “Let him call the elders of the congregation,” not doctors, and, “if he has committed sins, it will be forgiven him.” (James 5:13-16) Jesus makes a spiritual application of the practice when he tells the Laodicean congregation to “buy from me . . . eye salve to anoint your eyes that you may see.”​—Re 3:18. Matthew 10:8 refers to physically sick persons.. Apr 17, 2019 at 18:29

Does Ephesians 5:3 mean that if a person fall into sins “sexual” or “covetous” he/she should not confess it to anyone in the Church?

In short, the answer is NO.

Paul admonishes Ephesians 5:1-2 to become imitators of God and to walk in love, just as Christ loved them. Love is a perfect bond of union and those that live, live life that are in harmony with the good news from God. Then Paul follows with the uniting advice, (Ephesians 5:3-5) that they should try to live morally and upright without bickering , disputing and quarreling because such conduct causes dissension in the congregation.

The uniting advice from Paul.

Ephesians 5:3-5 (NRSV)

Renounce Pagan Ways.

3 "But fornication and impurity of any kind, or greed, must not even be mentioned among you, as is proper among saints. 4 Entirely out of place is obscene, silly, and vulgar talk; but instead, let there be thanksgiving. 5 Be sure of this, that no fornicator or impure person, or one who is greedy (that is, an idolater), has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God."

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