“God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.”1 John 1:5
The theme of light and darkness fills the Scriptures. All that is good and right is called light, and all that is sinful and evil is called darkness. Jesus came to draw us out of the darkness and into the light with him. We are called to walk in the light with him, and let his light shine through us to a dark world.
Ephesians 5:3-14 addresses our call to walk in light, and it begins with a warning about not falling into sinful practices.
“But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. 4 Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. 5 For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.Ephesians 5:3-6
If we are to walk in the light with God, we must avoid the sinful practices of this world. These verses mention four sins specifically:
- Sexual Immorality: The word in Greek is porneia, where we get our word pornography. In the pagan society of the day, sexual ethics just meant that the strong could do anything they wanted to the weak. Christianity revolutionized sexual practices by maintaining that any sex act is illicit if it is outside the life-long, covenant marriage between a man and a woman. This stance revolutionized the dignity of women, children, and marriage.
- Obscene Language: Not using obscene language is not as simple as just a list of forbidden words. It means any foul language, crude joking, or filthy innuendos meant to put others down or degrade things that God considers sacred. Instead, we should express gratitude and “give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29).
- Coveting: Coveting means that you are jealous for what others have that you don’t. The greedy longing for money, wealth, or possessions has devastating effects.
- Idolatry: Idolatry is an extension of coveting. It is worshiping, centering your life, and giving your allegiance to something other than God.
Each of these practices have a detrimental impact on our relationship with God and others. Verse 3 says that an immoral lifestyle should not be practiced among the saints of God, not even given our approval, named, or hinted at. We need to guard ourselves, so that we do not become desensitized to sin or hardened to its effects.
The hard truth is that those who get sucked into a sinful, worldly, empty life like this do not belong to Christ and have no lasting inheritance in God’s kingdom (vs. 5). They are “sons of disobedience” – those born in disobedience, living in disobedience, who never come into God’s Kingdom – will face the wrath of God (vs. 6). And so the call for us as Christians is to not partake in the sins of the world.
“Therefore do not become partners with them; 8 for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light 9 (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), 10 and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. 13 But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, 14 for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”Ephesians 5:7-14
To walk in the light means that we do not partner with those outside of Christ (vs. 7). This doesn’t mean we avoid contact or connection with unbelievers, but we avoid partnering with them in their sin. As with all things, we should follow the example of Jesus who loved sinners, ate with them, befriended them – and spoke truth to them, calling them to repentance and trust in God – all the while never partaking with them in their sin.
We must never forget that we were once living in the darkness outside of God, but we have been rescued and transferred into the Kingdom of light (vs. 8). Remembering that should help keep us from stumbling back into the darkness.
What is it like to live in the dark? You can’t see. You don’t know where you are going. The darkness can’t sustain life. There is no warmth or growth. But in the light is life! Jesus 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).
And so, walk as children of light. The fruit of the light results in all that is good, right, and true (vs. 8-9)! We’re called to carefully test and learn what is pleasing to the Lord (vs. 10). While there are clear standards of right and wrong, the nuances of the Christian life in the messiness of the world and complexity of relationships requires discernment!
We are called to walk in God’s light in a way that pleases him, because this honors God, and it brings you abundant life. Instead of participating in the fruitless works of darkness – we are to expose the darkness, uncover how fruitless, dangerous, unfulfilling, and destructive life in the darkness is (vs. 11). The darkness is so toxic, it’s disgraceful even to talk about the secret things hidden in the dark shadows (vs. 12). Why would we want to validate, highlight, or promote things that are harmful and dishonoring?
What does it mean to expose the darkness? Do not gossip about it, or judge those no better off than you would be apart from Christ. We don’t expose darkness by slandering people, or being critical of those caught in sin, or railing in anger. You expose spiritual darkness the same way you expose darkness in a room – as Jesus said, “let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).
We expose the darkness by living in the light, speaking the light, sharing the light, letting the light of Christ shine through you to others. We imitate God by loving those in need and speaking the truth of God’s Word.
When the light of Christ – and his goodness and righteousness – shines into the darkness, things become visible (vs. 13)! This is what happened in our lives when the Holy Spirit whispered in our ear – or shouted – “Wake up sleepy head! Get up from the dead and Christ will shine on you” (vs. 14)! This is what we do for others when we live and speak as lights to the world! They too are raised to new life with Christ!
“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you.”Isaiah 60:1
Note: This blog is a follow-up to the message preached from Ephesians 5 on 5/28/23 entitled Walk in Love.