What light Does
What Light Does
I Light Radiates (5:8–10)
A Convicting Distinction (5:8–14)
a. Where Light Radiates (5:8–10)
(1) It Brings a Change of Character (5:8)
“Ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light.”
As children of God we cannot be partners in immorality because there can be no fellowship between light and darkness. Light drives out the darkness. light refuses to coexist with darkness. Biblical morality is always a matter of black or white, light or darkness, truth or falsehood, good or bad, right or wrong. There are no shades of gray.
Paul recognized that once we walked in darkness. Some allowance perhaps can be made for the unsaved, but we are now children of light and there is no excuse for us to live immoral lives. Professing Christians who live immoral lives prove by their behavior that their professions of faith were spurious.
When I was conducting meetings in a small town in Iowa some time ago, the brother who took me back and forth to the airport shared his testimony with me. His story was that he attended an evangelistic service and although he did not understand what was happening to him, the Holy Spirit convicted him of sin. A few days later the pastor and the evangelist visited him, and his conviction grew. That night he and his girlfriend returned to the services being held at the church; he was drawn there by the new stirrings of God in his soul. When the invitation was given, he turned to his girlfriend and said, “I’m going forward. What about you? I’ve got to get this matter settled.”
The girl, who had been raised a Catholic, had come into contact with the gospel some months before. She had asked him at the time, “What does it mean when they say you have to be saved?”
His answer had been definite: “Don’t let it worry you. That’s just their idea. There’s nothing to it.” But now he knew there was something to it after all. “I’m going forward,” he said. “What about you?”
“I’m coming too,” she answered.
That night they both accepted Christ. They now had a new problem because they were living together as man and wife although they were not married. No one said anything to them about their situation, but the Holy Spirit did. They knew that they could no longer live in sin. For the time being they decided not to break up their living arrangement, but to use separate bedrooms. For a while they struggled with the complications of their situation.
“I began to devour the Bible,” he told me, “looking for some light on what we were doing. I was soon convinced that we could not go on living as we were.” They sought pastoral counseling, and within a week they were properly married in the sight of God and man.
When they were still in the darkness of their unregenerate state, they found it easy to come to terms with living in sin. But once they were saved, the indwelling Holy Spirit made such accommodation impossible. As children of light they knew instinctively from the inward voice of the Holy Spirit that living in sin was wholly incompatible with living for God.
(2) It Brings a Change of Conduct (5:9)
“The fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth.”
The phrase translated “fruit of the Spirit” here is sometimes translated “fruit of light.” Paul repeatedly emphasized light and the word “light” occurs five times in Ephesians 5:8–14. First John 1:5 tells us that “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.”
If we are “children of light” (Ephesians 5:8), we will display the characteristics of light. If we are children of God, we will display the character of God. That character will be evident to our fellow men through our conduct. God always acts according to His character. He is good, He is righteous, and He is true. Our conduct as Christians will reflect these moral qualities of goodness, righteousness, and truth. We will not habitually be bad, wrong, or false. The conduct of a Christian is the best evidence of his new birth and the best testimony to the unsaved of the regenerating power inherent in his new birth.
The English evangelist Tom Rees told a story about a man who was saved in one of his meetings. The new convert had been a terrible drunkard and a domestic tyrant. His craving for drink had reduced his family to abject poverty. Although he had a roaring, godless camaraderie with his workmates and drinking buddies, he abused his wife and neglected his home.
Then he met Christ. He immediately gave up alcohol. He became a loving husband, a good provider, and a tender father. His home showed evidence of the transformation the new birth had wrought. Food appeared on the table, his wife and children were warmly clothed, and new comforts were added to the home from time to time.
His drinking companions did not like the change. They missed the vile oaths, dirty stories, and ribald songs. They found themselves confronted by a stranger—a man who went to church, sang hymns, read his Bible, gave his testimony, worked hard, and refused to drink with them or waste time on the job. During his lunch hour this transformed man sat alone rather than listen to the filthy conversations of his former friends. He would read his Bible, and the sight of the Bible infuriated his workmates. They began to persecute him. They attacked the Bible and ridiculed him for being foolish enough to believe it.
One of them tackled him with a Scripture passage that is a favorite of those who drink. “Hey Bob,” he said, “how about that place in the Bible where Jesus was in somebody’s house and turned water into wine? That’s a pretty tall story, wouldn’t you say? You don’t believe that, do you?”
The converted drunkard had not been saved very long. He was not a skilled apologist, but his answer was classic. He said, “Fred, I don’t know anything about that. I can’t say if Christ turned water into wine in that house, but I know that He has changed beer into furniture in my house.”
Where light radiates, it brings a change of character and a change of conduct.
(3) It Brings a Change of Criterion (5:10)
“Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord.”
Is this behavior acceptable to the Lord? That question is the criterion for judging conduct. The criterion is not personal preference, and whether or not the world approves does not matter. The Christian judges conduct according to whether or not the Lord approves it.
It is not difficult to discover what is good, right, and true. All we have to do is stand for a few minutes alongside the Lord Jesus. We only have to read about how He lived, what He did, and what He permitted to be part of His life. From His first breath in the cradle to His last breath on the cross, He spent His life under the smile and approval of His Father in Heaven.
We complicate the problem of judging behavior by considering shades of gray. Nowadays psychology tempts us to make excuses, shift blame, explain away guilt, and wrap up unacceptable behavior in high-sounding phrases. But there are no shades of gray for the Christian whose supernatural life enables him to choose conduct pleasing to the Lord.
The Christian is equipped with this supernatural life by the supernatural experience called the new birth. He is empowered to live this supernatural life by the supernatural indwelling and filling of the Holy Spirit. He is supernaturally added to a fellowship of other supernaturally transformed individuals, who are joined together in a supernatural body known as the church. The church, which was supernaturally injected into history on the day of Pentecost, will be just as supernaturally ejected out of history at the rapture. The believer becomes a member of this mystical, supernatural body of Christ by yet another supernatural work of the Holy Spirit known as the baptism of the Spirit. There is nothing natural about being a Christian! His new life in Christ is supernatural from start to finish. It’s just as supernatural as the birth, life, miracles, teaching, character, death, burial, resurrection, ascension, enthronement, and second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The criterion for judging what is to be permitted in our lives is whether or not the conduct is acceptable to the Lord. That standard settles all the issues. It sweeps away all the befuddling, pettifogging compromises and excuses. When Christ is brought into the picture, the choices are clear.
b. What Light Repudiates (5:11–12)
(1) What Is Done in Darkness Is Not Something with Which We Can Compromise (5:11)
“Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.”
Instead of showing a spirit of genial tolerance toward the works of darkness, we are to take a firm stand against them. The Greek word translated “reprove” means “convict.” The classic New Testament example of reproof is the account of John the Baptist when he reproved Ring Herod for stealing Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, and for “all the evils which Herod had done” (Luke 3:19).
This particular Herod was Antipas, who ruled for forty-three years over Galilee and Perea, regions where both John and Jesus ministered. Antipas possessed all the vices of his terrible father, Herod the Great, and none of his father’s better qualities. Antipas is described as covetous, greedy, self-indulgent, utterly dissipated, and suspicious. He possessed the cunning of a fox; in the East such craftiness was usually considered good statesmanship.
Philip was the best of the sons of Herod the Great—the best of a bad lot. At one time it seemed as if Philip would be sole heir to his father’s domains. The old tyrant changed his will, however, leaving Philip wealthy but bereft of position and power.
This turn of events did not sit well with Philip’s unscrupulous and vicious wife. Herodias had married her half uncle Philip when his prospects were bright. So it little suited her pride and ambition that her husband would not sit on a throne.
Then Herod Antipas came to visit his half brother Philip in Jerusalem. At once Herodias saw her chance and began a sordid affair with Antipas. The pair agreed that when he came back from Rome, he would get rid of his wife and marry Herodias. Their adulterous marriage followed, and Antipas did not have to look far for trouble. Herodias became his curse and ruin.
John the Baptist boldly and publicly denounced Herod Antipas for what he had done. This rugged prophet refused to compromise with the unfruitful works of darkness. Safety dictated silence, but John spoke out. He reproved Herod for stealing his brother’s wife and accused him of breaking God’s law. For this firm stand, John earned the implacable hatred of Herodias, who schemed for ten months to bring about his death. In the end she succeeded in the terrible manner described in the Gospels.
Regardless of the consequences, we cannot compromise with what is done in darkness.
(2) What Is Done in Darkness Is Not Something about Which We Can Converse (5:12)
“It is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret.”
This is the day of talk shows on radio and television. Nothing is sacred. All aspects of sex are explored and aired with a blatant frankness that falls discordantly on sensitive ears. No matter how offensive the subject, the stations continue to spill it all out. People tell even the most intimate details and discuss them over the air waves.
Worse yet, shameful perversions are treated as a theme of entertainment, with the same brazen, pandering publicity. If they are not careful, Christians can be caught up in this so-called openness. The Holy Spirit, however, says that we should avoid talking about such evils. If we do talk about them, we are to speak against them. Certainly we are not to make such shameful topics the subject of casual conversation. The base and bestial practices of wicked people are not fit topics for the children of God to discuss glibly.
The word translated “shame” here is translated “filthy” in Titus 1:11. This word can also be translated as “deformed” or “ugly.” It is used in Ephesians 5:12 to underline behavior that is indecent and offensive to modesty and purity. People who practice such behavior are shameful, and so are those who talk about them.
c. Why Light Regenerates (5:13–14)
(1) The Work of the Spirit (5:13)
“All things that are reproved are made manifest by the light: for whatsoever doth make manifest is light.”
The word translated “reproved” here, elenchō, means “to convict, to bring in a verdict of guilty.” The Lord Jesus used this same word to describe the convicting work of the Holy Spirit in the human heart: “When he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment” (John 16:8).
The Holy Spirit brings secret works of darkness into the light. Most of us have at one time or another turned over a stone or a log and recoiled at the ugly creatures that make darkness their home and scurry away in terror when exposed to the light. It is a terrible fact that we all harbor sins in the dark recesses of our souls. They live and flourish there, multiplying and reveling in being unseen. But once we let the light shine in, once we let the Holy Spirit do His convicting work in our hearts, the hidden works of darkness will be exposed.
The book of Job tells us how this saint of God faced calamity, criticism, and conviction. We see him first in Satan’s hands, overwhelmed by disaster and yet retaining his integrity and faith in God. We see him next in men’s hands, being accused and scornfully criticized. His response to them was angry self-defense; in his last speech (Job 29–31) he referred to himself by personal pronoun no less than 195 times. Finally we see Job in God’s hands, abhorring himself. The man who had argued vehemently to justify himself when faced with criticism—and who in so doing exposed all the hidden and unsuspected bitterness, sarcasm, pride, anger, and self-righteousness of his soul—was repenting in dust and ashes.
Only the Holy Spirit can expose our sins to the light. When He does, we can see them for what they are—ugly beyond words.
(2) The Work of the Savior (5:14)
“Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.”
Light and life go together. Life craves light and cannot in its higher forms exist without light.
The phrase “shall give thee light” (another rendering would be “shall shine upon thee”) comes from the Greek word epiphauō, which occurs only here. It was a word used to describe the rising of the sun. In Ephesians 5:14 epiphauō means that Christ will “shine upon” the believer. The whole verse is a paraphrase of Isaiah 60:1–2.
The Christian has new light and new life. The new light chases away the darkness in which he once groveled. The new life replaces the deadness that once possessed him and held him in corruption and uncleanness. Just as Lazarus, coming forth from the death and darkness of the tomb, was glad to be relieved of his vile graveclothes, so the new Christian throws off with horror the conduct and conversation that characterized him before he came to Christ.
Imagine a surgeon wanting to keep on the gloves that he wore while performing an autopsy on a decaying corpse! Obviously the doctor would want to get rid of the contaminated gloves and scrub his hands in antiseptics. Likewise, the idea of a Christian still wanting to walk and talk as he did before he came to know the Savior is incongruous
II Light Repudiates (5:11–12)
Now the apostle explains why the Christian must have no complicity with moral corruption and must rebuke it. The vile sins which people commit in secret are so debased that it is shameful even to mention them, let alone commit them. The unnatural forms of sin which man has invented are so bad that even to describe them would defile the minds of those who listened. So the Christian is taught to refrain from even talking about them