The Epistle To The Ephesians
Fruit Of The Light
“Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; and walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given Himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savor” (5:1, 2).
What we should imitate: The word “followers” is properly rendered imitators in our passage. The saints were to imitate God in His ways of grace toward the children of men, grace which they had known well, as realizing that they were regarded by God as His “dear children.” For God takes pleasure in His children, and watches their ways to see whether in disposition and behaviour they are like their Father. We know that it is a grievous thing for parents to have children whose ways are alien to the household, and contrary to its training and to the examples shown therein. And we may be sure that God, who has the feelings of a father, must be grieved if His children are hard-hearted and worldly.
And what a pattern has been given us for our walk in love, as seen in the Person of the One who “hath loved us, and hath given Himself for us,” when He offered Himself a sacrifice to God “for a sweet-smelling savor.” In this offering which ascended in its entirety to God, is expressed the love of Christ for us and the measure of our acceptance before God.
“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. Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. Be not ye therefore partakers with them” (5:3-7).
Things To Be Avoided: The category of evils here listed would not be classified in this way by most people; they would not place fornication, covetousness, and jesting in such intimate relations. But it is so done by the Apostle. No doubt he finds it very necessary to refer in this way to such grave evils as these, for they were prevailing evils in the former lives of these converts from heathendom; they were to be avoided now. According to the old proverb: “You can’t touch pitch without being defiled!” This was a very necessary exhortation. Among other evils the Apostle points out that foolish talking and jesting “are not convenient” or befitting any who are known as Christians.
Some have thought that this warning deals with the tendency of some who relate “shady” tales with double meaning, as if they were humourous. This has sometimes been done by people who ought to be ashamed to do so, for it is more dangerous than the unblushing statement of filth; it is so like the devil’s sly introduction of what may lead further. However, we would not limit the warning to this. But we are made aware that the Apostle could see “afar off,” and knew how tendencies would work out, and knew this without waiting until too late. He knew that unsuspecting Christians might regard as relaxation that which contained a snare that sometimes led to embarrassing situations; he was an experienced mariner on the sea of life warning against sunken rocks.
Signs of Lawlessness: Following up his warning against all uncleanness, some very plain words are spoken as to the character of sin. Let us remember that the Apostle John tells that “sin is lawlessness” (1 John 3:4. N. Tran.). Therefore our Apostle says: “Let no man deceive you with vain words,” and shows that those characterized by the evils he has been depicting have “no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God,” never having come under the government of grace, for grace is holy. They reveal the ways of “the children of disobedience,” upon whom cometh “the wrath of God.” To be found in such ways would look like partnership in things pronounced upon by God as subject to wrath, and that by people who allege they are delivered from wrath, and that while walking in ways for which the lawless will suffer at the hands of God “indignation and wrath.” Let all such behaviour be under suspect. There is the possibility that some in the profession of Christianity are self-deceived and were never born of God. They may have been swept into a profession of emotional appeals, while the conscience had never been reached. Let all of us then heed the warning against the habits of the lawless, “Be not ye therefore partakers with them.”
“For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light: for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth; proving what is acceptable unto the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret. But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light: for whatsoever doth make manifest is light. Wherefore He saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light” (5:8-14).
Darkness Personified: What n statement we have here, “Ye were sometimes darkness.” It is not merely that they were enshrouded in darkness and quite naturally lulled to sleep by the falsifying atmosphere which the father of lies had created for his evil purpose, but they were darkness itself. Their ways exhibited alienation from the life of God, contrariety to what He is, and He is “light” —so that by their very existence they only increased the gloom by their contribution to the moral darkness descriptive of fallen mankind. So true is this in point of degree, that it is often those who would be regarded as the brightest intellects among us who are most expert in darkening counsel by words without knowledge. In their surmisings about God they only still further darken those of their fellow men who listen to them. They are the chief intensifiers of a darkness already too deep without their injections. And while we are aware that the darkness of the idolatrous system which our Apostle describes was very great, it differed to some extent from that of Christendom which is increasingly becoming darker by the rejection of light formerly known. Those antagonists of Christ, whom Scripture names as “antichrists,” are men trained in a subtle misuse of terms by which “boring from within” they subvert the truth which they pretend to uphold. Using Christian terminology they are really arranging matters for the personal Antichrist, so that at his coming he can get down to business without loss of time. How very necessary, then, it is for us today to weigh the words spoken by Him who is the Truth, who said, “If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness” (Matt. 6:23). For where light has been and has been rejected, there the darkness becomes most intense. And we may well ask, What must be the end of such deepening darkness, even that of those who “love darkness rather than light?” Surely it must end in its eternal abode even “the blackness of darkness forever” (Jude 13).
Children of Light: “But now are ye light in the Lord; walk as children of light.” To be described as light “in the Lord” reminds us that not in ourselves are we light. We are this in the Lord as having life in Him, and as having the Spirit so that His character may shine out from us. Moreover as “in the Lord” we are in His control. Thus we can shine out in testimony what He has shined in as revelation. “The fruit of the light” (for that is properly the text) will be in all “goodness and righteousness and truth;” these spiritual qualities expressing the light and proving well pleasing to the Lord. They will be like the way of Enoch who before his translation had “this testimony that he pleased God.” If the light of testimony is shining, it will be a reproof of “the unfruitful works of darkness,” in a way more effective than even to speak reprovingly of those things which are “done in secret.” We may add that this is a present testimony that the day is coming when the works of darkness will be judicially terminated and superseded by the shining of the Sun of Righteousness dispelling hurtful influences. That “Day” has not arrived yet, but as sons of the day we know what it will be like and bear testimony to it now. That is why we are here.
Asleep Among the Dead: “Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.” Although Christians have the light of God in them, they are in a world where the moral atmosphere is darkness; and if they heed not the exhortations given them, that atmosphere will encroach upon them and put them to sleep among the “dead,” so that few will discern any difference between them. Nevertheless, even such an one, if he heeds the call to “awake,” will realize that Christ will shine upon him, warming his heart and brightening his life.