“For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light.”
In this anniversary year of our Protestant Reformed Churches, we do well to reflect and take inventory of ourselves. What shall we say? Shall we glory or boast? Yes, but never in ourselves. We may certainly boast as we reflect upon the past and look ahead to the years that lie before us. Let us, however, in all humble gratitude, remember that the Lord has preserved us, only by His sovereign grace, so that we stand, as of this moment, exactly where we stood fifty years ago. It was only of the Lord’s mercies that we were not consumed.
How fitting is this Word of God! We have here the entire gospel. We have there the whole truth of our Heidelberg Catechism. We read, in this Word of God, of what we were, of what we have become and are, and also of what is our calling. It is these truths that we have not failed to emphasize. And all this was possible only because of the mercies of our covenant God, revealed in Jesus Christ, His Son, our Lord. Apart from Him we were and are darkness. It is only in Him that we became and are children of light. Let us, therefore, walk as children of light.
What a tremendous contrast! We were sometimes darkness! We are now children of light! And we are children of light only in the Lord! And as such children of light in the Lord we are called to walk.
The language of this Word of God is so simple. Any beginner in the Greek language can translate this text very soon after beginning his study of this language. There are, grammatically, no. problems here. Why? Does this simplicity of the text serve the truth of this Word of God? Is not the text all the more impressive because of its simplicity? We have, grammatically, no problems here. So, the grandeur of this Word of God stands before us in all its simple beauty. All we see here, in this Word of God, is the sublime truth of the Word of God!
And what a contrast! The contrast is between light and darkness, between the kingdom of God and of the Christ and that of the devil and of this world; the text speaks of God and of Man, of the flesh, of the world, of Satan and hell, of heaven and earth, of time and all the things of time, of eternity. “Ye were darkness”—that refers to the entire kingdom of sin and of the world; “Ye are light”—that refers to the kingdom of God and of Christ and of the light; “Ye are light in the Lord”—that completely shuts out man and ascribes all to God: “Walk as children of light”—that is your calling in the midst of the world.
We were darkness. What an annihilating, devastating judgment of the natural man, of what we are by nature! This is what we were, this is what the whole world is, as outside of Christ and His salvation. We were not merely darkened; or, we were not merely in darkness; but we were darkness. Darkness is estrangement from the light, from God, is death itself. Darkness is the expression of whatever is opposed to the light, is expressive of whatever is opposed to the good, to God, the absence of and opposition to the light. We were darkness. O, the text does not say that we sought it now and then, that we were misled, now and then, to forsake the light and to stumble in darkness. The text does not say that, besides all the light that is in us, we were also characterized by a dark, shadowy side which plagued us now and then. The judgment of God upon what you and I are by nature, and do by nature, upon all that the world is and always seeks and does and builds, is: darkness! The most beautiful, the most powerful, the most attractive, the most impressive of the world and of all mankind—it all falls beneath the one crushing, annihilating judgment of God, the Judge of all the earth: we were darkness!
And let us understand that this is by nature our being. We were darkness, or, by nature we are darkness! Our body and our soul—it is all darkness. Our blood and nerve-system, our head and hand, our eye and ear and mouth—it is all darkness! Darkness is our mind, our will, our desires, all the motives and stirrings of our soul, all the deep movements of our heart and reins—it is all darkness! The darkness is not simply around us, is not simply in us; we are darkness; this is our being. Our whole being is by nature darkness. And, of course, this also explains why all our works are by nature darkness. We may have appeared as children of light, as when we attend our church services, etc.; but, as far as we are concerned, it was all an act of darkness. In fact, even all the light that is in us, our natural light, we held under in unrighteousness. Fact is, we are darkness by nature, and how can the light ever shine out of the darkness?
This truth we have preached and taught during all the fifty years of our existence. Never have we deviated from this truth an iota. As churches we have been true to this fundamental aspect of the gospel of our God.
We are light. We can speak of light in more than one sense of the word. We can speak of physical light, the light of the physical eye, of natural light, the light of our understanding (we may be working on a problem and suddenly say: I see it); and we can also speak of spiritual light. Light is that movement, operation of God upon the nature of man, which is adapted to the service of God by virtue of its creation, whereby man turns unto the Lord in love and friendship, loves God and conducts himself in the midst of all things as the friend servant of Jehovah.
Light is not merely knowledge—then darkness would be merely ignorance. Light is spiritual, a spiritual movement of life which proceeds from the living God upon the nature or being of man which is adapted to His service.
God is the God of all light. Eternally He goes out to Himself as the Triune God, sees and knows Himself and has fellowship with Himself in the sphere of absolute goodness and perfection. And that we are light means that we see God, see Him spiritually, that we have fellowship with that living God, turn to Him and seek Him with all the love of our heart and mind and soul and strength.
Now we are light. This does not mean that we are now somewhat enlightened. This Word of God does not speak merely of a reformation, an improvement, a mere change in our character so that we were somewhat reformed and improved. This text speaks of a radical, an essential change. What occurred here was another birth, a new birth, a new nature, and in principle, completely new creature. We were darkness, and then there was no light in us; we are now light and, be it in principle, completely delivered from darkness. It is true that we are holy only in principle. However, the text speaks of the child of God, as he is born of God; and of that new creature it is true that we have become what we never had been before.
Only, we are light in the Lord. That we are light in the Lord certainly means that this salvation is not of us. Was this change from darkness into light perhaps our choice? Was it our free will, the exertion of all our powers which effected this change? Did we permit God to work this change in us? O, what a blasphemous, God-dishonoring, heinous conception this is, which would ascribe this tremendous, this mighty, this greatest work of divine grace to the choice of a miserable, wholly insignificant and helpless sinner! To this Arminian blasphemy we say: A thousand times NO!
We are light in the Lord! The Lord here is the Lord Jesus Christ, the Mediator of God and man, the Head of all God’s elect, ordained and qualified of God, and now exalted as Israel’s Lord, Israel’s great King, to lead them out of darkness into God’s marvelous light. We are light in the Lord; and this occurred, first of all, in the way of the cross, in the way of His broken body and shed blood. This passion of our Lord Jesus Christ is first, must be first. We must first be redeemed. God’s justice must be satisfied; our sins and guilt must first be paid. This darkness must lose its right to reign in us; life and glory everlasting must first be merited. And then we become light in the Lord. That we are light in the Lord means that this wonderful change occurs in fellowship, with Him. Our Lord Jesus Christ, by His irresistible grace and Spirit, calls us out of darkness into His light, regenerates us by the explosiveness of His grace, causes us to be reborn out of God, changes us from above, makes us children of light, unites us with Himself by a true and living faith.
What shall we say, as we now reflect at this moment of our history, also with respect to this aspect of the work of the God of our salvation? We shall say, in all humble gratitude, that also this we have preached and taught through all these fifty years. We have not deviated from this work of grace, not even an iota. We have been faithful to this truth of God’s particular and sovereign grace. We have indeed proclaimed that all salvation is exclusively of the Lord.
As children of the light we must walk as children of light. This is the third great truth set forth in this Word of God. This, too, we must not misunderstand. We must walk as children of light, not to become children of light, but because we are children of light. A son does not behave as a son in order to become a son. He surely conducts himself as such because he is a son. This is naturally true; this is also spiritually true. We must walk as children of light because we are children of light.
This is our urgent calling. The word “walk” refers to all our life’s manifestation, in the home and in the school and in the church and at work. This “walk” is the calling of all God’s people, young and old, husbands and wives, parents and children. How urgent is this calling! If we fail in this, do not reveal ourselves as children of light, then all our orthodoxy will be dead orthodoxy, lifeless, worthless; if this be true, individually, it were better had we never been born and had a millstone been hanged around our neck, and we had been cast into the bottom of the sea. And if we fail in this as churches, we will eventually perish.
So, walk as children of light. This is our confession. It is also our calling. This we can do only through prayer and in the light of God’s Word. May we, also and particularly as churches, dedicate ourselves anew knowing our past and always instructing our children in that past, let us resolve, by God’s grace, to rededicate ourselves to the truth that to God alone to live unto the glory of God’s Name. He called us out of darkness into His marvelous light, and this for the purpose that we may declare His praises, the praises of Him Who alone is worthy to receive all praise and adoration. Thankful to God for the past, belongs all the glory, now and forever.
We are saved only by grace, through faith, and that not of ourselves; it is the gift of God. To Him alone be the glory, now and forever.