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. (Ephesians 5:8–14)
Several years ago, we visited the Lewis and Clark Caverns between Butte and Bozeman, MT. Going through a cave is quite an experience, there are all sorts of odd and beautiful rock formations that you never see above ground.
Actually, it’s a marvel that you can see them at all, because without artificial light in the caverns you wouldn’t see a thing. To illustrate that point, the tour guide at one point gathered us together and turned off the lights. The result was total darkness, in which your eyes would never adjust because there is zero light.
In the early days, when the Civilian Conservation Corps was making the caverns tourist-friendly, if their lights went out, they were stuck until someone came and got them. It’s very difficult to impossible to know if you are going in the right direction without light—the darkness is blinding.
It’s no wonder that the Bible uses darkness to describe our condition before salvation. People in darkness have no way of knowing the right way out.
Jesus said that the path to Heaven is narrow, but the path to destruction is broad. You can see that the broad path is full of people stumbling around the darkness, saying, “It’s this way…no it’s this way…no, there really isn’t a way, you just walk for awhile then you die.”
But the Christian has seen the light at the end of tunnel—and it’s light that comes from a cross. The Christian is to walk in that light, first…
I. BECAUSE YOU HAVE SWITCHED SIDES
A. You Were In Darkness
Ephesians 5:8a For ye were sometimes [at one time] darkness,
Not just in darkness, but you “were…darkness.” Before we were saved, our lives were characterized by darkness. That’s not to say that we were as bad as bad could be, but that the motivations and desires of our heart came from the dark side.
What is darkness? Here it is a figure of speech referring spiritual and moral conditions that are evil and the opposite of light.
19 And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. (John 3:19)
Because sinners do evil deeds, they love the darkness rather than the light. We are talking about spiritual darkness here, but it carries over into the physical realm, doesnʼt it?
We talk about shady business deals, or how many evil deeds are committed in dark alleys. In the old Westerns, good cowboys wore white hats, while the bad cowboys wore dark hats.
I haven’t been in many bars in my life, but I’ve found it interesting that they are usually dark, and they don’t have windows, or if they do, they are small windows. What goes on inside is darkness.
Universally, light is understood to be good and darkness is evil.
Sinners do evil and therefore love the darkness more than the light of God…Jesus Christ. That is the condemnation right there—people everywhere have rejected the light that God sent into the world and preferred darkness.
People live in the darkness because they do not want to believe. I remember an event from my early teen years, before I was saved. I was talking to one of my friends. Somehow we got on the topic of the truth of the Bible and I said, “I think the Bible was written by one person who was trying to fool people.” Boy, was I in darkness!
But I did not want to believe in God (around that same time period I had told God that I didnʼt believe in him), so I was willing to make up anything so that I wouldnʼt have to believe in him. I was walking in total darkness.
But then, like many of you, I switched sides. I came to Jesus, and received him as my Savior. He forgave my sins and set me free from the powers of darkness. He does the same for anyone who realizes that they are darkened sinners needing light.
B. You Are Now Children Of Light
Ephesians 5:8b …but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light:
Christians are “light in the Lord” because we are identified with Christ. Christ lives in us and fills us with light. When we become Christians, we’re changed. We were darkness, now we’re “children of light.”
Our very natures are light, just as the children of anything take on the nature of their parents. A kitten has the nature of a cat. A puppy has the nature of a dog. And the Christian has the nature of Christ, who is the “light of the world” (John 8:12).
The Bible says that we are to “walk as children of light.” In other words, since our nature is light, we are to “be what we already are.”
What do “children of light” look like? The next verse is in parenthesis because it explains what the children of light are—they aren’t perfect, but they are people who have God’s fruit growing in their lives.
Ephesians 5:9 (For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;)
There is a sense in which these three sum up all of Christian morals.
1) Goodness refers to our personal character and how we treat other people. Goodness in the Christian finds it’s highest fulfillment in doing good sacrificially for others. The Bible says…
15 …follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men. (1 Thessalonians 5:15)
2) Righteousness has to do with our relationship with God—in Christ, we have true righteousness. In God’s eyes, the true believer is righteous because we are in Christ and Christ is righteous. So he commands us to live like what we are—righteously.
3) Truth has to do with being honest, trustworthy…a person of integrity. A child of light will be truthful, not deceptive, as a person who lives in the darkness would be.
These are the true tests of Christian salvation. If someone asked you, “How do you know that you are a Christian?”, you might respond with something about making a “decision” for Christ, or how you are faithful to attend church, or that you’ve been baptized.
But all those evidences can easily be done in the flesh. Many, many people have professed to have decided to follow Jesus, but it was only an emotional moment brought on by a song or a crisis. Others faithfully attend church or are baptized for other reasons than that they love Christ.
Only a true Christian, however, will be growing in spiritual fruit. Spiritual fruit is not man-made, it is grown by the Holy Spirit working in our hearts, changing us and making us more like Christ.
It’s not that we will be perfect—but there will be some fruit growing in the Christian’s life.
Our assurance of our salvation is not based on what we did in the past, it’s to be based on what fruit is growing in our lives in the present (2 Peter 1:5-11). Jesus even said that it will be fruit that will show if a person is a Christian or not—
15 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. 16 Ye shall know them by their fruits…(Matthew 7:15–16)
What does your fruit say about you? Are you walking in the light because you have switched sides from darkness to light?
The child of light will walk in the light…
II. BY LEARNING WHAT PLEASES THE LORD
Ephesians 5:10 Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord.
Notice two important words here:
“Proving” δοκιμάζοντες (VPAP-PNM, δοκιμάζω) means to examine or test something—trying to learn more about it.
“acceptable” εὐάρεστον (JNSN, εὐάρεστος) means to be pleasing. Every Christian should want to do things that please the Lord…right?
So what pleases the Lord? There isn’t an exhaustive list that covers absolutely every situation in our lives. Is eating a Snickers bar pleasing to the Lord? We aren’t told. That is why the Bible says here that we need to be…“Proving what is acceptable.”
“Proving what is acceptable” is something that demands careful thought and discernment. To live the Christian life in a way that is acceptable and pleasing to the Lord requires mental thought. Don’t check your brains at the door. Think! Discern!
The same thought (and the same words for “proving” and “acceptable”) are used in Romans—
2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. (Romans 12:2)
Once again we see that we need to making choices in our Christian walk based on careful mental discernment. We are to be able to judge and discern what is right for us to do.
But how are we to do that? Is it just a sense or a feeling that we get in our gut when we know what is the right thing to do?
You just have to attend one congregational meeting in any church to know that that’s not the case. If twenty Christians feel that one way is God’s will and twenty-one think that God’s will is something else, then is God’s will the majority opinion?
If you say that this is God’s will and I say it ain’t, who is right? We need a standard, a set of principles to live by. We need exposure to the light of God’s Word:
105 NUN. Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, And a light unto my path. (Psalm 119:105)
Folks, there’s no two ways about it. You need to read, study, even memorize the Bible in order to be able to prove what God’s will is. It’s through the Holy Spirit working through God’s word that our minds are transformed and renewed so that we can really know what God’s will is.
To walk in the light, we need to study God’s word to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Then, we also need to walk in the light…
III. BY AVOIDING THE WORKS OF DARKNESS
Ephesians 5:11a And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness
What this means is that we are not to do the things that unbelievers do. We are to “have no fellowship with unfruitful works of darkness.” It’s not the unbelieving people we are to avoid, it’s the works of darkness that we are to avoid doing.
We cannot be a witness to unbelievers if we isolate ourselves completely from them. How will they hear without a preacher?
Of course, this doesn’t mean that we should form intimate associations with unbelievers that would drag us down spiritually:
14 Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? (2 Corinthians 6:14)
There needs to be a balancing where we have some sort of relationship with unbelievers in order to be witnesses to them, otherwise we would need to “go out of the world” (1 Corinthians 5:10).
Clearly, however, the Lord does not want us having “fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness.” We should ponder that word, “unfruitful” ἀκάρποις (JDPN, ἄκαρπος), which means unproductive or useless.
Why would we do something that in the end would amount to nothing? Why would we do something that would be damaging to our body, our relationships, our spiritual lives? That’s all what sin does to us.
John Owen had a famous saying, “Be killing sin, or sin will be killing you.” Sin—the works of darkness—is unfruitful and deadly.
The Christian walks in the light by avoiding the works of darkness, but also…
IV. BY EXPOSING THE WORKS OF DARKNESS
Ephesians 5:11b but rather reprove them.
The Greek word behind “reprove” ἐλέγχετε (VPAM2P, ἐλέγχω) has a wide range of meaning (the same word is found in verse 13). It means to expose or to “bring to light,” and is translated as convince, convict, rebuke, or reprove.
The question for us is how are we to reprove the “works of darkness”?
Our initial thought is that we speak out and denounce them. Certainly there is a place and a time to do such a rebuke. Jesus told us that if our brother or sister sins we are to “go and tell him his fault” (the same word as “reprove” here) privately (Matthew 18:15). There are also many situations where it is right and necessary to openly rebuke unbelievers for their behavior.
Yet that doesn’t seem to be the normal tactic we are to take. Why? Look at the next verse—
Ephesians 5:12 For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret.
Often, by talking about sins, especially at length or in very graphic terms, we are led to be tempted to commit the sins, if not in action, then in mind. It’s necessary to speak of sin in some sense, to denounce it and explain why we shouldn’t do it, but we ought to be careful of our manner in doing so.
How else can we reprove the works of darkness if not by speaking? Look at the next verse—
Ephesians 5:13 But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light: for whatsoever doth make manifest is light.
If someone is in a dark room doing something they shouldn’t be doing, and someone else flips on the light—what happens? The light reveals and exposes them, but it doesn’t make a speech about how what they are doing is wrong.
People who are walking in the darkness already know that they are doing evil, and when they see believers walking in the light, they are convicted of their sin without a word being spoken. That’s why we hear so much crying about how Christians are judgmental. If we are living for The Lord, our very lives will be convicting.
Jesus said basically the same thing as we have see here when he said:
19 And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.
20 For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. 21 But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God. (John 3:19–21)
Sometimes believers who aren’t walking in the light as closely as they should be are also convicted by the lifestyles of other Christians. Maybe there’s someone like that in your own life…someone who really bugs you because they live a more “strict” Christian life than you do.
Before you throw around words like, “Legalistic” or “Holier than Thou,” it’s a good idea to take a close look at your life and ask, “I am walking in the shadows of darkness?”
Charles Spurgeon, the famous British preacher of the 19th century said:
We must endeavour to bring back the strictness of the Puritan times, and somewhat more. Everybody is so liberal and takes such latitude, nowadays, that in some quarters it is impossible to tell which is the church and which is the world. (C. H. Spurgeon, The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, vol. 41 [London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1895], 91)
Spurgeon said that in 1887! You can only imagine what he would think of Christians today!
When we walk in the light, we will, primarily by our lives, expose the deeds of darkness in both unbelievers and even some believers. They won’t like it. They will avoid you, accuse you and slander you. Darkness does not play nice.
Finally, we walk in the light by…
V. BY WAKING AND RECEIVING CHRIST’S LIGHT
Ephesians 5:14 Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.
This verse appears to be a fragment of an early Christian hymn, which itself was drawn from Old Testament verses like Isaiah 9:2; 26:19; 52:1; 60:1.
When directed to unbelievers, we can read this as a call to salvation:
1. Awake from your sleep—recognize your sin.
2. Arise from the dead—turn to Christ alone for forgiveness.
3. Accept the light of Christ—this is the good news that God has provided forgiveness for all who come to him through his Son, Jesus Christ.
But this verse also speaks to the church. It says to us, “Awake you sleeping church!” We can also read in Romans—
11 And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation [the coming of Jesus] nearer than when we believed. (Romans 13:11)
Jesus is coming soon, are we shining as lights for him? Do our lives convict unbelievers, or do we laugh with them when they joke about sin?
Arise from the dead, you church, be reflections of the light of Christ. We are like a prism that refracts light and breaks it into vibrant colors, so let your behavior—your ethics—simply be Christ’s white light passed through your prism and applied in many colors to people in this dark world.
Horatius Bonar wrote:
I heard the voice of Jesus say,
“I am this dark world’s light;
Look unto Me, thy morn shall rise,
And all thy day be bright.”
I looked to Jesus, and I found
In Him my star, my sun;
And in that light of life I’ll walk,
Till traveling days are done,
(John F. MacArthur Jr., Ephesians, MacArthur New Testament Commentary [Chicago: Moody Press, 1986], 214)