Second Corinthians

Commentary on the Book of Ephesians

By: Tom Lowe                                      Date: 11/8/17

 

Lesson 22: Confront them with the Gospel (Ephesians 5:8-14)

 

Ephesians 5:8-14 (KJV)

8 For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light:

9 (For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;)

10 Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord.

11 And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.

12 For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret.

13 But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light: for whatsoever doth make manifest is light.

14 Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.

 
Introduction

Paul’s readers are urgently instructed not to become partners in sin with those upon whom the wrath of God must inevitably fall.  If they recoil from partnership in their punishment, let them also recoil from partnership in their sins.

In this passage, we are told of yet another way in which we are to imitate God—we are to be “light.” Once the believers were “darkness,” but now they were “light in the Lord.”

 

Commentary

8 For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light:

According to these words dictated by the Holy Spirit and written down by the Apostle Paul, it is utterly impossible for any person to be saved and not know it.  Sinners are darkness . . .  they are blacked out, they are in the dark.  In their unconverted state, ignorance and sin had so penetrated their being that they were not merely in the dark; they were the very embodiment of darkness.  Conversely, in their converted state the light of the gospel had so penetrated them that they were themselves light.  In them the light had become visible and was the dominant trait of their character.  The meaning of the verse is brought out in its contrasts—“SOMETIMES” (better, “once”) and “NOW”; “DARKNESS” and “LIGHT.” The emphasis however rests upon the word “WERE,” which in the Greek is the first word of its clause.  To say that the readers were DARKNESS is to imply that deeds of darkness are now behind them.  Such things are no longer in harmony with their character, and they must not revert to them.

To be IN THE LORD is to belong to a new world, to inhabit a new kingdom in which we become new men and women.  In this new kingdom, new powers are at work in us—the powers of the Spirit of the crucified, risen, ascended, reigning and returning Christ.  Once we were in the DARKNESS; what’s worse, the DARKNESS was in us—we were DARKNESS.  Now we have been drawn into the LIGHT, illuminated and aided by Christ the LIGHT of the world.  What’s more, we have been invaded and transformed by Christ the LIGHT.  In the Lord we are LIGHT! 

When we are saved we are transformed out of DARKNESS into LIGHT.  To be converted from sin to salvation is just like walking out of a dark room into a room where a thousand-watt bulb is blazing light.  It is impossible, to shut your eyes and open them and not know the difference, if you are in the sunlight at noontime.  You can close your eyes, and it becomes dark; you open your eyes and it is light.  “Sinners are in DARKNESS . . .  Christians are in LIGHT.”  When the Spirit comes in, we become the “CHILDREN OF LIGHT,” and we walk in the LIGHT. The Spirit substantiates the things that are acceptable unto God.

“LIGHT” is one of the great universal religious symbols which Christianity has appropriated, so that we talk of “seeing the light” (conversion).  Christians “are light” because they live in the dawning of God’s new era, the Kingdom of God, and serve a Lord who is “the Light of the world.” Because they “are light” in that Lord, they must behave as “CHILDREN OF LIGHT.”

Three responsibilities are rooted in this concept of believers being “LIGHT IN THE LORD.” First, they are to “WALK AS CHILDREN OF LIGHT.”  Their conduct must conform to that which is most essential in their character.  The second responsibility is found in verse nine and the third in verses 11-14.

 

9 (For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;)

The parenthesis of verse nine explains that such light is to be known by its moral fruit.  In other words, truly converted people must manifest GOODNESS, AND RIGHTEOUSNESS, AND TRUTH in their lives. This is the second responsibility of believers: they are to produce “THE FRUIT OF THE LIGHT” (Spirit).

Those who are light in the Lord are to produce the FRUIT of the light.  This fruit is defined as “GOODNESS AND RIGHTEOUSNESS AND TRUTH.”  They may be called the basic qualities that mark life in the light.  The Greek word translated as “GOODNESS” stresses kindliness and benevolence, a certain generosity of spirit that makes one want to help others.  “RIGHTEOUSNESS” is regard for the rights of others, giving both to men and to God that which is their due.  “TRUTH” is not in New Testament thought simply an intellectual thing to be grasped with the mind; it is moral truth, not only something to be known but something to be done, and it concerns not only what is spoken; it is truth of idea, sincerity, and straightforwardness. The light switch Christ brings makes us useful citizens of this world; it makes us men and women who never fail to do our duty, human or divine; it makes us strong and able to do that which we know is true.  

This is so important that I must say it again, “light produces FRUIT!”  As the light of Christ shines on our lives it transforms us.  Natural growth in the botanical and horticultural realm depends on a variety of influences: soil, rain, sun.  Without this combination there will be no growth.  The same can be said of the Christian. Growth is produced by God’s multi-dimensional activities—through His working in providence, for example.  But always His light is needed—light that illuminates our understanding; light from His Word that banishes the darkness in our thinking, willing, and feeling; light that reproduces itself in us as “naturally” as FRUIT growing on a tree—FRUIT that is “good and right and true.”

In a sense Paul is simply summarizing what he had earlier written to the Galatians about the “FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT” (Galatians 5:22-23{1]).  The gospel produces transformed character whose distinguishing mark is the through-and-through graciousness which comes from living in the company of the Light of the world.

As Christ illuminates our lives the darkness that remains in us is exposed and banished.  Yes, there will be struggle, pain, and failure on the way.  But Paul’s point is that these qualities are not ‘worked up’ by us, by our strenuous efforts to be morally upright.  Rather in and through the struggle, the light of grace is being reflected in our lives, from within.

 

10 Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord.

So Paul is saying walk as children of the light . . .  discerning what is pleasing to the Lord.  The light enables us to discriminate between that which is well-pleasing and that which is not pleasing to God.  It is in the light of Christ that all motives and all actions must be tested.  It is the Christian’s duty to expose every action, every decision, and every motive to the light of Christ.

Here Paul gives us a helpful directive on the subject of guidance.  How do I discover the will of God with respect to my life?  The answer is: Discover what pleases Him.

How do we do that?  God has already shown us what pleases Him—in the life and ministry and obedience of our Lord.  He has told us what pleases him—in His Word, the Holy Scriptures.  The life of discernment is, therefore, a Word-focused and Word-directed life, which develops a Word-saturated mind.

 

11 And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.

Verse 11 is not a suggestion—it is a positive and direct command: “HAVE NO FELLOWSHIP WITH THE UNFRUITFUL WORKS OF DARKNESS, BUT RATHER REPROVE THEM.”{4] We are not to fellowship with the enemies of Jesus Christ.  Born again Christians are not to fellowship with the lust of the flesh and the ungodliness of the world.  Fellowship with the world is spiritual adultery against God.  We are not to fellowship with liberals, modernists, haters of God, and deniers of the faith. But the Christian life is not merely a matter of darkness-avoidance.  It includes darkness-exposure.  One cannot be light without exposing the darkness.  Christians do not, as it were, switch on the light when necessary; they are light and are to let their light shine (Matthew 5:16{2]).  We are Christ’s.  It is not enough to stay away from them—but we are to “REPROVE THEM.” Thus, the third responsibility of the children of light is to “REPROVE THE UNFRUITFUL WORKS OF DARKNESS” (5:11-14).  Such works are “UNFRUITFUL” because they produce no goodness, give no satisfaction and joy (5:9).  The best way to discredit the “WORKS OF DARKNESS” is to expose them, to turn the light upon them and show that they are unfruitful and belong to the darkness.  It is not enough merely to withdraw, to “HAVE NO FELLOWSHIP WITH” them. The light of believers must blaze out into the darkness and be a constant condemnation of the darkness. As a born again Christian, it is not enough for me to abstain from the appearance of evil—I must expose it and speak out against it.  The light exposes that which is evil.  The best way to rid the world of any evil is to drag it into the light.  So long as the thing is being done in secret, it goes on; but when it is taken into the light of day, it dies a natural death.  The surest way to cleanse the depths of our own hearts and the practices of any society in which we happen to be involved is to expose them to the light of Christ.

It is not enough that I stay out of bars, nightclubs and dance halls, it is not enough that I refuse to embrace liberalism and modernism and stay away from them; but as a minister of the gospel I must REPROVE THEM, I must speak out against them and warn people.  I would not be at all surprised if through these lines I am not speaking to someone who is truly born again and yet you are supporting a liberal or modernist . . .  a man who uses some of the modern translations of the Bible which soft-peddle the virgin birth, deny the blood, declare the Fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man.  You should not support any person unless he declares the truth and the doctrine of Christ . . .  and if you do support such a person you are guilty of his evil deeds. You are not to invite a liberal, modernist, false religionist or member of a cult into your home.  If you do invite them into your house and bid them Godspeed you are guilty of aiding and comforting the enemies of Jesus Christ.  “HAVE NO FELLOWSHIP WITH THE UNFRUITFUL WORKS OF DARKNESS” is a command . . . it is not a suggestion! 

 

12 For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret.

It is hard to tell precisely what Paul means by “THOSE THINGS WHICH ARE DONE OF THEM IN SECRET” and which are almost unmentionable. Perhaps he is talking about some religious groups which secretly practiced unholy rituals.  What he does say (5:13) is that exposure to the light is the best remedy against such deeds of darkness (see John 3:20{3]). It is shameful to even talk about the things that are “DONE IN SECRET”—sensual sins of the flesh. They are so unspeakably bad, that the Christian has no other recourse, but to “reprove” them; the works of darkness. 

But what does darkness-exposure involve?  Those who shine as light in the world by definition do not share in the darkness.  The way they live exposes the darkness with its secret and shameful deeds.  The word combination here is striking.  Paul understands that by definition unbelievers live in the darkness.  They have secrets that, if brought to the light, will be seen for what they really are.  When anything becomes visible, the truth about it is exposed by the light.  Think of someone taking a garment outside the store in order to see its “true colors” under natural rather than artificial light.  In the same way, the light of the lives of saints shows up the sin around them in its true colors. 

How daunting, yet also encouraging, this teaching is.  It is daunting—because Paul indicates that our lives shed more light than we realize and leads to reactions and responses we might never anticipate.  Sometimes these are deeply hostile, like the tantrum of a child when it’s ignored.  But the apostle’s teaching is also encouraging—because it is what we are in Christ (not only what we do) that shines as light in the darkness.  We have no interest in talking about the shameful thoughts, desires, and deeds associated with sin.  Those who live in the light have better things to talk about, think about, and to enjoy!

 

13 But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light: for whatsoever doth make manifest is light

“ALL THINGS THAT ARE REPROVED ARE MADE MANIFEST BY THE LIGHT.” In other words, if we are born again, the Holy Ghost will show us the things that are right and the things that are wrong.  He will lead us into the paths of righteousness; He will lead us around the cesspools and pitfalls of the lust of sin and the world.  If we walk in the LIGHT; we will not fulfill the desires of the flesh and of the mind.  We must be led by the Spirit or we cannot overcome the world. 

The meaning of the first part of the verse is reasonably clear, that under the action of light there can be no secrecy.  We may imagine a searchlight picking out in its beams some sinister object and revealing it in its stark ugliness.  But in the last part of the verse the expression “FOR WHATSOEVER DOTH MAKE MANIFEST IS LIGHT,” has puzzled interpreters.  It has been translated in various ways, but it offers still another reason for reproving the deeds of darkness.  The idea seems to be the transforming power of LIGHT; you are light, and light is that which MAKES MANIFEST; your responsibility is to reprove the deeds of darkness. So the affect of Christian goodness on a pagan society will be first to shame and then to purify it.  LIGHT has in itself a cleansing quality.  In our own generation we know that many diseases have been conquered simply by letting the sunlight in.  The LIGHT of Christ is like that.  We must never think of the life of Christ as only condemnatory; it is a healing thing too.

Paul had seen this principle of evangelism at work in his own life.  In the Acts of the Apostles his conversion is set within the context of the courageous witness of Stephen.  But behind the account of Stephen’s trial and death lies an almost unnoticeable fact.  He and Saul almost certainly belonged to the same Jewish synagogue group (Acts 6:9{5]), and indeed to the same generation.

The young Saul of Tarsus—who strived so earnestly to cause others to excel in everything he did (Philippians 3:4-6{6])—had probably witnessed the transformation of Stephen’s life.  He had certainly heard Stephen speak about Christ.  Perhaps he found it impossible to contradict the power and reality of what he heard and Saw (Acts 6:10{7]).  Stephen was like LIGHT: Luke comments that “his face was like the face of an angel” (Acts 6:15{8]).  Saul must have felt himself exposed, even if he could not articulate exactly why.  He reacted in fury, like an infant screaming because it does not get its own desires met and knows no other way to express itself.

So that is how it often is.  We should never forget that as we live our lives as LIGHT in the world.  Quiet and consistent godliness can provoke deep anger and hostility.  It is “hard to kick against the goads” (Acts 26:14{9])!

 

14 Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.

This little section concludes with what modern translations set down as a quotation, introduced by the words “HE SAITH” (4:8; James 4:6{10]).

Paul cries out, “AWAKE, THOU THAT SLEEPEST!” We need to be alert; we need to be sober and vigilant.  Our adversary, the devil, as a roaring lion is walking about, seeking whom he may devour, and he is no respecter of persons—never forget that!  Read and study 1 Peter 5:8-10{11].

Many interpreters understand this verse to express the substance of Isaiah 60:1, 2—“Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee.” It is a call to “wake up” from the pagan sleep of sin and death, with the promise that Christ will then shine on the convert with the saving light of His truth. By others it is thought to be a quotation from an early Christian hymn often sung when a convert was baptized, and he quotes two lines:

“Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead,

and Christ shall give thee light.”

Paul had been in the area of Ephesus for three years.  He would have known the psalms customarily sung by the Christian fellowships there.  Or perhaps Paul means that, in terms of the coming of Christ as the fulfillment of prophecy, this is what the text says or what Christ says to us through it.

In any case, these words express the glorious, powerful call of Christ Himself in the gospel.  They are a reworking of the teaching in Ephesus 2:1{12].  We were dead in sin; Christ called us—deaf and dead though we were—through His deafness-penetrating, death-reversing word.  We heard His voice and arose to follow Him.  We once walked in darkness; we now enjoy the light, just as he Himself said: “I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows Me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12).

If you are light in the Lord—Shine!

 

Scripture and special notes

[1} “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23) 

[2} “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16) 

[3} “For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.” (John 3:20)

[4} REPROVE THEM: to disapprove of strongly; censure

[5} “Then there arose certain of the synagogue, which is called the synagogue of the Libertines, and Cyrenians, and Alexandrians, and of them of Cilicia and of Asia, disputing with Stephen.” (Acts 6:9)

[6} “Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more: Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.” (Philippians 3:4-6)

[7} “Then there arose certain of the synagogue, which is called the synagogue of the Libertines, and Cyrenians, and Alexandrians, and of them of Cilicia and of Asia, disputing with Stephen.” (Acts 6:10) 

[8} “And all that sat in the council, looking stedfastly on him, saw his face as it had been the face of an angel.” (Acts 6:15) 

[9} “And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.” (Acts 26:14)

[10} “But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.” (James 4:6)

[11} “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.” (1 Peter 5:8-10)

[12} “And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;” (Ephesians 2:1) 

 

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