Confront them with the Gospel Page 2 of 3 (series: Lessons on Ephesians)

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

11 And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.

Verse 11 is not a suggestion—it is a positive and direct command: “HAVE NO FELLOWSHIP WITH THE UNFRUITFUL WORKS OF DARKNESS, BUT RATHER REPROVE THEM.”{4] We are not to fellowship with the enemies of Jesus Christ. Born again Christians are not to fellowship with the lust of the flesh and the ungodliness of the world. Fellowship with the world is spiritual adultery against God. We are not to fellowship with liberals, modernists, haters of God, and deniers of the faith. But the Christian life is not merely a matter of darkness-avoidance. It includes darkness-exposure. One cannot be light without exposing the darkness. Christians do not, as it were, switch on the light when necessary; they are light and are to let their light shine (Matthew 5:16{2]). We are Christ’s. It is not enough to stay away from them—but we are to “REPROVE THEM.” Thus, the third responsibility of the children of light is to “REPROVE THE UNFRUITFUL WORKS OF DARKNESS” (5:11-14). Such works are “UNFRUITFUL” because they produce no goodness, give no satisfaction and joy (5:9). The best way to discredit the “WORKS OF DARKNESS” is to expose them, to turn the light upon them and show that they are unfruitful and belong to the darkness. It is not enough merely to withdraw, to “HAVE NO FELLOWSHIP WITH” them. The light of believers must blaze out into the darkness and be a constant condemnation of the darkness. As a born again Christian, it is not enough for me to abstain from the appearance of evil—I must expose it and speak out against it. The light exposes that which is evil. The best way to rid the world of any evil is to drag it into the light. So long as the thing is being done in secret, it goes on; but when it is taken into the light of day, it dies a natural death. The surest way to cleanse the depths of our own hearts and the practices of any society in which we happen to be involved is to expose them to the light of Christ.

It is not enough that I stay out of bars, nightclubs and dance halls, it is not enough that I refuse to embrace liberalism and modernism and stay away from them; but as a minister of the gospel I must REPROVE THEM, I must speak out against them and warn people. I would not be at all surprised if through these lines I am not speaking to someone who is truly born again and yet you are supporting a liberal or modernist . . . a man who uses some of the modern translations of the Bible which soft-peddle the virgin birth, deny the blood, declare the Fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man. You should not support any person unless he declares the truth and the doctrine of Christ . . . and if you do support such a person you are guilty of his evil deeds. You are not to invite a liberal, modernist, false religionist or member of a cult into your home. If you do invite them into your house and bid them Godspeed you are guilty of aiding and comforting the enemies of Jesus Christ. “HAVE NO FELLOWSHIP WITH THE UNFRUITFUL WORKS OF DARKNESS” is a command . . . it is not a suggestion!

12 For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret.

It is hard to tell precisely what Paul means by “THOSE THINGS WHICH ARE DONE OF THEM IN SECRET” and which are almost unmentionable. Perhaps he is talking about some religious groups which secretly practiced unholy rituals. What he does say (5:13) is that exposure to the light is the best remedy against such deeds of darkness (see John 3:20{3]). It is shameful to even talk about the things that are “DONE IN SECRET”—sensual sins of the flesh. They are so unspeakably bad, that the Christian has no other recourse, but to “reprove” them; the works of darkness.

But what does darkness-exposure involve? Those who shine as light in the world by definition do not share in the darkness. The way they live exposes the darkness with its secret and shameful deeds. The word combination here is striking. Paul understands that by definition unbelievers live in the darkness. They have secrets that, if brought to the light, will be seen for what they really are. When anything becomes visible, the truth about it is exposed by the light. Think of someone taking a garment outside the store in order to see its “true colors” under natural rather than artificial light. In the same way, the light of the lives of saints shows up the sin around them in its true colors.

How daunting, yet also encouraging, this teaching is. It is daunting—because Paul indicates that our lives shed more light than we realize and leads to reactions and responses we might never anticipate. Sometimes these are deeply hostile, like the tantrum of a child when it’s ignored. But the apostle’s teaching is also encouraging—because it is what we are in Christ (not only what we do) that shines as light in the darkness. We have no interest in talking about the shameful thoughts, desires, and deeds associated with sin. Those who live in the light have better things to talk about, think about, and to enjoy!

13 But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light: for whatsoever doth make manifest is light

“ALL THINGS THAT ARE REPROVED ARE MADE MANIFEST BY THE LIGHT.” In other words, if we are born again, the Holy Ghost will show us the things that are right and the things that are wrong. He will lead us into the paths of righteousness; He will lead us around the cesspools and pitfalls of the lust of sin and the world. If we walk in the LIGHT; we will not fulfill the desires of the flesh and of the mind. We must be led by the Spirit or we cannot overcome the world.

The meaning of the first part of the verse is reasonably clear, that under the action of light there can be no secrecy. We may imagine a searchlight picking out in its beams some sinister object and revealing it in its stark ugliness. But in the last part of the verse the expression “FOR WHATSOEVER DOTH MAKE MANIFEST IS LIGHT,” has puzzled interpreters. It has been translated in various ways, but it offers still another reason for reproving the deeds of darkness. The idea seems to be the transforming power of LIGHT; you are light, and light is that which MAKES MANIFEST; your responsibility is to reprove the deeds of darkness. So the affect of Christian goodness on a pagan society will be first to shame and then to purify it. LIGHT has in itself a cleansing quality. In our own generation we know that many diseases have been conquered simply by letting the sunlight in. The LIGHT of Christ is like that. We must never think of the life of Christ as only condemnatory; it is a healing thing too.

Paul had seen this principle of evangelism at work in his own life. In the Acts of the Apostles his conversion is set within the context of the courageous witness of Stephen. But behind the account of Stephen’s trial and death lies an almost unnoticeable fact. He and Saul almost certainly belonged to the same Jewish synagogue group (Acts 6:9{5]), and indeed to the same generation.

The young Saul of Tarsus—who strived so earnestly to cause others to excel in everything he did (Philippians 3:4-6{6])—had probably witnessed the transformation of Stephen’s life. He had certainly heard Stephen speak about Christ. Perhaps he found it impossible to contradict the power and reality of what he heard and Saw (Acts 6:10{7]). Stephen was like LIGHT: Luke comments that “his face was like the face of an angel” (Acts 6:15{8]). Saul must have felt himself exposed, even if he could not articulate exactly why. He reacted in fury, like an infant screaming because it does not get its own desires met and knows no other way to express itself.

So that is how it often is. We should never forget that as we live our lives as LIGHT in the world. Quiet and consistent godliness can provoke deep anger and hostility. It is “hard to kick against the goads” (Acts 26:14{9])!

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