Earlier in this chapter the apostle Paul exhorts the church of Ephesus to avoid the abominable sins of the pagan Gentile community. He mentions such sins as fornication, covetousness or greed, and obscene language. The apostle also warns the saints against being deceived with vain words so as to participate in these evils. He cites two reasons for this warning. The first is that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. The second reason is that to follow after the sins of the world is contrary to what they have become in Jesus Christ. They are no longer darkness but light in the Lord.
No more darkness but light in the Lord!
On this beautiful truth we will concentrate our attention in this meditation.
And there is much need for this. The society in which we live is essentially the same as it was for the Ephesian church. Also many are being deceived with vain words to partake of the corruption of our society. But remember what the end result is—exclusion from the kingdom of Christ and of God. And especially remember who you are in the Lord. You are no more darkness but light. Walk, therefore, as children of light.
A contrast is made here between light and darkness. We can view light and darkness on different levels. First, there is physical light (the light of the sun) and darkness (the absence of light). Secondly, there is natural (intellectual) light and darkness. In this sense, darkness is ignorance and lack of learning. Thus, we speak of the Middle Ages in history as the Dark Ages, a time characterized by a lack of education and learning. From this it follows that light is learning and knowledge. And so we speak of the Age of Enlightenment as characterized by a resurgence of learning. Finally, there is spiritual light and darkness. Viewed spiritually, darkness is sin and evil whereas light is goodness and perfection. According to I John 1:5, “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.” This means that God is pure perfection, absolute goodness.
When Paul speaks of light and darkness, he has reference to both the natural and the spiritual realms.
The Ephesians were one time darkness. That means that darkness had been their chief characteristic. They were darkness in that they had lived in ignorance. They had their roots in paganism so that they only had the revelation of God in nature. This gave them enough knowledge of God to leave them without excuse. They knew nothing of Jesus Christ and His salvation. About that they were in the dark. But, spiritually, they were darkness also in that they lived in abominable sin. In the darkness of unbelief they rejected the God of creation to serve idols. In the service of their idols they walked in every sin imaginable.
But now they were light in the Lord. The Ephesians had been enlightened by Jesus Christ, who is the Light of the world. Through the preaching of the gospel Jesus Christ had enlightened them about salvation in the cross. Jesus had also used the knowledge of the gospel to work faith in their hearts so that they embraced Him as their Savior and found His gracious salvation. And so, they were no longer darkness but light in the Lord.
Paul goes a step further to call them the children of light. A child is the offspring of another, who also bears the image of the one who fathered him. In like manner, the Ephesians were the children of light. The great Light (the living God whose light shines through His Son, Jesus Christ) had accomplished a new birth in them. Consequently, they were now the image of that great Light. They were the very image of God rather than of the prince of darkness.
What was true of the Ephesian saints is true of all who belong to Jesus Christ. By nature they are darkness as are all men by reason of their natural birth. But in Jesus Christ they become the children of light.
Your walk is your life in all its parts. It includes your inner thoughts and desires as well as your outward behavior. It includes your life as you live it in marriage, in your home, at school, at the work place, and in your community. Your walk includes your work, your recreation and entertainments, your social activities— your entire life.
To walk as children of the light is to live our life in such a way that the light that you have become in Christ shines forth in all that you do.
Perhaps an example will make this clear. Suppose that an orphan, reduced to rags and begging in the streets along with the scum of society, is taken in by the king—clothed, fed, educated, even adopted as the king’s son. Now the king would expect his adopted son to walk as a son of the king. He must not return to the streets dressed in rags, begging, associating with the riff-raff, speaking their gutter language. He is rather to reflect what has been given him. He must live the life of a prince.
In like manner, to walk as children of the light means that we no longer act as though we were in the darkness of unbelief, knowing not the Lord and caught in the web of the prince of darkness. Our whole life must reflect that we have been made to be light in the Lord. To use the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:16, we are to let our light shine before men to the glory of God.
The apostle Paul gives content to the idea of walking as children of the light by speaking of the fruit of the Spirit, which is in all goodness and righteousness and truth (v. 9).
The Spirit is the Holy Spirit. It is by the work of the Spirit that we have become the children of light. It is the Spirit, as the Spirit of truth, who has provided the world with the word of truth about God and His salvation in the Scriptures. It is the Spirit who has moved the church to proclaim this Word of truth both in the church and to the unbelieving world, declaring to all who hear the reality of salvation of Jesus Christ. And it is the Spirit who irresistibly applies that Word to the hearts of God’s elect to bring them to the light of faith and salvation in Jesus Christ. It is by the Spirit that we become children of the light!
Now the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth.
Let’s look at these three virtues.
Goodness is used here in the sense of kindness and benevolence. It is a reflection of God’s goodness to us in Jesus Christ, according to which He graciously bestows upon us the good gifts of salvation. The fruit of the Spirit who works in the children of light consists in all goodness. This means that we show goodness of every kind to every neighbor God puts in our pathway. It means that that as we have opportunity we “do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith” (Gal. 6:10).
Righteousness refers here to obedience to God’s law. The great commandment of God’s law is to love God and the neighbor. How this love is to be demonstrated is spelled out in the various commandments of the law. There are certain behaviors that are forbidden as acts of hatred. But love also lays many obligations on us, both in our relationship to God as well as to the neighbor, obligations that promote God’s glory and the neighbor’s welfare. Obviously, righteous living according to God’s law is how we show goodness to others. This too is the fruit of the Spirit in the lives of the children of light.
Finally, there is truth. Truth refers to the objective truth of God revealed in Scripture. Those still in darkness do not live in truth but in the lies of the prince of darkness. The Spirit transforms us into children of light by illuminating us with the truth of God. And it is only in that truth that we are able to live in all goodness and righteousness. Goodness and righteousness are not found in the sphere of lies and falsehood. They are found only in the truth.
This defines, then, what it means to walk as children of light. It is by the Spirit that we become children of light. And when the fruits of the Spirit control our lives, we are walking as the children of light.
That which is acceptable to the Lord is that which is well pleasing to Him. There are things that are well pleasing to the Lord, and there are things that are abominable to Him. The standard for what is pleasing to Him is not determined by what is pleasing to us. The Lord has clearly revealed what is pleasing and acceptable to Him. It is the goodness, righteousness, and truth that are fruits of the Spirit.
We are to prove what is acceptable to the Lord.
The word “prove” has a twofold meaning in Scripture. It means to put something to the test. It was often used of metals to determine whether they were genuine. But it also means to approve that which is determined to be genuine and to reject all else.
To prove what is acceptable to the Lord, therefore, means that we are constantly putting our life to the test. The standard by which we judge our conduct is the goodness, righteousness and truth that are the distinguishing marks of the children of light. In our life, that which conforms to this golden standard we keep and follow as acceptable to the Lord. That which is contrary to this we discard as being abominable to the Lord.
This proving is necessary because of the inclinations of our sinful nature. By the work of the Spirit we have become children of light. But His transforming work is not yet complete in us, leaving us much inclined to the works of darkness.
Oh, how we must prove ourselves!
This proving requires giving much attention to the truth of God’s Word, much prayer, and daily self-examination.
Let us walk as children of light.