8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10 and find out what pleases the Lord. 11 Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. 12 It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. 13 But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. 14 This is why it is said:
“Wake up, sleeper,
rise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”
(Ephesians 5:8-14 NIV)
Paul continues with his practical contrast of living for Christ vs. living for self. Today, Paul uses the natural analogy of darkness and light to make his point.
As we examine today’s text, we need to keep in mind a couple of vital facts that help us understand Paul’s message for us today:
- Darkness is not a “thing” in and of itself; it is simply the absence of light. Writers love to make darkness sound like something, giving it power and authority. But that power only exists in our minds. The smallest amount of light immediately dispels the darkness around us.
- Darkness and light are often used as symbols in Scripture, to teach us. Intellectually, light refers to truth. Morally, light refers to holiness. So darkness, then is the absence of truth, which is ignorance, and the absence of holiness, which is evil.
So what is he source of this light? In verse 8, Paul says we are now light in the Lord. He is the light that shines through us. Jesus said it Himself, about Himself:
When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
(John 8:12 NIV)
Paul tells us that the outcome, the results, the fruit of living in the light is goodness, righteousness, and truth. When we take out Paul’s parenthetical remarks, he tells us that as we live as children of light, we find out what pleases the Lord.
Paul goes on to tell us that we are to have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness. In fact, Paul tells us to expose them. How do we do that? Do we run around condemning others, like’s God’s little tattletales? God knows what is going on – he does not need us to inform Him. So how do we expose them? By shedding God’s light on the darkness.
This all sounds well and good, but know that the light is not always welcome. In fact, most of the time it is not.
In John chapter 3, Jesus was meeting Nicodemus at night (in the darkness), to learn about the Light of the World. After John records the event, listen to his summary:
19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.
(John 3:19-21 NIV)
Paul closes this this paragraph by quoting a passage familiar to his readers – Isaiah 60:1. As he quotes this prophecy of Christ, Paul substitutes Christ’s name in place of God’s name, indicating that this prophecy has been fulfilled in Christ.
As we close our thoughts today, may John’s words echo Paul’s admonition to us to live in the light of Christ:
5 This is the message we have heard from Him and declare to you: God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we claim to have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.
(1 John 1:5-7 NIV)