Confront them with the Gospel Page 1 of 3 (series: Lessons on Ephesians)

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

Commentary on the Book of Ephesians
By: Tom Lowe Date: 11/8/17

Lesson 22: Confront them with the Gospel (Ephesians 5:8-14)

Ephesians 5:8-14 (KJV)
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.

Paul’s readers are urgently instructed not to become partners in sin with those upon whom the wrath of God must inevitably fall. If they recoil from partnership in their punishment, let them also recoil from partnership in their sins.

In this passage, we are told of yet another way in which we are to imitate God—we are to be “light.” Once the believers were “darkness,” but now they were “light in the Lord.”

8 For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light:

According to these words dictated by the Holy Spirit and written down by the Apostle Paul, it is utterly impossible for any person to be saved and not know it. Sinners are darkness . . . they are blacked out, they are in the dark. In their unconverted state, ignorance and sin had so penetrated their being that they were not merely in the dark; they were the very embodiment of darkness. Conversely, in their converted state the light of the gospel had so penetrated them that they were themselves light. In them the light had become visible and was the dominant trait of their character. The meaning of the verse is brought out in its contrasts—“SOMETIMES” (better, “once”) and “NOW”; “DARKNESS” and “LIGHT.” The emphasis however rests upon the word “WERE,” which in the Greek is the first word of its clause. To say that the readers were DARKNESS is to imply that deeds of darkness are now behind them. Such things are no longer in harmony with their character, and they must not revert to them.

To be IN THE LORD is to belong to a new world, to inhabit a new kingdom in which we become new men and women. In this new kingdom, new powers are at work in us—the powers of the Spirit of the crucified, risen, ascended, reigning and returning Christ. Once we were in the DARKNESS; what’s worse, the DARKNESS was in us—we were DARKNESS. Now we have been drawn into the LIGHT, illuminated and aided by Christ the LIGHT of the world. What’s more, we have been invaded and transformed by Christ the LIGHT. In the Lord we are LIGHT!

When we are saved we are transformed out of DARKNESS into LIGHT. To be converted from sin to salvation is just like walking out of a dark room into a room where a thousand-watt bulb is blazing light. It is impossible, to shut your eyes and open them and not know the difference, if you are in the sunlight at noontime. You can close your eyes, and it becomes dark; you open your eyes and it is light. “Sinners are in DARKNESS . . . Christians are in LIGHT.” When the Spirit comes in, we become the “CHILDREN OF LIGHT,” and we walk in the LIGHT. The Spirit substantiates the things that are acceptable unto God.

“LIGHT” is one of the great universal religious symbols which Christianity has appropriated, so that we talk of “seeing the light” (conversion). Christians “are light” because they live in the dawning of God’s new era, the Kingdom of God, and serve a Lord who is “the Light of the world.” Because they “are light” in that Lord, they must behave as “CHILDREN OF LIGHT.”

Three responsibilities are rooted in this concept of believers being “LIGHT IN THE LORD.” First, they are to “WALK AS CHILDREN OF LIGHT.” Their conduct must conform to that which is most essential in their character. The second responsibility is found in verse nine and the third in verses 11-14.

9 (For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;)

The parenthesis of verse nine explains that such light is to be known by its moral fruit. In other words, truly converted people must manifest GOODNESS, AND RIGHTEOUSNESS, AND TRUTH in their lives. This is the second responsibility of believers: they are to produce “THE FRUIT OF THE LIGHT” (Spirit).

Those who are light in the Lord are to produce the FRUIT of the light. This fruit is defined as “GOODNESS AND RIGHTEOUSNESS AND TRUTH.” They may be called the basic qualities that mark life in the light. The Greek word translated as “GOODNESS” stresses kindliness and benevolence, a certain generosity of spirit that makes one want to help others. “RIGHTEOUSNESS” is regard for the rights of others, giving both to men and to God that which is their due. “TRUTH” is not in New Testament thought simply an intellectual thing to be grasped with the mind; it is moral truth, not only something to be known but something to be done, and it concerns not only what is spoken; it is truth of idea, sincerity, and straightforwardness. The light switch Christ brings makes us useful citizens of this world; it makes us men and women who never fail to do our duty, human or divine; it makes us strong and able to do that which we know is true.

This is so important that I must say it again, “light produces FRUIT!” As the light of Christ shines on our lives it transforms us. Natural growth in the botanical and horticultural realm depends on a variety of influences: soil, rain, sun. Without this combination there will be no growth. The same can be said of the Christian. Growth is produced by God’s multi-dimensional activities—through His working in providence, for example. But always His light is needed—light that illuminates our understanding; light from His Word that banishes the darkness in our thinking, willing, and feeling; light that reproduces itself in us as “naturally” as FRUIT growing on a tree—FRUIT that is “good and right and true.”

In a sense Paul is simply summarizing what he had earlier written to the Galatians about the “FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT” (Galatians 5:22-23{1]). The gospel produces transformed character whose distinguishing mark is the through-and-through graciousness which comes from living in the company of the Light of the world.

As Christ illuminates our lives the darkness that remains in us is exposed and banished. Yes, there will be struggle, pain, and failure on the way. But Paul’s point is that these qualities are not ‘worked up’ by us, by our strenuous efforts to be morally upright. Rather in and through the struggle, the light of grace is being reflected in our lives, from within.

10 Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord.

So Paul is saying walk as children of the light . . . discerning what is pleasing to the Lord. The light enables us to discriminate between that which is well-pleasing and that which is not pleasing to God. It is in the light of Christ that all motives and all actions must be tested. It is the Christian’s duty to expose every action, every decision, and every motive to the light of Christ.

Here Paul gives us a helpful directive on the subject of guidance. How do I discover the will of God with respect to my life? The answer is: Discover what pleases Him.

How do we do that? God has already shown us what pleases Him—in the life and ministry and obedience of our Lord. He has told us what pleases him—in His Word, the Holy Scriptures. The life of discernment is, therefore, a Word-focused and Word-directed life, which develops a Word-saturated mind.

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