Ephesians 5:6-14

 “Let no one deceive you with empty arguments, for God’s wrath is coming on the disobedient because of these things. Therefore, do not become their partners. For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light— for the fruit of the light consists of all goodness, righteousness, and truth—testing what is pleasing to the Lord. Don’t participate in the fruitless works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what is done by them in secret. Everything exposed by the light is made visible, for what makes everything visible is light. Therefore it is said:

Get up, sleeper, and rise up from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”

In my last blog post, I diverted from our study of Ephesians to focus on how Gnosticism has made its way into the church today. I used verse 6, where Paul talked about empty arguments. He was addressing the Gnosticism of his day. Let’s dive back in. Here, this comes right after verse 5, where he writes, “For know and recognize this: Every sexually immoral or impure or greedy person, who is an idolater, does not have an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.” The Gnostics argued that bodily sins could be committed without damaging the soul. In my last post I gave a definition of Gnosticism. They believed that the spirit was good and matter was evil. The body and soul were separate. You can do whatever you want with your body, because it is separate from the spirit. Paul is refuting that here. He is telling the church not to be deceived by these empty arguments.

What does it mean that God’s wrath is coming on the disobedient? Ray Stedman gave an excellent sermon on this over fifty years ago titled “New Morality or Ancient Foolishness?” It was a two-part sermon. The second part addressed this issue. He said we often misunderstand the term “the wrath of God.” He says we think of it as the end times, great judgement day wrath, but that is not what Paul is writing about. If we look at Romans 1, Paul writes, “For God’s wrath is revealed from heaven against all godlessness and unrighteousness of people who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth, since what can be known about God is evident among them, because God has shown it to them” (vs. 18-19). Paul goes on to describe what that looks like. “Therefore God delivered them over in the desires of their hearts to sexual impurity, so that their bodies were degraded among themselves. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served what has been created instead of the Creator, who is praised forever” (vs. 24-25). And lastly, he writes, “Although they know God’s just sentence—that those who practice such things deserve to die—they not only do them, but even applaud others who practice them” (vs. 32). Ray Stedman said in his sermon, “We live as part of a great bundle of life tied up together and what one generation does directly affects the generation that follows, and the one that follows that. To put it plainly as I can think to put it, the wrath of God is the animalizing of humanity, the brutalizing of our essential manliness or womanliness, and the disorientation of human personality which results.” He then goes on to describe the manifestations of this which are boredom, restlessness, a sense of emptiness, neurotic fears and anxieties, sudden urges to do violence or injury to others, among other things. The thing that struck me about this was how he talked about one generation directly affecting the next. Here we are, fifty years later, and we have seen these things grow exponentially.

Paul goes on to write that we are not to become their partners. He says, “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.” Notice that he does not say that we were in the dark. We were the dark. He wrote back in Ephesians 2:1-3 that we were dead in our sins. But now, we are light in the Lord. In Jonn 8:12, Jesus says, “I am the light of the world. Anyone who follows me will never walk in the darkness but will have the light of life.” Paul wrote in Chapter 2:4-5, “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of his great love that he had for us, made us alive with Christ even though we were dead in trespasses. You are saved by grace!” So now, here, he is saying that we were once darkness, but because we are alive with Christ, we are light.

Paul tells us we are to live as children of the light. He then goes on to say what that looks like. He uses the term here “fruit of the light.” He says it consists of goodness, righteousness, and truth. In his letter to the church at Galatia, he writes about the fruit of the spirit. The fruit he writes about here is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. He wrote to the Colossian church and prayed that they would bear fruit in every good work. Bearing fruit is an important part of the Christian life. Here in the letter to the church at Ephesus, he is emphasizing goodness, righteousness and truth.

He goes on to say that we are not to participate with the fruitless works of darkness, but instead we are to expose them. Jesus told his disciples that they were the light of the world. In Matthew 5:14-16, he said, ““You are the light of the world. A city situated on a hill cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket, but rather on a lampstand, and it gives light for all who are in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” By not participating in the works of darkness, but instead, by shining the light of goodness, righteousness, and truth, we expose the darkness. That is our job as Christians. The world is only going to get darker, so we must shine brighter. Our pastor (Pastor William Dunlap) at Summit Church, Buffalo is going through a sermon series right now called “You Are God’s Plan A (and there is no plan B)” based on a book by Dwight Robertson. It is our job to bring light to our world today. We are only jars of clay, but God uses imperfect people to shine his light to the world.

The last thing Paul writes in this section is most likely a worship chorus from the early church. “Get up, sleeper, and rise up from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”  He had already written earlier in the letter this: “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of his great love that he had for us, made us alive with Christ even though we were dead in trespasses. You are saved by grace! He also raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavens in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might display the immeasurable riches of his grace through his kindness to us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:4-7).  He is reminding us that we were once darkness, and are now light, we were once dead and now are alive because of Christ! And because of this, our lives should be dramatically different, as different as light is from dark.

Grace be with you!


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