Ephesians 5:8-14 Live in the Light and Expose the Darkness

Ephesians 5:8-14

Live in the light and expose the darkness

Jesus is at the Feast of Tabernacles on the day after the nighttime ceremony called the Illumination of the Temple. John 7 and 8 record this encounter.

This event takes place in front of four large candelabra that were massively tall. These candelabra were fed with large bowls that were said to hold up to 65 liters of oil. Well-trained and fit priests would have to hoss replacement oil up to these reservoirs to keep the wicks of the candelabra lit.

This ceremony celebrates the LORD leading Israel from Egypt through their wilderness experience by a pillar of fire at night and the cloud in the day.

“Men of piety and good works used to dance before the candelabra with burning torches in their hands singing songs and praise and countless Levites played harps, lyres, cymbals and trumpets and instruments of music.”[1]

It’s in this setting after the ceremony celebrating the LORD’S leading and Jesus reminding some Pharisees about the Law regarding the woman caught in adultery that the Lord says, “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)

Ephesians 6:12 “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”

  1. The fall brought darkness and death, an eclipse of the way, the truth and the life
  2. Jesus, the light of the world, brought light and life
  3. Walking worthy involves walking in the light and exposing and rejecting

the curse of death and darkness

In Christ we are light v. 8a

“…for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord…”

Verse 8 is not disconnected from the previous passage. Rather it is a continuation of the thought in verse 7.

We are not to be partakers with those who don’t imitate God precisely because we are children of light not darkness.

We are God imitators not God haters.

Romans 13:12-14 “The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then, let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealously. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.”

  1. Our nature has changed “…at one time you were darkness, but now you are

light in the Lord…”

“Nature is mortal. We shall outlive her. When all the suns and nebulae have passed away, each one of you will still be alive. Nature is only the image, the symbol…we are summoned to pass in through nature beyond her to the splendor which she fitfully reflects.”[2]

Let me be clear. We are not THE light. That is Jesus.

However, because the light has come to dwell in us, we reflect that light that is shining due to his transformation of us into sons of God.

We are not gods.

We are humans, but as Moses shone with the glory of God, we too when filled with the glory of God, shine like the sun.

  1. 2 Peter 1:3-4 “His divine nature has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.”
  1. Matthew 13:43 “Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.”
  1. Because we are light, we have a great responsibility

The rest of the passage will unpack that great responsibility.

We are to live as children of light v. 8b-9

“Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true)…”

The result of living as children of light is: goodness, righteousness and truth.

Good – benevolent, virtuous, generous

Right – antonym of lawless; the essence of being righteous; conformity to the claims of a higher authority; integrity in all dealings with God and man

True – unveiled reality; showing something as it is; absence of falsehood

Goodness, righteousness and truth are the character of God displayed in the life of one imitating God.

  1. Benevolence and generosity should ooze out of followers of Christ
  2. Righteousness must be the behavior from the heart that the world sees
  3. Truth is what we go after in all things
  4. We are to make sure we don’t hide this light, but put it on display

(Matt 5:14-16)

We are to discern what pleases the Lord v. 10

“…and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.”

This freedom in the Lord carries great adventure.

Understand this is not a license to sin or to act in folly. We should submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

If we are in sin and our friends call us on it, we should be humble enough to accept their love as from the Lord, repent and move toward Christ.

If we are about to do something dumb and our friends correct our folly, we should listen as if this is coming from the Lord in his grace, don’t be stupid, and move toward wisdom.

But, we are to be actively following the Lord Jesus and seeking to hear and obey.

  1. Get quiet
  2. Place busyness in last place
  3. Listen for the Holy Spirit
  4. Have ears that hear
  5. Obey

We are to expose darkness not participate in it (fearlessly pray / fearlessly speak / fearlessly act) v. 11-12

“Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret.”

Darkness can properly be defined as any curse of the fall being lived out under the lie that it is good or any curse of the fall not good but being used as beneficial to the few who use that curse to their advantage and the destruction of others.

Disease flourishes in the dark.

Total darkness would bring death to the earth’s life.

In like fashion, spiritual darkness brings disease and death.

The problem with the fall is that it made darkness appear to be preferable.

The fallen world system prefers darkness to light. Fallen creatures prefer lies to the truth.

There is much in created order that needs attention and needs exposure to the light and redemption brought to the table.

Many Christians have a great passion for certain very good social causes.

“On popular issues like poverty and slavery, where Christians are likely applauded for our social action, we are quick to stand up and speak. Yet on controversial issues like homosexuality and abortion, where Christians are likely to be criticized for our involvement, we are content to sit down and stay quiet. It’s as if we’ve decided to pick and choose which social issues we’ll contest and which we’ll concede. And our picking and choosing normally revolves around what is most confortable – and least costly – for us in our culture.”[3]

  1. Poverty www.counterculturebook.com/poverty
  2. Abortion www.counterculturebook.com/abortion
  3. Orphans and Widows www.counterculturebook.com/orphansandwidows
  4. Sex Slavery www.counterculturebook.com/sexslavery
  5. Marriage www.counterculutrebook.com/marriage
  6. Sexual Morality www.counterculturebook.com/sexualmorality
  7. Ethnicity www.counterculturebook.com/ethnicity
  8. Religious Liberty www.counterculturebook.com/religiousliberty
  9. UPG’s www.counterculturebook.com/unreached

Slumbering believers must awake to the mission v. 13-14

“But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, ‘Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”

“14b appears to be a Christian baptismal hymn (repeated by the candidate as they came up from the water)[4], drawing on Is. 26:19 and 60:1–2. It is added not to justify v 14a, but to sum up the whole call (2–14) to leave behind the realm of darkness and death.”[5]

For me, the meaning and application of this passage was not so clear. Is it speaking to unbelievers in the Ephesian church? Is it speaking to believers? Is it speaking to believers who are waning in their zeal and appear to be more dark than light?

I believe it’s the later.

Whatever the origin of these words, it appears that some who are light in the Lord need to be reminded that they are light in the Lord and begin walking worthy.

This is, perhaps, the occasion for the writing of Ephesians.

Paul is writing to shake them from their slumber by reminding them who they are, whose they are by the working of the gospel, and how to walk worthy of their calling in Christ.

It is a fact that Christians can be snoozing spiritually and not know it. Comfort does this to us. This is why the Lord will sometimes graciously allow difficulty. Difficulty has a grace in it that shakes us from slumber to alertness.

It is possible to be a slumbering light even though well regarded by others.

It is possible to be asleep while looking like one is awake (just be for the right political party or cheer for the right socially acceptable cause).

It is possible to pray while asleep just mouthing the same words others have mouthed. In other words, your prayer life is nothing other than what you hear others pray. There is not personal walk with the Lord and dialogue with the Lord.

It is possible to sing a song without being awake to the words.

It is possible to lead a ministry without knowing or caring for the end for which you are leading it (exaltation of King Jesus as the king, the establishing of his kingdom/rule through the overthrow of the rule of darkness through breaking the curse).

It is possible to live a dreamy life of unreality in the netherland of inaction.[6]

We must all be on mission and not just hanging out and happy to be here.

  1. We have the keys of the kingdom and can expose darkness(Matthew 16:19; Matthew 18:18)
  2. We have the authority to bind up sin (Matthew 18:18)
  3. We have the authority to preach the gospel (Matthew 16:9)
  4. We have the authority to conduct spiritual war (Jesus promises to

be there causing his kingdom to advance when we obey him)

We must be worshipers

Psalm 147:1 “Praise the Lord! For it is good to sing praises to our God; for it is pleasant, and a song of praise is fitting.”

[1] Herbert Danby, trans., The Mishnah (London: Oxford University Press, 1974), p. 180, Sukkah 5:2-3.

[2] C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1965), p. 374.

[3] David Platt, Counter Culture, (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House, 2015), p. 46.

[4] Parenthesis min

[5] D. A. Carson et al., eds., New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition, 4th ed. (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994), 1241.

[6] C.H. Spurgeon, The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, vol. 12 (Pasadena, TX: Pilgrim Publications, 1973), pp. 578, 579, provides the homiletical ideas regarding sleeping while appearing awake.

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