I Am A Light

| Ephesians 5:8-17

Week of February 25, 2018

The Point:  Shine the light of Christ.

 The Fruit of Light:  Ephesians 5:8-17.

[8] for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light [9] (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), [10] and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. [11] Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. [12] For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. [13] But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, [14] for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” [15] Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, [16] making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. [17] Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.   [ESV]

“Express Light [5:8-10].  Paul expects the Ephesians to express the light of their God in what they do and in whom they please. What the children of light are to do is to bear God’s fruit. The apostle says, walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true) [5:8b-9]. This is a continuation of the earlier theme that, as Gentiles, these Ephesian believers were darkened in their understanding [4:18] and given over to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity [4:19]. In contrast, those not darkened in understanding but renewed in the spirit of your minds and created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness [4:23-24], should bear fruit in keeping with their identity. Paul here summarizes the fruit that he has been describing over the last several paragraphs: goodness (i.e., good-heartedness toward others in contrast to malice [4:26-27,29-32]); righteousness (i.e., honoring God’s standards especially as in living a separated life as opposed to indulging the culture’s sensuality and selfishness [4:19; 5:3-5; 6:14]), and truth (i.e., displaying integrity, dealing honestly, and speaking truthfully, as opposed to old habits of lying and deceit [4:25; 6:14]. Living as children of light is determined not only by what we do, but also by whom we please. Paul says, Walk as children of light … and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord [5:8b,10]. With this brief wording the apostle reminds us that living as a child of light is a matter of the motive of the heart as well as the works of the hands. Not only are we to do what God commands for fruitfulness, we are to do so out of a desire to please Him. We should delight in His delight. Mere outward conformity to the law is not what God requires. The person who does what God says with a resentful heart and begrudging obedience does not bear the mark of the true child of light. The heart renewed by the Spirit desires to please God, is anxious to find out what He desires, and is motivated by the sense of bringing God pleasure. Why does Paul tell his readers to discern what is pleasing to the Lord? The apostle desires that even in their weakness and frailty the Ephesians will know they can please God. When we know that our meager offerings to God – the little thoughts, words, and acts of righteousness that are all that we have to give – bring Him pleasure despite their inadequacies and our shame, we want to bring Him better gifts. The desire to please One so delightfully pleased with us becomes our passion and our power, our highest and strongest motivation. We want to keep finding out what pleases Him – to express light for His sake.

Expose Darkness [5:11-17].  Being children of light means not only that we express light, but also that we expose darkness. The apostle says, Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them [5:11]. We must consider these words in light of what has preceded. In an interesting botanical lesson we have the contrast of what light and darkness produce. Light produces fruit that pleases God [5:9]; but darkness, a denial of the sun (such as when a tarp is left on a lawn), is fruitless, yielding nonproducing (literally barren, or sterile) deeds [5:11]. Though sin may be pleasant for a season, it ultimately fails to produce the harvest of fulfillment that it promises – it is fruitless. The puzzle of the passage, of course, is not that sin is fruitless but that we are told both to expose it and to have nothing to do with it. This instruction seems something akin to telling your child to clean up the garage but don’t touch the dirt. One command seems at cross purposes with the other. In our English translations, the exhortation take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness echoes the earlier command sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you [5:3]. This perception is strengthened by the words that follow: For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret [5:12]. The apostle seems well aware that allowing the sinful and profane practices of the surrounding culture into the conversation of Christians will plant destructive images and considerations in the mind. These will ultimately desensitize us and make us accept what we should abhor, tolerate what tempts, or actually desire what displeases God. When we are so familiar with the profane that it no longer offends and we have forgotten how to blush because of it, then we are in grave spiritual danger. The apostle’s words remind us again to beware of giving sin – even sin of which we disapprove – entry points in our lives through too little awareness of how even its mention (in speech, entertainments, jesting, and discussion) actually gives it a place to grow in our hearts. Still, the problem remains: how do we have nothing to do with dark deeds, not even making mention of them, and still expose them? (1) Consider context. First, we must consider the context. The words take no part in are from a Greek term that means partnership or partaking together. You are not to take part in the darkness, that is, not to partake of it. The words come in the context of Paul warning against what will involve Christians in evil, but even he makes mention of sensuality, every kind of impurity and lust [4:19]. The warning to us is to consider whether our exposure to such matters comes as a consequence of trying to expose them or to enjoy them. The temptation of Christians in exposing darkness is to forget the exposure. We talk about redeeming the culture, but on the journey we can simply join in with the rest of the culture. Its entertainments, speech, and habits become our own, and we blithely talk about them in our contexts without even realizing they have no place in the life of the children of light [4:27]. Perhaps the best test is whether we are bold enough to call the darkness truly dark and expose it as evil. (2). Consider the motive.  Secondly, we must consider the motive of our mentioning the matter. Whether our actions lead us to enjoy or to expose the darkness leads to a question of motive. Here the essential question has already been put before us by Paul. Are we trying to discern what is pleasing to the Lord [5:10]? Is our motive to figure out what will make us more holy and Christ’s name more hallowed in this world? Such questions cause us to examine the deep recesses of our heart for true answers. These questions must consistently be asked and honestly answered: Are we pleasing God or self? (3). Consider the instruments.  Thirdly, we must consider the instruments of the exposure. What will help us answer the question of whether or not our actions are truly devoted to exposing the darkness? We must determine what instruments we are using and should be using to expose the darkness. And what exposes darkness, according to the apostle? He says, But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light [5:13-14a]. What composes the light that is the instrument of exposure? Already we have been told that the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true [5:9]. The words remind us that darkness is best exposed by light rather than more darkness. Even in Christian circles there will be those that beckon us to the darkness, claiming that we will there better learn the darkness that we are to expose. Paul states the opposite, making it clear that the radiance of holiness will make the fruitlessness of evil more apparent. In essence, he claims that it is better to shine a light in a closet than to stumble around in the darkness so that you may know its dimensions. A faithful marriage, a chaste life, a frugal lifestyle, and gracious speech will do far more to expose the fruitless deeds of evil than partnership with the culture in its futile pursuits of darkness. Paul said to the Romans, and to us, I want you to be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil [Rom. 16:19]. It is important to know and to believe that in worldly innocence there can be more power for the exposure of evil than in becoming an expert in the matters of Satan. (4) Consider the danger.  Fourthly, we must consider our awareness of the danger. The necessity of understanding the power of evil provides the basis for Paul’s final set of guidelines for how we are to have no partnership with darkness and yet expose it. He quotes a Christian hymn whose source is unknown, calling the church to an awakening from the dead [5:14b]: Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you. Today we talk about someone needing “a wake-up call” when one seems oblivious to imminent consequences. Paul issues this poetic wake-up call in the middle of warning the church about the compromises with darkness. Not only does he call the church to wake up, but also to arise from the dead. The obvious reference to resurrection is a reminder that not to wake up to the dangers of the culture is to persist in what is fruitless and dead. But the contrary is also clear; that is, if you wake up from your slumber, Christ will shine on you. Living as though there is real danger in darkness and staying away from it will make Christ’s light shine more radiant. For the children of light there is no greater desire or blessing. (5) Consider the aim.  Lastly, in order properly to balance separation from sin and exposure of it, we must consider if the aim of our actions is Christ’s glory. If you are a child of light, your highest aim will be to make Christ shine – on us and before the world. The evidences of having this aim are that you will, first of all, live with care. With an awareness of the ever-present danger of darkness, the apostle warns, Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise [5:15]. The children of light have awakened to the danger of the darkness and live accordingly. They do not pretend that there are no real dangers in their world or in their patterns of behavior. They are constant in giving rigorous, wise examination to their mind, heart, and behavior, knowing that the darkness can always encroach upon their lives. They live carefully for the sake of the light shining on them. They also live carefully – with a mission – for the sake of the light shining on others. Paul urges them to do this by making the best use of the time, because the days are evil [5:16]. The words making the best use or “redeeming” come from a Greek term meaning “to recover from the power of another by paying a price.” Knowing that the days are evil, we pay the price needed in our lives to have Christ shine on us and through us. We live with zeal for Him, rather than for ourselves. The word chosen for time is noteworthy, too, because it implies a specific moment rather than an extended period of time. In his own way, Paul says, “Seize the day; don’t let this opportunity pass; take advantage of the moment God provides.” Having been redeemed by His blood, we now redeem the time for Him, making the most of every opportunity so that His name will shine in all the earth. Those whose aim is the shining of Christ also live with understanding. With this care and with this mission as our priorities for Christ’s sake, we are not foolish but seek to understand what the will of the Lord is [5:17] – both a summary of the preceding verses and a launching pad for what follows. Elsewhere the apostle writes, For this is the will of God, your sanctification [1 Thess. 4:3]. God desires a holy people to reflect His holy light. The children of light so desire to be such a people that they give their minds to understanding what God’s will is so that they will not live foolishly. So that His children might reflect the light of the Son, the Lord has given us clear instructions regarding how we should live and think. These are necessary and vital aspects of the Christian life that the children of light must know. You cannot hope to be a reflector of Christ’s light if such matters are not part of your own instruction. In order to have the light of Christ shine into the lives of those we love and He loves, they also must know how to live and to think. Paul does not stop explaining our need to live for the glory of Christ with these general principles for Christian living. What will follow in the book of Ephesians is much more practical instruction on marriage, the household, and Christian warfare. Still, something new and vital connects these general principles and practical instructions. Mature believers discern that God’s Word is the means by which God makes Himself known so that we might live in union with Him. The ultimate aim of Scripture is making known to the heart the reality of God, who is Himself the ultimate desire, power, meaning, and hope of the children of light. And the ultimate aim of the apostle as he seeks to rescue us from darkness is to encourage us not only to reflect the light of the Son, but actually to live as the light of the Son.”  [Chapell, pp. 250-260].

Questions for Discussion:

  1. How do we know we are walking as children of light? What does it mean to discern what is pleasing to the Lord? How can you practice that in your daily Christian walk? What things can you do in order to improve your ability to discern what is truly pleasing to the Lord?
  2. How are we to take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness and, at the same time, expose them? How can we expose them if we are having nothing to do with them? How can we maintain the proper balance between separation from sin and exposure of it? What five suggestions does Chapell give us to help us answer these questions? How can you apply these suggestions to your life?
  3. How can we walk as wise and not unwise? How can we make the best use of the time? What things do you need to change in your life in order to daily “redeem the time?” Note in verse 17 how Paul defines wisdom as understanding what the will of the Lord is. How can you grow in your understanding of God’s will?

References:

Ephesians, Bryan Chapell, REC, P & R Publishing.

The Letter to the Ephesians, Peter O’Brien, Eerdmans.

The Message of Ephesians, John Stott, Inter Varsity.

Ephesians, Frank Thielman, ECNT, Baker.