Dear fellow saints in the church of Jesus Christ,
The apostle Paul sent the letter we are studying to the church that was instituted in the city of Ephesus. He gives these saints in the church there specific instruction about the church and their place in it. He set forth for them the beautiful truth of the church of Christ and how these saints have become members of that church.
Because this is a letter written to a particular church or congregation, we can apply it to the church of which we are members. We can apply it also to ourselves as members of that church. What Christ, through Paul, writes to the Ephesian church and the saints there, He writes to you and me.
In our last broadcast we considered the relationship of one member of the church to other members—how we are to deal with each other within the confines of the church. We were commanded to put all bitterness, aggravation, wrath, anger, arguing, and evil-speaking away from us. Then we were commanded to replace this with kindness, tender-heartedness, and forgiveness. This is how believers are called to deal with one another. It is true that we are to deal with everyone in this way, but the injunction we considered last time was given to members and their dealings with other members in the church institute.
Now Paul has passed on from the several exhortations he has given us in this regard. Starting in verse 3 of chapter 5 Paul gives us instruction in how we are to deal with those who are outside of the church, when they still walk in unbelief and sin. In verses 3-6 the command is very clear. The sins of the wicked society in which we live must not be named among us as become saints. Notice, Paul writes:
But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks. For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.
Then we receive this clear and unequivocal command of verse 7: “Be not ye therefore partakers with them.” These are the sins of the world. These are the sins that characterize unbelievers, those who have no fear of God. We are children of the light. It is this positive instruction, found in verse 8, that we wish to consider today in our broadcast. We read there in verse 8:
For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light.
That is the admonition the members of the church, believers, receive in this passage, and that is what we study today: Walk as children of the light.
Light versus darkness. This is the best possible picture Paul can use to illustrate the spiritual difference between the believer and the unbeliever. It is either light or darkness, day or night. These are opposites. We read in verse 8: “Ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light.” At one time we were darkness, but now we are light.
By pointing this out to us, God’s Word here forces you and me to examine ourselves, that is, examine what we have experienced in our own lives. We know the difference between light and darkness because we were at one time darkness but now we are light. God has changed our spiritual darkness to light. We know how terrible and how horrible the darkness of sin was in our lives, do we not? We also know what God has done for us in saving us from such darkness.
You see, spiritual darkness refers to the condition of our hearts and minds prior to our salvation. It refers to the bondage of our will to sin and Satan. Everything that we desired was enslaved to sin. Darkness refers to our depravity, our corruption. There was no light in us. We were blind, unable to see the glory of God or the horrible reality of sin in our lives. And we were unable to see the beauty of the cross. Things of the kingdom of God were hidden from us. Our desires were entirely worldly. We wanted nothing more than what this present sinful world had to offer.
And when we were told about the kingdom of God, about sin and the need of salvation in Christ, we, in the total darkness of our heart and mind, imagined that we were good enough in ourselves and really did not need salvation. All this because there was no fear of God before our eyes. Everything was dark. Everything was blackness.
But the darkness that Paul speaks of here in this passage includes more. It includes the punishment of sin that was due us on account of such sin. We sit in the darkness. We sit in the shadow of death. Because of our sin we are liable to punishment. And the punishment that is due us is that we be cast into outer darkness, the outer darkness of hell, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. Sin is rebellion against God, and God does not suffer such rebellion to go unpunished. That, too, then, is a part of the darkness that we were subject to when we were walking in sin.
But such darkness was dispelled. What was true of us then is no longer true of us now. We are now children of the light. The darkness of soul, the bondage of sin that totally enveloped our hearts in a shroud of night, has been driven away. We were not able to drive it away ourselves. But we who sat in the shadow of death have seen a great light. It was the light of God’s grace as it now shines in our hearts.
But before we consider just how it is that we have come to have light in the place of darkness, consider first your heart. What do you see in it? Is it light? Or is it darkness? Do you know from what you have been delivered? Can we reflect back on how horrible sin is and in what a terrible condition such sin left us? Are we able to see the light of God’s countenance in us dispelling that night? Only as we can look back in disdain and horror at the darkness of such sin will we be able to appreciate that we are now children of the light. We now are given light to see that ours is a new life, a life that is filled with the peace of God and understanding.
That light, quite obviously, is not in everybody; in fact, it is not in most people. Fallen man may have the light of nature, that is, he may have the gifts of reasoning and desiring, but these are totally polluted with sin. The light that Paul speaks of here is a spiritual light that belongs to those in whom God has worked salvation. Notice what Paul teaches us in our text here: “Now are ye light in the Lord.” Only when we are in Christ, that is, grafted into Him by a true and living faith, have we become light. Only when we are in Christ and have been made partakers of His light and life can we become children of the light. Christ suffered and died on the cross in order that the corruption, the darkness of sin and the guilt of sin, may be taken away. As Christ hung upon the accursed tree, upon Him were laid all our sin and guilt. He bore these on the cross. He carried them with Him as He suffered hell. In doing so, He conquered our sin. He as our Lord set us free from the shackles of sin and its bondage. Christ took away our darkness.
What is more, Christ as our Lord fought against our enemies and conquered the hold that they had on us. He faced Satan and He ruined Satan’s grasp on us. Having then fought the battle, our Lord rose again from the dead, and in so doing sealed our pardon from sin. He took away our guilt and the punishment due us on account of sin. Christ took away our death and He thus removed our darkness and has given us light.
That life and light our Lord bestows on each one of His people, on every believer, by means of the work of the Spirit in our hearts. The life of Christ now dwells in us because the Spirit lives in us. Through the Spirit, we are given eyes to see and hearts to understand the things of the kingdom of heaven. It is that life of Christ in us that lightens our hearts and minds. The light of salvation has shined and has made us children of the light.
Children of the light. We, through the blood of Christ, have now become God’s adopted children. Since God is light, and in Him is no darkness; since Christ is the light sent into this world to lighten the hearts of every believer, we are now adopted to be children of the light. That is the message of the gospel to us today. That is the good news. If you are still in darkness, then the call of the gospel is loud and clear: Repent and believe. Only at the cross is found the light of salvation.
The figure of light and darkness before us presents us with another truth that we may not ignore. A light shines. It sends forth rays of light that dispel the darkness. These rays of light must be evident in children of the light. In other words, we are called to live in the light. Salvation must shine forth in our works. These works stand in contrast to the works of darkness. Paul speaks of the unfruitful works of darkness in verse 11 of this chapter. These works refer to what wicked, unbelieving man does according to his view of this world and his life in it. It is all darkness. What the wicked world teaches us concerning social and moral issues through education, art, and especially its media (that is, television and song and books) is all darkness. What the unbelieving world has to say about single life; about dating, marriage, and sex; about the role of husband and wife in marriage; about having children and raising children; and much more—it is all darkness.
But opposed to these works of darkness there are also the deeds of light that ought now to reveal themselves in the life of the redeemed child of God. These deeds are the fruits of the Spirit in us. They are deeds that flow forth out of lives that are now dedicated to serving God. They are deeds that follow strictly the Ten Commandments and other injunctions of God’s Word.
The Word. Ah, that is the key to the light that is within the child of God. The light in the child of God is the light of God’s Word. That is the objective guide according to which we live our lives in this dark world. We are able to overcome the unfruitful works of darkness by walking by the Spirit and Word. Everything that we may have learned about this world and life in it we evaluate according to God’s Word and through the Spirit. God’s Word and Spirit change us radically, so that we view life so much differently now. The way we view single life. The way we view marriage, sex, children, our place in the church, our place in society—it is all changed. And it is all revamped according to the Scriptures. And the result is that we bring forth fruits of the Spirit and we walk in the light.
But the command to walk in the light is easier said than done, is it not? You see, we carry with us vestiges, leftovers, of sin. We have a sinful flesh and we are prone, by nature, to listen to what the dark world teaches us about life. We allow the wicked sometimes to shape, at least to a certain extent, our world-and-life view. Of course, we are children of our society and world. The unbelieving world likes to pass off bad as good and good as bad. Those who promote sinful behavior are adept at this sort of thing. And we are prone, by nature, to give in. We are so disposed to listen, it seems, to society. Drunkenness—it’s harmless fun. Fornication—it’s necessary in order to get to know someone. The philosophy about having children (or not having children) and raising children is totally worldly. We are in an unbelieving society, and that unbelieving society pounds on these issues. It is always in our faces. Our sinful flesh hears of it so much that we begin to believe that what is said by society, by fallen man, is true. Thus the command, the urgent command, that we receive in this Word of God: “Walk in the dark world as children of the light.”
No person needs a command to walk in this world. Everyone is walking, believer and unbeliever alike. The term “walk” makes reference to the way one conducts himself as he walks through this present life. This is why we can say that everyone walks. Everyone follows a certain path, a certain code of conduct, in this life as he lives. The path each individual walks varies much from one individual to the next. Your life and my life vary so much given the different places: where we were born, or the families into which we were born. Well, we are called to walk—as children or young people or singles or married or elderly saint—in the light. Besides this, each of us walks a different path every day of our lives, do we not? We walk in our homes, our families; we walk in school; we walk in different places of labor. Our paths are constantly crossing one another’s, but then they lead us elsewhere once again.
The big concern of the Word of God before us here is this. Where we walk, we must walk as children of the light. That must be the one guiding principle of our lives in this world as we walk through this world. Walk as God’s children who have been given the light of their salvation. The decisions we are called to make, we make as children of the light. And the vocation I choose, the Word of God is my guide. Do I choose a job that will take me away from the church, from where the truth is preached? Do I take a job that will require of me Sabbath labor or put me in league with unbelievers? In the eyes of the world, of course, these questions do not even enter into the picture. But they do with me. Why? Because the law of God is written in my heart. It is the guiding principle of my life. I am a child who is the light. I will not date just anyone. I will not follow the godless methods and ways of recreational dating that are exercised in the world. When I marry, my marriage will be in the Lord. I believe children are a heritage of the Lord and the fruit of the womb is my reward. My view of children is so much different from that of unbelieving society. My view of raising those children is so much different—radically different—from those who despise God’s Word and commandments.
Now walk as children of the light. Let the Word of God dwell in you richly. Walk in the Spirit. Abandon those old patterns of life that characterized us in the past. That, too, according to this Word of God that we consider today, is our calling. What places do those who walk in darkness frequent? Where is their abode? Where do they enjoy themselves most often in their sin and unbelief? What places do they seek in order that they might be entertained? The media is teaching the sinful ideas of its darkness in its movies and songs, remember.
Here I am, a child of the light, an adopted child of God, who in His grace has loved me and changed my heart. Do I enjoy the pleasures of sin together with those that are lost in unbelief and darkness? Here I stand, outside the door of that place of entertainment. Would I step through a door that had a deep pit on the other side into which if I fell it would be to my hurt and destruction? Do I enter that door if I know there is darkness, spiritual darkness, on the other side of that door? Do I seek it out? Walk in the light. Say “no” to darkness in the path of life we choose as ours. And with purpose true walk down that path that leads us in the way of light.
God’s Word is so clear. The exhortations Paul gives in this chapter are clear. He writes the same to the Galatian church in Galatians 5:19-21. He writes there:
Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these: Adultery, fornication, uncleanness…drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
When we seek the darkness of this world, we are defying the clear teaching of God’s Word. If we do, it is because one of two things is true of us: Either we are such pitiful, weak Christians that we walk in darkness despite the clear testimony of God’s Word, or we simply are not children of the light (though we like to say that we are). By their fruits ye shall know them, Jesus says. Our works reveal that we are in fact children of darkness when we walk in these sins.
In either case, the command of the gospel is to turn from these wicked ways. “Turn ye, turn ye, for why will ye die?” To walk as children of the light is a twofold calling. On the one hand: hate evil, flee sin, walk in opposition to darkness. On the other hand: seek good, follow in the ways of God, keep God’s Word, and walk in the Spirit.
The result of walking in this twofold way will become evident. First, as God’s children we will say “no” to sin and evil. We will recognize the gulf between faith and unbelief and refuse to build bridges in our lives in order to cross over into the ways of the wicked. This is a conscious matter. The church and her members are light. The world is darkness. What concord does light have with darkness or faith with unbelief (II Cor. 6:14, 15)? So that, first of all, is the result of recognizing we are children of the light.
The second is this: we become witnesses to the light. We do not hide our light under a bushel. We set it on a candlestick, Jesus says, and it lightens the whole house. When we walk as children of the light, it reveals itself to others. Others see our walk of life and God uses it in their lives, too. God uses the godly witness of His children to bring others to the light. That ought to give the believer incentive to let his light so shine before men that they may glorify our God in heaven.
This little light of mine. I’m going to let it shine, let it shine, let it shine all the time. So goes the child’s hymn. And it is true. The true church is the light of the world. Walk as children of the light.
Let us pray.
Gracious and eternal Father, work in us by Thy Spirit the life of our Lord Jesus Christ. May that life of Christ within us be light unto our pathway in this world. May we walk, saying “no” to that which is sin and evil and walk in Thy ways and in Thy precepts, knowing that they are good and that they are right. May we be bold to do that. And where we have stumbled in the way of sin and darkness, we pray forgive us of those sins. We thank Thee for the justifying blood of our Savior Jesus Christ. In His name we pray, Amen.
Dear fellow saints in the church of Jesus Christ,